Renovation and small addition makes home better suited to modern lifestyle

A small black box extension totally transforms the back of a 1930s brick townhouse, adding space, natural light and indoor-outdoor flow
Story by: Paul Taylor
Bifold glass doors in this small addition to architecture, facade, house, gray
Bifold glass doors in this small addition to a brick townhouse now provide the easy flow between indoors and outdoors that the home had previously lacked.

While older homes may have attractive character features, they often still bear the layout of a time when lifestyles came with different priorities. And in many of these houses, it's the kitchen that stands out as being most out of step.

Although this 1930s red clay brick townhouse had had some renovations to it in the 1990s, the basic problems still existed says architect Natalie Dionne.

"In the kitchen, you couldn't see outside there was a small window onto a side alley and neighbouring property, but no outlook to the garden," says Dionne.

Add to that a wall dividing the kitchen from the adjacent dining room, and the back of the house felt dark and closed up.


Architect Natalie Dionne says the layout of this architecture, daylighting, house, interior design, real estate, wood, white
Architect Natalie Dionne says the layout of this renovated kitchen was determined by an existing window to a side alley and the narrow shape of the space available. Although this allowed for a long island, there was not enough width for cupboards on both sides of the island to run for the full length. Instead, the island steps in at the black box end to form a casual seating area. The oak bench seat can slide under the countertop when not in use, to give a greater sense of space.

Removing the wall required some structural work, and began the process of opening the interiors up. But to increase the available space and connect both the kitchen and dining room to the outdoors, Dionne took a less conventional approach with the small addition that extends the ground floor and the first floor bedroom.

Clad in high-quality fibrecement board, Dionne refers to the addition as a Black Box, grafted onto the original brick structure. Punching a hole through the brick wall upstairs and downstairs has completely opened up the back of the house.

For the kitchen and dining room, this connection is enhanced by the back of the house at ground level now being a wall of glass and bifolding doors.

"The Black Box adds more space to the kitchen which now opens to a courtyard for outdoor eating, while the dining area has a covered outdoor space in front of it, so it can be opened up even if it's raining."

An extension at the back of this 1930s architecture, ceiling, countertop, daylighting, house, interior design, kitchen, lighting, real estate, gray
An extension at the back of this 1930s brick home is virtually all glass, totally transforming the kitchen and dining areas and turning them into light-filled spaces with easy access to the outdoor areas.

The home's original oak floors were refurbished and provided the starting point for materials selected for the new interiors. The long island top is solid oak, while rift and quartered white oak veneer was used for cabinetry and as the interior lining of the Black Box.

"By reconfiguring the outdated internal divisions and grafting on the two contrasting black volumes, the existing architecture is enhanced and better reflects the modern lifestyle of its owners."

Jan 30, 2018

Credit list

Natalie Dionne Architecture
PA Construction
Existing oak floorboards; Stone Project Colombino Natural from Soligo Ambiente
Benjamin Moore, Sico
Solid oak, oak veneer, white and black lacquer, stainless steel
Julien, stainless steel
Oven, cooktop, microwave, dishwasher, ventilation
Dining furniture
Ikea table; Hay chairs; Norman Copenhagen black pendant lamp
Kitchen designer
Natalie Dionne Architecture
Nanawall, Alumico
Oak veneer
Pixel & Scie
Eve by KWC
Kitchen stools
Hay Revolver stools





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