Drôle House Blog

Winona Dr Renovation


Photo by  Trina Turl

Photo by Trina Turl


Ahhhh, wouldn’t it be glorious to soak in here? This interior second floor renovation project for a family of four on Winona Drive in Toronto is ready to be revealed. It all started with the bathroom.

When families share one bathroom on the sleeping floor, the bathroom needs to work HARD. It has to provide room for help with toddler tooth brushing, potty training, room to groom oneself, and goodness willing, a place to soak on a winter’s night.

See? Super cramped.

See? Super cramped.

This second floor bathroom underwent a major transformation from a cramped three piece to a zen four piece washroom. We did this by stealing space from an adjoining room. I know, I know, we don’t usually recommend this in small homes because it makes the other room awkward and useless as a bedroom, but the fourth bedroom was being used as a walk in closet anyhow. Plus we added a sandblasted glass pocket door to squeeze even more out of the space.

Plan drawing of the second floor. We “stole” about 2-1/2" feet from the smallest bedroom.

Plan drawing of the second floor. We “stole” about 2-1/2" feet from the smallest bedroom.

Demolition stage. Oof, that plumbing looked rough.

Demolition stage. Oof, that plumbing looked rough.

As usual, old homes always hold fun little structural surprises, and this one was no different. After demolition, the main rafters seemed to be held up by paint alone, yet it the house was still standing! We had to scramble to design, repair and reinforce the structure before going ahead. Blackwell Engineering swooped in to consult on this beefy beam.


Built by Webb and Lashbrook, the renovation also included new custom millwork for closets and a desk in the girls’ bedrooms, as well as new insulation on the side walls and gables and new electrical throughout. It turned out to be a nearly complete gut job of the entire second floor, and it was completed beautifully.

Photo by  Trina Turl

Photo by Trina Turl

We can’t take much credit for the impeccable minimalist style, the homeowners had a clear vision for the finishes from the very beginning and we were able to help bring it all together.

Photo by  Trina Turl

Photo by Trina Turl

These two sweethearts were so good to let us photograph them! Photo by  Trina Turl.

These two sweethearts were so good to let us photograph them! Photo by Trina Turl.

Think a renovation like this isn’t possible for your home? Consider booking a home design consultation with Drôle House to find out. The form is all ready for you below.

Postcard 12

{Postcard 12}: "How can I get the most out of a large closet?" - Submitted by Divyang

{Postcard 12}: "How can I get the most out of a large closet?" - Submitted by Divyang

Divyang and Kushbu's toddler son has an underused closet in his room, and they want it to put it to better use. They wonder if there are any hidden opportunities in this tall, squarish enclosed space. 

Divyang's design challenge includes:

  • a 35"Wx40"Dx100"H enclosed closet with no organized shelving currently
  • the need to store LOTS of beloved toddler books, clothes and diaper boxes
  • an adaptive layout that their son could grow into without having to rebuild it completely 

The suggested closet layout has three parts that turns it into a mini-library and play space. The first part is a 18" deep shelving unit with two levels, one for books within reach for a toddler, the higher level for folded clothes and diapers. The second is a narrower 8" shelving unit with integrated ladder affixed to the wall and ceiling. The third is a netted crow's nest that makes use of the upper 30" of head space, which also includes a new opening (netted for safety) above the existing closet door. 

A strip of LED lighting can be installed beneath the lowest bookshelf to brighten the pillow-covered toddler sized reading nook on the floor. That bookshelf is within reach, but the upper clothes +diaper one above is just beyond toddler grasp. Similarly, the first rung on the ladder is off the floor by two feet, which means only kids aged 3 and up will be able to hoist themselves up there to reach the crow's nest. The upper crow's nest/hideout then is suitable for kids aged 3-8.

As their toddler grows into a tween, the modification to the layout would be to:

  • remove the ladder and 8" shelf unit
  • lower the 18" unit to dresser height and add drawers
  • cap the upper opening with a panel in the same style of the existing door
  • convert netted crow's nest into traditional upper shelf for long term storage

The hanging rod stays at the same 5'6" height in both versions. Just a few screws to remove, holes to patch and voilà!

Could your closet be this fun?


Name *

Postcard 9

{Postcard 9} - "How can I make my narrow apartment entrance more functional?" Submitted by Tarryn

{Postcard 9}: How can I make my narrow apartment entrance more functional? - Submitted by Tarryn

Tarryn's second floor apartment entrance is up a narrow flight of stairs. In her sketch, she points to the "shoe mess" that inevitably collects in piles right at the doorway, making it challenging to move through especially dragging a stroller and pre-schooler.

Tarryn's interior design challenge includes:

  • a narrow shared stairway entrance to a second floor apartment
  • the need to store a family-of-four's worth of winter boots and shoes outside the door
  • the need for solution to be moveable (i.e.: no holes in the wall) because it's an apartment
  • keeping the passway and landing as clear as possible for neighbours
  • re-using the solution in a future home

Entrances without vestibules are so frustrating in northern climates! Having a door enter directly into a hallway leaves very little room for anything but circulation. Where is all the stuff supposed to go? Not clutter, just everyday boots, umbrellas and stroller stuff. The design of this apartment complex didn't accommodate wintertime use let alone the needs of families with littles ones. So, how to fix it?

