ON A SHOW
70 TOP TORONTO DESIGNERS GIVE
HISTORIC MCLEAN HOUSE A HEAD-TO-TOE
MAKEOVER, ALL FOR A GOOD CAUSE.
By Jennifer Hughes Photography by Ted Yarwood
It’s hard to believe this was once a quiet private estate on the outskirts of Toronto. Built
in 1931 by successful Canada Packers founder and philanthropist James Stanley McLean
for his family, the Georgian-style fieldstone manse, then known as Bayview, was located
on 50 scenic acres overlooking the Don River. Designed by Eric Arthur, a leading modern
architect with a passion for heritage design, in collaboration with George, Moorhouse
& King Associates, the handsome home boasted grand principal rooms, pleasing
proportions inside and out, and fine detailing. Lush lawns, sweeping drives and formal
English gardens, by landscape architect Gordon Culham, completed the dignified setting.
Taken over in the 1960s by U of T, then Sunnybrook hospital as a medical facility, the
grand home became little more than a service building, its bold character unappreciated.
Then in 1983 the Junior League of Toronto (JLT) and Association of Registered Interior
Designers of Ontario teamed up to revitalize the house to its glorious roots in a Designers’
Showcase, and it was used thereafter as a venue for weddings and special events.
Fast-forward to today, and McLean House — now nestled near the heart of a bustling,
world-class city — is once again a bastion of glamour and cutting-edge design. This
spring, the JLT organized a second massive overhaul featuring work by 70 top designers
(proceeds go to St. Alban’s Boys’ & Girls’ Club and Sunnybrook’s Women & Babies
program). In May, the dramatic results were revealed to the public, who were treated
to an array of astounding transformations: fabulous designs from rich and traditional
to edgy and avant-garde, and some stunning examples of sustainable “green” design.