The city of Toronto has a long and rich history that is reflected in its diverse residential architecture. Although the site was heavily trafficked by the Huron, Ojibwe, and Iroquois, and subsequently by French traders, most of the architectural influences of the city can be traced to British settlers who fled to Toronto during the American Revolutionary War. At the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century, Toronto became a home for more immigrant groups, including the French, Germans, Italians, and Jews, and then the Polish and Russian peoples, as well as the Chinese.
As a heavily multicultural city, Toronto adopted many subtle architectural influences, but still the pervading architectural styles in historic neighbourhoods today are Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, and revival styles of Victorian homes. (For detailed information on industrial, commercial, institutional, and residential architecture, see “The History of Toronto Architecture.”)
Georgian architecture is known for its definitive symmetry both in the structure’s overall silhouette and also in door and window locations. The most common materials used in Georgian homes are stone, stucco, red brick, brown brick, decorative window headers, and hip roofs. This style was popular in the first part of the nineteenth century in many of Toronto’s more affluent neighbourhoods, such as Rosedale.
The trend toward Victorian architecture succeeded Georgian influences. With its steep roofs, towers, turrets, gables, dormers, round angles, bay windows, elaborate woodwork, stained glass, and colourful paneling, Victorian architecture was seen as modern and creative. Victorian architecture gained such adherence that certain Toronto neighbourhoods still house some of North America’s largest collections of Victorian homes. In neighbourhoods like the Annex, Victorian homes adopted unique and eclectic architectural elements like mixed materials of brick and sandstone, architectural elements like domes, and more.
A third trend found in Toronto is Edwardian-style homes. Named after Queen Victoria’s son, Edward VII, Edwardian homes are simple yet elegant. Like Georgian architecture, Edwardian homes are balanced and favour straight lines and minimal ornamentation, but they do incorporate colonettes, keystones, voussoirs, etc.
Historic homes can be brimming with charm and potential, but depending on the house, you might feel that the core style of your home’s architecture just doesn’t match your vision. If this is the case, it may be more cost-effective for you to demolish your home and rebuild a custom home on its site. Making a decision of this magnitude should be done in consultation with a skilled architect and builder to ensure that you’ve investigated all renovation options before demolishing and rebuilding.
If you’re not comfortable with a restoration renovation or a full demolition and rebuild, consider blending modern and traditional features and design techniques to create a transition and contemporary style within the home’s existing footprint. Much of this can be accomplished by opening the home’s floor plan and carefully selecting features and finishes that creatively blend styles. Need ideas? Don’t hesitate to view our award-winning portfolio and contact us when you’re ready to explore options for your home!