stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
The restoration of an art deco delight
space
Architect Ryan Schmidt rescued the onetime home of Maple Leafs legend Sweeney Schriner
space
By SIMON LEWSEN
Special to The Globe and Mail
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Friday, August 3, 2018 – Page H4

CALGARY -- In the first half of the 20th century, Calgary's Bridgeland neighbourhood, near where the city's two rivers, the Bow and Elbow, connect, was dotted with workmen's shacks. Among these modest structures, one stood out: an opulent one-and-a-half-storey dwelling made of old-growth timber.

It had been commissioned by Bridgeland's resident celebrity, David (Sweeney) Schriner, the all-star NHL left winger who, in the 1940s, helped take the Toronto Maple Leafs to two Stanley Cup championships.

In 2016, Ryan Schmidt, principal of Ryan Schmidt Architecture Studio and a fourth-generation Bridgelander, noticed a for-sale sign outside the Schriner house and bought it for $565,000. It was the first of what would turn out to be a string of impulsive decisions. The second was his choice not to flip the property when, a week after he'd acquired it, a local developer offered him $50,000 above what he'd paid.

By this point, Mr. Schmidt was invested, personally as well as financially.

Throughout 2017 - with the assistance of his wife, Meghan, and his father, Lyle, a retired contractor - he did a step-by-step restoration, returning the property to its former glory and salvaging a piece of Alberta's art deco heritage.

If you're an architect working for a client, you usually proceed linearly. You make plans. You get them approved.

You stick to them. This is Mr. Schmidt's modus operandi, too, at least when he's on commission. When working for himself, however, he prefers an intuitive approach. He makes day-to-day decisions, sometimes drawing plans on drywall that will later be painted over. He is a jazz-music fan - he often buys rare LPs from Europe - which is perhaps unsurprising, since his technique has more in common with improvisational jazz than with the text-based methods of a classical musician.

For the Schriner house, Mr. Schmidt undertook a process you might call restoration through exploration. He keyed into the demands the structure made of him and responded in novel ways. "The building directed the project," he said.

"Renovation is a bit like archeology. You don't always know what you're looking for, but you hope you'll find something good."

The Schriner house is hardly a pure manifestation of the deco moderne style. Few residences are.

The exterior, with its timber framing, has more in common with medieval Germany than Gatsby-era New York. Inside, however, Mr. Schmidt found striking features - plastered archways and panelled doors - that evoke the deco period, an era of rich textures, elongated forms and bold lines.

Mr. Schmidt's first initiative was decontamination. He hired an asbestosabatement team to remove vermiculite from the attic, a cramped space consisting of a playroom, a storage area and a warren of passages. When the internal walls came down, he was able to see the space for what it was: a grand room beneath a 10-foot gable. "My first thought was, 'This is going to be the master suite,' " he said.

Soon, he found himself installing fir floors and excavating the ceiling to expose the collar ties - the thick wooden beams that hold the rafters together.

Downstairs, the kitchen, which had neither dishwasher nor counter plugs, called for a complete overhaul.

Once Mr. Schmidt gutted the space, he discovered there was no insulation. So he cut exploratory holes in the remaining walls and realized they, too, were empty. Clearly, he'd need to reinsulate the entire lower level. To do that, however, he'd have to remove not just

the plaster and lath, but also the elegant fir trim that encased the windows. Once he took that out, he figured, he might as well refinish it. To do anything less would be a missed opportunity.

Decisions led to decisions. Interventions gave way to more interventions.

Within a year, Mr. Schmidt had sunk $300,000 into the property. He'd retiled the kitchen and bathrooms, retrofitted the wall sconces with LED bulbs, rebuilt the fireplace and stripped layers of wax from the floors, which were made of thin oak planks. (Broad pranks are all the rage today, but narrow-plank flooring often holds up better, since it's less susceptible to warping.)

By the time Ron and Catherine Larson, the couple who now own the property, visited in January of this year, the house had been transformed from a fixer-upper to a living museum - a portal to a bygone era in residential design. The Larsons had recently downsized to a condominium, a choice they quickly regretted. They have four adult children, and at their condo, the lack of both dining and parking space was a frequent encumbrance. They wanted a home that would complement their vintage furniture collection: wood tables made by local artisans and a classic Royal System, a modular shelving unit by Danish modernist Poul Cadovius.

To buy the property, the Larsons dipped into their retirement fund. That decision felt reckless, but they reasoned they'd never forgive themselves if they didn't at least bid on such a unique home. Plus, Mr. Schmidt was constructing a second unit on the property, which could generate rental income to offset the mortgage.

"My first thought upon seeing the house was, 'This is lovely, but there's no way we can afford it,' " Mr. Larson recalled. "But, then we put in an offer that night. I knew that if we didn't, I'd wake up in a decade and go, 'Dammit, I really screwed up.' " The Larsons bought both the Schriner house and the secondary building for a combined price of $1.25-million.

In return, they got a small piece of jazz-age Canadiana.

The Prairies have an unsung deco history, most visible in iconic structures such the Barron Building, an 11-storey tower in downtown Calgary. But the tradition also lives on in what's left of the region's interwar vernacular: old grocery stores and gas stations with curved exteriors and strong horizontal lines.

These buildings are nothing special, but they offer a reminder that deco was once embedded in the global design vocabulary. It found its expression everywhere in the Americas, in structures grand and humble, even in a city more famous for cowboy boots and Smithbilt hats.

Had Mr. Schmidt flipped the Schriner house, it might have found another owner committed to a loving restoration. More likely, it would have been demolished, another piece of vernacular architecture deemed too minor to be worth preserving.

Near the back of the house, the name of Sweeney Schriner's children, Norman and Joanne, are carved into the sidewalk. Had the building been bulldozed, this feature, which sits outside the property line, might have survived. The names would have lived on, then, mostly unnoticed, referencing a history that was otherwise lost.

Associated Graphic

Architect Ryan Schmidt retiled the kitchen and bathrooms, retrofitted the wall sconces with LED bulbs, rebuilt the fireplace and stripped layers of wax from the floors, which were made of thin oak planks.

PHOTOS BY JARED SYCH

After an asbestos-abatement team removed vermiculite from the attic and the internal walls came down, Mr. Schmidt was able to see the space for what it was: a grand room beneath a 10-foot gable. It was part of a process he undertook that could be called restoration through exploration. 'The building directed the project,' he said.

PHOTOS BY JARED SYCH


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Roy_MacGregor Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page