Madrigal House by Paul Raff Studio

Madrigal House is a renovation and addition to an Edwardian-era house in Toronto’s Annex neighborhood for a family of five.

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Description by Paul Raff Studio

Our objective was to go beyond the conventional approach of juxtaposing modern architecture with a historic structure. Ours was a delicate “madrigal” – a weaving together of restoration, transformation and invention.

The new home unfolds in a passage from old to new, maintaining gracious Edwardian proportions throughout to ensure a seamless transition. A carefully restored and refined exterior respects the characteristically high-Victorian and Edwardian neighbourhood. The grand stained glass entry opens onto a central hall that stretches through the original part of the home containing the living room, music room and roomy staircase, which was relocated to a more central location from the back of the house.

Here, though pared down from its original ornamental details, deliberate homage is paid to the 19th century. Newly commissioned stained glass adorns the music room and staircase; thick, curved banisters, crown mouldings and 10” beveled baseboards are interpretation of what would have been native to the home and an existing Jatoba floor underwent chemical treatment to bring out a more era-appropriate colour.

The central hall arrives at the back of the house where the new extension encompasses a large, multitasking kitchen. While still marked by the home’s grand spatiality, traditional details fall away to express the full gamut of contemporary design. A modern clarity characterizes the kitchen’s strong composition, setting the stage for a new kind of luxury in visual and material richness: unadorned Anigre veneer millwork frames boldly articulated elements like a black lacquer espresso station and linear stainless steel bar. A spacious eating area, an office command centre and an integrated teal daybed with reading light round out the amenity in this, what is the new heart of the home.

The second floor contains adult living quarters: master bedroom with a marble-clad ensuite and his-and hers offices. An ample dressing room shows off more unique customization, where a built-in closet is scribed perfectly into the original curved ceiling.

On the top floor, the addition of modern dormers opens up a formerly cramped attic to allow for three, equal size bedrooms for the family’s children. The boxed dormers face in three different directions and although democratic in size (to avoid sibling rivalry), each room offers its occupant a unique shape and view, with light pouring in through dramatically cut window channels. As with the rest of the home, the bedrooms are customized with built-in storage, desks, shelving and window seating, to ensure optimal use of space.

The dormers are clad in a modern zinc siding and jut out from a traditional pitched roof. Below it, the Cenia Azul limestone façade feels restrained, while allowing an air of stately consequence that was inherent to the original home. The stone is bush-hammered for a lighter finish and an almost suede-like texture which complements the sleek dormers and custom mahogany windows and doors. The stone façade cascades down to transform into the back stair and patio, which meet the ground level in a fluid and powerful connection between the life of the house and its gardens.

As dubbed by Canadian architecture reporter and critic, Simon Lewsen, our ‘sensitive and revisionist’ approach to this renovation created something that is perceived with the same ease as a masterful composition; an elegant madrigal that equally sings the merits of old and new.

Photography by Steve Tsai and Ben Rahn / A-Frame

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- by Matt Watts