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Toronto Real Estate Home of the Week: A true family space amid Rosedale’s opulence

The listing: 83 Glen Rd., Toronto

Asking Price: $3,795,000

Taxes: $15,214 (2018)

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Lot Size: 32- by 146-feet

Agents: Alison Cook, Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. Brokerage

The back story

One of Rosedale's larger mansions can be seen from the backyard.

The beginning, middle and end of the story of this house is that it’s in Rosedale. To reduce a house down to its neighbourhood isn’t always helpful, but there’s no getting around the context of what this is: A very comfortable home (4,100 square feet of living space if you include the basement; five bathrooms, four bedrooms across four levels of tasteful heritage features and elegant modern updates) that has a price that would shock everyone but the intended audience for this listing: Rosedalers or Rosedale hopefuls.

The Toronto Historical Association sums up the neighbourhood’s “relative importance” succinctly: “It has been the chosen place for the wealthy to live for many generations.” Once a 200-acre estate that was partly farmed, by the mid-1800s the land was being subdivided into neighbourhoods. Some describe it as Toronto’s original suburb.

When Kym Morton first saw the house, she was a Rosedale hopeful: A resident of nearby Cabbagetown, she was driving through the area about 7 years ago when she saw the signs for the open house and decided to see if it might provide more space for her three children (then 11, nine and six). “I always felt this house feels good ... it hasn’t been changed and made into a cookie-cutter house." Listing agent Alison Cook agrees that while some of the spaces have been modernized, it hasn’t lost its personality. “So many homes today are cold and aloof, but this is so warm and engaging,” she said.

“What we lacked in Cabbagetown was light, here there was tonnes of light ... even in winter we still have light,” Ms. Morton said. Indeed, the house is filled with light from windows on all sides, another feature missing from many newer infill houses in established neighbourhoods, which these days often keep windows on the front and the back so neighbours can never catch each other’s eyes.

It’s not the biggest house on the block; an impressively large nouveau mansion can be seen from the backyard, and other nearby houses cover more of their similar sized lots. Nor is the red-brick structure the most architecturally distinctive on the exterior (or the interior), although it was built in 1900 by Toronto architect William Symons of Symons and Rae, who built many of the signature homes in Rosedale. But as you tour the space, its practical application is plain: This is a house for living, not a museum.

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The house today

The formal living room has a wood-burning fireplace.

This house has all the details that appeal to those who appreciate century-old homes: oversized iron grates on the heating vents, cove ceilings on the main floor with a floral plaster appliques, nooks and crannies, brass doorknobs of various vintage, one of those hexagonal towers on the corner of the structure common to Victorians.

Instant-camera pictures hang on a wall on the lower level.

Just inside the front door is a tiny vestibule with a burst of purple paint and wallpaper, which opens into a more formal foyer with a small bay-window nook facing south (looking at the neighbour’s wall). The foyer leads to a formal living room with a wood-burning fireplace, the kitchen and dining room and the stairs to the upper levels. The walls across the level are all white, which accents the brown oak floors.

More colour is provided by the artwork, much of which was not provided by the stagers, but from the family’s collection. The wall that divides the kitchen from the dining room is extra thick to hide the pocket doors and is festooned with instant-camera pictures – physical media in 2019! – which is a helpful reminder this house is for families, for people. In the kitchen is a vibrant triptych of portraits of the children, above the powder room are three shelves filled with the many-hued pottery projects of years gone by.

The backsplash adds a pop of colour to the kitchen, while portraits of the owners' children hang on the wall.

Birdhouse Media

There are also more permanent splashes of colour: The kitchen backsplash behind the stove-top is a light marine, a bright green runner on the stairs adds some more liveliness, the rear exterior wall has been painted an even brighter red than the existing russet brick, more ocean blues appear in other tilework in other bathrooms.

The previous owners updated the kitchen.

The kitchen was updated by the previous owners, about a decade ago, and there is a walkout to the backyard from the formal dining room. The powder room here has been painted with chalkboard walls, although they washed away the messages from the household’s teens. There’s a vinyl decal low on the wall where they keep the dog bowls of a skeletal little figure and the words “danger de mort” in other words, there are whimsical touches.

The dining room has a walkout to the backyard.

The basement had to be cleaned up for sale – two teenage boys and their friends had done a number to the walls, the paint and the furniture over the years growing up in the house. It’s a clean and bright space with separated rooms (one large space was once the family’s table-tennis tournament hall), an island counter near the washing room and a glassed-in rear walkout to the backyard.

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A walk-in closet is tucked behind the bed in the master suite.

The master bedroom on the second level is a clever adaptation of the rear of the house: It tucks a walk-in closet behind the wall the bed uses as a headboard (cleverly, you may miss it until you walk all the way over). There’s also a modernized master bath with soaker tub and separate shower, and all the usual restrained glass, stone and porcelain are here to create that spa feeling.

The ensuite bathroom is designed to provide a spa-like atmosphere.

A second, almost 20- by 10-foot bedroom faces the street, and next to that the family den, which is the second floor of the tower and its bay windows.

The third floor is all living space, two expanded attic bedrooms with great tall windows, a shared ensuite bath and loads of closet space.

As we tour the house, Ms. Morton confesses she doesn’t really want to leave the house behind, but it’s time for a new chapter, with her husband Iain Morton being transferred to Dubai – he is an executive and general counsel with the Middle East and Africa group of the French multinational AccorHotels (owners of the Fairmont brand, as well as Sofitel, Novotel and others). If it was practical to take the whole house, or even just the porch-swing they brought from Cabbagetown, she would do that in a heartbeat.

The best feature

The kitchen banquette was one of the owners' favourite spaces to congregate.

It may seem strange, but in a reasonably big house with several multifunctional rooms, the places the family congregated happened to be two of the smaller spaces: the glass- and stainless-steel kitchen banquette that’s tucked into the corner like a space-age diner, and the cozy second-floor den where most of the TV-watching and game nights happened.

“I love the concept of family intimacy, if your house is too big it’s harder to achieve, it’s kind of like, ‘Where is everybody?’,” Ms. Cook said. Ms. Morton, too, was turned off by houses that had blown out all the walls and opened every space into every other space; she likes rooms with distinct purposes and feelings. “What I love about this house is you can have privacy, or you can have intimacy ... and I think it kind of provides both opportunities," Ms. Cook said.

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