46 FOREST HILL RD., TORONTO
Asking price: $18.8-million
Taxes: $63,378.93 (2014)
Lot size: 90 by 185.22 feet
Agent: Eileen Farrow (Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.)
The back story
In the 1980s, a builder began construction of a new mansion amid the stately older homes lining Forest Hill Road. The house was large and luxurious but had never been fully finished when Frank Toskan and Darren Zakreski purchased it about 10 years ago.
Mr. Toskan says the basement was unfinished, for example, and the landscaping hadn’t been done. The central staircase stood without railings and residents used a more utilitarian staircase tucked away beside the kitchen.
The exterior had flourishes reminiscent of a French chateau, recalls Mr. Toskan, who is a co-founder of M.A.C. Cosmetics. He sold the business to the New York-based Estee Lauder conglomerate in 2008.
He and Mr. Zakreski moved in in 2005 and quickly made some changes to accommodate life with their four children.
The house today
In 2013, Mr. Toskan and Mr. Zakreski began another modest refresh. But as so often happens when renovations are underway, the work kept expanding in scope until they decided to move everybody out for about 18 months.
When they were finished, the interior and exterior had been transformed and the family had a new backyard with an in-ground pool and modern landscaping.
Mr. Toskan has been involved in design since the early days of M.A.C., when he created the stores – starting with the first location in Cabbagetown. Redesigning the house was a family project, he says, and the couple’s designer friends joined in as well.
“I think it became a community,” Mr. Toskan says. “The kids also needed to have their say.”
The couple brought in Audax Architecture for the redesign and reconstruction of the exterior, which blended traditional elements with a modern aesthetic.
The large two-storey limestone bay windows feature corners that are freed from the structure and enclosed by frameless glass. The entry is framed by a zinc and glass canopy.
The designers who added their input were Jay Hodgins, Enid Macintosh and Steve Wagg.
The couple turned to John Lloyd and Associates for the landscape architecture.
Real estate agent Eileen Farrow of Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. says the house before the renovation was more ornate and less modern.
“We took out the frill,” Mr. Toskan says.
Guests who arrive to the 10-foot-high mahogany front door enter into a foyer that leads to a large central hall with an open staircase connecting three levels. Almost the only interior element that remains from the original house is the cream marble slab tile floor, which the couple preserved because the stone has taken on a patina, Mr. Toskan explains.
“The floor we couldn’t have created with anything we bought new because it wouldn’t have given us that warmth,” he says.
Grey wood panels cover the walls in the hallway and grey leather lines the under side of the staircase.
The soft materials absorb noise and keep the house feeling serene, even when the house is bustling with family members, guests, staff and dogs, Mr. Toskan says.
“I think it’s really important in a space to feel calm.”
The basic floor plan remains the same but the second staircase was taken away to make room for a large pantry beside the kitchen.
The 10,000-square-foot house became 11,000 square feet when the pair finished the third floor and turned it into a separate suite for their son. The total area swells to 17,000 square feet when the finished basement is included.
At the front of the house, the living room has two large bays with floor-to-ceiling windows. Lacquered wall panels surround the horizontal gas fireplace.
Mr. Toskan, who was born near Venice before moving to Canada with his family as a young boy in 1957, has been a long-time collector of Murano glass and Venetian influences are present throughout.
In the dining room, back-painted crystal wall insets were reclaimed from a decommissioned Italian passenger ship and set against grey velvet padded walls.
Mr. Toskan also returned from one trip to Italy with vintage Murano glass discs and designed the chandelier that now hangs in the dining room.
Next week Mr. Toskan and Mr. Zakreski will co-chair a gala fundraiser for the National Ballet of Canada. Mr. Toskan says the gala’s theme of Lost in Venice was inspired by a wrong turn he and the kids took one night while walking through the historic city after dark.
“I remember going down this back street in Venice. There was this path of candles leading to a nightclub. All the girls were in cloaks and masks. It was one of those moments – you can get lost in Venice just by turning a corner.”
Mr. Toskan says his large, Italian family often gathers at the house. His mother still cooks traditional dishes in the modern kitchen. It has white and wood cabinets, built-in appliances and an island of statuario slab marble with waterfall ends.
The kitchen is open to a breakfast area and a large family room overlooking the garden.
“This space is important to us,” Mr. Toskan says over coffee in the family room. “We focused on making the rooms we use really comfortable.”
Upstairs, the second floor has five bedrooms – each with an ensuite bath. There’s also a lounge that gives the kids a place to hang out on their own, Mr. Toskan says.
“This is a nice room for them because it forces everyone to come together rather than disappearing into their own rooms,” he says.
The master bedroom has walls covered in acoustic panels and suede. An outdoor roof deck has been enclosed and turned into a home office. In the ensuite master bathroom, the interior of a large bay window has been turned into a wrap-around shower, with walls lined in book matched onyx.
“I think the real beauty is the onyx,” Ms. Farrow says.
There are two water closets and a free standing tub.
The third floor has a sixth bedroom with ensuite bathroom and a sitting room.
On the lower level, there’s a media room that also accommodates the billiard table. The family also makes use of large gym with rubber floors, built-in speakers and a yoga wall.
The heated driveway provides parking for six cars and there’s an underground garage with additional parking for four cars.
Outside, a garden cabana has a cedar clad shower and facilities for swimmers. There are lots of seating areas and a smaller reflecting pool in addition to the large salt water pool.
Mr. Toskan says the house provides lots of space for his collections of glass, paintings and sculptures. But despite the size, the house still feels cozy – especially at night, he adds. The openness encourages the family members and their frequent houses guests to come together.
“We got the size, we got the coziness, and we got the calmness,” he says. “It’s not about hiding people – it’s about engaging everyone.”
The best feature
At the rear of the house, guests often migrate to the entertainment room, with a grey-and-black marble bar at one end and a wood-burning fireplace at the other. Three sets of French doors open to the garden and pool. Built-in cabinets hold a 75-inch television with 5.1 surround sound. There’s lot of space for a grand piano and musicians to play live music during parties.
Mr. Toskan’s adjoining office has a curved bay area with five west-facing windows overlooking the pool. A backlit recessed dome in the ceiling holds a circa 1940 Gio Ponti-designed Murano glass chandelier.
Mr. Toskan says the rich hues and carefully-placed lighting in the principal rooms are most dramatic after the sun sets.
“This is a great house at night because the lights go down and the colours come up. This is a very different house at night. The colours just meld together.”