138 PRINCESS ST., UNIT 1109, TORONTO
Asking price: $549,000
Maintenance fee: $386.13 a month
Unit size: 850 square foot
Taxes: $2,514.11 (2012)
Listing Agent: Ricky Lau, Right at Home Realty
The back story
In Toronto, a hotel room downtown can easily run you $150. So for some couples that have a partner who works in the city, it often makes more fiscal sense to buy your own part-time space.
Steve Suraci, the founder of Icarus Designs, was tasked with creating a boutique hotel aesthetic for his clients at 138 Princess St. The owners, whose primary residence is in Dundas, Ont., needed a place to stay in the city on the weekend and when work trapped one of them in the concrete jungle late. So with Mr. Suraci’s help they picked out what could have been a generic “soft loft” in the city’s much-sought-after Corktown-St. Lawrence neighbourhood, near King Street East and Sherbourne, and turned it into a one-of-a-kind second home.
“The owners were looking to have something that was young, hip and a little minimalist,” he said. “A very modern look.”
To create this modern space, Mr. Suraci was brought in very early on. In fact, he had a part in deciding on the loft itself. He went to survey different units with his clients, advising them on which one he thought had the best layout. A lot of trust, no doubt, was put into his opinion, and it’s not just because he has nearly two decades under his belt as an interior designer. He also grew up with one of the owners of unit 1109, attending grade school with one of them in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Then many years later he reconnected with his old classmate when he designed their home in Dundas.
One of the reasons why they settled on the west-looking unit on the 11th floor was its view of Lake Ontario and the downtown core, which Mr. Suraci describes as being at a “comfortable height.” But it was also because the foundations for a chic home were already there, including the moody, but warm dark hardwood floor and the gallery-esque concrete walls.
“This space never felt like a small space,” he said. “We knew it had lots of potential.”
That said, there were a few things Mr. Suraci fixed, the biggest of which was the repartitioning of space. To do this, they knocked down part of the wall that split the 850-square-foot unit into two in order to convert the closed-off den near the entrance into an open formal dining area that was still far enough away from the living room to create a sense of separation.
“One of the things the owners were really keen on was being able to entertain, and most units in this square footage don’t have a proper dining space, which is why we reworked the floor plan,” he said. “This also allowed them to have a proper living room too.”
Another thing Mr. Suraci changed was the storage space, or lack thereof. He added a massive front closet with sliding doors that doubles as a place for coats at one end and a pantry at the end closest to the kitchen. He also added custom cabinetry in the two bathrooms and custom millwork in the walk-in closet.
The other original challenge in the unit was its light. Being long and skinny, it only had one source of natural light: the floor-to-ceiling windows that lined the very end of the living room and the master suite.
The owners wanted to keep this light but not forfeit their privacy, so Mr. Suraci installed translucent blinds. He also redid the rest of the lighting.
“The lighting was a big deal because these units are dark,” he said. “We did a lot of feature lighting because we didn’t want to have table lamps and floor lamps.”
So instead the owners picked a number of chic Italian designs ordered from Eurolite, including a chandelier that’s reminiscent of paillettes on a designer dress for the formal dining room and glamorous, wiry orbs that dangle above the kitchen island.
The designer lights are certainly bold decor choices, but they aren’t the boldest. That title is easily awarded to the only wall that really divides the space in the unit. To call it an accent wall is an understatement. Covered in a wallpaper Mr. Suraci called “a modern, urban forest,” it is at once busy and minimal.
“It was a risk … and a big commitment,” he acknowledged. “But we wanted something to be a feature because it was very bare without it.”
But it works. By tying together the grey of the concrete and a lot of the furniture as well as the deep brown of the hardwood floors, it pulls all of the decor threads together and adds a pop of pizzazz with its neon green, nearly chartreuse, details.
Other noteworthy details are more subdued, such as the art rail along the two concrete walls and the fact that the gauze-like blinds were chosen with the distinct purpose of allowing enough of the purple, blue and pale yellow light from a lit-up Toronto night skyline in.
Which is perfect for its location. Princess Street is equidistant from the St. Lawrence Market and the Distillery District.
“You’re actually only a 10-minute walk from the Eaton Centre,” said Mr. Suraci, “though, you feel much farther away from it.”
So much like a hotel, it’s very much in the heart of the city. And with Mr. Suraci’s renovation, it’s not only chicer than most four-stars, it’s also far less expensive since the next owners won’t need to have any work done.
“The best part is that it’s ready to be moved into today,” he said.