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It doesn't get more downtown than Market Square.

Designed by Toronto-born architect Jerome Markson in 1980, the condo complex that deliciously frames St. James Cathedral from Front Street has been called "a touch of Haussmann's 19th-century Paris" by architect Paul Reuber. It scores an incredible 100 on walkscore.com. And because of the generous unit sizes, swimming pool and two roof decks, it's attracted a wide range of artsy types and empty-nesters for decades – so much so that units don't stay on the market long.

(Tim Fraser for The Globe & Mail)

Downsizing to a condo

After two years of the “weekend sport” of house hunting, former Riverdalians Sid and Diana Tabak are perhaps the most recent to discover the building’s charms. The downsizing couple moved into their 2,000-square-foot suite with a commanding view of St. Lawrence Market in the spring, and have been savouring every second since.

“There are a lot of people that say they want to die in their house,” says Mr. Tabak, a professional photographer, “but it’s nice to have an adventure, to do something different, and it spurs on other changes.”

Before that adventure could begin, however, the couple – married for 36 years and in the leafy east-end neighbourhood for 29 of them – decided significant changes to the unit would better accommodate life without their two children. While the unit was certainly livable and had been tastefully decorated, it did suffer from a case of the eighties: mint green carpet, parquet floors, cornflower blue walls, mirrored closet doors, and those ubiquitous almond-coloured melamine kitchen cabinets with oak trim.

(Tim Fraser for The Globe & Mail)

Small surgical touches

A Riverdale neighbour’s recommendation, Philippe Beauparlant of Beauparlant Design showed up brandishing a measuring tape and a point-and-shoot soon after the ink was dry on the offer to purchase in October, 2014. And while his award-winning fingers left prints in practically every inch of the unit, “the interventions were really more surgical,” he offers. “We were going around with a scalpel as opposed to a sledgehammer.”

It’s true: While a sensitive, even delicate renovation, the results are huge. For instance, the slight reorientation of one wall in the ample foyer not only shifts the focus to a lit cove at the end, it allows more light to reach the front door. In addition, a dark paint scheme dramatizes the walk into the large, sunlit dining area.

(Tim Fraser for The Globe & Mail)

Enhancing original features

And while that dining area received only a new copper light fixture and window treatments, the neighbouring solarium (which had been opened up to the space by the previous owner) and living area were masterfully tweaked. Carpet in the solarium was removed and, surprisingly, parquet flooring was installed to match the original, which was lightened a few shades.

“It used to be common, now it’s unique,” says Mr. Tabak of the flooring, to which Mr. Beauparlant adds: “It suits the condo.” Built-in storage was added also.

In the living room, floating shelves flanking the fireplace were removed and replaced with robust mill work sporting hidden LED lighting. The wood-burning fireplace’s traditional hearth and mantel were replaced with a sleek surround of gorgeous lapis lazuli and cold-rolled steel. The flat screen hides behind drapery until needed.

(Tim Fraser for The Globe & Mail)

A kitchen for hosting

The kitchen is the real star. Big, bold, oxblood marble counter tops and back-splash dominate but aren’t gimcrackery – “My grandfather had a signet ring in that, that’s why I’m so partial to it,” says Ms. Tabak – and brass pulls on understated white cabinets act as punctuation. Overhead, milky “Logico” fixtures by Artemide swim in a newly created cove of brassy-gold paint that looks just like the $1,500 wallpaper used for inspiration. The cove also creates the illusion of height, Mr. Tabak says: “Even though these are only eight-foot ceilings, people come in and, other than our 7½-foot friends, they think the ceiling is very high.”

Eschewing the current trend toward completely open kitchens, the separate room suits Mr. Tabak just fine. At his completely renovated Riverdale home, a big kitchen island was the de facto gathering spot during dinner parties, and “to get to the fridge I’d have to push two people just to get ice cubes for the scotch and it would drive me crazy,” says the youthful-looking 65-year-old, originally from Philadelphia.

Now, there’s easy access to the fridge and a new formality: “We can have five people here,” he says, motioning to the couches (one a pullout for when the kids come over), “and they’re not looking at what I’m doing.

(Tim Fraser for The Globe & Mail)

Convenience of downtown

“It’s nice to be able to just sit down and talk to someone, and this space really allows for that.”

The space allows for even bigger gatherings, too: at one Sunday brunch the couple counted more than 40 people.

Of course private spaces – laundry room, guest bedroom, master bedroom and two bathrooms – went under Mr. Beauparlant’s design-knife. Here, again, little things, such as new door trim and minimalist radiator covers, make a big impact, and, again, new parquet flooring was carried into formerly carpeted areas. While one bathroom needed just “a little correcting,” the other was gutted.

Is it a stretch to suggest a renovated condo downtown can equip downsizers with the tools they need for a new adventure? Well, the Tabaks have discovered the joys of one-dinner grocery shopping, matinees at the movie theatre downstairs, and the luxury of walking to work.

“At some point you have to leave the house, you have to not deal with the stairs,” Mr. Tabak says. “Moving is like a huge incentive to correct all the mistakes that are circling around in your head, and it really is a great way of moving forward.”

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