50 ALVIN AVE., TORONTO
ASKING PRICE: $1,899,000
LOT SIZE: 26.7 feet by 99.3 feet
TAXES: $ $5,884.24 (2012)
LISTING AGENT: Paula von Stedingk, Chestnut Park Real Estate
The back story
A short jaunt from the busy intersection of St. Clair Avenue and Yonge Street is a set of six row houses lining the west side of Alvin Avenue just north of Heath Street East.
As you scan the street, you can't help but be drawn to the last one, 50 Alvin Ave, with its striking modern exterior.
Titka Safarzadeh, an architect and founder of Nano Design Build, had hoped this would be the eventual outcome when she undertook the task of giving that final townhouse new life.
Yet she accomplished this feat with finesse, considering 50 Alvin doesn't stick out like a sort thumb. It seems more like the logical modernization of other houses in the row.
"We really worked to harmonize this home with its neighbourhood," Ms. Safarzadeh said.
But harmonizing didn't mean re-incorporating everything the house originally had. When the current owner of 50 Alvin purchased the property, he had never actually been inside it. Because of scheduling conflicts, he had based his decision to buy the house on pictures alone. And what the pictures showed was a bit of a relic, with bold 1970s decor, including bright vermillion tiles in the basement and kitchen.
Even at the moment of purchase, though, the owner knew he wanted to modernize the space, which is how Ms. Safarzadeh and her husband and business partner, Saied Mahboubi, got involved.
Ms. Safarzadeh remembers how excited she was in the beginning.
"I was very excited as I had always wanted to design a modern home," she said. "Especially because the owner had a great vision."
They worked closely with the owner on the re-imagination of 50 Alvin and settled with a three-pronged approach: a clean design, warm decor and a very functional house.
To achieve the sleek design, Ms. Safarzadeh worked to keep the space open and uncluttered. The kitchen is a prime example of this. The smooth white Caesarstone countertop floats in the middle of the room, lined on one side by blond-wood cabinets and the other a white wall with glossy white panels, which are actually hidden cabinets built into the wall. Looking at it, you can tell something is different from most other modern kitchens but it's not glaringly apparent. Ms. Safarzadeh's secret to keeping it ultra-sleek? There are barely any handles on the cabinets. Most work on a push-latch mechanisms.
One of the challenges with creating a modern house is to keep the design simple but welcoming. As such, Ms. Safarzadeh worked with lots of wood to keep the space warm.
"I think for modern houses it's really important to bring warmth into the home," she said. "As much as I like the simple lines, it has to feel cozy."
She also added features you wouldn't find in a textbook-modern home, such as a mahogany front door.
For the exterior, Mr. Mahboubi not only installed the eye-catching block on the northeast corner of the house, which is made from SwissPearl siding, an ultra-light cement composite, he also reincorporated the original brick motif of the row house. He didn't recycle the original brick, but used a more "modern" brick with a smoother surface, a choice meant to blend the new modern exterior with the brick that dominated the rest of the row houses.
Last, the owner requested that his new home – above all else – be functional. So Ms. Safarzadeh designed several storage nooks, such as one in the wall on the stair landing between the second and third floors, and another little compartment for bathroom supplies built into a wall in the powder room. There are also skylights on the top floor that close automatically when it rains, and a self-contained bachelor apartment (or a very luxe guest room) in the basement.
The cantilevered corner on the outside of 50 Alvin is certainly the first thing that you notice, and is a defining feature of the house.
"We really wanted it to be the focal point," Mr. Mahboubi said.
But it's not the only eye-catching element.
Immediately upon walking into the house, you can't help but be engaged by the massive windows in the living room. They let in so much light, there seems little need for light bulbs. The flood of late afternoon sunlight is enhanced by the room's higher ceilings. Looking around, your eyes are drawn upward by the linear design Ms. Safarzadeh created with black beams that partition the large wall of windows. These lines actually match up with the lines of the windows on the upper floors as well, a tribute to Ms. Safarzadeh's attention to detail.
"I've always loved the living room with its windows," she said. "They really make the outdoor space a part of the inside of the home."