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From ravaged to renaissance is a tale of one East York home's transformation

East York home’s transformation a tale of ravaged to renaissance

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East York home’s transformation a tale of ravaged to renaissance


Once upon a time, on a quiet crescent in east Toronto, a “For Sale” sign sat on the front yard of a post-war 1950s home. The house was in tragic condition. A pie-shaped lot presented some trying limitations, but it was well situated in an excellent neighbourhood, and had a private driveway with an attached garage. Buyers without construction or design knowledge might not see the opportunity to develop a great family home on this property, but luckily, the new homeowners did. The young couple came to us with excitement, a great attitude, and willing to let our team design and build a house that could meet their growing family’s needs.

Master plan and permits

However, this project was no small undertaking. Designing and getting approval of the plans proved to be more challenging than the construction itself. We explored several preliminary plan options, researched the zoning restrictions for the property, and visited the Committee of Adjustments for zoning variances. The final decision was to do a whole interior and exterior renovation project. This included raising the ground-floor ceiling height and rebuilding the second floor; creating a new third-floor study in the attic space; adding a two-storey rear addition with finished basement below; renovating and finishing the existing basement space; and completely remodelling the existing ground floor.

Ground floor greatness

The homeowners had a strong preference to gain more ceiling height on the ground floor, which led to the decision to destroy and rebuild the existing second floor entirely. With new 10-ft. ceilings, we wanted to optimize the space for better living and entertaining, so we decided to remove the walls between the living room and dining room to allow for a better connection to the new, contemporary kitchen. After enlarging the existing garage, we then converted the existing kitchen into a new mudroom and powder room. Overall, the design of the ground floor was intended to be functional for a family to grow and entertain in.

Privacy matters

On the newly rebuilt second floor, we constructed four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a laundry room. The master bedroom features a walk-in closet and a four-piece ensuite with double vanity. Two of the three remaining bedrooms have private access to their own full bathroom. The second floor is spacious enough to accommodate the entire family, and laid out in a way that provides the master bedroom with privacy.

Light and bright attic

To keep the overall height of the house feeling reasonably scaled, we arrived at the design of a unique roof shape that allowed for a generous third floor, which is minimally visible from the street. The third floor addition in the attic is a great feature to the house, as it is open-concept, light-filled and has a walk-out balcony.

Room to spare

Finally, the existing basement and addition were designed as an extension to the family’s living and entertaining space. A spacious recreation/movie room takes up a sizable portion at the front of the basement, while a guest bedroom and washroom add yet another sleeping arrangement to the overall house. There is plenty of designated storage in the basement, and a small home gym as well. The project in East York is one that our team is very proud of. We managed to deliver one family’s dream home, on a property in which they took a sizable risk on purchasing. With the meaning of home taking on a whole new meaning this year, our city, and world, is reminded just how important it is to love the physical space – from function, comfort and design – to make your home the safe haven we all crave.

Photos: Valerie Wilcox

Jessica Millard joined Men At Work Design Build in 2017 while studying at Ryerson University.

The Toronto-based firm offers integrated engineering, design and professional construction services for addition and major renovation projects on old Toronto homes.

Jessica has been involved in various internal departments within the firm, and is currently the company’s Project Coordinator.


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Local Focus: Toronto

Local Focus: Toronto

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Local Focus: Toronto

by Gale Beeby

Considered one of the most multicultural cities in the world, Toronto is a wonderful collection of neighbourhoods


In 1998, the six municipalities that comprised Metropolitan Toronto (East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, York and the former city of Toronto) and the regional municipality of Metro Toronto were amalgamated into the City of Toronto. This has resulted in creation of a “megacity” with a population of about 2.81 million, and growing. More than 100,000 people move into the GTA every year, most of them settling in the City of Toronto proper.

Historic homes, like the quaint Victorian houses in Cabbagetown and the coveted cottages in the Beach, are just some of the city’s hallmarks. But the skyline is now dominated by the sleek highrise condos in the city’s core. Single-family homes dominate in the former suburbs, where you will also find a large array of new condos and townhouses.

Click here for a list of new homes for sale in Toronto.


Living in Toronto is an open door into a vast array of cultural, theatrical, musical and sporting events. The city is home to the National Ballet of Canada (along with another 50 or so dance companies), the Canadian Opera Company, Opera Atelier, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.

Aga Khan Museum
Aga Khan Museum

The Art Gallery of Ontario has a large collection of work by the Group of Seven, while the Royal Ontario Museum has a collection of world culture and natural history. The Gardiner Museum is the only museum in Canada devoted to ceramics and the collection contains more than 2,900 pieces from Asia, the Americas and Europe. Other museums include the Bata Shoe Museum, the Textile Museum of Canada, Museum of Inuit Art, Spadina House and the Aga Khan Museum.

If sports are more your thing, there are plenty of choices. Hockey? The Maple Leafs play out of the Air Canada Centre, as do the NBA’s Raptors. The Blue Jays call the Rogers Centre Home and Toronto FC play at BMO Field. A visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame should be mandatory for any hockey fan.

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is an annual event celebrating the film industry and attracts many movie stars and a-list players. Caribana takes place in the summer and is primarily based on the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. Caribana now attracts over one million people, making it the second largest Caribbean festival in the world.

Other points of interest include the Toronto Zoo, the Ontario Science Centre, Black Creek Pioneer Village, Harbourfront, The Don Valley Brick Works, Fort York, the Distillery District, Ripley’s Aquarium, the CN Tower and the Canadian National Exhibition.


Golf anyone? How about some tennis? Or lawn bowling? Or horse racing? Toronto has it all, including sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, water-skiing and boating in the summer, cross-country and downhill skiing, ice skating, ice canoeing and snowshoeing in the winter.

A visit to the Scarborough Bluffs is a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon, as is a visit to Etobicoke’s waterfront, where there is a large marina and parkland. High Park is always a great place for a summer stroll or winter hike.

Toronto is called The City of Neighbourhoods, and each community has great parks, community centres, activity centres and libraries.


Great shopping districts help define neighbourhoods, and there is none better than the St. Lawrence Market, considered one of the finest food markets in the world. Kensington Market is also a great spot to find unique food and interesting arts and crafts.

The Toronto Eaton Centre is the city’s largest mall, with 235 retail and service providers.

Trips to Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Portugal, Little India and Greektown offer other wonderful treats for the senses.

Etobioke’s Sherway Gardens and Yorkdale Mall in North York also offer a roster of A-list stores and products, as does the Scarborough Town Centre.


The TTC moves over 1.6 million people throughout the city every day on its subway cars, buses, streetcars and LRT lines. The subway can get you from the west end to the east end of the city in less than an hour. GO Transit is Ontario’s only inter-regional transit system, linking Toronto with the surrounding regions of the GTA. Highways include several four and sixlane routes (at points, Highway 401 is 16 lanes wide), including Highways 401, 403, 404, 407, 427, the DVP and the QEW.


Population: 2.81 million

Average Walk Scores

  • Downtown Toronto: 97
  • East York: 78
  • Etobicoke: 75
  • North York: 72
  • Scarborough: 68
  • York: 88

Motto: Diversity Our Strength



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