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Ray Zhang/Houssmax

311 Sumach St, Toronto, Ont.

Asking price: $2,498,000

Taxes: $8,780 (2019)

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Lot size: 24.25- by 127-feet

Agent: Ronald Reaman, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada

The back story

A wall separating the entrance hall from the sitting room was removed to open up the space.

Ray Zhang/Houssmax

Back in 2012 Pierre Cote and his wife weren’t looking to move from car-centric Leaside, but while visiting a friend in Cabbagetown they heard about an interesting house that had come on the market.

“I’ve been on and off living in Toronto for more than 40 years, and growing up I had friends in Cabbagetown. I have always been drawn to it. The vibe and proximity to downtown core – you can walk anywhere and everywhere,” Mr. Cote said.

“When my wife and I went to that third-floor bedroom, that sold us on the place. It covers the whole footprint of the second floor,” he said. The floor space up there is wide enough to do dance lessons in, with a dormered ceiling on the side facing the street and a large and spacious ensuite bathroom (standalone tub, separate shower, twin vanities) on the back side. “The previous owners had just completed it when we saw the place," Mr. Cote said. "It’s a great master bedroom ... they did a very good job.”

The large master suite was a major selling point for the current owners.

Ray Zhang/Houssmax

The other thing he noted about 311 Sumach is how wide it was, and how big the house felt. The lot is almost 25 feet wide – expansive for the densely packed downtown Toronto district where narrow lots are common.

“I live a block away; my house is considered large with 17.5 feet on the interior,” listing agent Ronald Reaman said. “Pierre has seven or eight feet on me. This is the house I wish I lived in. If could buy it, I would in a heartbeat.”

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Aside from that third floor, the rest of the house was more of a project. “It was nowhere in the same shape as it was today,” Mr. Cote said. “It was perfectly livable, but there was lots of work to do, and that’s something we like to take on. We fell in love and bought it.”

The house today

A bay window fills the front sitting area with light.

Ray Zhang/Houssmax

From street, the 150-year-old house looks like a rather small blue-painted, board and batten cottage – instead of the deep and tall structure it really is. The exterior was one of the projects the couple took on, removing a all the old vinyl siding and replacing the postwar stucco. While they were at it, the whole place was reinsulated (and yards of knob-and-tube wiring and galvanized piping were removed and replaced).

Another major project was the landscaping in the front. “We redid the whole front yard; a new retaining wall and a new porch; a shed for garbage. I’ll tell you, we spend a lot of time on the front porch. We quite enjoy it,” Mr. Cote said. “The neighbours come by and we can socialize.”

The main hall travels right through to the rear of the house.

Ray Zhang/Houssmax

Through the front door is the central hallway that travels straight to the back of the house, with the stairs leading to the second and third floors directly ahead, and the front sitting room on the right. One of the last things the couple did was take down a wall that separated the hall from the front room, which they had earlier updated with crown mouldings and a marble fireplace mantle. The bay window facing the street now fills this front portion of the house with sunlight.

“Every year we had a project on the go,” Mr. Cote said. "Basically every part of that house was touched, through time ... it needed it and it’s a house that deserves it. "

The shared bathroom on the second floor has a standalone tub.

Ray Zhang/Houssmax

There are four bedrooms: two on the second floor are roughly 11 feet by 12 feet; the third is currently configured as a home office in its nine-foot by seven-foot space with a window looking onto Sumach. As is common with homes of its age, none of the rooms came with closets, although one of the bedrooms has had one added in a corner. All three bathrooms in the house have been updated. The shared bath on the second floor has a standalone tub and separate shower. Also on the second floor is the laundry, relocated out of the unfinished basement and accessible from the second bedroom and the hall at the top of the stairs.

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Favourite space

The kitchen was one of the first spaces the owners renovated.

Ray Zhang/Houssmax

“The kitchen was not functional, it was one of the first things we tackled,” Mr. Cote said. Running along the left side of this space is a row of pantry cupboards in a deep brown wood with the cabinetry built around the fridge-freezer and separate wine fridge. More dark cabinetry continues along that wall into a family room just beyond the kitchen. This back room is a single storey added by a previous owner. “That room in the back with the cathedral ceiling, when we moved in that was walled. We removed that wall, put in a new kitchen and changed the floors.”

On the right side of the kitchen is a U-shaped run of quartz counters and white-painted cabinetry (with gas range and stove). On the other side of the counter is the cathedral room, with an eating space on the left and a couch and entertainment centre – and a wood-burning fireplace – on the right. This back room has two exits leading outside, on the rear wall a set of double French doors in a bay, on the side another door to the side yard. The cathedral element is an octagonal cove in the ceiling (there’s also a small skylight for even more light in the room).

The backyard has a sheltered sitting area and a two-car parking pad.

Ray Zhang/Houssmax

The backyard is largely paved in flagstone, with a sheltered sitting area, and a two-car parking pad off the rear laneway and a small wooden shed.

“The backyard in the summer is just beautiful, we spend a lot of time there,” Mr. Cote said. “In the wintertime in particular we like to have a glass of wine in the living room with the wood burning in the fireplace, that’s always something we’ve looked for in houses.”

For home buyers looking for a house like this during the pandemic, Mr. Reaman has a full virtual tour, and if you want to arrange a visit Sothebys has put together a protocol for cleaning and sanitizing after each visit.

“At the end of the day it’s up to a buyer whether they are going to don a mask,” Mr. Reaman said. “We are adapting to the new reality. It’s not business as usual and we need to be respectful of what’s going on out in the world.”

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