Home of the week 60 Pine Cres., TORONTO
Asking price: $1.996-million
Taxes: $9,917.02 (2011)
Agent: Thomas Neal (Royal LePage Estate Realty)
Lot size: 35 by 167 feet.
The back story
Seven years ago, Alexandra Elliott was returning to her house in Toronto following a stint in British Columbia when she suddenly felt disenchanted with urban living.
"I wanted trees," she recalls. "I was still in West Coast mode."
Ms. Elliott immediately called a real estate agent and declared that she could no longer live in her Toronto house. She asked the agent to track down ravine properties for sale. There were only two, as it turned out, and Ms. Elliott quickly made an offer on the one located next to Glen Stewart Park in the Beaches neighbourhood.
The circa 1916 house had been virtually abandoned for 10 years and needed a complete overhaul. But Ms. Elliott, who is an art conservator by trade, loved the original Arts and Crafts elements and the home's location along the steep curve of a red brick street. At the rear was the ravine.
"It was me and two builders bidding for it," Ms. Elliott recalls. While the builders might have torn the house down, she had an eye to restoring the inglenooks, leaded glass windows and wood beams that characterize Arts and Crafts.
"I wanted to keep the integrity of the house," she says. "It's a period I've always loved."
As she restored the house and learned more about its history, she discovered that the first owner was named James Shaw, but a more noteworthy resident was an alderman named Malcolm Miskelly. Mr. Miskelly was also a manager for department store T. Eaton Co. Ltd. and neighbourhood lore has it that he had friends among the British royals who sometimes visited the house.
The house today
Ms. Elliott turned to another Beaches resident, architect James Macdonald, to plan the renovation.
Mr. Macdonald had often walked past 60 Pine Cres. during those years of neglect and felt dismayed at seeing the structure slowly becoming derelict.
Racoons were living in the shed and tree roots spreading under the house had buckled the basement floor. But he was pleased to restore a heritage house in such pristine condition.
"You just noticed all the beauty of the woodwork and millwork and stone fireplace," he says. "Everything was still there."
He teamed with builder Tony Ataide to refurbish the original woodwork, hardware and stained glass. To create the great room, Mr. Macdonald opened up the existing space and added very little square footage.
"All I did was take a lot of the walls out and try to connect the house to that beautiful ravine lot."
Throughout, Mr. Macdonald uncovered unusual elements such as a child-sized passageway that was secreted behind a trap door in a closet and led to the closet in another room. Beside the fireplace, he found stained glass that slid up and away behind the wall.
"It was just a treasure that was hidden in the wall."
Now the two-storey house has three bedrooms and four bathrooms to accommodate Ms. Elliott, her children Rosie and Charlie West, and her husband Don Benson.
The addition also added stairs that led to the basement and a new master suite on the second floor.
On the main floor, Ms. Elliott had the inglenook that surrounds the living room fireplace refurbished. Beams were taken down and refinished and leaded glass windows were restored. In some places, she had new stained glass panels made to match the originals.
On the second floor, Ms. Elliott planned to use that portion of the addition as a home office. But when she saw the space surrounded by the treetops, she asked Mr. Macdonald to reconfigure the plans and make a master suite.
"I called the architect and said 'I'll end up moving my bed in here - I know I will.' "
Now the master bedroom has wall-to-wall windows and an ensuite bathroom with a skylight.
In the bedrooms, Ms. Elliott had an artist paint murals for the kids.
There's also a second-floor sitting room with a fireplace set in the inglenook.
Downstairs, the house's third inglenook was restored and the basement was renovated to include a home office and an extra bedroom.
Outside, Ms. Elliott turned a small garage into an art studio that overlooks the ravine. Two years ago she had a large stone terrace built under the trees.
Ms. Elliott loves the backyard with its expansive sitting areas, hot tub and barbeque area. Below the terrace, the garden slopes down to the park. A walking path connects with trails through the Glen Stewart ravine.
"It's just amazing," says Ms. Elliott of the setting.