Great Spaces: Five Garage Conversions to Swoon Over

Geoffrey Roche in his North York pool house (Derek Shapton)

Geoffrey Roche in his North York pool house (Derek Shapton)

Torontonians don’t like compromise. We want to live in the city, and we also want guest rooms, art studios and dens. The answer? Convert out unused sheds, garages or pool into precious square footage. Here, five drool-worthy makeovers.

Photo by Derek Shapton

Photo by Derek Shapton

Who: Geoffrey Roche, a 60-year-old entrepreneur and former ad executive, and his wife Marie Claire
What: An 800-square-foot pool house with an office, dining area and sleeping quarters
Where: North York

For over 20 years, Roche was one of Canada’s top ad executives, but in 2011 he left the business to start a social media company called Poolhouse. He keeps an office at Yonge and Eglinton but often works in his backyard pool house, which is the perfect place to hold meetings, impress clients or steal away for a few hours of solitude. When he bought the property, the pool house looked like something out of That ’70s Show. Architect John Tong redesigned it with vibrant orange walls, two fireplaces (one inside, one outside) and a bar area, giving it the playfulness of a Silicon Valley start-up. At night, the place can be used for parties or poolside cocktails. And tucked in the back are a Murphy bed and bathroom for guests who’ve had a few too many to drive home.

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Slow Furniture: Heidi Earnshaw Takes Her Time for Timeless Quality

Heidi Earnshaw in her downtown Toronto studio

Heidi Earnshaw in her downtown Toronto studio (Michelle Siu)

As a reaction to mass manufacturing, the burgeoning slow furniture movement is a painstakingly careful, anachronistically plodding way to produce chairs, desks and credenzas. Everything is made using time-honoured carpentry techniques, out of elemental materials, without computer-guided machines and routers.

Acclaimed, Toronto-based Heidi Earnshaw is an advocate of the trend. Her designs have the subtlety of a Robert Frost poem and have been recognized by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Awards.

Next month, she’ll be participating in IIDEX, Canada’s national design and architecture expo in Toronto.

Here, Earnshaw talks about her roots as a chainsaw artist, the miracles of vinegar and the importance of taking things slow.

A lot of people are unfamiliar with the term slow furniture. What does it mean to you?

Slow furniture is basically an offshoot of the slow food movement, which started in Italy in the 1980s as a reaction to the first McDonald’s opening in Rome. For me, it’s about creating furniture in a thoughtful and environmentally sustainable way while supporting local economies and using local resources.

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Weathering the Storm: Creating a Home for New Climate Norms

This driveway in Don Mills, Ont., outfitted with the PG45 Paving Grid, supports the weight of a car while also sucking up excess water. (Green Innovations)

This driveway in Don Mills, Ont., outfitted with the PG45 Paving Grid, supports the weight of a car while also sucking up excess water. (Green Innovations)

Right now is a white-knuckle time to be a homeowner. Not because of bubble worries in the condo market or fears of an interest-rate spike. Over the past few years, global warming has become undeniably more menacing. It has caused an increase in roof-wrecking, basement-flooding storms and the type of sweltering, seemingly endless heat wave that makes homes feel more like giant saunas.

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