HOME OF THE WEEK
1410 DUNDAS ST. W., TORONTO
ASKING PRICE: $1.2-million
TAXES: $9,092.24 (2011)
AGENTS: Jill and Bill Parlee (Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. Brokerage)
THE BACK STORY:
Alison Smith’s passion for art drove her out of her native Montreal to Toronto to set up shop as an art dealer five years ago. She chose Dundas Street West near Ossington as the location of her eponymous Alison Smith Gallery, wanting to take advantage of an area of the city that scenesters have dubbed the new Queen Street West for its proliferation of new bars, restaurants, live music venues and cutting-edge galleries. “We bought the building because of the vibrant neighbourhood,” said Ms. Smith, whose intention was to convert an early 20th-Century structure into a blended commercial and residential space for herself, her husband - author Larry Gaudet - and their two young sons. She says that she was particularly drawn to the property because it had excellent bones - sturdy brick, high-ceilings, a very dry basement, a huge garage and a courtyard. The building had gone through several renovations that had cut up the space, especially on the main floor, into a warren of small rooms, so an extensive renovation was necessary to give the building back “its original sense of high-street dignity and elegance,” said Ms. Smith.
To convert an old building into a contemporary work-live space, Ms. Smith hired the award-winning Toronto architecture firm superkül. “The direction was to give the building back its unstudied elegance and the dignity of its years, while making it habitable for a young family with diverse modern needs: a place to store and hang plenty of art, but also hockey equipment for the boys. It also had to have plenty of running room for a tabby cat.” The end result is a 3,000-square-foot shoebox of a building that has undergone a complete makeover without losing its original flavour. The façade was completely refashioned with grey concrete board surrounding a teak window frame and door at the entrance level, with a large silver window box jutting out at an angle from the upper floor. Inside, the main floor renovation was essentially a complete gutting, turning a cluster of tight rooms into a wide-open gallery space warmed by maple floors and an art collection featuring both historical (Goya) and contemporary, colour-saturated (Goran Lucic) works.
The courtyard squeezed between the building and the garage, and viewed from behind glass on the main floor, is this property’s best feature, by far. Intimate in scale, it represents a private retreat within the bustle of the city beyond the building’s threshold. A huge window at the rear of the main floor space looks over the courtyard. A black steel staircase descends to the second floor. “It feels very downtown and urban, but also peaceful,” said Ms. Smith, who is now moving to give her growing children - and her stable of artists - more room to grow.
Editor's Note: The asking price has been dropped from $1.5-million to $1.2-million. This article has been updated.