Toronto townhouse with three dormers

When Craig and Carol Damp Lowery took on their Edwardian-era semi in Toronto, Canada, their vision for its future was for space and light, achieved through the crowning glory of its trio of large dormers.

By Sue Herdman | 13 October 2017

When Craig and Carol Damp Lowery took on their Edwardian-era semi in Toronto, Canada, their vision for its future was for space and light, achieved through the crowning glory of its trio of large dormers.

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raig Lowery and his wife Carol are patient people. They had always sought to live in a particular area in downtown Toronto, and took their time looking for the perfect house. ‘We wanted something urban but attractive, in the right street – and we wanted a project,’ says Craig. Now in banking, Craig had once been an architect, and this background was to inform not only the choice of house, but what they planned to do to it, too. First, though, they had to find a property.

The ideal project – a semi-detached traditional home – eventually came on the market in October 2005. Situated in the leafy street they loved, it needed extensive renovation. The house, built in 1913 of locally-made mellow red bricks, was typical of its time with a front living room and a bigger living area with a bijou kitchen leading off it at the back, and several small bedrooms upstairs. Little had been altered since the Sixties. ‘It was the sort of house,’ says Carol, a physiotherapist, ‘from which we could create something from nothing.’ The couple liked the orientation of the property: ‘north-south, so good light’ says Craig. ‘We liked its depth and width too. It also had a nice garden plot and a garage behind the house which, in this part of Toronto, is like gold dust. Those were the redeeming features. The rest had to be ripped out and the house gutted.’

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The couple sold their existing property, rented an apartment and Craig drew up plans. ‘I was thinking that this would be a swift renovation. Oh, how uninformed I was,’ he says now, with a smile. The project was actually to take some seven years, in which time they would buy and sell another apartment, and have to allow for the recession which slowed the process further. ‘Happily, at the start, we didn’t know how long it was going to be, but we did know we’d hit an early challenge. There was a huge maple tree on one of the property lines and, due to conservation issues, we had to obtain planning permission to work around it, to ensure its root system would be protected. Gaining that consent took a year.’

During that time, Craig realised that some elements of his original plan weren’t to his liking. Then, adjustments made and with the tree taken into account, a storm howled through the area causing several branches to fall and damage the house next door. The neighbours were not happy; the tree had to come down. It all took more time. With no tree, however, the plans could change again, for the better. ‘But I realised that I no longer had the time, energy or, really, the knowledge to continue with the project,’ says Craig, ‘so we brought in an architectural practice to help.’

The couple had heard of the award-winning Superkül, which is based in Toronto and known for its work on everything from family dwellings to large commercial buildings. ‘It’s architects were working on a property in the same street,’ says Carol, ‘so we knew they would have empathy with our type of house and its environment.’