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The Victorian is in a neighbourhood of historic homes, near Yonge-Dundas Square and entertainment all

74 McGill St., Toronto

Asking Price: $2.149-million

Taxes: $7,564.24 (2022)

Lot Size: 20- by 84-feet

Listing agent: Anne Levenston, Royal LePage/J & D Division

The backstory

Imagine buying your dream house in downtown Toronto with your partner of several years and then two weeks after you move in you break up.

“I was with a boyfriend at the time we had bought a house on Granby [Street], and then he told me he didn’t want to own a house with me anymore,” said Chandra Stempien. The good news is the boyfriend mentioned there was an open house around the corner on McGill Street for a Victorian row house. After the now ex-boyfriend bought her out of her share of the Granby house, in 2006 Ms. Stempien ended up purchasing the McGill house.

The bad news is her ex still lives in the Granby house. “It’s really awkward when we run into each other; we can see each other’s windows from our backyards,” Ms. Stempien said.

This story is told with infectious humour and charming candour. By no means is Ms. Stempien bitter: after the breakup she got married and now has a three-year-old boy. Over the years she has formed the McGill house into the kind of space she’s always wanted since she first moved to Toronto and began her career in finance on Bay Street.

“I grew up on welfare in the country on an acreage, and I really didn’t desire the commute and didn’t really want to have a car or the headaches of that. Ever since I moved to Toronto in 1999, I’ve lived within the same 10 block radius. It’s so convenient,” she said.

Indeed, McGill and Granby are actually connected in a crescent that opens onto Church Street. with a pedestrian walkway to Yonge Street. It’s an area nestled between Gerrard Street and Carlton Street where historic homes make up an extreme western appendage of Cabbagetown. Nearby is the campus of Toronto Metropolitan University and Yonge Dundas Square with retail, restaurants and entertainment all around.

The house today

  • Home of the Week, 74 McGill St.,

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You may notice that the number in stained glass on the transom is 56, which doesn’t match the current address, 74. That’s because after the home was built in 1880, lots were subdivided and houses were added to McGill, necessitating a renumbering of the street. The rich red brickwork on the front has ornamental features and the doorway opens into a trapezoidal foyer with double doors into the main living space.

Ms. Stempien bought the house from long-time TV personality Tommy Smythe (the indefatigueable on-screen partner for designer Sarah Richardson’s many interior design shows on HGTV). But there’s not much left inside of his work because of renovations done in 2016.

The main floor is essentially one continuous space with a support wall, with storage in the middle next to the staircase. Ms. Stempian’s three-year-old spends a lot of time racing in a loop from the sitting room through the dining room and kitchen and back again.

The kitchen and dining room are separated by a large marble-topped peninsula with bar seating under a trayed ceiling that makes full use of the 10-foot heights. A converted solarium with skylight holds more pantry storage (with slide-out drawer for dog dishes) and a coffee bar.

The back deck runs wall-to-wall between the neighbouring attached houses and opens onto, for downtown Toronto, a generous yard. “It’s significantly bigger most of our neighbours, which are set back 10 feet,” said Ms. Stempien. “We put in those trees to stop my ex from seeing into the yard … in the summer, it feels like its own oasis in this shelter of trees.”

The second floor is entirely taken up by the primary suite: the main bedroom’s windows look south onto McGill Street. Through a set of double doors a 15-foot long walk-in-closet connects to a rose-coloured bathroom with marble floor, standalone soaker tub, double vanity, toilet closet and luxury shower. “There’s a rain shower, body sprays and two other different ways to take showers,” Ms. Stempien said.

The third floor has three more bedroom spaces, though the largest attic room is currently the home-office.

“During the pandemic I used the top-floor office and the only craving I had was ice water during my pregnancy,” Ms. Stempien said. “I am not going to drag my pregnant ass down the stairs, so I put a bag on a rope and I’d call down ‘fill me up,’ and my husband would refill [a water bottle] and I’d pull it up.”

The finished basement – itself a rarity in a Victorian terrace house – has a built-in bar in the recreation/TV room, a bathroom lined with subway tiles and bright laundry space.

The pride and joy

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The shoe room holds about 300 pairs of footwear.Courtesy Chandra Stempien

There was one feature that was an iron-clad must-have in the renovation: a shoe room.

At the foot of the basement stairs is what looks like a regular storage space with built-in cabinetry and full-length mirror on the back wall, the only furnishing is a red-painted wooden chair.

Inside those unassuming cabinets are, conservatively, 300 pairs of shoes.

But don’t get the wrong idea; Ms. Stempien is very frugal. “I’m not investing $600 or $700 on a pair of shoes; I have as many Converse and crossfits as I have heels. For a while, I needed every single colour,” she said.

Her husband is allowed to have a shelf, and her son’s shoes still fit inside hers (he has a rotation of about eight multi-coloured shoes on the go at all times) but a place to put all her shoes is the thing she will miss the most about selling the house.

Maybe though, she can store more at work? “For all my work shoes I had admin find me a bunch of old mail slots [for storage] … one of my file cabinets is stuffed with shoes,” she said. Is that all? “I do have a pair of Prada heels I got for my wedding that I keep on the executive floor.”

Imelda Marcos, eat your heart out.

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