154 Glenwood Crescent, Oshawa, Ont.
Asking Price: $1,199,999
Taxes: $5,806.10 (2022)
Lot Size: 62.5- by 120- feet
Lisitng agent: Pino Bruni, Re/Max Jazz Inc.
As you walk up the driveway of 154 Glenwood Cres., it may not be apparent that under your feet is a bit of landscape and ecological technology central to the owner’s life.
“We broke up the long driveway with concrete inserts to reduce rain runoff, and it slopes right toward the west side of the house, so we put a rain garden along the west that takes all the water,” said Tracy Patterson, one of the principals of a water management solutions business that works with conservation areas, municipalities and businesses to address the increasingly vital issue of mitigating extreme weather events. “I deal with a lot of run-off issues, and driveways are this huge source. … So many of our storm sewers go right to creeks. So you can imagine the crap that gets moved downstream.” In addition to thirsty and hardy plants to absorb that runoff, the landscaping is also full of pollinator plantings that support local bee populations.
Ms. Patterson initially wanted a career in zoology, but ended up being drawn to work aimed at protecting the ecosystem, which is increasingly a pursuit of using “green infrastructure” to protect humans from the flooding and drought conditions wrought by climate change.
A shift in her profession has seen a growing appreciation of the vital role the natural landscape plays in managing water systems, so much so that it can be cheaper and more effective to go natural than to rely on man-made engineering systems like pipes and reservoirs. “Instead of looking at a forest and saying it’s just a forest, or a wetland and saying it’s just a wetland we see there’s an incentive to protect those natural parts of the watershed that represent a huge cost savings function let alone a risk mitigation,” she said.
And when it came to the renovation of her 1950s vintage Oshawa split-level home, she and her partner applied the same notion when adapting the mid-century structure to wring the most benefit from the natural environment.
The house today
When Ms. Patterson bought the house a decade ago with her partner Marcus Adrian McDowell it wasn’t exactly a dream fulfilled.
“I’m not a suburbia person; it was hard sell for me,” said Ms. Patterson who came to the house from downtown Toronto. On the other extreme, her mother lived in rural Uxbridge – “That was pure country” – and the in-between space of the suburbs didn’t call to her. Until she got to Glenwood.
“That pocket is known as the Glens, or the North Glens, and it’s one of the most sought-after destinations in Oshawa,” said listing agent Pino Bruni.
“When we drove down the street I looked at all these huge trees, this house at the top of the hill, across from a big park with giant spruces, and down the hill the ravine. … You just get a sense,” Ms. Patterson said. “Maybe I had an idea of suburbia that has since been disproven; it’s nice when it’s dark at night and quiet.”
Less nice were some of the interior finishes, which had barely been updated since the house was built and were suffering from wear and tear and dated style: “One bathroom was completely lime-green and black,” Ms. Patterson said.
“We didn’t have a large budget so we read a ton about mid-century modern design, so we did drawings on graph paper,” she said. When their sketches got too complex out came the pencil crayons to help define their ideas. “It was a slow process, my partner is a musician and so he’s very artistic and creative, and he came up with great stuff.”
One of the first things they did was redefine the entryway by closing in a vestibule, a project that also uncovered a 10-foot-square unused void behind a wall that was ripped away, space that was added to a main-floor bathroom.
The house is split over four levels and the stairs to the upper-level bedrooms are just to the left of the entrance, while directly ahead is the kitchen. On the right is a brick wall that doubles as a chimney for the fireplace that anchors the sitting room on the right side of the hall, which shares that half of the floor with a formal dining space that also connects to the kitchen.
The environmental theme is continued with new flooring throughout that is Forest Stewardship Council certified sustainably harvested, and small three-inch energy efficient LED lighting.
There’s a half-wall with three long rectangular cut-outs that separates the kitchen from the dining space, and those cut-outs are a motif that will appear again and again. The dining room has a long rectangular window about three-quarters of the way up that lets in light while offering nosy neighbours no views of dinner, and that window form will also repeat throughout the house. Even the kitchen has big windows, but they are wider than they are tall.
“We looked at mid-century styles, and prairie style homes, and they really do have a horizontal feel,” said Ms. Patterson, referring to Frank Lloyd Wright’s turn of the 20th-century designs such as the famous Robie House, which features those high, narrow windows. The original Glenwood house did not have much in the way of internal connections, split as it is by multiple staircases. So in several spots, the couple simple cut more rectangles through walls to create openings between floors. “It has this linear feel, so let’s go with it … we wanted light from the windows to come through all the different areas,” she said.
There’s a hole cut at floor level in the kitchen that looks through a glassed-in gas fireplace to a living room below. Taking the stairs down to this room from the kitchen the supporting wall has more rectangles cut into it, and on the same wall as the fireplace window is another window cut into the wall again to draw light into the lowest level of the house (down another set of stairs).
This basement room has another wall-mounted gas fireplace, next to a wall-mounted television. The rear wall of this space is filled with cabinets for storage.
Upstairs the couple pushed the ceilings up to the dormers to expose the roof rafters, giving the space yet more light and height. The three bedrooms all have their own unique decor as well.
The garden room: That’s what Ms. Patterson calls the level just below the kitchen, which has a dry-bar with wine fridge, a seating area that faces double glass doors that walk out onto the patio and rear yard. Behind this living space is the laundry area and another guest bathroom.
“I love having coffee there,” thanks to the view into the wooded garden, and a sense of solitude and connection to nature the high windows offer elsewhere. “My partner likes the basement, he clicks a fire on, gets his guitar and he likes to hang out with this musician friends. They are down there, and they can do their thing and I can go do mine,” she said.
Some mid-century homes are long, low places with wide open living spaces, whereas a split level has a more chopped up layout. Ms. Patterson and Mr. McDowell’s pencil-coloured sketches imagined connecting those spaces with cut-outs while leaving them separated enough to program differently. For them, it’s the best of both worlds.
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