Decorating & Design

April 6, 2020

A Designer Renovates His Friends’ Historical Home

Designer Arren Williams opens up about navigating a full-scale makeover with two of his close friends.

“‘Oh, you know, it needs a little bit of help,’ joked Sarah and Adam Cooper of the property they had just purchased — a gorgeous but dated 135-year-old clapboard house in Toronto that still had its original horse barn in the garden. The Coopers are good friends; my husband, David, had taught their eldest, and they’d vacationed with us in Portugal, so the idea of helping them turn the house into a home was both exciting and slightly nerve-racking. After all, renovations test even the strongest bonds, and this project would be particularly tricky because the house had a historical designation. Plus, the ask was ambitious: double the square footage, and replace an ’80s kitchen extension with a new two-storey addition to create more room.

Architectural design firm Bldg Workshop was called in to navigate the ins and outs of that historical designation and design the addition. Together, we worked on removing interior walls to help the space feel fresher, brighter and less formal. The key became balancing old and new. By selectively stripping back and simplifying rather than totally gutting the place, we created a livable home that would survive kids, a dog, hockey equipment and everyday life, while still feeling true to the history of the house.”

Author: Arren Williams

Stacey Brandford


House & Home March 2020


Arren Williams; Architectural design by Bldg Workshop