Toronto – Canada’s Sparkling City

Toronto is a great destination.  It’s a very manageable city with many attractions in easy walking distance.  There are interesting diverse neighborhoods and restaurants, film and jazz festivals, museums, and a theater district!

One rainy-day jaunt was to the Art Gallery of Ontario.  The front addition and alterations were designed by Frank Gehry, who was born in Toronto.  Known for his avant-garde style, you would not expect inspiration for suburban residences from this exterior image at left.)

However, when you visit the inside of the Galleria Italia (image at right), the dramatic scale and the use of Douglas Fir wood ribs create comfort and excitement at the same time.  This lofty space could be re-interpreted as a spectacular weekend retreat.  I even thought of using vertical wood timbers to create alcoves along a wall to make a space more interesting.

On one walk, I noticed this older home with a canopy in lieu of a portico (image at left.) The juxtaposition of industrial materials against a historic brick residence was refreshing in this urban setting, and stimulated my imagination because of the unexpected combination.

A newer home in the Forest Hills neighborhood caught my eye because of the round window above the firebox.  This is possible because the architect designed a dual-flue chimney (image at right.) Another method to obtain a window above a fireplace, is to install a direct-vent gas fireplace.  In this case, no flue is needed, but you will see a vent in the exterior wall (okay for a side or back wall, but not on the front of your home).

Closer to downtown, we were drawn into a showroom called “commute home” on Dupont Street. The funky furnishings on display are made from reclaimed materials. For example, there was an old industrial rolling base given new life as a dining room table with handsome thick wood planks for its top (image at right.)  There was also a cluster of car headlights made into a dining room chandelier.  Another whimsical light fixture consisted of upside-down teacups dangling from an electrical wire… reminiscent of wind-chime bells.  You can view some of their one-of-a-kind creations online.

A variation for a traditional frieze board just below a gabled roof is seen in this photo (image at left.) Square, recessed flat panels can be constructed with Azek boards (a cellular PVC material) for a low maintenance and more elaborate exterior trim detail.

In an impressive home, I noticed pairs of casement windows and French doors with a European grid pattern (image at right.) This pattern only has horizontal muntins instead of the more common Colonial window pane grid found in our area (six-over-six in double-hung windows).

And if there’s time, many charming towns are in close proximity for daytrips.  Two of my favorites are:  Elora, nestled along the banks of two rivers and the Elora Gorge with a dramatic waterfall; and the Village of St. Jacobs with antique stores, Mennonite horse-drawn buggies, and bistros.

Travel tip: Bring a snack when you’re going to be walking most of the day.  Often, an energy dip can make people cranky, and there may not be time to stop if the lunch or dinner hour is near at hand.

Published: March 2012

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