1 ABERDEEN AVE., TORONTO
ASKING PRICE: $1, 199,000
LOT SIZE: 15.92 feet by 110 feet
TAXES: $5,514.07 (2012)
LISTING AGENT: Daniel Bloch and Liora Tal, Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage
There are two types of renovations people resort to after buying a house. One is a massive gutting and rebuilding – almost a repurposing – of the interior. It’s messy, it’s long and it’s expensive.
The other is less invasive, coming in the form of a series of smaller cosmetic changes. A new carpet here, a new vanity there. Think of it as makeup.
One Aberdeen Avenue, in Cabbagetown, was one of those houses that didn’t need major surgery but benefited from some cosmetic changes.
For one, it definitely needed some paint, says owner Keith Pfeiffer.
When Mr. Pfeiffer and his partner Lawrence Reiter moved into 1 Aberdeen in early 2012, the classic three-storey Victorian brick house was covered in red paint. And by covered, Mr. Pfeiffer clarifies, every room inside was shellacked in a crimson red. And it wasn’t just the walls, it was ceilings too.
To many that might have been too daunting of a decor project to handle, but Mr. Pfeiffer, a retired television director, saw it was a challenge.
“I like creating, so I like to find a place that I can touch up a bit,” Mr. Pfeiffer says.
The back story
Prior to Mr. Pfeiffer and Mr. Reiter purchasing the house, 1 Aberdeen had been a family home for 30 years.
Besides the red walls and ceilings, the Aberdeen home also featured blue and grey camouflage carpeting on most of its floors. These decor touches made the long, narrow house very dark and so Mr. Pfeiffer pulled up the carpets, and gave almost the entire house a fresh coat of paint – indeed, many, many coats.
“Each ceiling needed about 10 coats of paint,” he says. “It took us 44 gallons of paint to get rid of the red.”
And it would have been more had he not caved to his friends’ advice to keep one room – the front guest room on the second floor – an ode to the home’s scarlet era.
Beyond these cosmetic improvements, Mr. Pfeiffer and Mr. Reiter also embarked on a few more laborious projects, including revamping the bathrooms and a total remake of the kitchen.
For the bathrooms, many of the renovations were minor. The second-floor bathroom, which had been updated by the previous owners, merely saw changes to freshen it up, such as new grout and a new toilet. But the upstairs ensuite bathroom, which happens to have a walkout to a rooftop deck, had its vanity taken out and replaced with a double basin. They also added a mirror wall to the west side of the room. Even the basement bathroom got an upgrade, including a new tile floor (Mr. Reiter is sure that it used to be covered in carpet before they renovated).
But the bathrooms weren’t the biggest projects, nor the most inconvenient. It took six weeks to transform the black-and-white kitchen into a white-and-beige galley kitchen. That meant six weeks of nowhere to cook – nowhere even to wash dishes after eating take out.
“It felt longer [than six weeks],” says Mr. Reiter. “We had to wash in the little sink in the laundry area. Everything that was in a cupboard in the kitchen was unpacked on the dining room floor.”
They removed the L-shaped counter that was meant to split the skinny space into two: a cooking space and a breakfast space. They got all new appliances, including a gas burning stove, and built all new cabinets. They even took out the hardwood floor, which was warped and had boards missing in places once the kitchen island had been removed. The wood flooring was replaced with tile.
In the end, it was a totally new kitchen that not only offered a far more practical use of the space, but also made the entire back of the house feel brighter, cleaner and bigger.
Both Mr. Pfeiffer and Mr. Reiter are quick to name the kitchen and its adjoining sitting space at the back of the house as their favourite room.
“We spend most of our days in there,” Mr. Reiter says.
And it’s easy to see why. The sitting space looks into the enclosed backyard through a massive set of windows. It’s also got a door to get outside and access what is perhaps one of the most sought-after features for a Cabbagetown house: a parking space.
But when you ask Mr. Pfeiffer what originally drew him to the house, what convinced him the time and money he spent to beautify 1 Aberdeen would be worth it, he doesn’t point to the kitchen, or the spacious master bedroom suite occupying the third floor or the beautiful, old iron fence in the front yard.
“It was the staircase that got me originally,” he says. “The house was very dark and gloomy but it lightened it up and made it special.”
It’s not the house’s original staircase as it’s not the pinched style of stairway you find in most Victorian houses. But its enlarged size doesn’t diminish the rest of the house; it adds dignity and character. Which is exactly why Mr. Pfeiffer knew all Aberdeen needed was a bit polish to let its classic beauty shine through.