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Originally a closed-off room, the kitchen was opened up and made the ‘heart of the home.’
Originally a closed-off room, the kitchen was opened up and made the ‘heart of the home.’

Home of the Week: Modern comforts hide behind Victorian shell Add to ...


Asking price: $2,275,000

Selling Price: $2,210,000

Property taxes: $10,526 (2013)

Lot size: 25.48 by 120 feet

Agent: Alan Dudeck, sales representative, Sutton Group – Associates Realty Inc., Brokerage

The back story

Aly Jamal found 85 MacPherson Ave., a late Victorian semi in a posh neighbourhood sandwiched between Yorkville and Summerhill, in the summer of 2006.

Inside, it had many features of a house built at the turn of the 20th century: small rooms, long hallways and lots of wood everywhere. But it had four bedrooms, which was important to Mr. Jamal and his wife as they had dreams of growing their family.

“The older home was livable but it wasn’t what we loved,” he said.

But they did love some aspects of the house. One was its outside attributes. Its façade blended perfectly with the street, and the backyard had been professionally landscaped years ago. It was even featured in Canadian Living back in 1991.

That said, he knew, even in 2006, he wanted to redo the interior and turn it into a modern, open space.

“We didn’t want to go overboard. Modern can be done wrong sometimes and to do it right, it has to be done carefully,” Mr. Jamal said. And a big part of doing it right was drafting up plans with one of Toronto’s leading architectural firms, Superkül.

The house today

“The house had good bones so we tried to be surgical about what we introduced,” said Superkül principal Andre D’Elia. “Aly wanted a warm, modern design.”

Clean lines, 90-degree angles and no trim became key elements of the new interior of 85 MacPherson. Together, Mr. D’Elia and Mr. Jamal worked hard to find ways to maximize space.

For example, they sneaked a powder room onto the first floor, which was one of Mr. Jamal’s must-do additions.

And for some rooms, such as the main floor’s combined living and dining space, maximizing the space meant adding a built-in custom credenza topped with Calcutta marble. In the third-floor master suite (which used to be the nanny quarters), they added hidden closet space in the unused hollows of the walls.

“We used every square inch in the master suite,” Mr. D’Elia said.

“We even put in a third-floor laundry where you wouldn’t expect it,” Mr. Jamal said.

But beyond getting the proportions right, Mr. Jamal wanted to strike the right balance in terms of marrying the old and the new in the home. The exterior of the building had only restoration work done.

And inside, they kept what they could of the original house, including several of the bedroom doors, the front door and an exposed brick wall that runs up the east side of the house.

“Keeping that century home, keeping that façade was hard,” Mr. Jamal said.

“And expensive too,” said Alan Dudeck, Mr. Jamal’s real estate agent.

In all, Mr. Jamal believes he spent about $800,000 on building costs. The entire renovation took nearly a year.

But, Mr. Jamal insists it was time and money well spent. “That blend was very tough but key to us,” he said.

Another major change to the house was what Mr. Jamal did to its “non-sexy” bits. The electrical was gutted, plumbing was replaced and two HVAC systems were installed. One controls the lower levels and the second floor. The other one controls the third-floor master suite, which Mr. Jamal said he is particularly thankful for in the summer.

“We really wanted to make sure the home was comfortable in every way,” he said.

Best feature

Both Mr. Jamal and Mr. Dudeck agree the most impressive feature in the home is the kitchen. Originally, it was in its own closed-off room, but once they knocked down the walls they turned the space in the “heart of the home.”

“We kind of went overboard with it, but we love it,” Mr. Jamal said. “We spend our life in the kitchen.

“We love cooking, we love entertaining and our kids love the access to the backyard.”

His main specification when designing the kitchen was that it had to be big enough for multiple people to work in at the same time. So the kitchen spans a large space and has three distinct areas: a workspace along the eastern wall, a massive stainless steel island and a pantry/shelving-unit on the western wall.

He also spared no expense with the appliances. Mr. Jamal’s kitchen has not one but three fridges: a main, full-sized fridge, a wine and beverage fridge and produce fridge. It also has a gas stove, a two-burner induction element, an indoor barbecue, a steamer and a wall oven.

And even if you’re not a master chef, you can appreciate the kitchen, Mr. Dudeck said. “The kitchen is amazing even if you’re not doing any cooking because of all of the light and exposure to the green outside.”

Mr. Jamal has been told before that his kitchen renovation may be a bit over the top for some people. But not for him.

“It cost a few bucks to do this renovation but I’m really glad we did.”

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