The listing: 2 Indian Grove, Toronto
Asking Price: $3,999,000
Taxes: $10,136.03 (2019)
Lot Size: 85 by 90 feet (irregular)
Agent: Kim Kehoe (Bosley Real Estate Ltd.)
The back story
Myron and Shirley Zabol had been leasing the house at 2 Indian Grove for a couple of years when they decided they couldn’t give it up. The couple approached the landlord about purchasing the property and he agreed. That was more than 20 years ago, and the two have been living in the home near Toronto’s High Park ever since.
What made the circa-1910 house so special was the dramatic redesign by internationally-renowned Patkau Architects. The Porter-Vanderbosch Renovation, as the project was known, won an award of merit at the 1990 Governor-General’s Awards for Architecture.
John and Patricia Patkau, who founded the Vancouver-based firm, are fellows of the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada. Their art installations, major urban buildings and residences have garnered awards around the globe.
For Mr. Zabol, the house was an ideal backdrop for his work as a commercial and fine-art photographer.
In the 1980s, Mr. Zabol worked for the venerable T. Eaton Co. Ltd. chain of department stores, where he oversaw the studio that created the famous Eaton’s mail-order catalogues.
In those days, the photographer had a studio across from the present-day Eaton Centre. The Victorian-era buildings on Yonge Street housed storefronts on the street and creative types above.
“Up on the fourth and fifth floors of all these buildings were artists.”
When the Zabols moved into their rental home at 2 Indian Grove, the modern, open space reminded Mr. Zabol of the live/work lofts he had lived in in the past.
“We kind of thought we were moving back into our old studio,” Mr. Zabol says.
The couple learned that the building had fallen into disrepair before the renovation.
“It was described as falling apart,” Mr. Zabol says. “This had to be a very costly reno because they rebuilt the whole thing.”
The house today
Walls were torn down and the staircase was removed to create a large, open room at the front of the house for lounging and dining.
In the centre, a staircase of wood and steel serves as a room divider and sculpture. Cabinets built into and around the staircase create hidden storage and provide display areas for the couple’s art collection.
The dining area opens to the kitchen, which has streamlined cabinets, a large island and a semi-circular east-facing breakfast area in the turret. The rustic exposed wood ceiling in the turret adds character and texture.
Mr. Zabol says the use of space makes the house feel comfortable.
“It’s an awesome plan to live in because you realize the genius of what he did with his form, function and flow,” Mr. Zabol says.
The architects designed the cabinets – painted in a steely shade of blue – to hide some of the mundane elements, such as the laundry area and coat closet.
“I think it’s nice that they did the cabinetry as well,” Ms. Zabol says.
Throughout the house, the architects modernized the space but retained details of the building’s Arts and Crafts heritage. The wood trim was removed from around the windows, for example, then painted and remounted so that a portion now floats above each window.
The wavy, textured glass of the windows in the main living space allows light in while creating an impressionistic view of the landscape.
“You can see the garden, but you have privacy as well,” Ms. Zabol says. “I love the light that flows through the house – it’s endless.”
On the second floor, the master bedroom has an ensuite bathroom and a door to an outdoor balcony.
There are two other bedrooms on that floor, with one currently used as an office. There’s also a family bathroom.
On the third floor, two additional bedrooms provided a retreat for the couple’s daughter when she was growing up. One of those was her former playroom; now, it serves as a family space for lounging and watching television.
Downstairs, the basement has an area with a large brick fireplace, a kitchenette and a spa bathroom. Ms. Zabol, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, uses that level for her practice. A separate entrance allows patients to come and go without entering the main part of the house.
Years ago, Mr. Zabol turned the home’s original garage into a photography darkroom, with electricity and plumbing.
The original brick exterior of the house is made distinctive by the irregular and colourful clinker bricks that are part of the façade. Clinker bricks were created in the brick-firing kilns of the early 20th century. At first, they were considered defective and discarded, but architects began to value them for their character – particularly during the Arts and Crafts movement.
“They’re really part of the whole mosaic of the wall,” Mr. Zabol says. “You don’t get very many houses where they kept the integrity of the exterior."
The Zabols have surrounded the building with Japanese Maples and other trees set in the perennial gardens. The front garden has a fountain and a hidden bench which appears crafted from a solid block of stone. A terrace provides a spot for al-fresco dining under the mature oak trees.
The couple enjoys the High Park neighbourhood for its trees, green space and abundance of transit. The subway is a couple of blocks north and two streetcar lines run through the area nearby.
“You almost feel like you’re living in Europe,” Mr. Zabol says of the passing streetcars.
The nearly 400 acres of High Park are only one block away.
“The dog gets there every day,” Mr. Zabol says.
The best feature
Mr. Zabol has used the living area as studio for his fine art photography over the years because of the clean, modern backdrop and abundance of light.
On some occasions the space has been set up for fashion and portraits and – at other times – the dining table has become the setting for a still life.
“The whole thing is magical,” Mr. Zabol says.
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