Building A New Face In Canadian Housing: 221 Garden Avenue

Building A New Face In Canadian Housing: 221 Garden Avenue

Sometimes searching for what you want requires looking beyond the obvious. That is why, when the GTA housing market didn’t have the home that Mehbs and Sheila Remtulla envisioned for their family, they looked at creative ways of meeting their need.

Knowing exactly what you want and having the resources to make it happen is a dream for many Toronto families, and the result of the Remtulla’s innovative 1990’s build has made the home a creative addition within the Richvale community, in Richmond Hill. The area features great schools, offering International Baccalaureate programs, an eclectic choice of restaurants, and the diversity that Toronto prides itself on.

Having grown up in Tanzania and the UK with architects & designers in their families, the Remtulla’s had been exposed to creative architecture from a very young age. They were, therefore, determined to build a home that was functional and comfortable but also took advantage of the unique ravine setting they found themselves in. Inspired by the serene simplicity of concrete & stone as showcased by Tadao Ando, and the brickwork of Mario Botta, they were fuelled by the desire to bring an exciting and fresh look to their own home in Canada.


The Perfect Location

On a beautiful October Sunday afternoon, the Remtulla family found the perfect piece of land for their build – one that felt like a Muskoka cottage and yet was less than an hour away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Mehbs recalls:

The developer had about ten parcels of land of which three were on the ravine. The chosen piece of land was selected for its perfect distance from the golf course, allowing for a view that encompasses the hills, but not the golfers.

Working with renowned Italian architects Aldo & Francesco Piccaluga, with whom Mehbs had become acquainted with earlier (they had designed his Advertising Agency office space), the process of designing a functional home that embraced the spectacular landscape began.


Wrapping Your Arms Around Nature Through Design

Together they built a concrete structure, nestled in the ravine that puts both form & function in play. The construction took about three years to complete, mostly because of the need to wait for the concrete to settle in – between pourings. Interestingly, in 1994 there were just a handful of construction companies that were willing to tackle an all concrete build.


Playful & Functional Design

The design of the home is very playful in structure thanks to the geometric forms – particularly the meticulously thought out use of a high ceiling rotunda to create a circular family room. The flow and function of the home is deliberate and constructed for functionality & comfort. 


When one comes home from work one can enjoy the common areas of the house, like the wafting scents of dinner cooking, and the living area which is perfect for entertaining – all before retiring downstairs to the bedrooms.

Mehbs says of the design, “We wanted to feel the land, and create a simple but warm and elegant environment.” Enjoying the property with a well-designed layout has been a great way to enjoy the neighbourhood. The home can take in much light, and every room is very private, despite the use of large windows.

Some of the most memorable views are offered in the winter, with a soft powdering of snow, resembling a greeting card. This is more enjoyable thanks to the radiant heating installed in the floors, something that was new at the time but has become a luxury feature in many homes today.


The home is comfortable and environmentally respectful, with no need for air conditioning thanks to the use of concrete which “breathes” even at high temperatures in the summer.

Mehbs says the neighbourhood has taken quality design seriously:

On the other side of the street there have been a few homes with innovative designs. When you expose people to great work they will often to appreciate it.

The Remtulla family is warmed by the trends they are seeing in terms of creative and innovative design efforts in Canada:

People are travelling more and getting exposed to works by creative masters like Kengo Kuma, Bjarke Ingels & John Pawson some of whom are now doing projects in Canada.

Also, today young Canadian architects are being trained and encouraged to explore and push the envelope, much like what was done to create 221 Garden Avenue.

Learn more about the property here and watch the video!



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