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Despite being built prior to Confederation, the house has only had six owners.
Despite being built prior to Confederation, the house has only had six owners.

Home of the Week: A heritage house with a modern twist Add to ...

125 KINGSWAY CRES., TORONTO

ASKING PRICE: $1.49-million

TAXES: $6,353.92 (2013)

LOT SIZE: 60 by 149.7 feet

AGENTS: Colin Kinnear and Cynthia Goodchild (Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd., Johnston and Daniel Division)

The back story

This red brick house sat on 400 acres of farmland edging down to the Humber River when it was built in the Gothic Revival style in 1853. The surrounding village was known as Lambton Mills for the grist and saw mills that operated along the river at that time.

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In the early 1900s, a new owner named John Berry moved into the three-bedroom house. Mr. Berry was the treasurer and tax collector for the Township of Etobicoke, and the local residents would come to the house to pay their taxes, says the current owner, Jill Kelsall.

The house is still known as the Berry House as – over the years – the surrounding land was gradually developed and Lambton Mills was absorbed into the neighbourhood now known as the Kingsway.

During its 161 years, the house built before Confederation has been home to only six families.

The house today

Ms. Kelsall had the opportunity to chat with the previous owner when she bought the house at 125 Kingsway Cres. many years ago. That owner, architect Blake Miller, had also designed the large addition on the rear of the house.

Ms. Kelsall says Mr. Miller was known for his modern design in the 1970s, but he also appreciated the historic house.

The addition added a light-filled dining area and a large kitchen with a walk-out to a large terrace.

“He was a modern man with a real love for old buildings. It was a lovely challenge for him to take this old farmhouse and give it a new life,” she said.

On the lower level, the addition created an extra living area with above-ground windows. The bedroom, sitting room, bathroom and small kitchen can also serve as a separate suite for a nanny or older children, points out real estate agent Colin Kinnear.

When Ms. Kelsall took over, she removed an enclosed porch that had been added over the years. She had help from her father-in-law, the interior designer Murray Oliver, who was involved in the restoration of the Old Mill Inn in Toronto and Dundurn Castle in Hamilton, Ont.

They found a vintage photo of the house with its original porch and Mr. Oliver ensured that new porch posts were milled to replicate the original design. Inside, Ms. Kelsall had a window that had been closed off opened up again in the living room.

At some point the ceilings had been dropped so she had them restored to their original height of 10 feet.

“It was so odd to me that they had it all closed off,” Ms. Kelsall said. “We really wanted to see the light.”

The front door, mouldings and windows throughout the house were also replaced or repaired in keeping with the original style. The centre staircase with original balustered railing and spindles remains.

“We tried to be respectful of the modern architecture but keep a farmhouse feel,” says Ms. Kelsall, who sought out antique sconces and mirrors and other fixtures of the period.

The family room has been converted from two rooms into one large space with a fireplace on a raised hearth.

Ms. Kelsall, who lives with sons Matthew, David and Joshua Oliver, says she enjoys the fact that the principal rooms are large and accommodating and the bedrooms are relatively small.

That encourages family members to spend time together in the main part of the house, she says.

“It has humble bedrooms and I like it from that point of view.”

Ms. Kelsall says one of the things she enjoys most is seeing the blossoms emerge on the apple tree in the large backyard. Large mature trees also provide shade, and the parkland along the river provides a favourite walk.

“We are 25 steps from the Humber River. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place to live.”

A single garage at the rear of the property has been converted to a studio.

In the fall, Ms. Kelsall pulls out a vintage press and invites the neighbours over to squeeze the apples for their juice.

“They get mad at me if I forget to bring it out,” she says.

Ms. Kelsall says 125 Kingsway Cres. has become such a local landmark, she had the house listed as a historic property under heritage conservation rules.

The best feature

Ms. Kelsall says the modern addition – with a vaulted, skylit ceiling and floor-to-ceiling glass – is a dramatic setting for formal dining. For really large gatherings, she sets up tables that extend into the living room.

“We’ve had dinner for 22 in this room.”

She adds that the east-facing expanse of glass brings the light into the kitchen and dining area at the start of the day.

“It’s so amazing. In the morning we get to see the sun come up and it’s a beautiful sunrise from there.”

The glass door leading to the outdoor terrace makes it easy for guests to move from the living room, through the dining room and into the back garden.

“It’s a very gracious place for friends. We’ve had really great parties here.”

Editor's Note: In the print and earlier online editions of this story, Ms. Kelsall's home was said to have been "designated" under heritage conservation rules. In fact, the home has been listed, but not designated. The City of Toronto makes this distinction to differentiate between properties about which City Council has adopted a recommendation to be included on its inventory of heritage properties and those that have been individually designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.

Follow on Twitter: @CarolynIreland

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