55 Stewart St., PH 1027, Toronto
List price: $2.349-million
Taxes: not yet assessed
Agent: Craig Emond, Re/Max Hallmark Realty
The back story
When Simon Benstead opened the restaurant Marben on Wellington Street West in 2007, he looked to purchase a property in the neighbourhood in which to live, ultimately fixing his sights on a new condo project rising at 55 Stewart St., the residential component of Toronto's new boutique Thompson Hotel.
"I bought this place before it was a Thompson Hotel condo project," says the affable 37-year old entrepreneur who previously worked full-time in finance. "But I saw what was happening to the neighbourhood. I had originally opened business interests here in 2002. I was already invested in the area so I thought to go at it twofold, and so I bought the flagship unit in the neighbourhood's flagship property."
He bought early in the process and so was able to customize the unit to his specifications. He worked closely with his agent, Craig Emond, whom he also calls his best friend, in creating a penthouse unlike any other in Toronto. Boasting 2,500 square feet of two-level living space, the condo has two walls of windows, facing east and west, affording views of the city skyline in addition to Lake Ontario and a surrounding park.
"It is a house in the sky," says Mr. Benstead, who worked for four years on making his home into a gem of urban executive living. He has resided in the unit for only a year; new international business interests are forcing him to sell. Besides being a home to himself and his dog (as well as a couple of acoustic guitars and artwork collected from friends), the unit is like a boutique hotel in that at any time of day or night, Mr. Benstead can order room service from the Thompson Hotel or swim in the rooftop pool. His unit also has access to a fully equipped hotel gym, an onsite movie theatre, lobby bar and three restaurants that also are on the premises. "It's a building offering a very balanced lifestyle to anyone with a busy career."
The entire unit is new, designed by Mr. Benstead himself, who even had a say in the making of the blueprints. "I've engaged in creative spatial interpretations of my restaurants," he says. But this is the first time he designed his own home. Originally, the plan was to section off a series of rooms. But Mr. Benstead wanted an open-concept design and so had walls removed and lots of glass added to make the area feel larger than it is and also full of light. Opening up the space also allowed him to create a kitchen with eating counter that was larger than originally on the plans. The kitchen has access to a private terrace where dining takes place in the warmer months. "I designed it to be an extended dining area," he says, adding that he spent $125,000 in upgrades. "My goal was to make the space more of an entertainer's paradise."
Definitely, it's the views. Or is it the amenities? Ask Mr. Benstead and he focuses in on some of the details that make this unit an aerie of stylish living high above Toronto: seven-inch plank flooring - "the most expensive wood flooring on the market," his agent, Mr. Emond, hastens to add - designer light fixtures and 500 square feet of landscaped terraces. "I love architecture, I love design, I love furniture, I love interesting spaces," Mr. Benstead says. "I'll be sorry to let this one go."