8 BALCARRA AVE., TORONTO
ASKING PRICE: $1.3-million
TAXES: $5,300 (2011)
AGENT: For sale by owners. Listed on www.comfree.com, access code 321964
The Back Story:
Miranda and John Sheppard love nature so much that when it came to creating a home for themselves and their two daughters they chose a property on a half-acre landscaped lot near the Scarborough Bluffs. They have renovated the home top-to-bottom to resemble a country retreat in the city.
“We incorporated stone, exposed beams, wide pine plank flooring and barn board reclaimed from an old barn,” says Ms. Sheppard, an interior designer whose self-employed husband built most of the home himself, based on her drawings.
“We both grew up in the Bluffs and this has always been home to us,” she says. “We wanted to raise our family here.”
The house was built around 1954 and had been occupied by only one family before the Sheppards moved in 11 years ago after a year of renovations costing close to $400,000. The home went from being a modest bungalow to a four-bedroom, three-bathroom urban oasis boasting 2,400 square feet of light-filled space and an award-winning garden so celebrated it has served as the backdrop to seven TV commercials, including a current one featuring Canadian gardening expert Mark Cullen using it to sell grass seed and fertilizer from Home Hardware.
The home’s celebrity status is augmented by the presence of an oversized backyard swimming pool with a built-in spa and outdoor fireplace sheltered by mature 18-foot tall cedars. The trees are meant to create a sense of privacy but have occasionally drawn uninvited guests: “It is not uncommon to see four to eight deer grazing under our crab apple tree out front, or licking seed from our bird feeder,” Ms. Sheppard says, “despite an in-ground sprinkler system and large backyard shed.”
The house was original and never before renovated. The Sheppards left the footprint but basically changed everything else in and around it, creating an open-concept interior and adding to the exterior a circular driveway and a two-car garage with a storage loft. They also finished the basement and added a home gym where a personal trainer comes three times weekly to coach the couple in mixed martial arts, which they love. They are selling now because their girls are grown and they now want to build their dream home – in the country, of course. “It’s a gorgeous home,” Ms. Sheppard says, “and we will miss it and the community.”
The home is built for entertaining, Ms. Sheppard says: “The huge island is great for indoor parties and the backyard oasis makes for the best hot tub and fire pit gatherings. Everyone who walks through our home comments on the great energy.”