One possible idea is a tetris-like custom shoe storage bench that fits directly on to the stairs. It's made as bench structure first, with a stepped plywood back for sturdiness. Channels can be routered in the main structure to fit 1/4" panels to divide the storage into cubbies of different sizes. It keeps shoes organized off the floor, as well as comfortable child's height bench (and adult on the longer end) for putting on and removing shoes.

Though a custom piece like this wouldn't likely fit on any other staircase because of the variety of stair riser heights, it can have insanely fun alternate uses. It can be flipped to become a modernist play structure/dollhouse or wall mounted to transform into a child's desk. See? Like tetris.

What alternative uses can you see?







Postcard 3

{Postcard 3} - "How can I get more efficient storage into a small living room?" - Submitted by Laura

Laura's challenge includes a narrow living room with:

  • toys, books and electronic equipment to store
  • a large fireplace mantle smack dab in the middle
  • limited circulation around a sectional couch

Ah, toy storage...the bane of parents' existence. Having kids certainly compounds the storage woes of old homes because kids not only grow out of things so fast, but you can't quite get rid of anything in case you have more kids! Generally speaking, if you were to reduce the toy-load by half, the living room would open up. If you do need to build something, it should at least hit two birds with one stone. In this response, a wall to wall built-in bench with storage drawers below also adds seating to the small living room. Keeping vertical storage to a minimum helps the space look wider, and can feature the window more prominently. 

Can anything fun be done with a fireplace you don't use? Televisions have long since replaced them as the hearth of a home. As a bonus idea to this challenge, here is a reimagining of the function of the fireplace mantle. Traditional looking on the outside, fun and flexible when opened up!


Handrail Surprise

Flights of stairs make parents nervous. We worry about falls, kids tripping up or down the steps, we scramble to block the landings with chairs to bar explorative crawlers, or install cumbersome gates that need to be pried open with one-hand-whilst-balancing-a-baby-on-the-hip. Even though I installed gates above and below each flight of stairs in our home, each of my three kids still managed to have some sort of fall at one time or another. There are a few years of young childhood when flights of stairs are just plain iffy and need close supervision as kids practice using them safely.

What if we could redesign common house stairs to make them safer for children? Even the most narrow stairway has at least enough width to accommodate a child’s height handrail. Functional? Yes. Is there a hidden opportunity for play here? Oh yeah. 


Enter the handrail surprise. It's a useable child’s handrail that folds down to become a stair slide. Tadaaa! For the more...adventurous families. This idea has been buzzing in my mind for years. During cold, snow-sparse winters like we can get here in Toronto, we inevitably spend a lot of time indoors. It’s hard to play at the park before it gets dark. We are tired, someone needs to pee, the baby’s heavy, ‘my hands are freeeezing’. Like most families, we hunker down and wrack our brains for physical indoor activities to do.  Balled-up sock fights, mattress ramps and couch forts happen in rotation. Even still, I’m always on the lookout for active and exciting things to do indoors that will expend kids’ energy. 

It's awfully fun. This handrail surprise prototype was built using only materials available at a regular hardware store. It’s designed to be divided into three sections for scaling the length of the slide to the age and capability of a child. 

Please share this post and comment below to let me know you want to learn more about how to accomplish this on your own stairs! If you'd like to get a heads up about new projects, manuals and home renovation resources, remember to subscribe here!


Postcard 2

{Postcard 2} "How can I make my kitchen entrance more functional?" - Submitted by Melanie

Melanie' challenge includes a secondary entrance and kitchen eating area with:

  • large garbage and recycling bins to store
  • limited coat and shoe storage
  • limited seating and circulation for the eating area

Back entrances in urban homes were not designed to be heavily used 60-100 years ago. Many families today come walking in from the garage and enter the home through the kitchen, drop their stuff and keep on going. Stuff accumulates especially when coat and shoe storage is non existent. Kitchens also need to account for larger compost, garbage and recycling bins easily accessed so there are many needs to fill in a very small space. 

Melanie's original sketch shows a small area by the door that could house both an new upper coat closet facing the doors as well as garbage bins in the lower portion accessed from the kitchen side. A new built in L shaped bench with storage beneath could make that space more functional for dining, homework, as an art area etc.



Postcard 1


{Postcard 1}: "How do we fit two twin beds into this space?" - submitted by Conan

Conan's challenge includes a room with:

  • ample furniture, books and toys to store
  • a sloped ceiling that may affect tall shelves and/or headroom
  • radiator and window placement

When rearranging and adding to a room, it's likely that at least one thing will need to be taken away. Figure out what that large piece is (or several small objects are) that need to go. Measure your room including the height in several places and decide if the solution shown can work (twin beds are typically 99cmx190cm). Conan's original sketch shows a small reading corner by the window. New twin beds for each child can mean new reading zones and personal space, but there are also opportunities to include bonus reading "nests" that allow for more sensory enclosure, shown in detail sketches 1 and 2. Discreet, inexpensive shelves can be attached to the wall and/or door to provide special spots for current and favourite books.

Happy rearranging!