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The Globe and Mail

Home of the Week: Leaside couple put 60 years into tweaking and upgrading: ‘This is a lifetime house’


Asking price: $1,399,000

Taxes: $9,355.73 (2015)

Lot size: 35 by 160 feet

Agent: Jack Cherry and Jamie Kinnaird, sales representatives, Bernice Whelan Realty Inc.

All photos by Jordan Prussky

When Barbara and Lorne McMorran move out of 9 Southlea Ave., it will be the end of an era.

The octogenarian couple has been living in the three-bedroom Leaside house for nearly 60 years. And to the best of their knowledge, they are currently the longest-residing homeowners on the short street.

“At one time if you ever told me I’d be moving out of this house, I’d say ‘No, I’ll be carried out,’” Mrs. McMorran said.

“But when you get to our age, every little household task becomes a chore,” Mr. McMorran added.

And it is with this sober realism that they are putting their lifelong family home on the market.

The back story

Despite their long ownership, the McMorrans are not the original owners of 9 Southlea Ave. The home was actually built in 1941 as a wedding gift for the original owner’s daughter.

“There was a knock one day and a gentleman was at the door. He told us his mother had just passed away and he said, ‘I have something here you might be interested in,’” Mr. McMorran said.

He handed them a set of documents, including the original 1941 contract for the house and a work order that showed that it cost $7,300 to build.

But despite being relatively new, it wasn’t a very pretty home when the McMorrans bought it in 1957.

“I guess I was just a young bride [at the time] and I was just so happy to have a home. But when I think about it, it was the worst possible looking home you’ve ever seen,” Mrs. McMorran said with a laugh. “The walls going up the stairs were never painted. So they were grey and with the gumwood it was basically black. It was like a monastery.”

“But Lorne kept telling me it had good bones,” she added.

“I have a good eye for seeing things that are straight. I guess it’s my dental background and the fact that I’m used to dealing with millimetres,” Mr. McMorran said.

And they wasted no time in improving their home. The first thing they did was remove all of the unnecessary internal glass doors. They also rounded out the scalloped archways, added carpet and painted with the help of Mrs. McMorran’s family, who happened to live down the street at the time.

The renovations didn’t stop there. Over the decades, the McMorrans have dutifully repaired and improved basically every aspect of the house. For example, while the upstairs bathroom still has its original robin-egg-blue flowered wallpaper, they replaced the single sink with a double vanity and refinished the original bathtub.

The mechanical elements of the house have also been kept over time, including the kitchen appliances. But you won’t find a stainless steel fridge. The McMorrans love their retro Sub-Zero fridge so much that they had all of the parts refurbished, right down to the compressor.

But despite all of the changes, the layout of the house has stayed the same. The top floor has three bedrooms, a bathroom and a den. The basement has a finished rec room with a fireplace, a bathroom and a large, semi-finished area for laundry and storage. And the main floor has your formal living room off the front, a dining room and a classic galley kitchen with an eating nook off the back.

It is in the back end of the house that you’ll find the McMorrans’s favourite room and the biggest change they made to their property: the family room.

Favourite features

“We just wanted more room,” said Mrs. McMorran, when explaining why they choose to build the addition back in 1967.

So, Mr. McMorran sketched out some drawings and gave them to their builder and then they left for the cottage.

“And when we came back, I just couldn’t believe it,” Mrs. McMorran said.

The addition is one large room with 10-foot ceilings and floor to ceiling windows along the east end, showing off the home’s landscaped backyard.

And being off the kitchen and the dining room, the room is perfectly suited for entertaining.

“All of our parties, all of our birthdays, all of our Christmases have been in this room,” Mrs. McMorran said.

The most standout feature of the room, though, is its teak panelling.

“The panelling in this room is the best feature of the whole house. The teak panelling is all numbered … so the design is consistent,” said Mrs. McMorran, referencing how the grain of the teak matches up despite the break in the panels.

“And they didn’t want to waste any of it, so whatever was cut was then put into the den [which is above the garage and off the master bedroom],” added Mr. McMorran.

Real estate agent Jamie Kinnaird agrees with her clients that this is the home’s best room.

“For a family room addition, it has this wow factor,” she said. “It is very grand … but it still feels cozy.”

And for Ms. Kinnaird, it is the mix of coziness and stability that makes this property so valuable.

“This is a lifetime home,” Ms. Kinnaird said. “Once you can afford these homes, this is where you stay and raise your family, just like Barbara and Lorne did.”

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