262 Dovercourt Rd., Toronto
Asking price: $1.249-million
Taxes: $4,388.12 (2012)
Lot size: 25 feet by 100 feet
Agent: Nicholas Bohr, ReMax Hallmark Realty Ltd.
The Back Story
Stéphane Chamard was a Paris-based architect and interior designer when an unfurling romance brought him to Toronto three years ago.
Mr. Chamard’s love for Toronto took a little longer to develop, but when it came to house-hunting, he was immediately enchanted by a dilapidated Victorian house on Dovercourt Road just south of Dundas Street West.
The three-storey, semi-detached house had been virtually abandoned for 30 years. “There was no kitchen and no bathroom, which was totally wonderful,” Mr. Chamard said. “Everything was to be done but all of the character was intact.”
The architect appreciated the large principal rooms and the floorplan, which had remained unchanged since the house was built. The large living room at the front of the house overlooks the street. The dining room is at the centre and the kitchen at the rear. A long hallway connects the rooms.
“Even the corridor is quite spectacular,” says real estate agent Nicholas Bohr of the dramatic black walls which serve as a gallery.
Mr. Chamard says Parisians prefer the dining room to remain separate from the kitchen so that the host can leave the mess behind. After dinner, he says, you invite your guests to move from the dining room and once again forget about the dishes.
“Just after dinner you close the door and bring everybody to the living room.”
Also, he adds, the French prefer to have more than one way of circulating through the house so that two people can move through the house without seeing each other. Often, the person heading down the butler’s staircase at the rear of the house is the lover of one of the spouses who leaves as the husband or wife arrives through the front door.
“The rooms need to be big but the circulation needs to be big as well,” he said. “That’s what we call the lover’s circulation in the houses in France.”
Besides smoothing the way for an effortless tryst, the hallways and staircases separate the rooms and allow family members to spread out. “It really gives you the impression that the house is bigger than it is.”
Mr. Chamard says he doesn’t have a particular affinity for the Victorian era – what drew him to this house is that it hadn’t been modernized in the previous decades. He would also love a house built in the 1950s or 1970 provided it hadn’t been tampered with too much.
“As long as it’s original and has character, you can work with it.”
The House Today
Mr. Chamard set out to update the house for him and his partner, but it was essential to him that the house not look newly-renovated or overly co-ordinated.
“You can work on a house for two or three years but it has to look effortless at the end. If it looks as if you have tried too hard, it’s ruined.”
The house has four bedrooms, with one of them currently being used as an office.
“Every one of them is big enough to be whatever you want them to be,” he says.
The master bathroom has marble floor and wall tiles, twin pedestal sinks and the home’s original bathtub, refurbished with new enamel and taps imported from Europe. The bathtub sits on an angle to provide the bather a view out of the window.
“To have something suddenly twisted is more interesting,” Mr. Chambard said. “It’s my little modern touch within a more traditional room.”
The third floor also has a dressing room and a new bathroom.
Mr. Chambard intentionally left the exterior looking somewhat worn, which is another aspect of the French sensibility.
“In France you don’t want to show off to the neighbours. You live inside but you don’t want the outside to be too flashy. The more discreet it is the better it is.”
Mr. Chamard has grown to appreciate life in Toronto during the past three years.
As a designer, he can now find all of the furnishings and objets d’art he needs for his clients in the city’s increasingly sophisticated boutiques. He enjoys being able to walk to the Art Gallery of Ontario, then meander along Queen Street West to stop at Nadège, his favourite patisserie.
Mr. Chamard believes that the house will appeal to a couple with a knack for design or a family with children who are a little bit older.
Mr. Bohr says people in the media, film and creative industries are often attracted to the Trinity-Bellwoods area because of the many bars and restaurants on Queen and Dundas. He could imagine a film maker or restaurant owner buying the house at 262 Dovercourt.
The Best Feature
The kitchen at the rear of the house is strikingly white and lit by a tall window with original glass. Antique schoolhouse lamps – each collected by Mr. Chamard and slightly distinct from the others – hang from the high ceiling.
Mr. Chamard says the inspiration for the room comes from what he can remember of his grandmother’s kitchen in her house in La Rochelle on France’s Atlantic coast.
“I didn’t want something too modern because of the style of the house,” Mr. Chamard said.
The large marble-topped work table in the centre of the room appears to be a vintage piece but Mr. Chamard designed it and had it made specifically for the space.
The appliances disappear in a wall of black-painted cabinets.
Modernity comes in the form of his collections of white porcelain which are displayed in groups on the shelves and the walls. Houses look best when they reflect their inhabitants’ individuality, he stresses.
“You have something from your parents, something you have had for years, something offered to you – it’s very important to have something personal.”