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home of the week

Modern Movement Creative

127 Wolseley St., Toronto

Asking Price: $1.495-million

Taxes: $5,301.38 (2020)

Lot Size: 17 feet by 99.2 feet

Agents: Paul Maranger and Christian Vermast, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada

The backstory

In 2001, Mathieu Chantelois was finishing his PhD and working as a reporter for a French-language daily newspaper in Montreal when his editor assigned him to cover the audition process for Canada’s first reality-television show.

The Lofters would be shot in Toronto and follow the lives of eight people living together in the city’s entertainment district.

To gain access to the auditions, Mr. Chantelois went undercover as a contestant. The paper published a story about his experience, and he promptly put it behind him.

A renovation preserved the home's arched doorways, crown mouldings and the staircase’s wooden handrail.Mitchell Hubble/Modern Movement Creative

“It was my assignment for the day,” he says. “And the producers never realized I was there to write a story because I was writing in French.”

A few months later, Mr. Chantelois received a surprise call saying he had made the cut. He decided to see how far the opportunity would take him. After more auditions in Toronto, he was selected as one of the eight twenty-somethings who would live together in the loft.

“I was the French one, I was the gay one, I was the one doing my PhD.”

Mr. Chantelois moved into the loft in a former nightclub at Peter Street and Richmond Street West and, for a full year, wore a microphone and camera. When his partner, Marcelo Gomez-Wiuckstern, visited from Montreal, he was miked as well.

“It would have been boring for the viewers if we were just staying home and watching TV,” says Mr. Chantelois, so the couple headed out to explore Toronto and its arts and culture scene.

The dining room has a gas-burning fireplace and a stained glass transom light.Mitchell Hubble/Modern Movement Creative

At the same time, Mr. Gomez-Wiuckstern was writing his masters thesis on the show.

After season one wrapped up, the two decided to make Toronto their home as they launched their own careers as communications professionals.

“We had the choice of going back – all of our furniture was in Montreal – but we looked at each other and realized Toronto is an amazing city.”

They were encouraged to put down more roots when Ontario moved to legalize same-sex marriages in 2003, before Quebec changed its laws in 2004.

“Marcelo and I ran to City Hall and were one of the first couples to get legally married in North America,” Mr. Chantelois says.

The couple requested marriage certificates in French, but the translated documents were not yet available, so authorities used the existing ones.

“Things were so new, I had to sign on a line called ‘wife.’” Mr. Chantelois says with a laugh.

The two lived for a few years in a condo near Ryerson University, but they found the area too hectic. They knew they wanted to have children some day so they began looking for a house.

“In 2008, we found this beautiful jewel in the middle of the economic crisis,” Mr. Chantelois says.

The red-brick Victorian house on a narrow street near Queen Street West and Bathurst Street brought them back to a part of town they came to love during their time on The Lofters.

Mr. Gomez-Wiuckstern says the two were drawn to the home’s sophisticated white interior and modern renovation.

“Everything was fresh and bright,” Mr. Gomez-Wiuckstern says. “It was open and new and polished.”

At the same time, architectural elements such as arched doorways, crown mouldings and the staircase’s wooden handrail had been preserved.

“We knew in 15 seconds,” Mr. Chantelois says of their feeling as they walked in the door.

The house today

The kitchen features two-tone cabinetry, a Venetian glass backsplash and semi-pendant schoolhouse lights.Mitchell Hubble/Modern Movement Creative

The home, which dates to the 1880s, has three bedrooms in 1,440 square feet of above-ground living space.

Guests arrive to a traditional paneled wood door with an oval window and beveled glass.

Inside, the vestibule has marble floor tiles and a door with striated glass for privacy.

The dining room at the front of the house has a gas-burning fireplace and a stained glass transom light above the window.

Hardwood floors run through the open concept dining room and living room at the centre of the house.

The living room and dining room are separated by an archway, and hardwood floors run through the entire space.Mitchell Hubble/Modern Movement Creative

The kitchen stands at the rear, with a door leading to a small deck and the patio outside. Two-tone cabinetry, a Venetian glass backsplash and semi-pendant schoolhouse lights fit the style of the house. Stainless steel appliances include double wall ovens. The floor is tiled in marble and the countertops are quartz.

Upstairs, the master bedroom overlooks the street at the front of the house. There are two other bedrooms on that floor. The large, modern bathroom has a walk-in shower and a soaker tub.

Mitchell Hubble/Modern Movement Creative

The upper level includes three bedrooms.Mitchell Hubble/Modern Movement Creative

The lower level has a family room, a bathroom and a laundry room with lots of added storage.

Once they had settled into the house, Mr. Chantelois and Mr. Gomez-Wiuckstern learned that a nearby LGBTQ community centre offered workshops for same-sex couples who want to learn about their options for becoming parents.

They joined the group and began the lengthy process leading to fatherhood.

“We know that for same-sex couples, a baby is an extreme privilege,” Mr. Chantelois says. “It took time and investment.”

One year ago, they welcomed Oscar James.

With the arrival of a baby boy, the couple reconfigured the house to suit him.

A guest bedroom was converted into a nursery for the couple's son.Mitchell Hubble/Modern Movement Creative

The former guest bedroom became a nursery, brightened with a motif of airplanes. They added a remote-controlled blind to cover up the skylight so the baby could nap.

Throughout the home, they added more storage for all of the paraphernalia that comes along with a newborn.

Outside, the house has a small backyard with a patio and parking at the rear. Over the years, the couple invested in gardening and landscaping.

Agents Paul Maranger and Christian Vermast of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada describe the house as “detached-abutting,” meaning that it has a small gap between it and the neighbouring buildings on each side.

The owners made improvements to the small backyard.Mitchell Hubble/Modern Movement Creative

The location on a quiet side street means the house feels removed from the traffic and bustle of Queen West.

“We’re right downtown, but you don’t hear anything,” Mr. Chantelois says.

As much as they have enjoyed Toronto, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the couple realize they would like to return to Montreal so that their son can be close to both of their families.

“Now that we’re dads, we know that the right thing for him is to grow up with his cousins, aunts and grandparents,” Mr. Gomez-Wiuckstern says.

The best feature

Mr. Gomez-Wiuckstern, left, and Mr. Chantelois with their son, Oscar James.Selina Whittaker

Mr. Chantelois and Mr. Gomez-Wiuckstern say the baby and the pandemic have changed their lifestyles but they still enjoy being able to walk to furniture stores, French patisseries and their favourite barber shop.

While the city was restricting indoor gatherings, they put Oscar James in his stroller and walked to nearby Trinity-Bellwoods Park.

“Last summer we went to the park for a picnic every single night. OJ played while we had dinner,” Mr. Gomez-Wiuckstern says.

Along the way, they met lots of other parents and neighbours who shared parenting advice.

Mr. Chantelois says that experience made the two appreciate the Queen West area even more for its cultural diversity and welcoming vibe. Occasionally, in other parts of society, they encounter people who are unaccepting of same-sex parents.

“It’s still sadly sometimes a thing, but not in our neighbourhood.”

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