378 Lumsden Ave., Toronto
Asking Price: $1,650,000
Taxes: $4,145 (2022)
Lot Size: 25 by 200 feet
Agent: Tony Mendes, Century 21 Heritage Group
When business owners Laura Mendes and John Loerchner went searching for a property in 2016, along with their one-year-old daughter Ava, they were looking for their first family home. A two-storey detached residential house in Toronto’s East York neighbourhood caught their eye. Ms. Mendes says they fell in love with the place right away. The couple had contemplated moving outside of Toronto, looking at properties in Caledon and Orangeville, but the lack of amenities in those areas made them reassess.
“For us, most importantly, we wanted to be close to nature,” Ms. Mendes said, who met her husband when they both attended the University of Toronto. “When we looked at all of these homes outside of the city, we realized they’re great, but we have to drive everywhere. There was no ‘walk factor’.”
Then they saw 378 Lumsden Ave., a three-bedroom, two-bathroom property hugging the edge of Taylor Creek Park near Toronto’s Danforth Village. Its selling point for the couple? A backyard cozying up to the tree canopy belonging to Taylor Creek Park, home to a major Don River tributary. It is about 220 feet, or a one-minute walk, from the entrance to Taylor Creek Trail.
“You get all the wildlife, all the birds. Coming from the house, you’ve got the running or mountain biking trails, the paved asphalt trails,” said Mr. Loerchner, an avid runner and cyclist. “You can do a half-marathon run coming from the house and you only cross one street.”
The potential was huge, but the couple wasn’t the only ones enraptured by the property as they found themselves in a bidding war with another couple who bid higher, but with conditions on the offer. “They contacted us after we got the house to offer money so that they could get it,” Ms. Mendes said.
The previous homeowners were also a family and had lived in the house for about 30 years. Ms. Mendes envisioned raising Ava, now eight years old, and their eventual second child there. She handwrote a letter to the sellers, delivered through her father who was also their real estate agent, explaining they wanted to start their family in that home – and they did just that. The couple welcomed their son Kai, who’s now five, a couple of years after moving in.
The house today
Over the years, the house has seen plenty of upgrades and renovations, including almost immediately from when they moved in. Inside, what was once a divided living room and kitchen because of a wall is now an open-concept space with a nine-foot ceiling. “It became much more interactive and social,” Ms. Mendes said. “John is the chef in the family. Now when he’s cooking, he’s also part of the action when I’m hanging out with the kids.”
Carpeted floors were transformed into hardwood and all the windows were replaced. The kitchen was gifted with a new Caesarstone countertop and open shelving including a live edge for their coffee maker. They also added air conditioning.
The kids’ playroom on the ground floor, a back room that heads out into the backyard, once had a storage closet inside that Mr. Loerchner turned into a powder room – “a practical, smart thing to do,” he said, “especially when you’re potty training kids or if you’re entertaining. It can be accessible from the outside or if the kids are an absolute disaster.”
In keeping with their love of woodland accessories, Mr. Loerchner also installed a glazed wooden shelf in the sunroom lounge area, ideal for showcasing plants, which is one of Ms. Mendes’s favourite rooms inside the house where she drinks her morning coffee and watches the sunrise paint the sky.
Outside, they replaced the deck and the roof. Lush ivy now hugs the home, mature trees accessorize it and perennial gardens are sprinkled across the backyard including plantain lilies, rose of sharon, rhododendrons, and hydrangeas, to name a few. Mr. Loerchner also created lattices and suspended ivy to create more privacy for their family. They added stepping stones onto the backyard lawn and spruced up the pond including redoing all of the edging, trim work, stone work and foliage. The couple added goldfish to the once-dilapidated pond when it became functional, which Ava and Kai feed every day. The dual Muskoka chairs overseeing the pond are meant to feel like you’re on a lake and evoke a sense of calm, especially when paired with the trickling sounds of the pond’s running water.
The husband-and-wife duo co-own Cabinscape, a company that designs, builds and rents small off-grid cabins across Ontario. “Our other child,” Ms. Mendes calls it, adding that they run the company from the comfort of their backyard office. Once a small garden shed is now the headquarters from which they run their business. It was an early pandemic project hand-built by Mr. Loerchner, who does the design work for their business, in 2020 with a build process of up to four months. The backyard office’s style was inspired by the aesthetic of their company’s cabins, including the interior pine boards and wood trim. The sliding garage door over what seems like a window but also poses as an indoor-outdoor tiki bar is a signature of Cabinscape’s designs. While the office is mainly Mr. Loerchner’s workspace and Ms. Mendes works from inside the house, when he is not home she will use the office space for work or yoga.
“It was a good project to keep yourself sane when everything was kind of suspended and up in the air,” he said. Mr. Loerchner took on many projects throughout the pandemic, another being Ava and Kai’s play structure which Mr. Loerchner built out of the scrap material lying around the backyard. Ms. Mendes equates it to the 1960 film Swiss Family Robinson. The kids call it Camp COVID-19.
The best feature
The shining star is the backyard in conjunction with the office. Although manicured, Ms. Mendes says there is still a sense that it is a woodland oasis. The multilevel deck, lounge spaces and even the open tiki bar allow for different areas to gather and socialize. “The amount of nature at our fingertips is really unrivalled,” she said.
Every year for the last few years, the family is even visited by two frogs that have found a home in their backyard’s ecosystem. Although Ms. Mendes is not certain if they are the same frogs every year, Ava and Kai have named them Ribby and Robby.
“For me, being in nature is incredibly grounding. I’m able to hear my thoughts in this busy life in the city. Being able to just walk into the forest is so calming and grounding, and I wanted that for my children,” Ms. Mendes said.