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My Houzz: Rooftop Retreat Addition in Toronto

With two children and a need for more living space, architect Wanda Ely and her husband, John, needed to move out or build up. The decision was easy. They loved their home and wished to remain steps from Toronto's vibrant Queen West and Dundas West neighborhoods, so Wanda set about designing a thoughtful and modern wood rooftop addition.

Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: Wanda and John Ely and their 2 kids
Location: Toronto, Canada
Size: 1,750 square feet;
3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
The original house had been extensively renovated by the previous owners and was already featureworthy, but the sun-drenched rooftop addition makes guests feel like they're leaving the city behind. Air and light sweep into the space, as a wall of floor-to-ceiling operable windows blurs the line between inside and outside.

On warm days, the couple opens up the rooftop space to the surrounding views and relaxes on the outdoor sectional, made by Toronto's Andrew Richard Designs. The inventive coffee table lends an industrial touch and intriguing texture to the space. John, who also holds an architecture degree, designed and built the low table as an anniversary present for Wanda. It's made up of multiple pieces of plywood clamped together with threaded rods and castors.
The addition is a true hybrid of spaces: bedroom, bathroom, living room and private outdoor deck. It almosts seems more like a boutique hotel room than a residence. Since the home is child centered, the third floor allows the couple to enjoy some much-needed time for themselves. The children will occasionally venture upstairs to watch a movie or hang out, but they see the space as more of an adult's retreat.

Sofa: Jane Loveseat, by Gus; custom windows: Bauhaus; tub: Kohler; table: designed by Wanda Ely, fabricated by Rodrigues Art and Steel

A 50-inch plasma TV on a swiveling mount allows the couple to choose between the sofa, the bed or the tub when watching movies. The rest of the media hardware rests on a teak credenza bought at a local 20th-century-modern furniture store. In the corner are a few design classics: a Flos lamp by Philippe Starck and a Borsani P40 lounge chair. The chair is Wanda's favorite piece in the house, not only for the design but also for a sentimental aspect: It was originally owned by her parents, and she grew up with it.

Floor lamp: Flos Rosy Angelis, Philippe Starck; chair: P40 lounge chair, Borsani
The custom mahogany millwork was built by Gibson Greenwood and consists of two wardrobes and a headboard with built-in book storage. The headboard is slightly recessed, providing a niche for the bed to sit in. One-of-a-kind cast aluminum door pulls were sourced from DuVerre Hardware, and the plush gray rug is from Lanart.
The exterior wall of plantings provides privacy from neighbors, and bathing is a light-filled, soothing experience. To maintain a direct indoor-outdoor relationship, Wanda went to great lengths to ensure that clutter was minimal. The blinds for the windows are recessed into the ceiling, and towels are stored in a wood-lined cavity in the countertop.
Clever storage solutions like these recessed pullouts are paramount in an open space such as this. Wanda ingeniously uses the minimal space underneath the tub to store slippers and deck shoes.
Except for the small toilet room, the bathroom is contained in one large piece of custom mahogany millwork. The sink countertop wraps down to form the bath surround. This design concept is carried throughout the addition, from the third floor stairs to the exterior elevations.

Millwork: Gibson Greenwood; sink and faucets: American Standard; photograph: Stephen Chung Photography
The Elys didn't want an insect screen covering the large sliding window, so they installed this door to the right. Hidden in the wall behind the tub is a screen that slides out to cover the open door. On warm summer days when mosquitos are in the air, the sliding window stays closed and breezes enter through the open door instead. When winter comes and the temperatures plummet, heated travertine floors ensure that the family can enjoy the light and views without worrying about the cold.
The east-facing roof deck has an unforgettable view of the downtown Toronto skyline. Because of the deck's orientation, the family can watch the sun rise in the morning and glimpse the light shows of the iconic CN Tower at night.
One story below the rooftop retreat is the children's floor, which includes both of the children's bedrooms. The open space at the top of the stairs was one of the key selling features for Wanda and John, as the area could serve many different functions. It has naturally evolved to become a communal play area for the two children. Being able to contain the cheerful clutter of toys to the second floor also ensures that the downstairs living space is kept tidy.
An Ikea Expedit bookcase slots neatly into a wall niche, creating an instant reading nook when paired with the Eames chair. Splashes of vivid red give the space some kid credibility, visible in the chair and children's table as well as the paint finish on the north wall. The photograph on the right is from internationally known Toronto photographer Edward Burtynsky.
Alluding to the subdued and refined upstairs palette of floor finishes, the stairs are made from travertine and dark-stained yellow birch. The stairs provide a material counterpoint to the pale finishes in the rest of the space and continue the wrapping notion seen in much of Wanda's detailing.
The prior homeowners had renovated the second-floor bathroom, and the Elys furnished it to engage with the rest of the home. A sheer custom window covering allows for privacy while still letting light pour into the south-facing space.
Though the couple will often bring friends upstairs to relax on the private deck, the hub of the home is the open-plan downstairs living space. The dining, kitchen and living areas all flow into one another. The only partition is a central column where painted portraits of the two children are displayed.

The expansive feeling of the ground floor is aided by large windows on two sides, mirrored rear walls and exposed ceiling joists. All have been painted white to add to the sense of height. Quirky vintage furniture, including reupholstered dining chairs from Craigslist and a teak dining table rescued from the trash, adds a playful touch.
John designed and built this custom cabinetry with the help of a friend, architect Jason Smirnis. It holds the couple's extensive music collection, as well as a TV for the whole family to enjoy movies. Beveled edges help to give the low-profile counter minimal edge expression. The piece also features wraparound detailing, similar to the upstairs addition. The 1960s floor lamp in the corner is another item from Wanda's parents' house.
The previous owners had designed the custom kitchen, which has maple cabinets and stainless steel countertops. The textural exposed ceiling and industrial pendant lights help to offset the sleekness.
A stainless steel countertop wraps to form a seamless farmhouse sink, anchoring the drawers in place. Though the kitchen was installed prior to the couple moving in, they've made it their own by leaving many of their kitchen tools exposed. The wall-mounted spice rack was designed and created by Wanda.
The Ely family's property was originally the garage of an adjacent home. After the lot was severed in 1939, a brick duplex was erected. The house is situated at the end of a driveway, slightly removed from the neighbors' residences. Because of this, the family is provided with both privacy and unparalleled views of the city.

Though uncompromisingly modern in form, the addition is clad in rough-sawn cedar, and portions of it are painted black. Left untreated, the siding has weathered quickly, allowing the box to appear as if it may have always been there.
Wanda says the renovation was a great decision. She appreciates the freedom to have made all the decisions and learn from the building process by being so intimately involved. "It has changed our standard of living, as we built exactly what we wanted to live in," she says.