47 QUEEN MARY'S DRIVE, Toronto
Asking price: $1.575-million
Taxes: $6,131.02 (2012)Lot: 83- by 82-feet
Agent: Paul Johnston (Right at Home Realty Inc.)
The back story
The genteel Kingsway neighbourhood west of the Humber River was already an area of large mansions when builders added a few more houses here and there during the 1940s and 1950s.
The house at 47 Queen Mary's Drive was built in 1942 by a builder who completed several in the area at that time. It was more diminutive than the stately properties closer to the Humber River, but Urszula Tokarska and Andrew Lepper found it an appealing house when they purchased it a few years ago.
Still, Ms. Tokarska, a designer with Stephen R. Pile Architect Inc., says the house was ready for a rejuvenation when the couple moved in.
The couple undertook a back-to-the-bricks renovation that maintained the original footprint. The three-bedroom house was a good size for the pair, says Ms. Tokarska, and they also wanted to be environmentally mindful.
"We like the layout of the house," adds Ms. Tokarska. "It's not your typical box."
The designer says she and her husband, who is an analyst with Freed Developments, were drawn to the neighbourhood because it has a country feel yet isn't far from downtown.
They wanted a house that was more modern yet still fit in with the surroundings.
"It's a house that's been brought up 70 years without being compromised."
The house today
Ms. Tokarska is a designer who admires airy, modern spaces. Last year her dramatic design for the Toronto restaurant Aria won an award from the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario.
The exterior of the house on Queen Mary's maintains some of the traditional appearance that helps it blend in with its neighbours. The stone facade, cobblestone driveway, porthole window and mahogany front door are all nods to the heritage of the area, while the Indiana limestone slab porch and landscaping hint at the modern elements on the other side of the threshold.
"I wanted it to be sympathetic," says Ms. Tokarska of the exterior. "We didn't modernize it too much – we just updated."
Paul Johnston of Right at Home Realty Inc. says when he first saw the house, he thought it looked quite staid until he got closer.
"You know something special is going to happen but there's no glass sliver or stainless-steel panel that gives it away."
Inside, the living room forms one wing, with a view to the street at the front and the garden at the rear.
"It's shallow and elongated," says Ms. Tokarska. "You get a lot of light from both sides."
Ms. Tokarska had walls torn down in order to open up the kitchen and dining room.
The U-shaped kitchen has Valcucine cabinetry with wenge and lacquer finishes. The countertop is Quartzite and the integrated Sub-Zero refrigerator disappears behind lacquered doors.
The original staircase to the second floor was removed and a new steel staircase – covered in wenge – suspended in place between the two levels.
The steel had to be swung in by a crane, explains Ms. Tokarska.
"We had a giant boom with the stair outside our door," she says. "It was quite an undertaking."
Translucent acrylic panels created by a Vancouver artist serve in place of railings. The same artist created panels for the soaring showcase of wine bottles at Aria, Ms. Tokarska points out.
A recreation room in the basement has sliding wood panels to hide the flat-screen television, books and other household paraphernalia.
There's a large bathroom with walk-in shower, a climate-controlled wine cellar and a laundry room wired for sound.
Upstairs, a large master bedroom has a raised ceiling with wood beams. The bathroom was enlarged to create a walk-in shower. Two additional bedrooms make up the rest of the floor.
Throughout the house, Ms. Tokarska used a limited palette and materials.
"That consistency leads to a certain calmness," says Mr. Johnston.
He adds that the size suits the way a lot of couples and families want to live today.
"It's a question of the style over the scope," he says. "Part of modern living is about not having rooms that are never used except for special occasions."
The best feature
The back of the house opens to a garden with a series of raised decks, which create a haven for dining and lounging.
Ms. Tokarska says dining takes place under a pergola. A large silver maple tree shades the yard.
"To me it's a real character of the property, so I built the deck around it," she explains.
There's plenty of space for entertaining.
"We danced on the deck on New Year's Eve," she says.