140 MONTROSE AVE.
Asking price: $1,395,000
Lot size: 20 feet by 113 feet.
Taxes: $4,406.74 (2014)
Agent: Duncan James Cameron, salesperson, Sage Real Estate Limited Brokerage
Most staircases don’t get the praise they deserve. And that’s because a good staircase blends right into a home.
It’s only the bad staircases that get noticed and when Geoffrey Moote and Duncan James Cameron purchased 140 Montrose Ave. it had a noticeably bad staircase.
“It was located approximately where the fridge and coffee machine are located in our kitchen [in the centre of the main floor],” Mr. Moote said. “It really did split up the home. There was no connection from the front of the house to the rear.”
The back story
Mr. Moote, an architect, recognized right away that by relocating that staircase, he could transform the house. He and Mr. Cameron, a real estate agent, bought the property five months ago with the goal of turning it into a modern home.
“There hasn’t really been a lot of [renovation] work on this street,” Mr. Moote said. “And I was interested in having a bit of fun with the front.”
Typically, houses in this part of town – which is sandwiched between College Street’s Little Italy and Trinity Bellwoods Park – are row houses with large front canopies where residents look out onto neighbourhood life. But Mr. Moote had a different take on this.
“We played that up a little bit by taking off the canopy and opening up the front façade,” he said.
“The goal was to have fun with the context of the street but still try to make a modern architectural move.”
Now the house – encased in redwood cedar with Muskoka slate on the ground and massive windows on both ends – makes a statement.
“There aren’t any houses like this in the neighbourhood,” said Mr. Cameron, adding that modern façade is matched with a modern, minimalist interior.
“In previous projects, I’ve liked to show off the structural elements of the home, like steel beams or heavy timber,” Mr. Moote said. “This particular project didn’t allow for much of that.”
Instead, Mr. Moote worked from his aversion of the original, space-dividing staircase and tried to create a home without any interior disruptions – which is why you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bulkhead in the house.
“We were willing to sacrifice a little bit of floor space in terms of the wall cavity to make sure all of the ducting and piping was buried,” he said.
The end result was an opening up for the main level, which is enhanced by the fact that the rear of the house features three, bi-folding doors that when fully extended create an 11.6-foot wide entrance to the backyard.
The second floor features two bedrooms and two bathrooms at either end. But the master suite is totally separate, having its own hallway that leads to the master bedroom and master bath.
It too has a wall of windows providing a complete westward view of the neighbourhood and sunsets in the evenings.
“There is something about being raised up on the second level with the afternoon light,” Mr. Moote said. “It is very calming and comfortable.”
Proper light is always a challenge in the long, narrow homes so popular in Toronto’s west-end downtown neighbourhoods. But Mr. Moote found a simple, elegant solution: a skylight along the staircase.
The “skylight” is more of a long skinny window that runs two-thirds up the way on the stairs and then continues onto the ceiling. The view it provides is of the brick side of the home to the north – but that wasn’t the point.
“By putting it there, you add a lot of natural light to the centre of the home,” he said.
It is one of many windows that make the home special, especially the bi-folding doors on the main level.
“You get to enjoy all of the benefits of being outdoor while you sit inside,” said Mr. Moote, adding that the seamless transition is partly possible because the cedar wrap-around deck is the same height as the interior flooring.
This exit also leads you out to the hot tub in the backyard, one of a few luxurious features that “trick out” the house, according to Mr. Cameron.
“There is a lot packed into this house, but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels gracious,” he said, pointing to things such as the hot tub, the 17 built-in speakers, the 450-bottle wine cellar and wet bar in the basement.
Adding in these elements proved to be a bit of a design challenge for Mr. Moote’s clean interior aesthetic but it worked out in the end because of advance planning.
“We decided early on how far we wanted to take it so we were easily able to integrate those things,” he said.
“I think we did achieve a harmony with it all,” he continued. “You can have these super-luxurious items and have them feel almost invisible.”
And it’s this combination of high-end luxury features, clean design and an urban setting that make this property a truly special home to Mr. Cameron. He tends to only see all of these packed into tiny condos.
“This is a condo alternative for somebody who values land,” he said, adding: “There should be more houses like this. Downtown is full of condos that appeal to young, wealthy people but there are no houses.”
“Luxury isn’t just for old people.”