188 COTTINGHAM ST., TORONTO
Agent: Doug Heighington (Royal Lepage/ Johnson and Daniel Division)
This lustrous red-brick semi, located steps from Avenue Road, just north of Davenport Road in the neighbourhood enclave of Rathnelly, has obvious curb appeal. It is also home to a couple steeped in the visual arts. He is Nigel Dickson, an award-winning English-born photographer whose portraits and commercial work have for decades been published in Canadian and international magazines, from Toronto Life to Esquire and Rolling Stone. Two years ago, the Institute of Contemporary Culture presented a retrospective of his work at the Royal Ontario Museum as part of the acclaimed exhibition, Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913-2008. Mr. Dickson’s images of such luminaries as Oscar Peterson, Pierre Trudeau and David Cronenberg (a former Cottingham Street neighbour) were incubated in this house where he has lived for the last 22 years. He has shared it with two children and his wife, Diana, an artist in her own right. A board member and associate of Toronto’s Gallery 1313, Ms. Dickson is a painter of moody portraits and electrifying abstracts, examples of which line the walls of this elegant three-storey Victorian. Her eye for colour and visual detail is also apparent in her choice of eclectic and colourful furnishings, art work, carpets and accessories.
Why they bought
A home stager by profession, Ms. Dickson helped design and decorate the house in which she raised her children, now ages 21 and 22. Ms. Dickson is also the reason why the couple moved to Cottingham in the first place after living together in Mr. Dickson’s Parkdale studio when first married 23 years ago. She grew up nearby and attended a local school. Her childhood memories were strong and rich and she bought, she said, largely as a result of nostalgia. But it was the house itself which ultimately drew her in. “It had character,” she says. “But I loved that it was part of a neighbourhood. We bought a house but also a community.”
What they did
Built circa 1883-84, the house has retained some of its original detail. “You can still see bits of the original trim on the outside eaves and around the windows and doors on the second floor,” says agent Doug Heighington. But for the most part, 188 Cottingham St. is a new house in an old shell, completely remodelled on the inside to create a contemporary family home. The finished basement is a fully inhabitable unit with bedroom, bathroom and sitting area, in addition to storage space. The former attic is now a breezy master bedroom with an ensuite laid with white mosaic tile, the result of a major renovation which included the introduction of a rear addition which took place 10 years ago. The couple also added a new contemporary-style Aya kitchen with a mini family room and walk-out to the rear garden whose ivy-covered walls compel Mr. Dickson to call it his favourite place.
Why they are moving
Mr. Dickson will miss the garden as well as the neighbourhood, but at age 62 he is feeling the need for a change of pace. He and his wife recently purchased a home in Florida and plan to spend the bulk of their time there, now that their children have grown and left the house. They are still uncertain as to what to do with all the art and furniture and might, along with the house, sell it off. The exception will be the black Steinway in the living room with fireplace, a gift to Ms. Dickson from her father when she graduated in piano from the nearby Conservatory of Music. “We’re downsizing but the Steinway comes with us, it’s got a lot of meaning for me,” she says.