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Birdhouse Media

The listing: 232 Rose Park Dr., Toronto

Asking Price: $4,495,000

Taxes: $16,764.63 (2018)

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Lot Size: 37.4 - by 144.25-feet

Agents: Donna and Nick Thompson (Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd.)

The back story

The house at 232 Rose Park Dr. in Toronto’s Moore Park neighbourhood was a gracious 1920s-era dwelling with an unfortunate 1960s makeover when Alex and Ella Rebanks purchased the property about 10 years ago.

Mr. Rebanks is an architect who has undertaken many residential projects alongside his mainstay commercial practice. Toronto residents would be familiar with the work of his firm, Alex Rebanks Architects, if they have visited Saks Fifth Avenue at Sherway Gardens. He has also designed locations for Pusateri’s Fine Foods and LA Fitness.

Mr. Rebanks was drawn to the home’s treed lot and solid exterior. But the renovation by a spec builder in the previous century had stripped away most of the original charm from the interior.

“I didn’t really care for the rooms or how it was laid out because I knew I would be changing them anyway.”

The Rebanks bought the property intending to create a larger, modern family home behind the original façade.

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The financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 put those plans on hold.

“The whole world did a wobble,” says Mr. Rebanks.

The couple decided to delay the reno and inhabit the house as it was.

“We did live with our share of shag carpeting,” Ms. Rebanks says.

The Rebanks used wood from a mature oak tree on the property as structural support for a new portion of the home.

Birdhouse Media

During that time, they added a third child to the family.

The three or four years they spent in the old house also gave them lots of time to think about how best to modernize it, the couple says.

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Mr. Rebanks, who spent his formative years in the historic city of Oxford, preferred gutting the interior to demolishing the original building.

“Coming from England, I always thought it was important not to tear down,” he says. “The street has a memory. I like to work with that rather than knock it down.”

As they planned the renovation, the Rebanks found that one of the four mature oak trees on the property stood in the way of an addition. They obtained a permit to cut it down, then had the wood turned into 12-by-12 posts and cured for two years.

Mr. Rebanks used the four solid oak posts as structural support in the new portion of the building. The posts are not only crafted for the house, but contextual to the neighbourhood, he points out.

He was inspired, he says, by his previous experience with post-and-beam construction in British Columbia, where he had a practice in Whistler for several years.

The use of wood from the backyard tree informed the rest of the house. The floors, front door, stairs and railings are all of white oak.

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The house today

A study that overlooks the street also doubles as a music room.

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From the street, No. 232 appears as it always has – a family dwelling that has a straightforward centre hall plan and doesn’t call attention to itself.

“It’s a good neighbour,” Mr. Rebanks says.

In reality, a rear extension doubled the home’s size to 5,540 square feet, including the lower level.

Today, visitors arrive to a modern foyer with a heated black slate floor and an open staircase.

One room overlooking the street is a study, which also serves as the music room. The other is a sitting room and dining area.

The former kitchen has been given over to a bathroom and a mud room with a cubby for each family member.

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The Rebanks say most of their family time is spent hanging out in the great room with their three children. Preparing dinner, finishing homework, watching television and playing Fortnite all overlap in front of the gas fireplace.

The open kitchen has a 13-foot island, a six-burner commercial-style range, two dishwashers and double wall ovens. The cabinets are of white oak, stained dark brown.

The cabinetry is made of brown-stained white oak.

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Because the radiators, woodwork and original windows had been stripped out decades ago, Mr. Rebanks added interest with his choice of details.

“Everything is what I thought would be appropriate – not what we found,” he says.

Instead of putting flat white trim around the windows, for example, Mr. Rebanks created a simple profile which casts a subtle shadow.

“It gives some texture to it,” he says. “It catches the eye.”

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Mr. Rebanks points out that he chose finishes such as white oak, black slate, Carrera marble and white walls that remain consistent throughout the home. The architecture also creates no perceptible transition from the original rooms at the front to the new great room at the rear.

“There’s no hierarchy of formal to informal – it’s all in it together,” he says.

Oxford White by Benjamin Moore is a favourite paint colour of architects and designers, he notes, and a nod to his hometown.

Finishes such as white walls and black slate are used throughout the home, creating a cohesive space.

Birdhouse Media

On the second floor, a bedroom overlooking the street has a full ensuite bathroom. Two other bedrooms share a bathroom.

Stairs lead to a third level which was used as a family room when the Rebanks purchased the house. Today, a large skylight above the landing brings light down the stairwell and into the centre of the home.

The Rebanks also created two additional bedrooms, including one with an ensuite bathroom.

“It’s a cool little room that the children want to move up to,” Mr. Rebanks says.

The parents say they’ve avoided sibling squabbles by not letting any of the kids take over the third floor.

The third level did, however, serve as a private guest suite for an exchange student visiting from France.

On the lower level, the large recreation room has 10-foot-high ceilings and a light well to bring in daylight. Mr. Rebanks points out the space was designed as a home office, with separate access from the driveway.

The family spent about four years in the house before renovating it.

Birdhouse Media

“The connection is to the laneway rather than the backyard,” he says.

One room is currently used as a sixth bedroom but has wiring installed for a home theatre. There’s also a full bathroom.

Mr. Rebanks says his aim was to design a good home for his own family, rather than to anticipate what future owners might want because “then you end up with nothing.”

“Well, there’s something, but it could have been so much more,” he says.

The couple says the Moore Park neighbourhood is full of families who look out for each other. The kids were able to walk to school in the early years. They also enrolled in soccer and skating lessons in the nearby park.

“It was like being in a small town,” Ms. Rebanks says.

The best feature

The master suite has a bank of windows overlooking the backyard.

Birdhouse Media

The second-floor master suite was created when the house was extended at the rear. There’s a large bedroom with an 11-foot-high ceiling and a wall of windows overlooking the backyard.

The master ensuite has heated marble floors, a separate water closet with sink and toilet, and his-and-hers sinks. The large soaker tub has built-in jets. There’s also a walk-in shower with frameless glass surround.

The master ensuite has heated marble floors and a soaker tub.

Birdhouse Media

The suite’s location at the rear of the house means the parents are close to the children, but they still feel they have a secluded haven.

“We’re not on top of the kids, we’re not beside them,” Ms. Rebanks says.

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