The listing: 50 Bartlett Ave., Unit 16, Toronto
Asking price: $1.68-million
Taxes: $4,146.83 (2018)
Monthly maintenance fees: $797.65
Size: 1,919 square feet
Agents: Karyn Filiatrault and Josh Jean-Baptiste, Sage Real Estate
Wade Grocott and Melissa Niccols may have lost count, but think they’ve lived in 10 different houses (or boats) in the past 15 years, though none received the kind of attention to the interior as their most recent home.
“It’s like a hobby for us,” said Mr. Grocott, referring to moving. As a child, his mother moved the family often, flipping houses every few years, and now that the couple’s three children are grown and out of the house there’s even more flexibility to move at will. The couple have lived in a bunch of different kinds of neighbourhoods in the city, choosing a house to fit a type of urban living they want to sample. “The day we’re moving in, I wonder what we’ll get for it when we sell it … that’s just the way we are. Some people like to travel, we like to try new lifestyles,” Mr. Grocott said.
They acquired the townhouse at 50 Bartlett Ave. four years ago – buying an assignment of a pre-sale contract about two years into the project’s life – but have only lived in the space since September, 2017. They were moved by the unusual spaces created by the conversion of the 100-year-old yarn factory hidden behind a leafy street near Bloor and Dufferin streets and purchased numerous upgrades from the builder. As possession day got close, they began to strategize about how to finish the interior.
“One of the first things we did when we saw this property, we agreed we were going to have some fun with this place, we were not going to stick to beige,” Mr. Grocott said. They estimate that between upgrades and design work, they spent $250,000 customizing the house.
The house is a riot of design ideas, very few of them are “safe” for easy flipping, but if you’re not excited by the design, Mr. Grocott has a reassuring message: “None of our choices are irreversible: it’s not a renovation project, there’s nothing structural; these are preferences.”
The house today
As soon as you walk in the front door of the townhouse, you’re looking directly at the couple’s kitchen seating area and favourite space. It’s also the spot that served as the beginning of a series of bold design choices.
“We didn’t want a dining table, we want a banquet corner,” Mr. Grocott said. “We want it to look like that booth everybody hopes they get in a restaurant.” They hired TEB Interiors and lead designer Terry Briceland to realize their booth and the result is a black leather cushion bolted to a painted white brick wall, surrounded by a flurry of black and white photos in eclectic framing types, a working cuckoo clock and industrial-ish light fixtures with several hanging bare bulbs all in different sizes and shapes. Set against the herringbone slate floor tile, it does look like a hip Bloor Street restaurant.
The beige wood-grain kitchen cabinets are relatively tame in comparison, though the appliances and fittings are high-grade: Fisher Paykel fridge, Wolf range and oven and a black granite undermount sink. And they can sit their extended family of nine around the wood banquet table.
Once they saw the booth plans, they decided to unleash Mr. Briceland on the rest of the townhouse. The first taste of what’s to come is the powder room on the way to the living room.
“I wanted this Parisian flair, almost tacky over-the-top space that’s completely unexpected in a powder room. That’s what [TEB] did. Everybody comments on it every single time they come out of there,” Ms. Niccols says. Deep blue walls with gold stencilling, gold faucet, gold mirror frame, gold-and-glass-pendant light, gold-and-glass soapdish, gold toilet paper holder, even gold pipes under the sink. Sadly, the wall-mounted toilet is normal porcelain. For such a tiny space under the stairs, it speaks loudly. “Being ordinary and safe, that makes us more uncomfortable than taking a chance with a bold statement,” Ms. Niccols says.
The living room takes advantage of the two-storey interior space and being the corner house of the 16-unit development, which means there are soaring windows are on two walls. The fireplace has a black, cold-rolled steel cladding the entire height of the room, some gold and glass shelves, bronzed flower sculpture plaques and plush blue velvet couches soften the industrial feel. And don’t worry about finding furniture to match this design; when they move, Wade and Melissa plan to take basically just their clothes and their toothbrushes: “We would leave everything here. Everything was bought for this space.”
Overlooking the living room is a master bedroom loft, but with a glass wall separating the spaces. Black curtains frame the windows and a black wall conceals a 60-inch television, surrounded by custom-made plaster floral and wasp sculptures. Facing the glass wall is a custom-made wallpaper mural of Vespa scooters (vespa means wasp in Italian), inspired by the couple’s own two-wheeled hobby rides. There’s a curving neon-tubing-style LED light fixture on the wall and another antique chandelier (with blue-glass pendants)
The second-floor hallway between the master bedroom and the walk-in closet and bathroom has been converted to an office space, and the sliding doors on this floor help keep the space open.
The master bath has a glass-bead chandelier, a stand-alone soaker tub with marble backsplash. On the opposite wall a vanity sits between two glass doors, one to the toilet and one to a walk-in shower. A large art-piece adorns the wall facing the entrance.
The third floor has a second bedroom, with another original mural this time painted right on the wall, serving as the headboard. This room was inspired by their youngest son’s input, including the “barista” shelf that runs across the rooftop terrace-facing window (a popular feature of downtown coffee bars). The black-tiled bathroom has another piece of custom-made wallpaper, a colourful scene of jellyfish.
The terrace is the work of Terra Firma Home and Terrace. The blue and grey sitting area comes complete with matching Napoleon barbecue.
Altogether, the look is a mix of eras: Victorian and 21st-century, industrial and modern design, contemporary decor with kitschy – almost corny – design elements. It’s all original though. “There are a lot of houses where this doesn’t work, but it works in this factory,” Mr. Grocott said. “We don’t pretend to be experts; our commitment was simply to have some fun.”
The couple has been attempting to sell for several months, never quite finding the right price. “There’s still a market for this kind of property, but the price point can shrink your audience. That’s what we’re coming across,” Mr. Grocott said.
Of course, it is a modern condo so the units are metered separately and heat, water and electricity are not included in the almost $800 a month maintenance fees. There’s also not much in the way of common elements other than the parking stacker in the garage (an elevator that stores the resident’s cars below ground).
For Ms. Niccols, 51, and Mr. Grocott, 57, their next move could be their last as they are preparing for retirement and would like to move to Ontario’s Georgian Bay area, where designs for a Scandinavian-style lake house are already taking shape.
The couple expects to find a buyer something similar to themselves; a downsizer looking for a unique slice of downtown living. “There are people who lived in this neighbourhood for years who didn’t know this place was here. They know there’s a laneway, but a whole bunch of townhouses? Really? It’s a hidden gem," Mr. Grocott said.
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