California Style…..In Toronto?

I’m sure architects have a more official term for the look, but “California Style” homes have been built here and there throughout our city.

But my question is: do they seem a bit out of place?

It’s funny – while watching this video, I actually began to talk to myself (er, the version of me narrating the vid) and disagree!

The second California-style house, while not particularly attractive, was nicer-looking than that awful house to the right of it!  I tried to rhetorically ask which house was more attractive, but maybe I picked the wrong street…

My point is that these houses stick out, and not necessarily in a good way.

Have a look at this quick video of a California-style house in Leaside where the houses all around it are far better looking, and much more desirable:

I’m all about being modern and cutting-edge, but this house is just a bit too new-age for my liking.

If you’re going to live in a certain neighbourhood, don’t you want to take on the character and tradition of that area?


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  1. Aaron says:

    The typical re-gentrified faux tudor homes that dot Toronto’s midtown are cookie cutter bores. Stone, stucco,….blah blah. I love the modernist euro trend.

  2. Market Bull says:

    Hey David,

    It looks like Garth Turner has decided to take a swing at you (possibly a late retaliation for ripping his pathetic ‘Greater Fool’ book 4 years ago). He more or less calls you a con artist and a fraud.

    1. @ Market Bull

      I saw. I replied.

      He didn’t misquote me, he just left out anything I said about not liking the current system we work within, and calling for greater rules and regulations in our industry.

      He also called me unethical, which is ironic, considering I was fired this weekend by a client who wanted me to act unethically, and when I refused, he said he would find somebody who would…

      1. Paully says:

        I wonder if you could share, what kind of unethical behaviours have you been asked to do by clients, and have refused over the years? Has there been enough for a whole blog post?

        Do you believe that there are agents out there that actually have fake customers put in low offers on their listings to help to drive the price up in a multiple offer situation?

      2. Market Bull says:

        The good news is that the majority of Turner’s blog-dogs commenting on his latest drivel, actually disagree with him on this issue.

        The listing agent and the seller can do anything within the law and the code of ethics to attain the highest price possible. In Australia, many homes are sold at auction to the highest bidder on a regular basis.

        1. Joe Q. says:

          In Australia, many homes are sold at auction to the highest bidder on a regular basis.

          It should be noted, though, that the Australian auction system is much more transparent than the system(s) used for multiple-offer situations here in Canada.

          1. jeff316 says:

            The question, however, is what does that transparency achieve and what are the unintended outcomes?

          2. @ ALL

            I have a wicked THURSDAY RANT planned, where I will mend all fences with my boy, Garth. He and I definitely believe in some of the same things, we just articulate them differently.

  3. I think the California style homes are better suited for the suburbs where perhaps a concept sub-division may appeal to young home buyers. But in the heart of Toronto, these homes look out of place.

  4. Ralph Cramdown says:

    True Modern style uses wide HORIZONTAL windows to show that the outer walls aren’t the main structural element supporting the upper storeys and/or roof. For the cheap and/or ignorant, there’s boxy structures with narrow, vertical windows, which are much cheaper and easier to design and build, but aren’t Modern at all.

    As to stucco, it’s a great material to use in places that don’t get much rain and don’t have freeze/thaw cycles. Widely used in California. Widely copied in Vancouver with disastrous results, now available right here in the GTA. There’s ways of adapting stucco to the local climate but, once it’s done, there’s no way of telling whether its been done right or just cheaply, with expensive future consequences. And don’t we all just love the thin stucco skim coats over styrofoam? The first time some kid throws a ball against the house with moderate force, it leaves a permanent impact crater. Cheap, cheap, cheap.

    These places share very little with true Modern design. They’re basically SFH adaptations of the West Coast “Dingbat” style — build a cheap stucco box out as close to the lot lines as you’re allowed, for maximum interior volume at minimal construction cost.

  5. Adam says:

    Interesting post, David. I like the houses shown in Bloor West Village, but that concrete monster in Leaside is just awful. There are some nice modern style houses on Ardwold Gate that seem to fit in nicely, probably the larger lots help. I think there is one still under construction there.

  6. Darren says:

    I got slammed on another forum because I think places like this ruin a neighbourhood. The first one you showed in bloor west wasn’t too bad and the 2nd was not the worst I’ve seen. The one in leadside is an abomination. If I lived across the road or next door, I would have to move. It’s the neighbours that have to look at it, not the people living in it. I think it’s selfish for people to build stuff like that on a quiet street. It could go nicely in a mixed use style street, but not on a residential road like that. The same goes for the mini mansions that get built on a street full of bungalows. Ugh!

  7. Mik says:

    First off, your blog is a great thing for Toronto. Modern homes can have a lot of appealing features, such as lots of light, open spaces, high ceilings, new wiring/plumbing/fixtures/etc., luxurious tactile materials, and other nice qualities. Unfortunately, most of the “modern” homes being built or renovated in Toronto are being cheaped out as much as possible. A cheaply made conventional home looks bad but not usually out of place amongst all the ugly older houses around, while a cheaply made modern home can easily become an inadvertent abomination.

    It seems like some homeowners and builders want to go for a modern look, but don’t want to pay an architect like Superkul, Taylor Smyth, Paul Raff, Farrow, or others who can do it properly. Even if you go with a good architect, you still need a good lot. In a city like Toronto with lots of small old houses, modern houses always look best on a wide lot, or on a winding hilly street where there is a bit of breathing room between the modern house and the old stuff next door. Going modern on a dense old street in Toronto with narrow lots rarely works. If you want to go modern on an old cramped street it’s generally better to keep the facade while updating the windows and possibly some outside materials, while gutting the interior. Your neighbours will appreciate your restraint.

    And a “stone” front with stucco sides looks just as terrible on a modern house as it does on a conventional house.

  8. Joe Q. says:

    “If you’re going to live in a certain neighbourhood, don’t you want to take on the character and tradition of that area?”

    Apparently not, especially if your primary goal is to demonstrate “uniqueness” and flaunt your wealth.