83a Marlborough Avenue by DMA, Toronto

Canadian Architect Drew Mandel of achieved a rare design feat: Transforming a lot that once housed a single-car garage into a three-story, contemporary urban dwelling. Located at 83a Marlborough Avenue in suburban Toronto, this townhome (which Mandel lives in with his wife, also a designer) was built on a 13 feet wide x 115 feet deep parcel in a neighborhood lined with Victorian houses. A special variance was obtained from the municipality to build to the border of the property line, thus maximizing the structure’s space. Amazingly, the glazed facade of this modern abode creates a blurred distinction between old and new and actually complements the streetscape’s aesthetic.


This small dream house boasts 1,280 square feet of unique, yet functional, design with plentiful storage hidden under places like stairwells and seating benches. Due to the keen “glass house” design of the windowed front and rear walls of the home, as well as the multi-paneled rooftop skylights, daylight consistently floods the interior spaces. Details of rich wood add dimension to both the exterior and interior.

Set back from the street, this modern dwelling features an appealing front courtyard leading to the entry. Warm reddish floors extend throughout the home, a rich offset to the vivid white walls.  High ceilings create an airy feel, as do the multitude of windows–including one that pivots to ease furniture delivery needs–embracing each living area.

A sunken guest room leads up towards the living room which showcases a soaring wood ceiling with generous recessed lighting. Contemporary modular furnishings in black leather and neutral grey fabric fit the space well. The glass wall of framed windows allows for spectacular views of the tall trees and landscaped backyard terrace. A white geometrical fireplace hearth doubles as a sitting area.

Up several stairs, the kitchen and dining room flow into one, possessing a spacious feel despite the limited room. Appliances are stainless and smooth cabinetry is a a lighter wood than the floors. The ceiling soars to the upper level, once again, allowing natural light to linger.

A flight of stairs ascends to the master bedroom which faces the street, yet affords privacy from the grown trees. Just off a glass door set amongst the various-sized windows, a small balcony extends from the structure. A natural light-infused bathroom is sheathed in minimalism with small white tiles, a streamlined basin and built-in shelving to hold towels.

A hallway with glass railing and steel rivets overlooks the kitchen area. A final ramp from this level brings guests to a second, private bedroom.

With its limited lot, this modern dream home of glass, concrete, wood and light is a small wonder making a significant mark of excellence in restricted-space design.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *