Dismayed by the dearth of mid-rise development in their native Toronto, Meg Graham and Andre D'Elia, OAA, MRAIC, took matters into their own hands. The married principals of superkül inc | architect “wanted a headquarters” for themselves and their seven-person firm, Graham says, so they went searching for a site that could support their vision. They found it in the city's west end. “We knew the area was in transition,” D'Elia says, “but we also knew what to do with the building as soon as we walked in.”

The aging structure lacked street presence but “had good bones,” Graham says, and was already zoned for commercial and residential uses. Knowing it “would serve as a billboard” for their work, the couple completely renovated the interior, added a third floor, and transformed the façade, using the neighborhood's existing massing, height, and window proportions as a guide. The firm occupies the basement and first floor, and a two-bedroom apartment spans the top two floors. Simple circulation and partitioning changes can be made, if needed, to accommodate more employees, children, or even aging parents.

Black concrete block and a large picture window modernize the street-facing entrance on the south façade. Another window in the second-floor living/dining area breaks up the horizontal cedar screen covering the existing red brick and a portion of the metal siding-clad third floor, shielding the master bedroom and its terrace from prying eyes. The apartment's entrance, a courtyard, and an in-progress garage/studio are around back. Inside, walnut-stained oak flooring contrasts warmly with the spare, white drywall that divides each space. Other new finishes include quartz countertops, IKEA cabinetry, and industrial lighting. Existing pressed-tin ceilings and wooden roof joists were kept, D'Elia says, “to preserve some of the original building's texture and character.”

Ironically, the building was (briefly) adapted and reused once more within months of its makeover. The producers of Hairspray repurposed more than 60 area storefronts—superkül's included—to mimic 1960s Baltimore for the 2007 film's street scenes.

project: Home/Office, Toronto

architect: superkül inc | architect, Toronto

general contractors: Keystone Construction, Woodbridge, Ontario, and superkül inc | architect

project size: 2,800 square feet (plus 800-square-foot garage/studio)

site size: 0.05 acre

construction cost: Approximately $94 per square foot (includes renovation and new construction)

photography: Ben Rahn/A-Frame, except where noted

continue on to part two: shell game