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the listing

9 Jackes Avenue, Suite 401

Asking price: $4,750,000

Maintenance fee: $2,937/month

Taxes: $19,170 (2014)

Unit size: 3,314 square feet (interior), 377 sq. ft. (exterior)

Agents: Donna and Nick Thompson, sales representatives, Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage

Most new condominiums in the city have a lot of glass. Listings advertise floor to ceiling windows; they rave about all of the sunlight that streams through; they highlight the uninterrupted view. But no one ever mentions that all of that glass makes it hard to hang art.

And for Bob Harding, that was a problem.

Photos by Mitch Fain

Mr. Harding is known for many things. He is a past chair for SickKids and the United Way. He was named to the Order of Canada in 2014. And he is a lover of art. So much so, he is currently the vice-chair of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

As such, he needed a home that could handle his extensive modern art collection.

“I remember when I first saw [Mr. Harding’s] home, I was blown away by the amount of work and craftsmanship that went into building a place that was essentially a gallery,” agent Nick Thompson said.

Photos by Mitch Fain

The back story

Mr. Harding first started collecting art about 20 years. He was originally inspired when he would visit big Canadian banks and law firms for work and see their impressive collections.

“I collected for seven or eight years before I ended up donating everything I had and starting over. So this,” he said gesturing to the dozens of pieces around his condo, “is my second iteration of an art collection.”

Photos by Mitch Fain

The challenge Mr. Harding faced when he was shopping for a condo around 2003 was finding a space that was big enough to show off his art. What he really needed was a home; something with lots of square footage and walls. But he wanted a condo. Nine Jackes proved to be the perfect in-between.

With only six floors and one unit per floor, Mr. Harding describes the building as a “vertical townhouse.” And Donna Thompson, Mr. Harding’s other listing agent, notes that there are few building like it in the city.

“Where in the city can you own your own floor and be in such a central location?” she said. “It’s a boutique building.”

But there was a problem with the original unit that Mr. Harding bought. Its aesthetic didn’t much match his art collection.

Photos by Mitch Fain

“The apartment when we first bought it was conservative looking,” Mr. Harding said. “A lot of thick crown moulding, cornices and wainscoting.”

The rooms were divided up, the colour scheme was gold, brown and beige. In short, it resembled a classic manor except instead of a centre hall there was an elevator shaft.

So in the late fall of 2009, Mr. Harding started an extensive renovation that would gut nearly everything. The only original thing left in the unit is a set of iron gates that act as a barrier between the unit and the two private elevators when they are pushed in place. These doors used to be golden with medallions. But to make them fit into Mr. Harding’s new sleek, minimalism abode he had them painted black and added polished nickel handles.

To oversee the six-month renovation, Mr. Harding hired interior designer Doug Gill.

“We spent a lot of time talking about functionality. Like when you wake up in the morning, where do you have your coffee and why do you like to sit there?” he said. “Doug really wanted to understand how you lived.”

And Mr. Gill’s involvement spanned from sourcing materials and reconfiguring the rooms to buying new furniture, dishes, linens – right down to the soap pumps in the bathroom.

Photos by Mitch Fain

Favourite features

Of course, central to Mr. Harding’s vision was designing a space that could showcase his art. To do this, he needed to open up his unit to create better sightlines and minimize any and all visual disruptions.

“I wanted the apartment to showcase the art collection that we have, so we didn’t want to have things that detract from the art,” he said. “So you’ll notice all of the walls are white, all of the ceilings are white and the only lights that hang down are the reading lamps in the bedroom.”

In an effort, keep his space open, there are very few doors in the unit. For example, the office has two entry points, both unobstructed and one that allows for a view of some of the art in the living room.

Where there are doors, most are tucked away in pockets when not in use. The most impressive doors are the floor-to-ceiling, hanging frosted-glass pocket doors that can partition off the kitchen when entertaining.

“We didn’t want tracks in the floor so this was a real engineering feat,” Mr. Harding said, explaining that in order to remove all of the bulkheads in the unit, the contractors had to hide everything in the ceiling space. “Then, you have these glass doors that are hung from the ceiling so they had to figure out how to do that and get the ventilation to go around.”

Of course, when the renovation was done, it was time to install the art. There is one piece in the living room that was commissioned to fit the wall specifically.

“I told [artist] John Brown that we had a wall that was eight-feet tall and 12-feet long and could take a really big piece,” Mr. Harding said.

Another large piece, on the other side of the living room, had to be brought in through the balcony using a crane on the roof.

“It’s an apartment that can take very large pieces of art,” he said with a chuckle.

And one of their favourite rooms – the family room, which can moonlight as a guest room – was structurally altered to fit a piece of art by Susanna Heller (On the Heel-Toe Express) that wraps around the room, hugging two of its walls.

“We changed some of the dimensions of the walls so that piece would fit,” Mr. Harding said. “We ended up extending one wall by a few inches.”

It’s the attention to detail like that Mr. and Ms. Thompson find so impressive.

“Bob’s art taste and his pieces are truly stunning,” Mr. Thompson said. “And so the home has to match – it has to equal – the art collection. And this truly does.”