Have you ever wandered the many streets of Toronto, looking at the different houses and facades, and thought: how did this style come about? If you’re looking to buy a home, do you have a “look” that you want in a house? In Toronto, there are so many different styles of residential homes, influenced by many different eras and architectural styles in history. Toronto’s architectural styles can be described as an eclectic combination of European, American, post-modern and modern architecture. While many iconic neighbourhoods are heavily inspired by either European or American architecture, a few styles have emerged to become Toronto’s iconic homes and houses.
Many of Toronto’s older buildings are heavily influenced by the city’s history and culture. Common influences include Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and revival styles such as Tudor revival, gothic revival and renaissance revival.
1700’s – 1830
Though many of Toronto’s earliest houses have since been demolished, there are a few remaining structures that have survived and been preserved from the late 1700s and early 1800s. Many of these early structures were inspired by Georgian architecture. This style is embodied by symmetry with the front door typically located in the centre of the building as a focal point of the exterior.
These styles of homes were very common among upper and middle-class families and were characterized by columns, brick or stone exteriors with wooden shutters. These styles of homes are still common in Rosedale, Forest Hill, Leaside and Lawrence Park.
This era in Toronto’s architectural history was heavily influenced and inspired by Early Victorian architecture. The fanciful Gothic revival style spiked in popularity during this time with many homes featuring pointed arches and windows, extensive ornamentation and steeply pitched roofs.
Renaissance revival buildings were also popular, continuing the trend of symmetry in the facade of the building as well as columns and large blocks of masonry on the lowest floor.
1861 – 1900
This era was characterized by Late Victorian architecture. Bay-and-gable style homes, now one of Toronto’s unique and iconic styles, proliferated during this time. The bay and gable style utilizes many elements of Gothic revival and applies them to single-family homes. Many lots in Toronto were oddly shaped – very narrow but long. This inspired homes to be built with steep roofs and large bay windows as well as decorative gabling to fit the narrow lots.
You’ll find many bay-and-gable homes across Toronto. Notably in Cabbagetown, the Annex and Little Italy.
1901 – 1970
This era moved away from the classic Victorian style architecture and embraced more modern design aspects. Skyscrapers and high-rise buildings began popping up as an international modern style of architecture took over.
Art Deco condominiums and mid-rise buildings were erected. These modern styles were very angular and sleek in comparison to the extensive ornament styles of Victorian architecture. Many of these apartments can still be found in Forest HIll, Summer Hill and parts of Parkdale.
1971 – Present
Toronto’s architecture has taken on a much more eclectic style that is hard to pin down to one inspiration. As the city grows and develops, more and more unique buildings and designs are introduced.
Each different era brought new architectural styles and designs to Toronto’s residential streets. Here’s a few examples of those styles you may find. We’ve even included a couple of our current and past listings. If you’re ever looking to buy a certain look, we’ve got you covered.
Bay-and-Gable Style Houses
The bay-and-gable style house is an iconic residential architectural style in Toronto. A part of the Victorian Era architecture, It is defined by a large bay window that usually covers more than half of the front facade of the home underneath a gable roof. This style is common in detached and semi-detached homes.
The popularity of this style was spurred by a population boom in Toronto during the latter part of the 19th century. The bay-and-gable style proved to be efficient in cost and time for the construction of residential homes, allowing it to be produced on a large scale to meet population needs. It was popular among homeowners who were attracted to its ornamental style.
Typical bay-and-gable homes are two-storeys with the iconic bay windows aligned with the crowning gable of the home. Many have the bay windows taking up much of the facade which gives the home a tall but narrow look. It also allows the home to have a lot of natural light despite the narrowness of the lot and home.
Another popular variant seen often in Toronto is the semi-detached bay-and-gable style home. These typically feature a two-and-a-half-storey facade with the classic bay windows on the ground and second floor. The ground floor often features a porch as well which sometimes replaces the ground floor bay windows. The gabled roof is typically centred over the bay windows on the ground floor.
Bay-and-gable style homes are an iconic piece of architecture in Toronto and are often found across the city. You’ll spot many in the Annex, Cabbagetown, Little Italy and Yorkville.
Georgian Revival Houses
Inspired by Georgian England architecture, these homes are focused on symmetry. Common features include columns, brick, stone or clapboard exteriors accented by wood shutters. The front door is typically the centre of the facade and the main focal point of the exterior. These houses look modular and the windows are often much smaller than other styles.
Georgian revival-style houses are commonly found in the Kingsway, Rosedale, Forest Hill, Lawrence Park and Leaside.
Tudor Revival Houses
Unlike Victorian-style houses, these homes were designed with a simpler, more cottage-like style. These were popular in the early 1900s. The main features included steeply pitched roofs, half-timbering design facades with casement windows. They are often described as classic and rustic in their appearance.
These homes are often found in Rosedale, Casa Loma, Old Mill, The Beaches and Cliffside.
Bungalows are common styles of homes found across the world. Generally, a bungalow refers to a single-storey house with a more Craftsman-style architecture. However, in Toronto, many bungalows have more than one storey. Typically, a bungalow has a low sloping, overhanging roof, a large open porch and supporting columns. In Toronto, bungalows built in the early 1900s will also have dormer windows.
You’ll find these homes across Toronto but they are common in the Beaches, Riverdale, the Danforth and High Park.