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Artful touches turn a reno from good to great

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Home in Toronto’s Summerhill neighbourhood renovated by architect Cindy Rendely. In planning the sweeping renovation of this three-storey house, Ms. Rendely made many thoughtful little gestures that, when they’re added up, make all the difference between an overhaul that’s notable (like this one) and the kind that’s just good enough.

Shai Gil/Shai Gil Photography

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The exterior shows Ms. Rendely’s mindful and restrained aesthetic at work. When its present owners acquired it, the house was in an advanced state of dilapidation that required the thoroughgoing revision of the interior. But they appreciated its stolid, sturdily comfortable external appearance. Accordingly, Ms. Rendely executed only quiet changes on the front façade

Shai Gil/Shai Gil Photography

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Ms. Rendely installed a weathering steel porch and flight of steps, both of which nicely match the red brick fabric of the structure.

Shai Gil/Shai Gil Photography

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Two circus poster prints occupy a shallow niche in the wall, seen here at right, cut so that each poster, and only it, would fit. Ms. Rendely recognized the affection of her clients for their fine old treasures of showbiz culture and decided to give the prints special homes of their own.

Shai Gil/Shai Gil Photography

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While not expanding the stairwell laterally, Ms. Rendely made changes that make going up and down the steps as pleasant as passing through any other space within the dwelling. Tall slots were opened in the exterior wall and the risers eliminated to let daylight in, and each floating tread was furnished with a leather pad to damp down noise. Without altering the basic configuration of the stairwell, the architect managed to transform it from a cramped afterthought into an attractive vertical axis.

Shai Gil/Shai Gil Photography

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A deliberately limited palette was employed throughout. Warm, rich walnut is found in the floor planks, millwork, the treads of the staircase, window frames and elsewhere. There is not much in this interior that, in terms of colour and texture, falls somewhere between blank white and walnut. But the crisp, carefully sustained contrast is effective, and the inside of the house sings a clean, very contemporary tune.

Shai Gil/Shai Gil Photography

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The back facade.

Shai Gil/Shai Gil Photography

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