As a real estate agent in Toronto for the past 16 years, Paul Maranger has seen every type of house imaginable – the good and the very bad. His own home, which he and his partner, Robert Brown, bought two years ago, fell into the latter category.
“It was an absolute disaster,” Maranger says of the detached home, built in 1887, that had mould in the basement, a backyard covered in steel-reinforced concrete (the same stuff used for building office towers), a roof that leaked, cut-up rooms due to the house once being divided into five small apartments and graffiti on the walls.
“Most people, when buying a home, say, ‘What a spectacular home. It's perfect,’” Maranger says. “We walked in and said, ‘What a dump. It’s perfect.’”
Its appeal lay in the fact that, as a fixer-upper in the sought-after South Annex neighbourhood, it was relatively cheap. Equally important, it meant they could wipe the slate clean and start anew.
In the end, practically the only thing salvageable was a portion of the staircase leading to the second-floor master bedroom, with adjoining dressing room and ensuite bath – Maranger’s favourite part of their house.
Maranger, who works with Sotheby’s, says one of his pet peeves in home design is walk-in closets without doors. “I don’t like them to be open because most people don’t have closets that are perfectly coordinated items of black, white, grey and beige. They’re usually a cacophony of colours and look like a total mess.”
The couple separated each room with double-doors, painted ebony, to create distinct spaces. “It gives the space a hotel feel,” Maranger says. Then, for the closet, they hired AyA Kitchens and Baths to build floor-to-ceiling cupboards, painted a custom shade called Clay, to ensure it had a sleek, uncluttered look. The wood floor warms it up.
“I have a big problem with shoes, so there is a large shoe cupboard,” says Maranger, who adds the velvet-covered banquette under the window also contains drawers (and more shoes). The chandelier, window and folding island add interest to what could be a bland, utilitarian space. They also installed electrical plugs in the island for charging cellphones at night.
In the bath, the couple again opted for full white oak cabinetry, stained rye, under the double sinks – a porcelain pairing that Maranger believes is necessary for a lasting relationship. “If I were a politician I would make double sinks a bylaw for married couples. It should be a requirement everywhere,” he says.
The other thing he mandated was a medicine chest above the toilet. “I rarely see them in houses today and I can’t figure out how anyone can live without them. It’s a vacant wall. Why don’t people use it?”
Then, of course, there is the elephant in the room. The TV mounted into the middle of the mirror – a feature Maranger knows many people would dislike, but he considers a god-send. “It’s an integral part of our morning routine,” he says. “Coffee, the news, and then we get on with our day.”
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