Drew Mandel Design - 83A Marlborough Ave

Drew Mandel Design

83A Marlborough Ave

Infill house on a 13ft wide plot, becomes feature residence of the street - Drew Mandel has used every inch of this brownfield (ex 1 car garage & garden) site to create his ideal residence. Influences of Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolph Schindler eminent in the residence's façade lead to elegant use of wood detailing for the interior.

Drew, an up and coming Canadian architect snapped up an “interesting” plot, that his colleague at MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, David Miller had on offer. Setting out to create his debut "big time" design, Drew won a number of awards in Toronto and Canada. The house is an impressive example of modern infill, coming in at a modest $182 per ft2.

The Lot
Miller and his architect wife, Amy Falkner, had obtained a minor variance allowing them to build to the very edges of the property line without the usual margin of grass or ground cover. (It's only because the houses on each side are set back from the lot line that there is any space at all between the Mandel-Cooper house and its neighbours.) To support development, the municipality had allowed a substantial increase in the floor space, from 908 to more than 1,280 square feet above ground.
Their relatives labelled the plot a bowling lane, Mandel and his wife like to think of it as a lane each.

Focusing on commercial design at work, Drew’s evening efforts on his own house pulled from his designs of multiplexes, community centres, libraries and banks. The main Achilles heel of the plot, the extended walls down either side of the property, led Drew to (as he sometimes reflects) to overcompensate with house glass panels at either end and a large light well at the centre of the build. I disagree; the house is fantastically bright and airy.

Breaking the house away from other designs out there and I believe linking it to his favoured FLW and Rudolf, is the use of patchwork glass rather than a large expanse of industrial like uniform façade. A cute modernist take on the Juliet balcony protrudes from the master bedroom, breaking the rear wall further and allows great views down to the meticulously landscaped garden, that complements the house so well. Adding to the functionality of the glass façade, a large central panel pivots to allow bigger pieces of furniture to be hoisted in.

Bringing in that industrial design know-how resolved the issue of construction methods too. Such a narrow tall design refused traditional frame design used in residential projects, meaning an industrial to balloon framing technique was adopted. Steel supports for the entire 38-foot length of the walls were put up first, and then the floors were locked in afterwards.

Further industrial features of the house include the two ramps from the entrance of the house to the living room and from the master bedroom to the second bedroom, a comfortable alternative to stairs.

From the semi-subterranean guest room at the front of the house you head south up the ramp to the living room, then north up five stairs to the dining room-kitchen floor, then south again up the house's only full flight of stairs to the master bedroom and bathroom. Finally, completing the layout you head north, up the second ramp to the second bedroom.

The Result
Drew and Denise have blown their relatives away. Despite the restricting plot they've created a house that through it's high ceilings, skylights and maximum glazing at both ends is a bright, spacious and airy home.


Architect/Designer: Drew Mandel Design
Client: Denise Cooper & Drew Mandel
Completed: 2007
Structural: Blackwell Engineering Ltd. (David Bowick)
Builder: T. Fijalkowski & Associates
Site Plan Approval: David Miller & Amy Falkner
Lot:13' x 115' or 1560 ft2
Costs: $182 per ft2

Information courtesy of: Drew Mandel Design