Magnolia House Renovation Looks Ahead to Next 100 Years |
Magnolia House Renovation Looks Ahead to Next 100 Years

Magnolia House Renovation Looks Ahead to Next 100 Years

Historic preservation sees the house into the future

Isobel McKenzie
Written by –
Isobel McKenzie
on August 21st 2018
Originally from London, Isobel is enthralled by the curves and lines that make up a city. It's fascinating to see how modern skyscrapers and historic landmarks muddle together. Her Instagram feed @Isobel_McKenzie is usually full of spiral staircases and tall buildings. Can also be found on Twitter.. sometimes.

Magnolia House


This is Magnolia House, a family home in a desirable Toronto neighborhood. Built a century ago, the house was ready for a revamp, with the latest renovation project carried out by William Dewson Architects.


The home was originally built by 20th century Canadian architect Hamilton Townsend. One of the biggest challenges in the renovation project was to balance any update with the classical character of the look, as it is protected by the Heritage Preservation Act of Ontario. The homeowners are art and architecture lovers, so it was exciting for them to see the unique features of the home and understand its historical backstory.

With the main requirement of the home to retain the architectural integrity of the original house, there were only minor refurbishments carried out inside. The washrooms were refit, and the plumbing and electricity was re-organized for a new layout.

Open plan kitchen with large kitchen island |

One of our firm’s architectural tenets is longevity equals sustainability. In any house we design whether it is a new house or an historic restoration, we build to last for centuries into the future. That is value. Value that stays with the house all through the decades. When we are commissioned for an historic restoration project, inspiration comes from how much can we save or restore from the past and integrate technologies that will take the building far into the future. That results in a building that is of that time, this time and for time to come.” — William Dewson

Open plan living room, dining and hallway area in Magnolia House |
Stunning view from master bedroom with magnolia tree |

One of the great outcomes of the renovation project is getting to enjoy the magnificent magnolia tree in the rear yard. In its previous configuration, the site did not make best use of the southern sky and views of the tree.


Now you can see that the master bedroom as ample view of the tree. The rear façade in both the upper and lower floors were both designed to provide this magnificent view. Fortunately this was achieved with no damage to the tree, even though some construction work took place nearby.

Mirrored bathtub in white tiled bathroom |
Rear facade, exterior view of Magnolia House |

The area west of the tree required new foundations, for the rear façade area. Protecting the magnolia tree provided one of the biggest challenges to the renovation, as they didn’t want any issues with the tree’s root structure. Some of the excavation required hand digging, along with “wrapping and watering of the exposed portions of the roof system as the foundation was formed, poured, waterproofed and backfilled.”

Exterior view of Magnolia House |
Living room decor simple, classic and fits well with historic architecture |

The open plan feeling of the living space is enviable for many, but especially loved by the homeowners who were overjoyed with the revitalized and connecting kitchen, dining and living areas. A solid hardwood flooring joins throughout each room, matched with cabinetry for elements of the house.


The homeowners were absolutely thrilled with the finished project. They were enthusiastic about the new view of the magnolia tree, the restoration of the plaster detailing on the inside, as well as the restoration of the third-floor servants’ quarters into children’s bedrooms.

Kitchen island with white, wood and marble |
Historic Magnolia House, Toronto |
Original documents for historic Magnolia House, Toronto |
Original documents for historic Magnolia House, Toronto |

One of the most exciting elements for the project was getting to see the original drafting designs by architect Hamilton Townsend. These were hung, and you can see them in the photo above.


One of William Dewson’s biggest tips for a house project like this is “where and when you can, stay the course of restoring as much of an historical building as possible. Longevity equals sustainability.”

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