Dome Delight

A cupola made this addition special

BY Connie Adair
PHOTOS BY Jeff Silverberg

Heather Librach wanted to step out of the box, literally. Instead of a traditional addition, she decided to build the cupola she had always dreamed of having on her home.
Librach and her husband, Mark, travel in Europe often and she loves the classic dome structures she has seen there. “Cupolas are not common in Canada. I wanted something interesting to look at,” she says.

The cupola addition and renovation of their 1940s home was a collaboration between professionals – Librach, who has been an interior designer for 28 years, her brother-in-law architect Richard Librach and project manager Jeff Silverberg of Silverado Custom Homes of Toronto. Silverberg has experience building complicated structures, as well as marrying old and new, which is something that’s important with an addition to an older home.

For Librach, it’s always family first, so she designed the home with an eye to creating a space that their children, now 21 and 23, and their friends would enjoy. “That was the thought process ­– to keep the family at home.”

She wanted to retain the 1940s charm and create a clean Georgian look, which she achieved with the use of wainscoting, crown moulding and marble floors.

The renovation was done in stages, to make the project more affordable and allow the family to live in the house while it was renovated. Librach could also keep a close eye on the project.

It was a challenge but “we managed because we had our television, microwave, sometimes a hot plate, and the phone number of the local pizza delivery,” she says. “Jeff partitioned things off so we could live there.”

The 1,200-square-foot addition, that includes a kitchen and family room where eight people can comfortably watch television, was built first.

The kitchen design has a 1940s influence and an English ambiance. Everything is custom, from the stove hood to the island. The millwork on the island makes it look like a piece of furniture, Silverberg says. The custom hood, which Librach designed herself, “is the nicest hood I’ve ever put into a house.”

The kitchen floor features a 1940s diamond checkerboard pattern. The same type of marble tiles and marble slab was used in other parts of the house. It varies in design but adds consistency, Librach says.

The piece de resistance is the cupola, created on site by trim carpenter John Ferreira of JFF Finish Carpentry, who specializes in detailed millwork and trim.

With custom mouldings and wide aprons, the project was becoming costly. “We stopped ordering custom pieces and bought wood that was flexible and bendable, and designed it on site. We were not afraid to experiment. We took a risk and it worked,” she says. “The dome consists of layers of custom rounded trims with a concentration of detailed panel work surrounding the windows.”

The cupola was the biggest challenge for the carpenters and roofers, with the level of detail for both interior and exterior work extensive. “The carpenter spent two to three months doing interior and exterior trim work,” says Silverberg.

Instead of a fan in the centre of the dome for ventilation, Librach opted to hang a chandelier. Three fans, that serve as architectural features, were mounted below the ring of small windows near the top of the dome, and provide air circulation.

Under the dome’s windows, marble-topped storage space can be put to work as a servery or bar for parties. Two walkouts lead to the backyard that oozes English charm.

The addition also includes one of Librach’s favourite rooms. It’s a bright yet cosy place to relax and has “oodles of windows” and wainscoting. She plans to set up her easel there so she can paint.

The lower level of the addition offers additional family-friendly space including a games room and gym.

A side hall leads from the kitchen and breakfast area to the original home. The flooring on the main level was torn out and the joists replaced to make the home more structurally sound, Silverberg says. “It was a difficult exercise. We had two sets of rough carpenters, the first for the addition and the second crew to restructure the floor joists.”

Closets at the front door were removed, door archways were raised and door openings were widened to create a more open feeling.

The foyer features a sweeping staircase that has original pickets. “Mark wanted to keep the railing. He said, ‘Do whatever else is needed but keep the railing. It’s an original element of the house’,” Librach says.

The original metal handrail was replaced with wood for a more substantial feel.
Some heating and plumbing had to be rerouted, insulation was added and new trim, mouldings, drywall and lighting were installed throughout the home.

The original kitchen was converted into a mudroom and the original family room is now Mark’s office. The room features all new wood wainscoting from floor to ceiling. “A lot of homes in Forest Hill have wainscoting to the ceiling but the two-toned panels create a different effect,” Silverberg says.

The new 1940s-style master en suite bathroom features a laser cut marble inset that picks up the oval shapes featured in the staircase and some windows in the house.
The house was painted with a soft palette from okra yellows to celery greens to icy blue greys throughout.

The whole renovation took about eight months to complete – two months to build the addition, three to four weeks for reconstruction of the subfloor and five months for the finishing, Silverberg says. “This was not a typical extension and renovation. It’s very high end and detailed.”

The collaboration between professionals was a success. “We definitely achieved what we set out to do,” Librach says.