BLACK AND WHITE AND NEW ALL OVER

The Globe and Mail Metro (Ontario Edition) - - Globe Real Estate - SI­MON LEWSEN

Ryan Schott has 10 types of mar­ble in his Sum­mer­hill house. Here’s what you won’t find in it: spindly chairs, tanned leather or rus­tic fin­ishes

Mr. Schott says he isn’t afraid of sharp con­trasts and dark ac­cents. ‘A lot of peo­ple don’t know how to ap­ply black to a space.’ MARNI GROSS­MAN

In­te­rior de­sign rec­on­ciles aes­theti­cism with a kind of fash­ion-for­ward ag­gres­sion to bring in loft-like am­bi­ence and plenty of light

Ryan Schott, a mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive for a real es­tate firm, has 10 types of mar­ble in his Sum­mer­hill house. In the foyer, there’s a dusky ser­pen­tine. The stand-alone fire­place is soot­black but with fis­sure-like streaks of white. And the cladding in the en­suite bath­room is as in­tri­cately veined as leaves on a sapling. The house is a stone col­lec­tor’s dream.

Here’s what you won’t find in it: spindly chairs, tanned leather or rus­tic fin­ishes. The place evokes a time be­fore Scan­di­navia con­quered the de­sign world. It’s op­u­lent, as if it were an up­town ho­tel.

“A lot of peo­ple don’t know how to ap­ply black to a space,” says Mr. Schott, who isn’t afraid of sharp con­trasts and dark ac­cents.

The orig­i­nal home was a classic Toronto semi-de­tached: two bay win­dows topped with a gable. The in­te­ri­ors had cave-like rooms, dull wall­pa­per and egre­gious shag car­pet­ing. Mr. Schott hired Toronto’s black­LAB ar­chi­tects for a ren­o­va­tion so ex­ten­sive it’s more like an orig­i­nal build. De­spite the lim­ited space – the prop­erty is less than 17 feet wide – Mr. Schott wanted loft-like am­bi­ence. An­drea Kor­dos, the project lead, wel­comed this chal­lenge. “We like it when clients come to us with a spe­cific brief,” she says. “It’s why we got into cus­tom ar­chi­tec­ture in the first place.”

She pre­served the front façade and build­ing en­ve­lope, thereby avoid­ing a run-in with the com­mit­tee of ad­just­ment. There are worse Toronto bu­reau­cra­cies: The com­mit­tee is of­ten re­cep­tive to good ideas that are well jus­ti­fied. But the process is time con­sum­ing and ex­pen­sive, and if you go through it, you might as well in­vite your NIMBY neigh­bours to phone in and have their say. They’ll do it any­way.

The orig­i­nal home had two floors plus an at­tic; the new one zigzags up­ward by half-steps. On the ground level is a long, slen­der kitchen-liv­ing area. The master bed­room sits atop the lounge on the front side of the house. There’s a TV room (or loft) at the back, a half-storey up from there, and the guest suite is at the front again, a fur­ther half storey higher than the loft. “We kept the orig­i­nal square footage, but re­or­ga­nized the floor­plan to op­ti­mize vol­ume,” Ms. Kor­dos says. The kitchen has 14-foot ceil­ings, which, given the over­all height con­straints, wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble in a con­ven­tion­ally stacked struc­ture.

At the cen­tre of the house is a 28-foot-high stair­well with di­ag­o­nal open-tread bridges con­nect­ing the floor­plates. Above it are five curved sky­lights, which bring sun­light into each of the half­floors and the main space be­low. It’s a grace­ful so­lu­tion to what Ms. Kor­dos calls “the tra­di­tional co­nun­drum of the Toronto semide­tached: get­ting light deep into a nar­row prop­erty.”

The built-ins are both prac­ti­cal and the­mat­i­cally on point. At the base of the stairs, the rail­ing snakes around the din­ing ta­ble and morphs into a ban­quette – an el­e­gant fea­ture that saves pre­cious square footage. (Stand­alone fur­ni­ture al­ways takes up more space than mill­work.) The 17-foot-long kitchen is­land and dou­ble-height cab­i­netry em­pha­size the tall, elon­gated na­ture of the room. And the white-oak floors have a metal­lic glaze, cre­at­ing the nour­ish­ing am­bi­ence Mr. Schott was go­ing for.

