7 June 2012. John Bentley Mays. Special to The Globe and Mail
Inside a stylish overhaul in Toronto’s best-designed subdivision
If I had to name the most unaffectedly gracious and artistically successful planned subdivision in Toronto, the winner would surely be – not the Annex, not Moore Park, certainly not Forest Hill – but Baby Point.
As far as I can tell, developer Robert Home Smith got everything right when he laid out the new neighbourhood’s streets, parklands and ample building lots in 1912. Edwardian and later architects and builders then filled in th e blanks that Mr. Home Smith had inscribed on the plateau above the Humber River. The result of these efforts is a set of beautifully well-ordered streetscapes with broad lawns and spacious family dwellings.
By and large, the public faces of these detached houses speak of solidity, rootedness, propriety and other cultural values cherished by our Edwardian ancestors. And they weren’t the only people who have done so. Numerous house-hunters nowadays want to see these old-fashioned ideals embodied in the buildings they live in, and about a thousand current home-owners and their families have discovered such architectural traditionalism on the pleasant, shady streets of Baby Point.
But while many people like the exterior look and feel of a district such as this, fewer enjoy living in the interiors crafted by the designers of yesteryear. Spaces that worked well to support the lifestyles and express the domestic ideas of former times often fail to perform that well for contemporary couples and families. An interior overhaul is called for.
I recently visited a Baby Point house that, just a couple of years ago, needed such updating in the worst way. It was built in the 1950s, but cut to a stodgy pattern that was considerably older. Set on a wide, splendid site overlooking the Humber River valley, the sturdy two-storey brick structure had a stingy little kitchen and tiny washrooms. The total floor-space of the house was generous – about 2,800 square feet, not counting the basement – but this area was diced up into too many cramped compartments. And, for some baffling reason, the original architects left the rear façade seriously undersupplied with windows – thereby blocking the view toward the back garden and the lovely valley landscape beyond.
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