Strathcona home renovation blends Old World charm with modern design

Strathcona home renovation blends Old World charm with modern design

Noble Architecture helps restore this 103-year-old home

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When the current owner of this 103-year-old Strathcona gem first set foot in his future home, he immediately knew there was untapped beauty hiding beneath decades of careless design choices. “When we walked into the place, it was a disaster,” he says. “But we saw the layout of the actual structure and how perfect it was. All we had to do was put lipstick on it.”

To help with this historical facelift, he turned to Shora Parvaresh, founder of Noble Architecture. The two had worked together on several client projects and were quick to come together on a mutual vision. “The beauty of (this project) is that we didn’t move walls or the kitchen,” says Parvaresh. “In a technical essence, it was a simple renovation, but we were able to change everything that was there to make it better.”

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Clean, white panel moulding and a statement mantle bring the homeowner's love of dramatic French architecture to life.
Clean, white panel moulding and a statement mantle bring the homeowner’s love of dramatic French architecture to life. Photo by Janis Nicolay
Original trim found on pocket doors connecting the main floor living room and dining area provided inspiration for moulding throughout the house.
Original trim found on pocket doors connecting the main floor living room and dining area provided inspiration for moulding throughout the house. Photo by Janis Nicolay

The homeowner knew that he and his fiancé wanted a detached home that would provide plenty of space to entertain and a calm escape from city life for the two of them and their statuesque dog. The architect’s initial concept was to keep the pre-war exterior intact while converting the interior to something minimal and modern. This changed quickly after discovering the homeowner’s love of romantic French opulence.

“I’m not a huge fan of minimalism. I like old French castles,” explains the homeowner, who dreamed of a space to host lavish dinner parties for his friends and family. “We have candles everywhere, wainscotting everywhere, as much moulding as we could fit in this damn house…I wanted people to come in and think, ‘Oh, this is not what we expected from the outside.’ It’s almost over-exaggerated, but then when you’re sitting there, it’s like, ‘Okay, this all works.’”

“Once we decided that we are going to bring back the old charm, maybe even more than what it was before, that’s when everything started falling together,” says Parvaresh.

Designer Shora Parvaresh focused on combining old and new by adding new features like the arched wall shelf while keeping historical details like the original chimney brick and hardwood floors.
Designer Shora Parvaresh focused on combining old and new by adding new features like the arched wall shelf while keeping historical details like the original chimney brick and hardwood floors. Photo by Janis Nicolay
A full wall of custom handleless cabinets was installed in the kitchen to maximize space and achieve a seamless, modern look.
A full wall of custom handleless cabinets was installed in the kitchen to maximize space and achieve a seamless, modern look. Photo by Janis Nicolay

Before this vision could become a reality, the team rolled up their sleeves and set to work peeling back 100-plus years of other people’s questionable esthetic decisions: Pipes that had been haphazardly boxed in along the ceilings had to be carefully rerouted or reframed for a more intentional look; a dining room wall, now adorned with chic white panel moulding, was previously covered in glued on rocks and shells that needed to be chipped off; and the original floors, which had been stained over and over again throughout their lifetime to a dark, muddy finish, required days of peeling and polishing to bring back to their original rustic beauty.

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“I would get photos from them sanding the stairs or scraping the floors at all hours,” laughs Parvaresh, recalling the early stages.

The results were dramatic, but many of the seemingly major changes came down to clever design and layout adjustments. In the kitchen, Parvaresh removed a centre island and decided to cover up a corner window that offered little in the way of light, making space for a custom wall of sleek handleless cabinets: “The house has so many windows already that a little window wasn’t doing much. All of a sudden, it made the kitchen so much more practical.”

An arched shelf was built between the existing wall studs to create even more flow, opening up a natural connection with the dining room. The kitchen was fitted with a Kohler faucet and sink and new Fisher Paykel appliances to complete the modernized look.

To create an oasis-like escape, the primary suite was designed to be free of walls and fitted with an open-air Kohler bathtub.
To create an oasis-like escape, the primary suite was designed to be free of walls and fitted with an open-air Kohler bathtub. Photo by Janis Nicolay

For the rest of the design, the goal was to find ways to blend old and new in every corner of the home. The walls were covered in white moulding inspired by the last remaining original trim found on a set of pocket doors. “I’m pretty sure if a historian looks at the moulding, they’d be like, this is not right…You broke all the rules,” laughs Parvaresh. “Oh well.”

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The striking staircase was brought back to life with sage-green paint. The same dusky shade was used along the right side of the main level to create a cohesive line that leads the eye through the kitchen and toward the back of the house. Contrasted against the dramatic French mouldings and mantle are modern details that anchor the space to the present, like the sculptural configuration of blown glass Bocci lights over the dining table, coordinating mounted pendants in the living spaces, sleek handleless cabinets and the owner’s collection of mid-century modern furniture.

While the first two floors provide ample space to entertain, the entire attic floor has been turned into a private sanctuary for the homeowners. The primary bedroom and bath meet in one large open space, with the freestanding Kohler bath taking centre stage.

“The idea for the primary bedroom was always that it would be this really calm oasis,” says Parvaresh. “You can be upstairs away from it all and have a moment to reflect… It’s just so unique.”

New wood was added to create the framing for an arched semi-circle wall, creating a feel of separation and leaving the space airy and open, while the existing exposed beams were drywalled in to match the look of the rest of the space.

“I just wanted it to look nice and friendly… Somewhere to escape life, really,” says the homeowner, reflecting on their reimagined residence. “We come home and love where we live.”

Architecture & Interior Design: Shora Parvaresh, Noble Architecture

Floors: Centurion Hardwood

Mouldings: Canex Building Supplies

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