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The Globe and Mail

West end Toronto condo where modern meets mellow

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Inside the Ritchie St., Toronto home of Kenneth Montague, designed by architect David Anand Peterson. Into his two-storey Roncesvalles flat, Dr. Montague had gathered many paintings, photographs, prints and recordings by black artists and about the experience of people living in the African diaspora. The visitor enters at the lower level, and finds himself at the bottom of a large light-well sliced through the floor of the upper storey. A flight of wooden steps floats upward toward the sunshine.

Ben Rahn/A-Frame

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Thne architect did not want a “dry, white-box gallery,” says Mr. Peterson, but in its general outline, the skeleton of the suite harmonizes with the framework of the modernist mid-rise uilding it’s in, which Mr. Peterson also designed. The wrapper is a tough, plain, well-tailored structure arrayed on three sides of a courtyard. Its formal inspiration comes from European cities, where the architect learned well how to create liveable multiunit dwellings in tight urban places. Like the container, Dr. Montague’s roughly 2,000-square-foot apartment is composed of rectangular volumes that are in no way formally unusual or eccentric.

Ben Rahn/A-Frame

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The upper storey is public and welcoming, a pavilion-and-terrace arrangement that has been shaped to make casual entertaining pleasant and practical. To one side of the light-well through which the steps ascend is the bright, open-plan zone containing the Bulthaup kitchen island, a dining table, a conversation area and a small washroom. A set of forceful abstract prints by Alexander Calder brightens one wall, but the overall atmosphere – generated in part by the client’s taste for modern Scandinavian furnishings – is one of mellow, relaxed informality.

Ben Rahn/A-Frame

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Mr. Montague’s large bedroom and his library, crammed floor to ceiling with books, records and art, lies off the bottom of the light-well.

Ben Rahn/A-Frame

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The spacious walk-out terrace, with its patches of tall grass and fine views over nearby rooftops toward the downtown towers, lies open to the sky. Turning utility into art, Mr. Peterson has transformed the deck by planting it generously, pulling it around the pavilion, and camouflaging a homely elevator housing, which punches up through the roof at that point, with a handsome sauna and an outdoor kitchen.

Ben Rahn/A-Frame

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‘The space is very homespun, even though it is also very contemporary.’

Ben Rahn/A-Frame

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Ben Rahn/A-Frame

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