McKellar Park infill by Andrew Reeves offers a thoughtful use of space

The question: What do you do with a cute 1947 McKellar Park home with six sizable cracks in the foundation?

The answer: If you are Rob Woyzbun, who has an affection for modern design inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, and Veronica Engelberts, who readily admits she is risk averse, then you look at all the numbers and make a practical decision. “It was going to cost $150,000 to fix the basement and we still would have a … home that did not meet all of our needs,” says Engelberts.

The house: Today, the masters of marketing (they own Vector Media) have a functional and thoughtful modern home designed by the impeccable Andrew Reeves and built by Kevin Lake and Darryl Squires of The Lake Partnership.

“It came in on time and on budget.” says Engelberts with a wide smile. Adds Woyzbun, “There is nothing we would change.” He had four priorities for the Wavell Avenue house, which settles neatly next to far older neighbours: maximize views of the community park; accommodate a large art collection; focus on food preparation and entertaining; and provide organization solutions.

The two interviewed a series of architects, settling on Reeves, who “downloaded” their priorities and lifestyle over an extended dinner of red wine and pasta prepared by Woyzbun. This serious cook and Engelberts did the talking, Reeves the listening, returning six weeks later with four plans.

“Modern designs get a bad rap because many have an image in their head of a cold and stark design,” says Reeves, who likes to create character by mixing textures, adding cedar and wood for friction that complements his clean lines.

This progressive modernist also likes to take on smaller spaces, suggesting creative and multiple uses for rooms that maximize everyday living. Reeves calls it his 90-per-cent guide.

“It’s easy to design a large modern home for the 10 per cent of everyday living. You can waste space. There is no waste in 90-per-cent design. It has to be truthful and thoughtful.”

Modest modern is also exacting because there is no place or moulding to hide flaws, says Woyzbun, who is certainly not a building newbie, having renovated the original home on the property and dedicated sweat equity into a recreation escape on Simcoe Island near Kingston.

This time, there was design equity.

“It was like waiting for Christmas,” says Woyzbun. Engelberts continues: “We looked at (the four plans) and decided beforehand not to say which plan we liked. We got back in the car and ’fessed up. We both liked the first design. Basically this house.”

In October 2013, the old house was demolished in less than a day, the debris — save for an almost new furnace — was carted away and construction started the next morning.

The couple walked through their red front door last fall and basically haven’t stopped smiling. “There has been a lot of giggling,” says Woyzbun, who admits he is sometimes pressed to honour their commitment to limit clutter in this thoughtfully designed home, especially in their second-floor office, which boasts a spectacular view over a low wall to the living room below.

This is a double-duty office, with low desks providing room for the two to work from home when needed and a Murphy bed that provides an extra sleeping spot for guests and a massive message board when pushed back into place.

This is also a home where the two moved money around, spending less on slick high-gloss white kitchen cabinets from IKEA and more on a gourmet oven from Universal Appliances. They saved money by buying two slim Liebherr fridges instead of a much more expensive double model. Over the 16-foot-long concrete kitchen island created by local craftsman Bill Riseborough they opted for a budget-friendly and eye-catching Hektar pendant light from IKEA at one end, while dipping into their bank account for a linear pendant by Sistemalux at the other end.

A select number of simple, white dishes sit in open view on metal shelves, while on the other side of a gigantic oven hood there are stainless-steel mixing bowls. There is no room for clutter in the kitchen, where 10 bright red metal stools line the island, providing a resting spot for informal meals with family.

Woyzbun added his own design detail to the counter, a chunky maple cutting board with a small cutout where food scrapings can be easily slid into a recycling bin below: totally functional, very neat and designed to work for 90 per cent of everyday living and everyday entertaining.