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Toronto Real Estate Home of the Week: A builder’s own house, with no corners cut

Jordan Prussky/The Print Market

The listing: 97 Stuart Ave., Toronto

Asking Price: $2,849,000

Taxes: $11,254.81 (2018)

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Lot Size: 40- by 130-feet

Agents: Andre Kutyan and Robert Greenberg, Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage

The backstory

The sitting area is separated from the dining room by a double-sided fireplace.

Jordan Prussky/The Print Market

Arash Kamali has spent the past 17 years building multimillion-dollar mansions for high-end clients in Forest Hill, Rosedale and other Toronto zones for the elite. But when it came time to build his own home, replacing a tiny postwar bungalow on 97 Stuart Ave., he found out an awful truth: he was a terrible client.

The chief executive of Enirox Group typically builds three to four custom homes a year, but there’s a professional distance that comes with handing over the keys to someone else at the end of a project. “I’m a very hard client for myself," he said. "It took longer than we usually take for regular houses,” in part because he would change his mind, or make a decision about wanting a high-end finish or appliance even if there were months of waiting involved. “It’s hard to build for yourself. Two things make a problem: knowing nothing or knowing a lot; these two can cause a problem in building a house.” In his case, it was the latter: that burden of knowledge about what he could build helped push him over budget.

“All the appliances are Gaggenau, the kitchen cabinetry is Crisstar, in the house I am building right now [in Rosedale], we have almost the same kind of material … that house is over $15-million,” he said. Actually, the two built-in ovens, built-in coffee maker and the refrigerator are from Gaggenau; there are also two Miele dishwashers and a Viking gas range.

The family room has a built-in entertainment unit.

Jordan Prussky/The Print Market

One of the areas where the budget was blown was in the marble floors – found on the entire main level and in the massive lower-level recreation room – which have radiant heat underneath, even though the house already has a forced-air heating system. That suspenders-and-a-belt attention extended to the tiles themselves: “For the tile and stone, we handpicked all the stones,” he said, in order to maintain a uniform look.

Even the exterior finishes were a work of love: He spent weeks trying to find the right mix of tints to create a textured, stone-like finish. Eventually, he settled on doing two layers in different colours to give the impression of limestone rather than the typical uniform hue of stucco.

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Mr. Kamali and his family have lived here for seven years, but now his son is going to an out-of-boundary school and in order to make that easier, and to be closer to his wife’s work, they are moving on.

The house today

The home's marble floors all have radiant heating underneath.

Jordan Prussky/The Print Market

Even though Mr. Kamali’s business is building homes, salesperson Andre Kutyan says this place was never intended to flip. “Most builders, if they are building on spec to sell it, it’s fairly vanilla: People like traditional homes," he said. “Once in a while you get something modern like this.”

From the street, 97 Stuart presents a very different image than the houses around it; it has a flat roof, a mix of reddish timber, patterned stucco and deep-brown copper rectangles on the façade. There are other infill and conversion homes, but most are more traditional, with gables and arches, faux-Tudor touches or unadorned beige and grey exteriors. (There’s also a relatively rare below-grade two-car garage, the kind which Mr. Kamali claims the community council will no longer approve in the neighbourhood).

Inside the front door is a vista of marble and 11-foot-high ceilings, but directly to the right is a small study with glass walls and windows facing the front yard. To the left is a small sitting area. It feels like a home office, or even just a place to sit reading while you watch the neighbourhood go through its quiet day.

A double-sided gas fireplace divides the sitting area from the dining room, which is divided again from the kitchen with a walnut-coloured panel on the back of the cabinets that contains most of those built-in appliances.

A walnut-coloured cabinet separates the dining room and the kitchen.

Jordan Prussky/The Print Market

The dining room and kitchen are sunk a few steps below the front entrance and hallway, and a family room with a built-in entertainment unit backs onto the kitchen’s island breakfast bar. The spaces are defined, but still open and filled with light that can flow from the front or rear windows.

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“There’s no crown moulding and no baseboard in [most of] this house, it’s such a small detail to the average lay person that unless you understand construction, you’ll miss the effort and extra cost that goes in to doing that,” Mr. Kutyan said. No baseboard means there’s no tolerance for flaws or bad cuts with the stone on the main floors, which sits perfectly against the walls. With no crown moulding, there’s no room for error either; if it’s not straight, it will be immediately apparent.

The downstairs rec room is one of the largest spaces in the home.

Jordan Prussky/The Print Market

The glassed-in open-riser oak staircase leading upstairs and downstairs divides the living room from a two-piece powder room. Downstairs is one of the largest spaces in the house. The recreation room is 30 by 16.9 feet, space enough for a home theatre in addition to a vast floor area that could accommodate a table-tennis or pool unit. The wet-bar counter runs along the rear wall under a grade-level window and features a built-in wine fridge and mini-fridge. A four-piece bathroom, nanny suite, mechanical room and the first of two laundry rooms fill out the rest of the floor.

Mr. Kutyan calls the neighbourhood “West Lansing,” a small pocket bounded by Yonge and Sheppard streets to the east and north. The Don Valley Golf Course and 401 form the southern boundary and Earl Bales Park separates the area from streets to the west. The house has been listed for $2.9-million for several weeks.

Favourite room

The master bedroom's ensuite bathroom features a wall of windows that look out into the trees of the backyard.

Jordan Prussky/The Print Market

One of Mr. Kamali’s favourite rooms is the kitchen-living space, but he’s probably most proud of the master ensuite bathroom on the second floor.

Each of the four bedrooms on this level have their own ensuite, some with a tub and some with just a shower (there’s a second-washer/dryer closet here too), but the master bath is a seven-piece chunk of modernist heaven. Stroll past the walk-in closet with custom-built shelving and the master bedroom with another custom-built entertainment unit and the master bath greets visitors with a wall of windows facing out into the trees of the backyard. A floating double-vanity is on the right and in the centre of the rear-wall is a stand-alone soaker tub. A Toto combo toilet and bidet crouches in the far corner, but the main event is the seamless glassed shower that’s almost six feet wide with a built-in bench. In addition to a flush-mounted overhead rain-shower head (and separate hand-held shower unit) there’s a wet-steam unit that Mr. Kamali makes the most use of.

“I play soccer and I do lots of exercise; getting a steam bath is such a luxury, so relaxing,” he said.

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