Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Kensington Market home squeezes high style on a small lot

1 of 9

Gradient House, Kensington Market, Toronto, by Superkul Architects. ‘Kensington Market is sort of a Holy Grail for architects,’ says Meg Graham, a principal in Superkül Architects.’Because when you get a project here, it’s going to be a puzzle to make it work

Shai Gil

2 of 9

The 1,250-square-foot house is in a laneway that’s nearly invisible from the street. When the owners bought the property, what stood on it was an odd wooden bungalow that had just been partly destroyed by a fire.’The windows were boarded up, and there were weeds everywhere,’ says one of the homeowners. ‘We thought our agent was joking. But she said, ‘This is the place for you.’

Shai Gil

3 of 9

The owners, one of whom is a design professional, wanted to get maximum elegance. ‘We’re very interested in the work of Japanese architects,’ says one. In the Japanese metropolis, especially Tokyo, stratospheric real estate prices have created a genre of houses that squeeze into cramped, often irregular sites. The Gradient House’s lot may be the most Tokyo-like site in Toronto. It’s an L-shaped property – the front yard extends into a path in front of the neighbours’ house – and it is surrounded on all four sides by buildings.

Shai Gil

4 of 9

The house is full of fascinating details that hold subtle conceptual surprises. An open, minimally detailed kitchen and dining area are to the left as you enter the home, a living room straight ahead, and a door to the right leads to a guest bedroom.

Shai Gil

Story continues below advertisement

5 of 9

The first floor is an open space – shockingly large – with white walls and pale oak floors.

Shai Gil

6 of 9

Past the kitchen, the ceiling balloons upward at the back to meet the roofline; the living area is lit by another skylight that cuts through the middle of the space upstairs. And glass doors open to the small backyard and a Kensington riot of collapsing fence and rough corners.

Shai Gil

7 of 9

Graham says the spaces of the house represent a subtle variation on the original form. ‘We did add volume by changing the pitch of the existing roof,’ she says, ‘and the dormers are new – but we kept the basic language of the place; we changed the expression of it, and we made much more of the second floor’

Shai Gil

8 of 9

When you reach the top of the winding stairs, then pause on a narrow corridor, in front of you is an open atrium with a skylight, the living room is below you, the bedroom opens up to the left – with large windows of its own – and a bathroom door opens behind you. This is the most cramped place in a small building, and it feels enormous. moves.

Shai Gil

9 of 9

Almost all the windows are the same shape. ‘The house is almost square, and we kept that language throughout,’ says Graham. ‘You’ll find a lot of the windows are perfectly square.’

Shai Gil

Report an error