College crash pad renovated into a terrific Toronto house | homify

College crash pad renovated into a terrific Toronto house

Sarah Tolle – Homify Canada Sarah Tolle – Homify Canada
Solares Architecture Modern houses
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This before-and-after tour follows the unique story of a homeowner who bought a house as a university student, lived in it for over 20 years (along with a grand total of about 50 roommates!). When he was ready to start a family with his wife however, it was time for a full interior renovation. The century-old home is located in Toronto’s Bickford Park – and although the home itself was becoming tired and leaky, the neighbourhood provides an enriching and convenient environment for raising a family. The interior architects and designers from Solares Architecture were hired for the job, taking on a complex renovation that involved de-compartmentalizing the multi-unit interior, reinforcing structural elements of the home, and increasing the energy efficiency of the home – all while preserving its historic exterior and original charm.


The Victorian home offers a charming, picturesque exterior, fitting in snugly between its neighbors. Nevertheless, the historic home came with its fair share of complications when Solares went to work. Not only were the foundational bricks literally crumbling away, but the home also suffered from a sinking rear addition, extremely poor insulation (with an EnerGuide rating of 22!), and sagging, lopsided floors. With so many problems, you might ask, “Why not build an entirely new home?”. The architects explain that demolishing and rebuilding is a last resort when dealing with a semi-attached home like this one. In addition, the family wanted to preserve as much of the original Victorian charm as they could!

​Dining room

The lower floor was significantly de-compartmentalized, now offering the family an open concept living space. The dining room is found in a traditional location for a Victorian home, establishing an elegant first impression for guests just entering the front door. Characteristic French doors like the ones you see at the far end of the dining room are also found in the back of the home, opening up to a backyard that’s larger than it was before: the architects removed the sagging addition completely, giving the family a greater amount of the city’s precious green space.


A few steps further into the home, and you’ll find an extensive kitchen with an impressive amount of countertop space! Given the narrow confines of the urban home, the kitchen has been cleverly designed to harmonize with the elongated shape of the home, employing a linear configuration that is effective for streamlining movement through the narrow room.

New systems

In addition to the modern appliances and fixtures, there are several updates hiding behind the walls and floors. The walls have been filled with a conventional foam insulation, and windows have been made more energy efficient by replacing panes with double-glazed, wooden framed replacements. Surprising for a historic home, the architects were able to install in-floor heating along the floor joists – combined with a mini combination boiler and new air conditioning system (as well as new insulation and modern windows), the home is well-equipped to maintain comfortable temperatures without expending much energy.

The architects explain that the finished product enjoys a 71% reduction in annual heat loss and an 81% reduction in space heating. In addition, the home’s EnerGuide rating jumped from a depressing 22 to an impressive 76 (and once the basement is finished, they expect the rating to increase even more). Overall, the new renovation results in a 15-tonne annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions!

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​Bathroom 1

A glance into the bathroom shows a fun new aesthetic, created by the addition of a modern sink and playful wallpaper. Subway tile is an excellent choice, as it walks a fine line between contemporary and classic, a timeless material that has recently experienced something of a revival. 

​Bathroom 2

Again, bold wallpaper gives personality to this bathroom – even though the size of the room is still quite small, the designers decided to go big with the print – proof that small rooms don’t have to be limited to “small” decor.


The children’s bedrooms, master bedroom, office, and playroom are located on the second and third floors of this vertically-oriented home. The children have been given the third floor, while the master bedroom and office sit on the second floor, providing a convenient separation between work and play. This image shows the down-to-Earth masters bedroom, with ample storage cabinets keeping the room clutter-free.


Upstairs, the playroom is filled with musical instruments, dress ups, and art materials – an example of family-friendly living space that fosters creativity and and learning. Filled with warmth and light, this renovated interior is refreshing, healthy, and energy-efficient, a lovely space for raising a family.

Tour another historic Toronto house that's full of character.

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