In a heritage district in Toronto, Canada, two houses sit side by side to tell a story of Victorian design, modern construction and historical relevance. 

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos
A two story orange and black house with a wooden garage and front yard

Dubbed the Robert Street Residences, the two homes were designed by Taylor Smyth Architects. However, their completion dates are ten years apart, with the first in 2011 and the second in 2021. 

Related: Green-roofed campus brings a sustainable social nexus to Toronto

The back of the two-story resident has a table and chair in front of sliding glass doors

Thus, the homes in the area are overseen by Heritage Preservation Services. The original structures took the style of 1960s bungalows rather than the typically-mandated traditional style. Lead architect Michael Taylor and his client decided to give the buildings a launch into the 21st century. As a result, contemporary architecture mirrors the Victorian vernacular of the surrounding buildings, rather than replicating the original misguided architecture. 

The front porch contains a seating area which sits in front of glass sliding doors that open out to the backyard

To this end, each house features a vertical gable and front porch. The second-story windows are framed in metal. Garages were designed to be disguised. The design called for cladding the lower level garage doors, walls, front doors and soffits of the porch with the same material. The engineered siding looks like wood, but offers a durable, maintenance-free lifespan. 

Interior living room has a table and chairs below an orb chandelier and a staircase that leads up to the second floor

Furthermore, the client acted as general contractor and interior designer. With the first house wrapped up, the team used lessons learned to make the second home even more energy efficient. As a result, the second of the Robert Street Residences feature in-floor radiant heating. This provides significant energy savings during the winter months. A tight envelope and extensive insulation further complement these savings. 

Interior of the second floor of the Robert Street Residences has a floor-to-ceiling glass windows and an office area

Additionally, materials were minimized. This is seen with the just-big-enough driveway made from permeable pavers to maximize natural water absorption. For natural lighting, both houses are organized around a central skylight atrium. In order to maximize passive heat gains in the winter and provide shade in the summer, each features custom canopies above the terraces.

A living room area with a sofa that faces a projection screen and glass sliding doors that open to the backyard

The interior design features an open, flowing design. There is lightly-colored natural materials that align with the goals of creating a connection to the outdoors while highlighting craftsmanship through quality material selection. 

+ Taylor Smyth Architects

Images via Tom Arban Photography Inc.