Generous, beautifully designed outdoor spaces and proximity to nature are coveted by pandemic-weary buyers
For Janice Fox, broker of record at Toronto-based Hazelton Real Estate Inc., the fact that outdoor space is such a priority for luxury home buyers these days doesn’t surprise her, considering what the world has been through these past two years.
Inside, the “must-haves” haven’t changed. Buyers still want lots of light, open spaces and big windows. But outside, the wish list has sprouted like a fast-growing vine, particularly for those buyers who are downsizing from a single-family home with a sizable backyard. A cramped balcony with room for a couple of garden pots and some folding chairs isn’t going to cut it.
“Outdoor space, balconies, connection and proximity to green space; that’s what people are asking about,” she says. Fox is just wrapping up sales for Maison 77 Clarendon, a five-storey, boutique Toronto condo project from Menkes Developments Ltd. and Pinedale Properties Ltd., nestled among the tree-lined streets, parks and walking trails of the prestigious South Forest Hill neighbourhood. Residents of this project will enjoy a lifestyle of tranquility amid nature, Fox says.
“That’s opposed to a few years ago, when people wanted to be close to dining and shopping,” she adds. “It’s the No. 1 question, before they ask anything else about the property. Nobody is satisfied with a little balcony. They want room for a table and chairs. They want to dine out there. They want to entertain.”
Maison 77 Clarendon was designed knowing this was where the market was going, so all of its 16 units have generously proportioned outdoor spaces.
It’s a similar situation at No. 7 Dale, situated near the Rosedale Ravine, a fabulous natural amenity featuring bike paths and walking trails under a canopy of trees.
Janet Rosenberg of Janet Rosenberg & Studio Inc., a landscape architecture firm, saw a rare opportunity when she joined the team behind No. 7 Dale to create a design that blends the boutique luxury condos with the natural beauty of the forest and ravine that are just steps away. The project features 26 large suites (2,000-5,500 square feet) over its four storeys, and plentiful terrace space and outdoor common areas.
Rosenberg references the century-old trees the developers incorporated into the project’s design.
“COVID really made people aware of how important it was to have outdoor space,” she says. “Our world was so small, for so long. Toronto has become very urban, and we really aren’t building that many new parks, so having green space and access to green space is really critical in terms of how we socialize and spend time with people; also for our well-being.”
In the past, Rosenberg says, outdoor space tended to be just a place for a bunch of plant pots and some chairs.
“Now you see these very integrated, beautiful terraces,” she says, “with the outdoor carpets and the sofas and incredible armchairs with ottomans.
“The units at No. 7 Dale are in this incredible garden,” she adds, which means you don’t just get the greenery and the fresh smell of nature, “but you also get the ecology and the birds and the squirrels; all the things that are really becoming important to us.”
Yet these homeowners don’t want the garden maintenance headaches that come with a big single-family home. They want the best of both worlds, she explains.
“[No. 7 Dale] is about the integration into the neighbourhood, including rebuilding some of the old stone walls, some of the iron details,” Rosenberg says. “It has the residential feeling that the other houses there have. It’s about scale and intimacy. It feels like a low-rise [building]. It doesn’t pop out as a tower.”
Her designs include common areas, as well as private terrace spaces, which can be further customized with the owner. The focus, she says, is on herb gardens, fountains and water elements for ambient sound, comfortable furniture, pizza ovens and barbecues.
“The layering when you’re decorating inside a house is the same type of layering that you do outside,” she says. “Everything is hand-picked to co-ordinate with what’s going on inside, so [the outdoor space becomes] that extra room.”
Then there are projects like Forma, the Frank Gehry-designed mixed-use, two-tower development (73 and 84 storeys) to be located in the King Street West neighbourhood of downtown Toronto.
Internationally recognized interior designer Paolo Ferrari will spearhead the creation of a luxury hotel-inspired experience for owners, with indoor spaces that encourage connection, such as a purpose-built cinema, entertainment spaces and spa-inspired amenities.
“Quality outdoor space has certainly become a major priority for residents. In urban environments, residents want to connect with their surroundings – it has become critical for health and well-being,” says Mitchell Cohen, chief operating officer of Westdale Properties, one of three developers behind the project. (The other two are Great Gulf Group and Dream.)
“This is especially true in the luxury real estate market. Forma brings inspiration from around the world to create a truly unique living experience – one where residents will have the rare opportunity to live in a suite with true floor-to-ceiling windows, creating seamless indoor-outdoor connections with panoramic views of the city and waterfront,” says Cohen.
“Forma will also feature two terraces that open out from the building’s entertainment amenity spaces, providing an escape and sense of serenity we so often need. Whether it’s scenic views, open-air terraces or an activated streetscape, quality outdoor living is the key to the future of luxury design.”
In the end, it’s up to builders and architects to remember how important these outdoor spaces are for people.
“It’s really critical,” Rosenberg says. “People want them, and they become a really important part of people’s lifestyles.”
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.