Ellis Ave House

Toronto, Canada

Located on one of Toronto’s most beloved nature pockets, this Swansea renovation takes full advantage of a backyard on Grenadier Pond in High Park. Built on the forested hills that slope down to the west side of the pond, it has a very low profile from the street, but expands to a full three storeys at the rear. The mid-century house was redesigned with four bedrooms and four bathrooms for a total of 3,500 square feet of living space.

High Park Toronto contemporary home with Corten steel siding and zinc fascia

The original was a well-designed single-family house in the mid-50s, but it had since been divided up into a triplex. The systems and finishes however had not been touched, and were in dire need of updating. The building’s setting in the trees had great potential, but it failed to take full advantage of the views toward Grenadier Pond. The house also had the particular challenge of being located in a ravine area, meaning the dimensions of the house and its outdoor terraces could not be changed.

Open riser stainless steel stair with tempered glass guard
Open concept living space with 3 sided fireplace with dark stone base and white stone mantle
Water-jet cut digitally fabricated Corten self-weathering steel siding with Douglas fir soffits and Zinc fascia

Inside, the new layout uses contemporary building materials to open the interior up to its surroundings, while also increasing privacy. Visitors descend to arrive at a front door set below street level, where a large glass door provides views of the sassafras trees beyond, which were an inspiration for the design. Once inside, a two-sided fireplace is used as a room divider, which heats the entrance and living room at the front of the house. The main floor is open concept, combining living, dining, and a contemporary kitchen, with a soaring 12 foot ceiling.

One level down, a master bedroom provides forest views, and a balcony for access to nature.The ensuite bathroom has a separate glass enclosure with a steam shower, double vanity, and water closet. A second bedroom on that level also has an ensuite bathroom.

Master bedroom with freestanding tub with black metal tub filler walk-out balcony and ensuite washroom
Toronto modern home entryway with offset pivot door and 3 sided fireplace divider between entrance and living room

The lower level was maintained as a legal two-bedroom apartment with its own private entrance. Zoning bylaws allowed this because of the house’s history as a triplex.

Master Bathroom with large frameless glass shower enclosure with rainfall shower head and custom cabinetry

Throughout the house, the heating, cooling and electrical systems have all been updated to bring the 1950’s house up to and above current standards. The windows have energy-efficient low-E coatings, and their design and frosting pattern maximize views and privacy, and are also bird-friendly. The addition of new skylights minimize the need for electrical lighting.

This house is a celebration of Grenadier Pond.

Grenadier Pond view contemporary home with translucent glass balconies, wood retaining walls and stone retaining walls integrated into natural vegetation

One of the most challenging aspects of the Project was meeting the strict requirements of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, which oversees urban conservation. We were dealing with a 1950s house in a TRCA-controlled ravine area. Altius could not change anything.

The Globe and Mail

Home of the week

The design is really inspired by the patterns of the sassafras. It’s like looking through the tree trunks.

The Globe and Mail

Home of the week