A custom mansion with an english heritage feel

A new home with a heritage feel



When you create a new build in a heritage neighbourhood like Shaughnessy, blending in isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The challenge for designer Joy Chao of John Henshaw Architect Inc. was to create a home with a sense of history for a homeowner who was eager to embrace the English-manor aesthetic that dominates this exclusive area. “The corner property has a lot of light, but the owner didn’t want the home to be ostentatious and requested a quiet, estate feel,” says Chao. “The Tudor style echoes the neighbouring homes.”

The most important request from the owner, who has two teen children, was a spiralling staircase in the heart of the foyer. The curvaceous white oak bannister had to be created in thin strips, glued together and steamed off-site before final installation.

The wife of the owner preferred a muted palette, which Chao delivered, but the designer kept things interesting by carefully orchestrating the mix. “We really wanted to layer pattern. It can be tricky, so you need elements that echo each other. In the living room, we chose to have similar colours, so even though curtains and upholstery fabrics are different, they are all in the same colour family, and they don’t fight each other.”

Chao suggested the couple tour other houses and look at magazines to find their inspiration for the kitchen. The wife noted that white was a popular choice, but she wanted something a bit different. Chao chose a dark stain for the cabinetry that’s a dramatic counterpoint to the pale architectural envelope.

“Because this is a workspace, the floor is honed travertine, so it’s not shiny, and gives a punch of light,” she observes. “Granite countertops are practical and hard-wearing.” The double fridge and two dishwashers are both concealed behind panels, and appliances such as the microwave are recessed into the cabinets for a clean look. A copper range hood that will patinate over time and a patterned backsplash add a touch of personality, while the island is given turned legs for an unfitted look. 

The master bath is a nod to the owner’s Shanghai roots. He selected the dusky marble himself, and it was used for the floors, to clad the walls, and countertops. “Tiling an entire bathroom is quite popular with Asians,” notes Chao. “The owner is from eastern China, which is very humid, so tiling a whole bathroom is a practical solution.” A generous steam shower is encased in glass walls and incorporates a bench.

The basement — equipped with a home theatre, sauna and bar — is the centre of social activity. Chao notes that the window wells are incredibly deep to capture more light, which creates the feeling of a walkout. 

From start to finish, it took two and a half years for this dream home to be realized. “It was difficult because the owners didn’t know people in the country, so they were very apprehensive at first,” explains Chao. “But the client was such pleasure to deal with, and, in the end, they enjoyed the process immensely.”

The interior shots: Photography by Janis Nicolay