A modern day version of Swiss Family Robinson is coming to Toronto’s east end. While they may be lacking in pirates and well-trained elephants, the two and three bedroom Tree House Townhomes do offer playful interiors with innovative features. To help realize their vision, Symmetry Developments enlisted the help of international design atelier dkstudio.
BuzzBuzzHome News sat down with Dmytriy Pereklita, the principal in charge of design at dkstudio, to find out what we can expect from these lofty living spaces.
BuzzBuzzHome: How does your background as an architect and an interior designer aid you in the creative process?
Dmytriy Pereklita: The interesting thing here is that both my partner Karen and I are formally trained as architects, but neither of us received any formal training in interior design. When we moved to Hong Kong in 1998, we both started doing interior design projects and this continued on for about ten years on projects across Asia. So in a way we received our interior design education on the job in a very fast paced, very intense Asian environment.
Having our own practice now in Canada since 2006, we benefit from both disciplines. When we design buildings, we can see the interior potential and challenges right off the bat, and try to think about their integration to get the best results. On the interior side, we understand how buildings work so the process tends to be smoother and more holistic.
BBH: How did the theme of the tree house inspire the interior concept?
DP: The element of play was key in the design of the Tree House. But you can’t just design a tree house for a serious residential project so the idea of balance between a serious work of architecture and something more playful and fun was central to our thinking.
My first idea was to create a space that was very simple and modern by using plywood sheets — it brings rawness and that wood character into the suite. We were very fortunate that the developers were open to and excited about our ideas.
BBH: What materials will be used? For the countertops, backsplash, tile, hardwood flooring, etc.
DP: We initially imagined interior spaces that were clad almost entirely in plywood panels, floor, walls and ceilings. Working within a budget, we had to decide how to achieve this strategically. The final result was a play between serious, durable materials like engineered wood flooring and hard wearing porcelain tiles in wet areas, and materials like exposed sheets of plywood that would typically be shunned in a developer project.
We also used a walnut veneer on the kitchen cabinets that has strong wood grain. We wanted the character of the wood to be expressed as opposed to suppressed or subdued — to serve as a reminder that you’re in a tree house kind of building. The walnut is placed to seem randomly juxtaposed against matte white cabinets and a white quartzite counter to further enhance this theme of play. We also have some fun and innovative materials such as the very large floor to ceiling Laminan Andy tiles that simulate the effect of a thick forest canopy in an abstract 2D way.
BBH: What are the most functional features in the units and how do they create a more livable environment?
DP: All the units have the main living space facing full or double height glass windows. We live in a climate where it’s grey or overcast several months of the year, so having lots of glass and light helps to lift your lift your spirit and create a more pleasant and livable home environment. The finishes are generally light-colored materials and surfaces to further enliven and illuminate the spaces. Other interesting functional elements include the very long counters that are an extension of the kitchen counter that stretch to become informal desks, study or library type counters.
BBH: How did the neighbourhood and target demographic inform your design choices?
DP: The neighbourhood was a very important consideration in the design. This site is outside of the downtown core and consists mostly of single-family dwellings with some commercial properties. The focus of the location is more on families than individuals and young professionals, a mix you would find in a more urban downtown setting. So the design was geared towards families.
This family oriented design plays out on a few levels from the size and number of bedrooms (two to three bedroom with no single or bachelor pads), to the treatment of spaces and finishes. The interiors are quite open with spaces generally flowing from one to another. Open lofts and bridges are also fun and lend themselves well to creating a fun family environment.
BBH: Can you tell us a little bit about working with Symmetry? You’ve worked together before on the Origami Lofts, how has this project differed?
DP: Our collaboration with Symmetry goes back several years and stretches across different projects. What we love about Symmetry is their commitment to architecture and design. All their projects are signature developments with a unique expression and presence in the city.
While Origami focused on creating sculptural moments reminiscent of the ancient art of origami and the Hive focused on creating hip urban interiors in part of Etobicoke undergoing densification, The Tree House focuses on play as the central theme.
BBH: How close was the collaboration between DK and 546 during the design process?
DP: The collaboration was very close in that while 546 is the lead architect and consultant, dkstudio is the interior designer, architect of record, and designer for the sales center. We are constantly interacting and finding ways to support each other. We really love the spirit of cooperation and we’re always learning from one another.
BBH: When we spoke to Sasa from 546, we talked quite extensively about creating dynamic, public space that encourages neighbours to interact. While the interiors are obviously private spaces, did this concept of synergy and socialization carry over?
DP: Definitely, it’s almost like a microcosm. That social dynamic is still at play within the units — not on a community or neighbourhood basis, but on a family basis. We kept the spaces interconnected and flowing, rather than separated. The lofts and bridges also act to encourage a more dynamic interaction between family members. The windows are huge, and many of them face onto the courtyard. Even though you might not be physically interacting, you can still see if your kids are playing outside or if your neighbour is walking by. It helps to link the exterior and the interior in terms of that social dynamic.
BBH: What can you tell us about the design of the presentation centre?
DP: Paul Backewich [dkstudio’s design coordinator] and I developed a storyboard as it’s quite a journey to get from your car to the entrance of the sales centre, which is actually located at the back of the building. We decided to paint the building dark gray, and then we had the idea to paint trees wrapping all the way around as a point of interest.
Paul had the initial idea to create a series of ramps leading up to the [model] unit itself. As you go up, you get to see all of the renderings and sample boards. Even though it’s only two feet in elevation, you still have the sensation that you’re being lifted off the ground, like going up into a tree house. The model is well equipped with a living/dining area, kitchen, bathroom and a bedroom.
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For more information call 647 560 4454.