Black­LAB han­dled the ar­chi­tec­ture and Mr. Schott took charge of the in­te­rior de­sign, rec­on­cil­ing aes­theti­cism with a kind of fash­ion-for­ward ag­gres­sion. “I like ev­ery piece to be a state­ment,” he says. In­te­rior work can be ex­haust­ing, which is why even de­sign-savvy peo­ple some­times cop out and head to Wal-Mart. Mr. Schott, how­ever, went all in, dou­bling his ren­o­va­tion bud­get and, in un­der two years, re­al­iz­ing a fuller vi­sion than most home­own­ers do in a life­time.

No piece was cho­sen for func­tion­al­ity alone. The pen­dant lamps, for in­stance, fill the rooms not only with light but also with tex­ture and ten­sion. Above the din­ing ta­ble hangs an alu­minum semi-sphere from Catel­lani and Smith; its in­te­ri­ors are gilded with sil­ver leaf and as rut­ted as the lu­nar sur­face. The chan­de­lier in the loft re­sem­bles a fire­work in sus­pended an­i­ma­tion: Shell-like crys­tals dan­gle from thin metal strands cast­ing a web of shad­ows on the wall.

Although many of Mr. Schott’s pieces are clas­si­cally el­e­gant – the din­ing ta­ble is a glass ovoid on a pearly white base – there is an­other im­pulse at work: the gothic. Not “gothic” like Wuther­ing Heights or eight­ies teen cul­ture, but gothic in our mo­ment, the era of Rick Owens, Kanye West and Blade Runner 2049. Think: ma­cho, grotesque, se­duc­tive.

In the TV room are two ta­bles by Spanish master Pa­tri­cia Urquiola, their sur­faces as ridged as brain mat­ter. In the base­ment are a pair of steer horns as beau­ti­fully mar­bled as any of the stone fin­ishes. The bed­room has a bench up­hol­stered in dyed pelt with a metal­lic-teal sheen; it’s an un­holy mashup of or­ganic and syn­thetic tex­tures. Nearby is a ta­ble mounted on three – okay, “ten­ta­cles” may not be the cor­rect term, but it’s more ac­cu­rate than “legs.”

Make no mis­take: This is a so­phis­ti­cated dwelling, not a road­side at­trac­tion. Mr. Schott has an eye for bal­ance. He in­cor­po­rates sur­real flour­ishes as deftly as he de­ploys the colour black. The process is in­tu­itive and dif­fi­cult to de­scribe. “I’m not a de­signer,” he says, “so I don’t do de­sign speak, but I know that I want a dis­tinc­tive set­ting.”

Above his foyer hangs a rec­tan­gu­lar light com­pris­ing 25 up­side­down bulbs in a grid-like for­ma­tion. Mr. Schott’s sen­si­bil­ity is up­mar­ket, bold and some­times the­atri­cal. It’s fit­ting that, when en­ter­ing his home, you must pass be­neath a mar­quee. Spe­cial to The Globe and Mail

We kept the orig­i­nal square footage, but re­or­ga­nized the floor­plan to op­ti­mize vol­ume. An­drea Kor­dos Project lead, black­LAB ar­chi­tects

MARNI GROSS­MAN

At the base of the stairs, the rail­ing snakes around the din­ing ta­ble and morphs into a ban­quette, a fea­ture that saves pre­cious square footage on a prop­erty less than 17 feet wide.

PHO­TOS BY BLACK­LAB

The process of re­or­ga­niz­ing the floor­plan to op­ti­mize vol­ume in this nar­row house re­sulted in 14-foot ceil­ings in the kitchen, which wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble in a con­ven­tion­ally stacked struc­ture, and a 28-foot-high stair­well with di­ag­o­nal open-tread bridges con­nect­ing the floor­plates. Above it are curved sky­lights that bring sun­light into each of the half-floors and the main space be­low.

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