Modern reno respects Port Credit home’s 1950s cottage character
If there’s one thing that annoys homeowners Anna Conte and Mike Car, it’s wasting space.
In the mid-2010s, they raised their blended family in a 3,700-sq.-ft. “cookie cutter” home in north Mississauga, complete with five bedrooms and a den. All the while, they dreamed of something more original — and modest.
“To us, (that house) was a monster home. There were so many rooms that never got used. We wanted to live in a place where we used every bit of space that we have,” said Conte.
In 2011, they came across one of Port Credit’s last original cottages, a 900-sq.-ft., two-bedroom, 1950s-era bungalow near Lake Ontario that architect Chris Hall, of +VG Architects, says likely once served as a vacation home for Toronto’s elite.
Noting his firm’s experience in heritage restoration work, the couple hired Hall to design a new home that would accommodate their family of five while preserving the heritage and character of the original home and the surrounding landscape, including a small pond.
The result? A vertical addition that breathed new life into the home. “For me, it was building a treehouse on top of the cottage, so Anna and Mike could have a view of the landscape they loved from their bedroom and feel like they were part of it,” said Hall.
“They were looking for lots of light and a few additional bedrooms and bathrooms, modern expectations of domestic living, without impacting on the character, scale and qualities of the site and the neighbourhood.”
Conte and Car moved into the bungalow in 2015 with Car’s two kids, Samantha, now 27, and Lucas, now 24, plus Conte’s daughter Ava Azaria, now 18. The family lived in cramped quarters for a year before moving out for the construction process that began in fall 2016.
Over the course of 18 months, Car, a realtor with Royal LePage, acted as general contractor for the renovation while Conte, the associate director of human insights at Clorox Canada, worked on the unique design elements that were important to them.
“We always wanted to build something of our own and make it unique and personalized. It was really important to us to preserve as much as we could and incorporate something modern on top of it,” said Conte.
The original main floor was transformed into an open-concept living space with the exception of a small den and bathroom. “We both have elderly parents, so we wanted that flexibility for a main floor room room that could be converted to a bedroom and have a full bathroom close by,” said Conte.
In an effort to preserve the character of the home, they retained the original mahogany windows and relocated the mahogany front door to serve as a side door. Car also repurposed some of the maple flooring into a feature wall in the laundry/mud room, adding stainless steel hooks for hanging jackets. Some of the old oak flooring can be found in the basement as barn doors that conceal a storage area.
The statement piece of the main floor is the wood-burning fireplace, which was updated with four-foot concrete panels that extend to the 16-foot ceiling, a purposeful juxtaposition with the other materials throughout the space.
“Natural materials were important to us. There’s something about the authenticity and integrity of them. Everything we chose was natural, like wood, marble and concrete,” said Conte.
A light hardwood floor sets off the all-white kitchen cabinetry and Turkish marble tile. The butcher block-topped island was sourced from Knotty’s Woodwork. Made from Sapele, it’s a hard mahogany that is as durable as it is beautiful.
“Mike really hates the clink of glass on granite, and we wanted the warmth of the wood in the kitchen,” said Conte.
She points out a custom-designed baking section sized just for her four-foot-10” frame. “I like to do a lot of baking so that’s my area with its own sink and drawers for baking items. It’s much more comfortable for me to operate in and it doubles as a bar area when we’re entertaining,” she said.
Architecturally, Hall’s favourite feature of the house is the staircase that filters the light from the many windows. “It’s a simple hardwood step with glass sides and no riser so you get a lot of translucence through it. It’s the connection between the new and the old and is the perfect introduction to the modern elements up top,” said Hall.