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Our Best-Ever, Woke-Up-Like-This Home Renovation Stories

Corner stores, factories, Tudor revivals, coach houses and brownstones: we scoured the DL archives for renovations that will make you go, “ooh ah”

By Sara Cunningham

Everyone loves a good before and after. But at Designlines, we really, really love the after part – after parties, after hours and, of course, that moment after a gruelling home renovation when you look around at your newly minted manse and think: wait, I live here? 💃

And so, we editors of DL waded through the archives and picked some of our favourite Toronto do-overs: from a rectory-turned bachelor pad to a former factory reborn as a lighter-than-air home.

No matter the project, these homes show us what’s possible when you’re willing to work with – and re-work – what you’ve got.

Toronto Modern Home Renovation

A Dry Goods Store Transformed into A Sunshine-Filled Home
A glass-paned garage door opens onto a sun-drenched garden in this former dry goods store in Mimico. Other winning additions: shelving made from scaffolding planks, a ladder leading to a rooftop hideaway and a rough-hewn, barn-style door in between master bedroom and bathroom suites. Find out how the owners of Stylegarage did it.

An Indie Songbird’s Cathedral of Light and Sound
One of our most popular reno stories (and the cover story of our current print issue) is this Bloorcourt home that uses arches and rustic materials – from shaggy Moroccan rugs to antique wood – to create a heavenly, never-leave-home feel. A true family affair, the homeowner, musician Martina Sorbara, turned to her designer sister for help.

A Factory Space Turned Breezy Abode
Two-hundred-and-four square metres on three levels, four-metre-high original beam ceilings, banks of skylights, a private garden, and a classic projector screen for film nights: honestly, need we say more? The factory-conversion you need to see to believe. Shown: A comfy Ikea couch, the homeowner’s stunning salon-style portrait display and a fig tree that provides a needed pop of green.

Thrush Holmes Crafts a State-of-the-Art Home
Master carpenter Thrush Holmes told us: “everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong” in his decade-long home renovation odyssey. Luckily, the finished product is pretty much flawless, including this wood-cladded retreat that shows off his skill.

Toronto Modern Home Renovation

A Summerhill Home Explores Outer Space
Tour-de-force architect Heather Dubbeldam gave these homeowners a slice of Muskoka R & R in the form of a dreamy rooftop patio. Skygarden House’s top floor beckons with an ash deck, recessed planter and a natural tree canopy. The open skylight welcomes sun and rain into the space.

Altered State: A Neo-Gothic Church Turned Cozy Home
Glam designer Alison Milne put the finishing touches on this church renovation, one of the more unusual spaces we’ve toured. The original brick walls and beautifully peaked windows are allowed to sing against her subdued, calming palette of blonde wood, light greys and cloud-nine whites.

Toronto Modern Home Renovation

An Annex Victorian Blends Past and Present
The challenge of adding modern must-haves – including plenty of light – to the bones of this heritage house from the 1890s is what caught our eye. Historic fixtures remain, while the cramped, shadowy feel of the classic Victorian home is dispelled.

Toronto Modern Home Renovation

Tudor Revivalist in the Front, Zinc Box at the Back
Standing in the backyard of this blackLAB home renovation, you would never guess that the flipside to this ultra-modern, zinc facade is a Tudor revivalist home. Neighbours on this quiet, tree-lined street in Etobicoke are equally surprised by the party at the back. This reno goes to show: transition homes pack plenty of drama.

A Victorian in Parkdale Becomes a Scandinavian Chalet
When you think of Parkdale, you probably aren’t flooded with visions of pristine Nordic interiors, awash in white paint and natural wood. But this stunning reno by The Practice of Everyday Design will change your point of view. Here, built-in shelving shows off a burgeoning Scandi book collection (we imagine), while slender furniture keeps a low-profile, amplifying the vaulted ceiling.

Toronto Modern Home Renovation

10 A Streetside Live/Work Space with Urban Swagger
The duo behind Public Studio, architect Tamira Sawatzky and filmmaker Elle Flanders, don’t mind living on a noisy street. It’s all part of the unstripped, urban feel of their nest, which they made in a former sheet metal shop on Dundas West. Standouts: this exposed concrete wall and intricately patterned bannister.

Does the idea of a renovation leave you feeling gutted? No worries – our relationship-saving advice from the pros series has you covered. Don’t touch that sledgehammer without it.


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