50 STEWART ST., TORONTO
Asking Price: $1.815-million
Taxes: $9,156 (2012)
Agent: Craig Emond, (Model Suites Realty Inc. Brokerage)
The Back Story:
Kevin J. van Niekerk is a British-born cinematographer, Bay Street mining executive and international property developer with homes in Santa Monica and other locales. Toronto has been home base for close to a decade. In 2002, while walking to his desk job in the city's Financial District, he passed by six homes standing in a row on Stewart Street and instantly knew this is where he would put down roots."I've lived within a one block area of central King Street West for almost eight years watching the gentrification and encroachment of the low-rise, concrete, steel and glass condo set," says the self-described inner-city guy.
"When I first saw these three pairs of Victorian semis, I couldn't get the idea out of my head that I could transform one of them into a modern yet Victorian-inspired four-level home with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms – my own little time-capsule surrounded by all this new stuff."
He waited years for a "For Sale" sign to appear on the lawn. When it did he pounced, purchasing his dream property in 2008. "It's absolutely unique," he says. "A history home surrounded by new buildings made of steel and glass." Including the uber-chic Thompson Hotel, located next door.
Upon walking through the front door of his new old house (built circa 1880) Mr. van Niekerk discovered that the Victorian hadn't been, as he puts it, messed with. "The home still had all of its rooms intact, no walls had been removed and no spaces had been opened up, which tends to be the norm," he says.
"Its character and fine detail were all there, but in poor shape." Mr. van Niekerk's plan was to keep the Victorian character of the home while making it comfortable and "sexy" – updating it, in other words, but without sacrificing the original mouldings and other elements that made the home so special. To do that, he gutted the interior, and redesigned it himself. The result is a four-storey home boasting 2,700 square feet of interior space, including a fully-finished basement with a spacious family room and zinc bar.
"Forgive me, I'm British; I put a pub in my basement," explains Mr. van Niekerk, only a teensy bit apologetic. The 18-month long renovation also involved adding an outdoor salt-water pool to the backyard, which is rare for downtown Toronto. "I now have Notting Hill sexy and Parry Sound chill combined into one beautiful, functional Victorian home, and it's only a 17 minute walk from my office on Bay Street," Mr. van Niekerk exclaims.
The home has a one-of-a-kind bespoke handmade designer kitchen with hi-gloss cabinetry finished in General Motors Black car paint. In addition to three custom-built, three-inch thick cast concrete counter tops, including a floating breakfast bar feature, the kitchen, like the rest of the house, is fully-wired for sound.
The bespoke kitchen opens out onto the pool lounge area, making it great for entertaining. "I also put in a stainless steel library ladder along one whole wall of my kitchen," Mr. van Niekerk says, identifying it as one of his favourite things in the house. "There's nothing else like it in Toronto."