A Modern revival of the '50sPublished on September 11, 2012

  • The Frank Lloyd Wright influences

  • Artist Sara Caracristi painted the piece above the fireplace

  • Kitchen designed by Nick Semanyk and built by Nigel Bowers

  • The screened-in porch off the master bedroom is a retreat for Tani and Greg

  • Lime green countertops add fun to the children's bathroom

  • Former maid's quarters now function as the mudroom

  • After dinner on the basketball court

  • Before

A 1950s design has been renewed for contemporary living in a perfect family home in Rockcliffe Park. History not only repeats itself in the renovated design, but the new owners share the same dedication to creating a true family home as the original residents who moved in as newlyweds in 1951.

Tani and Gregory Sanders embraced the heritage status of their older home and carefully preserved the organic feel of the building, while modernizing it for their active brood of four. For background information on the property, Tani contacted the family who had the home built and was intrigued to discover they had much in common.

Mrs. Genevieve Laidlaw raised four children in the home as well, and told Tani that she especially liked having them walk to school in the neighbourhood.

"She was thrilled to hear that we were enjoying our home," reports Tani, who also moved to Rockcliffe to be close to schools and reduce family commuting time.


As a wedding gift from Frederic Bronson to his daughter Genevieve on her marriage to Archie Laidlaw, the home was built by James Moore from house plans drawn up by his son. Still a student architect, Bill Moore was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright's work and wanted a design that allowed natural light and brought the outside in.

The design maximized window space and included light-enhancing soffits under a flat roof, which was a very novel and controversial feature in the village at the time. However, both the flat roof and the design have withstood the test of time, notes Tani, who gives full credit for the graceful facelift to Nick Semanyk of Urban Keios.

"Nick pays so much attention to the meaningful details and kept the authentic Ď50s style of both the flat roof and side entrances of the home."

Without changing the basic footprint of the building, the home expanded to create a garage with a new bedroom and office on top, plus extra family space at the back. The household needs of another era - the maid's entrance, butler's pantry and their back-stairway - have all been cleverly incorporated to function for a modern family.


The Sanderses are the third family to move into the home and as parents of Harry (12), Hanna (14), Kefir (16) and Ethan (18), they could probably use some domestic help. But the former servant's quarters now provide a discreet side entry into a big mudroom with a laundry chute and wall-to-wall closets. It allows for easy removal of clothing and dirty sportswear, with a quick skip up the private back stairs.

"The home already had a good feel to it and was built like a bunker," says Tani. "All we had to do was make it more kid-friendly and accommodate big, informal gatherings of family and friends without wasting any space."

On the other side of the house, the main entrance opens into a living/dining room with a remodelled floor plan at the front, and a hallway that leads to the busy kitchen and family area at the back. Here, Nick put his talent for finding out how the family functions to full use. He transformed the existing dining room into a spacious kitchen with a long expanse of windows overlooking the pool and patio.

Tani's preference for natural, yet durable, surfaces is met with honed-granite countertops and easy-clean wood cabinetry. On the kitchen side of the mudroom area, the butler's pantry became a series of customized sections that include a walk-in pantry, an area for food prep and extra kitchen storage.

 The new bumped-out space off the kitchen has a great-room style, with a wall of patio doors that slide open to create a seamless indoor/outdoor transition. A two-sided fireplace is all that divides the eating area from the family room, where an eight-seater leather sectional makes for comfortable and cozy get-together time.

While neutral "noodle-coloured" walls favour the monochromatic look of the Ď50s on the main floor, upstairs is a different story. In each of the five bedrooms, everyone got to choose their own personal decorating colours and themes. Three impressive bathrooms emerged from the renovations, in addition to giving Hanna a new bedroom, an office with a private deck for Gregory, and creating a cottage-style cedar retreat with treetop views.

Both inside and out, everything has been redesigned to fit the family lifestyle, while respecting the history of the home and the vision of the original builder.

"Nick always collaborated with us and the contractor to keep a clean and timeless design in harmony with the environment," says Tani. "He was very cognizant of us wanting usable space that evolves as the family grows up."

The home has definitely grown up too. From one that was built to suit the Laidlaw family in the 1950s to the modern-day Sanders family and, no doubt, for generations to come!


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