1842 Queen St. E., unit 306, Toronto
Asking price: $1,399,000
Taxes: $3,172.44 (2020)
Monthly maintenance fee: $490.44
Agent: Michael Switzer, Forest Hill Real Estate Inc.
Industrial designer Damon Snider faced a steep drop in demand for his work when the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of Toronto in the spring of 2020.
Mr. Snider specializes in creating unique and atmospheric interiors for restaurants and bars.
“I design restaurants for a living, so no one was really moving ahead with their projects,” he says of the days when the public-health emergency forced many venues to close their doors.
At the time, Mr. Snider had another project on the go: He was beginning the renovation of a two-storey condo unit in Beach House Lofts.
The artist and designer was drawn to the mid-rise boutique building, built in 2005 by Streetcar Developments, for its desirable location in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood.
Unit 306 offered a ceiling 20-feet high, a loft-style bedroom and a spacious outdoor terrace. When he purchased the property, Mr. Snider figured he could give the space a facelift to update some of the finishes.
“When COVID hit, I had some extra time on my hands and ended up completely gutting it and going a bit overboard,” he says. “It kept me busy through the first wave of lockdown.”
The house today
Mr. Snider envisioned a New York-style loft with industrial elements and rustic finishes. Visits to the beach hotels of Antigua, Costa Rica and Tulum, Mexico also inspired him to create indoor-outdoor spaces and an easy-going vibe.
Mr. Snider, who also designs and builds furniture, says working on his own projects allows him to experiment without catering to a client who lacks the budget or vision to go along with some of his more inventive ideas.
“I’m really just testing the limits of my own design,” he says.
Mr. Snider says many of his clients are men in their thirties and forties who appreciate good design but don’t know how to create an interesting space for themselves.
“It’s more masculine, but it doesn’t come across looking like a man cave or a frat house,” he says of his aesthetic.
In unit 306, Mr. Snider appreciated the interior volume and generous windows, but he found the layout needed tweaking. In the loft, for example, Mr. Snider built a new free-standing row of closets that opened up the space and allowed him to accommodate a king-sized bed.
The bathroom on that level also felt cramped so Mr. Snider reconfigured it so that the vanity was outside the toilet and shower area.
The arrangement is more in keeping with the style of a boutique hotel and also provided room for a spa-like walk-in shower.
On the main level, he built a kitchen with sleek, modern cabinets and integrated appliances. A new, larger island is centered around an industrial-style range.
Mr. Snider renovated the main-floor bathroom, replaced the hardwood floors throughout, and ripped out a bulkhead to expose metal ductwork in the living area.
Throughout the space, the developer had used reclaimed brick to clad the walls. Mr. Snider drew on his skills as an artist to add more brick, which he distressed to replicate the grit and soot that gave the original its authentic appearance.
In his work, Mr. Snider often seeks out interesting, salvaged pieces that he might incorporate into a design.
For this project, he wanted to add industrial elements that appear as if they could be original to the building. Demolition crews used to scrap the parts from decommissioned factories and industrial shops, he says, but now savvy entrepreneurs set those remnants aside.
“I know all the key words to type into Kijiji.”
One of his discoveries was the heavy-duty, triple-latched door that had been pried out of an old boiler room. Mr. Snider drove to a rural location north of the city to retrieve it.
“It was a hell of a thing to carry up the stairs,” he says. “It was about 400 pounds.”
Mr. Snider sanded the door’s original paint to clean it up a bit, then placed it in the kitchen and dining area. Hidden behind the door is a liquor pantry containing another of his finds: Mr. Snider got his hands on the grill of a vintage transport truck, polished up the metal and rewired the interior with lights.
Sometimes he leaves the door ajar so that the illumination casts a glow over the room; at other times he leaves it closed for guests to discover the objet d’art.
“You go into the pantry to grab a bottle of wine, these car headlights are shining out at you,” Mr. Snider says. “The whole space was designed for entertaining and cocktail parties. You can dim the lights and it’s made super sexy.”
Smart home technology throughout the space lets Mr. Snider set the temperature or create a mood with strip lighting that runs along the edges of the staircase and room.
“Little hits of light create a vibe. It sets the experience for the rest of the night.”
In the living area, doors slide open to a 10-foot-by-20-foot outdoor terrace with views over the residential neighbourhood to the north of Queen Street East.
In the building’s garage, an automated lift is used to park vehicles. That’s where Mr. Snider keeps his 1950s pick-up truck.
Mr. Snider says he often walks his great Dane puppy one block south to the boardwalk that stretches along the shore of Lake Ontario. The area also offers many parks and a vast expanse of sand set aside for beach volleyball.
Mr. Snider figures the loft will appeal to someone who typically likes going out on the town. Lots of people miss hanging out in bars and restaurants, he points out, and the new occupant could be someone who wants to experience that type of ambience at home.
“It will take a unique buyer.”
The best feature
Mr. Snider added an 11-foot-by-20-foot platform to create a second mezzanine, which can be reached by a steel bridge from the bedroom area.
The additional space creates a nook for a home office under the skylights.
Mr. Snider didn’t want to block the light to the kitchen and living area below, so he cut a rectangle in the hardwood to install a heavy net which serves as a hammock for relaxing or an extra sleeping space for guests. The design was inspired by a treehouse resort he visited in Mexico.
“It’s fun – you test the limits and that’s what I like about it,” he says. “It’s cool when you can travel and take inspiration from other walks of life and bring it back to your hometown.”
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