GLOBE & MAIL, SHERBOURNE STREET HOUSE
The listing 9 Sherbourne St. N.
Asking price: $3.85-million
Taxes: $16,788 (2015)
Lot size: 102.79 feet by 50 feet
Listing agents: Janice Rennie and Julie Allison Rennie, Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.
Architect Bill Dewson and his client had one driving principle in the renovation this 118-year-old house in South Rosedale: blend 21st-century living in 19th-century architecture.
“The owner had a very clear idea,” Mr. Dewson said. “She wanted to be able to open up the house as simply as possible. At that same time, she didn’t want to lose the historical details.”
The back story
The current owners of 9 Sherbourne St. N. purchased the property in 2010, but soon began work on a multiyear renovation.
The original structure was built in 1898 and it was a very sizable home that spanned the entire southeast corner of the intersection of Sherbourne Street North and Maple Avenue just north of Bloor Street. Over the years, the building was separated into four units: two semis and two row homes.
The semi on the west end carries the address 9 Sherbourne St. N., and though just a chunk of the original structure, it could be considered a mansion in its own right. It has four levels, six bedrooms and close to 5,000 square feet of indoor living space.
“This part was the original receiving area of the [larger] house,” agent Janice Rennie says. “It was the most gracious, graceful part of the house and has the original entrance on Sherbourne.”
Given that it was the welcoming area of the original mansion – once known as the James Dixon House – it was lavishly adorned. Many rooms feature intricate plaster work, such as the decorative flower plaster panels on the first floor, ceiling medallions and an archway in the kitchen with ornamental plaster brackets.
Those details have been restored. Where the rooms didn’t have embellishments to salvage, as in the kitchen and bathrooms, they have been converted into a sleek, modern spaces.
During the renovation, the colour white became an important feature.
“[My client] talked right off the bat about painting it white to allow for the sculptural details of those [historical] elements to come forth,” Mr. Dewson said.
By keeping the walls white and the rest of the colour palette muted, the three-dimensional elements of the plaster work seem even more tactile.
It’s a design aesthetic that is reminiscent of the White House: a richly embellished space that lets the details speak for themselves through a muted colour scheme.
However, the home is not devoid of colour. To juxtapose old versus new elements, a vibrant blue was added to floor and walls of the lower level.
“Once that interior design is established in the white, which makes the historical details pop, [it’s echoed] with the sharp colours to make the whole house pop,” Mr. Dewson said. “Conceptually it’s done twice but it’s so subtle you don’t recognize it.”
The home’s defining details are scattered throughout the house. But there are a few that Mr. Dewson lists as his favourites.
Some are originals, others are new additions. And a few are a blend of both.
For example, Mr. Dewson worked with Glenn Boccini from Dark Tools to find ways to add modern lighting to the plaster walls in an unobtrusive way. The tread lights lining the staircase are an example of Mr. Boccini’s work. He designed a plaster detailing to encase little LED lights.
“It’s meant to echo all of the beautiful plaster work elsewhere,” Mr. Dewson explained.
The way the home gathers up natural light is a feature that Ms. Rennie really loves.
“Although it is a semi-detach, it’s hard to describe it as such because it’s surrounded by light,” she says.
One detail Mr. Dewson added to help maximize the natural light – as well as open up the main floor – was a floating landing on the original staircase. He did this by tearing down a supporting wall, so now the landing floats off the wall and the windows along that side of the home can funnel light down to the main floor.
But one of Mr. Dewson’s favourite details is a new one: the supporting steel beam on the main floor. Originally, he and the owner talked about bringing in a cast-iron column from Soho in New York but then decided to get a six-inch steel column and grind it down to its natural core and leave it like that.
“It serves the same purpose: a simple, raw element,” Mr. Dewson said.
It’s all of these elements that Mr. Dewson credits when explaining the house’s old-and-new, revitalized ambience.
“When you see the house from the street, you see it’s an old house but when you walk up and start to peek in, you can see it has been redone,” he said. “Once you walk in, you immediately feel that it has been historically renovated. It gets you feeling both ways.”
“I don’t know how we did that,” he added with a pause.