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Robert Holowka /obert Holowka/Birdhouse Media

21 Nassau St., No. 306, Toronto

Asking price: $899,000

Taxes: $3,209.31 (2020)

Size: 1,200 square feet (approx.)

Monthly fees: $838.54

Listing agent: Heather Haddon, Chestnut Park Real Estate

The backstory

Mr. Rechtshaffen's home is in the Kensington Market Lofts, in a popular downtown Toronto neighbourhood.Robert Holowka /obert Holowka/Birdhouse Media

Some things just go together better: salt and pepper, wine and cheese and lofts and art collections.

Daniel Rechtshaffen got into art after law school when he was introduced to photographer Cindy Blazevic and he began to donate, purchase and generally pitch in to support Toronto’s art community. Around 2007 he started shopping for a “hard loft” to host his growing collection, and had been searching for two frustrating years when he hit upon a strategy to try to get into one of his favoured buildings.

“I made up a flyer and put 145 flyers under people’s doors,” he said, after a friendly resident held the door open for him at the Kensington Market Lofts on Nassau Street in downtown Toronto’s Kensington Market. “I had bid on some and lost on bidding wars; I was getting very despondent … that was a last-ditch effort.” As it happened, a resident was preparing to list their overstuffed loft, and after a little negotiation, he sat down and drafted a contract for purchase and sale.

“One of the things I was looking for was I wanted something where, when you walk into it, there’s no wasted space. You get that ‘Wow’ factor and you see everything all at once. A lot of units there was a lot of hallway, or space you couldn’t live in,” he said. “The fact it took me as long as it did to find the place is a testament to how irreplaceable it is.”

The house today

The layout of the space is entirely visible from the front door.Robert Holowka /obert Holowka/Birdhouse Media

One step through the front door and the loft’s layout is visible at a glance: The eye is drawn to the kitchen in the centre of the space, which has its cabinets built into the only dividing walls in the big rectangular room. The bed is just left of the front door with two wardrobes providing a suggestion of a boundary to the “bedroom," and at the foot of the bed is a doorway that takes you behind the kitchen wall to the laundry and bathroom area.

A doorway from the 'bedroom' area leads to the laundry and bathroom.Robert Holowka /obert Holowka/Birdhouse Media

A second door on the other side of this kitchen area opens to an alcove under the smaller of two tall windows on the rear wall, under which Mr. Rechtshaffen has put his office desk. Next to that, under the larger bank of windows, the living space flows into the dining space, separated by an island from the kitchen’s wall of appliances and cupboards. Above the kitchen/bathroom space is a mezzanine accessible by a ladder that has an enclosed storage room for his art collection.

Robert Holowka /obert Holowka/Birdhouse Media

Mr. Rechtshaffen's desk is tucked into the far corner of the space, while a mezzanine provides storage space for his art.Robert Holowka /obert Holowka/Birdhouse Media

The ceilings are more than 13 feet high, and with the windows facing the leafy courtyard, Mr. Rechtshaffen said, “It’s like an art gallery in a giant treehouse.”

Over the years he’s toyed with the idea of breaking the space with more formal divisions, but abandoned all those plans. “I drafted by hand so many different potential floor plans, in terms of building risers and spaces, but when I started living in the space I realized I loved it open.”

The loft has a very open layout, with spaces flowing into one another.Robert Holowka /obert Holowka/Birdhouse Media

But what may also draw the eye of a visitor is the art, and maybe the knowledge that what’s hanging on the wall is just a fraction of what could be displayed.

“Before, it was hung salon style … it was floor to ceiling. I installed over 60 feet of track lighting so I could light everything properly,” Mr. Rechtshaffen said. “I would say my stuff is very contemporary, almost everything I own is by a living artist, a lot of them from people I know personally, or have been introduced to personally.”

A cardboard sculpture of Ai Weiwei by Sean Martindale is among the more eye-catching pieces in Mr. Rechtshaffen's collection.Robert Holowka /obert Holowka/Birdhouse Media

One show-stopper is the cardboard sculpture of Ai Weiwei by Toronto artist Sean Martindale. It has been shown off at exhibitions around the city at such places as the Royal Ontario Museum and Harbourfront Centre. Hanging on the walls currently are other prized items: a portrait by South African artist Ryan Hewett, a large 4-foot-by-8-foot black and white paint and plaster image Tessar Lo piece that was part of an installation at a Gardiner Museum fundraiser, and a photo taken by Ms. Blazevic in 2008 on a Balkans trip Mr. Rechtshaffen joined that was memorialized in a monograph called Culture Lobby.

The building itself is something of an arts haven. “It’s attracted a disproportionate group of people who are world acclaimed in art of design, we even have an Oscar winner! it’s pretty cool,” Mr. Rechtshaffen said. The condominium is a somewhat idiosyncratic conversion of three buildings, (some dating back to the 1920s) formerly occupied by George Brown College; the interiors are often converted classrooms. “The hallways are 12-feet wide [very COVID-friendly] it has this kind of majestic feeling with the original terrazzo floors.”

Favourite space

Mr. Rechtshaffen discovered a love for cooking in his open kitchen when the pandemic struck.Robert Holowka /obert Holowka/Birdhouse Media

Mr. Rechtshaffen’s answer was different before COVID-19 kept him loft-bound for weeks on end. “My job is so busy, I never really had time to cook. But there’s so much amazing food in the market, and when COVID hit, I discovered I loved cooking; I had no idea!” he said.

"I love being in the kitchen and entertaining. I’ve got an upgraded convection oven so you can make bread … and the kitchen is a dream for guests. Sitting in the living room, I can see everyone at once and do my thing while I prepare food.

“I’ve had some humungous parties at that location; it can fit a lot of people.”

And that’s one downside of selling now, while he is anxious to get into a house downtown in the hopes of doing a ground-up renovation, it does mean his friends in the art world won’t get a chance to say goodbye to the loft. “I’d love to give that place a proper send off, but it doesn’t look like it. I won’t have that one big hurrah.”

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