517A CRAWFORD ST., TORONTO
ASKING PRICE: $489,900
TAXES: $3,497 (2014)
LOT SIZE: 32 by 23 feet
AGENT: Kimmé Myles, sales representative, Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd.
The back story
When you walk up to 517A Crawford, you feel a little special.
Part of the reason is because it’s a laneway house, so no matter what way you go in, you feel like you’re accessing a cool back entrance.
But it’s more so because it has been a secret lair of creativity for more than 50 years.
And for the past 24, it has been Barbara Klunder’s work studio and pied-à-terre when she needs a crash pad downtown. “It’s a real loft-studio, long before loft-studios were invented,” she said.
Ms. Klunder happened on the coach house-turned art loft in 1990, after a friend urged her to check it out.
But when they got there, they didn’t exactly get a warm welcome from the owner, Toronto sculptor John McCombe (Mac) Reynolds.
“He opened the door one inch and he wouldn’t let us in unless we answered a question,” Ms. Klunder recalled. “He says: ‘Do you know who Gwendolyn MacEwen is?’ And I said, ‘Yup, the poet.’”
Lucky for her, she was right and learned that the famous poet used to hang out in 517A with Mr. Reynolds. “So that is the provenance of this place,” she said.
Over the years, Ms. Klunder – known as the creative force behind the visuals of 1980s hot spot the BamBoo club on Queen Street West – added to this home’s cool and funky character. But she strove to do so in a way that honoured the fact that the building was originally a 1903 “horse garage,” as she calls it, for a nearby farm. “I really liked the brick walls and the basics of this house,” she said.
The first floor remained the bedroom, but Ms. Klunder moved the kitchen from the utility closet that it was located in, up to the second floor. She also added an exposed wood accent wall and hung Edison light bulbs throughout giving it a rustic and modern feel.
On the second floor, which is one large open space plus the bathroom, the kitchen was kept small. “I asked myself: ‘How can I have the maximum amount of room upstairs and still have a kitchenette?’ ” Ms. Klunder said. She enlisted the help of her son, a budding builder, and he designed a little row kitchen that is only 21-inches in width.
She also added a number of smaller decor details, such as antique doors, including a sliding pair that separate the bedroom from the entrance.
Two of the most striking details are on the second-floor door that leads to the rooftop garden. Ms. Klunder, who admits she loves to hunt for interesting door hardware, purchased a metal door handle that is intricately sculptured into the shape of a dragon.
The other stunning details on glass element of the door is a piece of her own art, called a “papercut.” This one is in the shape of a songbird but it’s made out of meticulously cut paper that includes swirls, zig-zags and spirals.
But it’s not the only piece of art that Ms. Klunder worked into the home. The bathroom features a smashed-dishes shower wall. Explaining that she needed a project to keep herself busy while her son went off and bicycled through Africa as a young man, Ms. Klunder said: “I was so motherly nervous. … So I did the smashed dishes shower.”
It took her all winter and approximately 100 plates, tea cups, bowls to complete it.
While the bathroom, with its original piece of art, is both Ms. Klunder and her real estate agent, Kimmé Myles’s favourite room, they both have other features that they adore.
For Ms. Klunder, it’s the open second floor. And she loves it for a simple practical reason. “This is the room where the light is. It’s such incredible light,” she said. “It was a luxury to do big pieces [of art] here.”
In the past seven years, the windows were updated to triple-pane and ended up creating one long vertical window that spans both the first and second floor on the west-side of the building. Light passes through a window well (added by Mac Reynolds) on the second floor to shine down on the first-floor bedroom: It’s basically like an internal skylight.
Ms. Myles’s favourite details include some of the tell-tale signs that the building used to be a coach house, with horses on the ground floor and hay stashed in what is now the kitchen/living/dining area.
“I love the barn doors. I love the vision of horses coming out and drinking out of [now-buried] Garrison Creek,” she said.
Ms. Myles also loves the potential that the building has for its future owners. Both she and Ms. Klunder hope the next owners are visual people who appreciate the history – artistic and agricultural – that has lived here.
“I am going to keep my eye on [this place],” said Ms. Klunder, adding that she can’t wait to see what the next owner does to transform it. “Imagine starting with a classic shell like this and adding things in to make it really functional.”
Ms. Myles agrees. “It’s a diamond in the rough,” she said. “It’s going to be a gem.”