The listing: 569 Euclid Ave., Toronto
Asking Price: $3,899,000
Taxes: $7,712.20 (2020)
Lot Size: 21.8- by 125-feet
Agents: Jason Wilson and Hayley Schwenker (Milborne Real Estate Inc.)
The back story
Real estate agent Jason Wilson generated plenty of buzz on Euclid Avenue in Toronto when he drew 30 offers as agent for a tumbledown semi-detached house in 2019.
The house with a garage covered in graffiti sold for an eye-popping amount. That prompted a neighbour down the street to approach Mr. Wilson to ask what price he might fetch if he sold his own income property, which had also seen better days.
Instead of taking the listing, Mr. Wilson and his partner, Hayley Schwenker, bought it for themselves.
“We fell in love with Euclid,” says Mr. Wilson of the residential street in the vibrant Little Italy area.
The deal worked well for the owner because tenants were living in the units and Mr. Wilson was willing to offer a long closing.
Then Mr. Wilson called on his friend, designer Nicholas Ancerl, to come up with a plan for the red brick semi near Harbord Street and Bathurst Street.
The founder of Ancerl Studio wondered how he could avoid dashing his friend’s hopes when he first saw the property.
“It was a typical downtown Toronto slum rental,” he says. “It was a real piece of junk.”
One of the drawbacks, Mr. Ancerl explains, is that the house had a decent width at the front but an addition at the rear narrowed the footprint. Tacked onto that was an even smaller addition.
“In my mind I was thinking, ‘I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with this place’,” he says with a laugh.
But, Mr. Ancerl says, he admired his friend’s drive and enthusiasm and didn’t want to disappoint him.
“He was drafted by the New York Rangers,” he says. “He’s been a hockey kid all his life – you have to have a certain amount of dedication to get to that level.”
Fortunately, Mr. Ancerl found inspiration when he sat down to sketch out a design for the property.
“This is the first time I’ve done a masculine house,” says Mr. Ancerl. “I decided to make it almost like a tuxedo,” he says of the black-and-white décor throughout the principal rooms.
He recommended working within the existing footprint so that Mr. Wilson could obtain a building permit without facing long delays or going to the Committee of Adjustment.
Mr. Ancerl says the architect and designers at the studio are used to complicated projects and long delays but homeowners often become edgy.
“People with a few hundred thousand in – if it’s just studs with a few HVAC pipes – people start to panic.”
For Mr. Wilson, it was important that the front façade blend in with the existing streetscape of Victorian and Edwardian-era homes.
“We didn’t want to put anything too dramatic on the front,” Mr. Wilson says.
After they had decided on an initial plan, Mr. Wilson and Ms. Schwenker handed over the design decisions to Mr. Ancerl.
The house today
Mr. Ancerl designed a home with four bedrooms and four bathrooms in approximately 3,500-square- feet of living space, including the lower level.
A glass front door opens to a foyer and long hallway that provides a gallery wall for photographs and sightlines through to the glass cube at the rear.
Mr. Ancerl salvaged an antique fireplace mantle from an upstairs room and had it refinished in black and moved to the living room at the front of the house. The idea was to create a lounge where Mr. Wilson and his friends could gather and share stories over a Scotch, says Mr. Ancerl, whose firm also chose the furnishings.
“We call it the whisky lounge but we don’t really drink,” says Mr. Wilson, laughing.
”We usually just have a coffee there in the afternoon.”
The dining room at the centre of the house extends into the floor above with a 20-foot high ceiling. There’s also a sculptural floating staircase with a glass partition.
“Every house still wants to have that dining room,” says Mr. Ancerl. “And you are enjoying that space every day as you go up and down the stairs.”
The ceiling drops back down to a 10-foot height for the family room between the dining room and the kitchen. In that area, Mr. Ancerl designed built-in cabinets and shelves of chocolate-stained oak that run the length of the wall and continue into the kitchen.
A gas fireplace in a marble surround provides warmth to both rooms.
The television is hidden behind a panel door, he points out, and that in turn can be moved in front of the open shelves.
“When you want to watch TV you slide it open. When it opens, it hides the tchotchkes.”
In the kitchen, the ceiling again lifts to 20 feet. A loft-style wall of glass with a large clerestory window overlooks the backyard.
A long island with a marble countertop and waterfall sides provides a casual seating area. A modern chandelier lights the room from above. Built-in appliances include a five-burner gas range.
The previous diminutive rear addition now contains a mud room and powder room behind a door that seems to disappear in the dark wood.
On the second floor, Mr. Ancerl suggested giving up the third bedroom to make room for the dramatic volume of the dining room.
“The reality is, it’s not going to be a rooming house anymore. Why do you need five bedrooms? We opted to give up the square footage to make that grand space.”
Mr. Ancerl says the two remaining bedrooms on that floor are generous in size and many people prefer to have more expansive entertaining spaces – especially if they don’t have children. There’s also a shared bathroom on that floor.
The staircase provides views through the centre of the house – from the third floor to the bottom.
“If you look down you see 40 feet down into the basement,” says Mr. Ancerl.
There’s also an elevator that glides between the four levels.
Downstairs, the walls and fixtures of two apartments were torn out, the floor was lowered in the main area, and polished concrete floors were installed.
Since he has to work out at home now, Mr. Wilson created a home gym in the basement.
When he retired from professional hockey five year ago, his family had his team jerseys framed, says Mr. Wilson, who grew up in Unionville, Ont. They now hang in the recreation room.
Outside, the garage at the rear has been refurbished with glass doors looking into the backyard seating area. Mr. Ancerl says it’s a convenient hop from the garage to the mudroom.
The third floor is given over to a luxurious retreat that includes the primary bedroom and ensuite bathroom.
The marble-clad bathroom has a double shower, double sinks and a stand-alone bathtub with a view of the treetops.
There’s a coffee bar and a small refrigerator so the couple doesn’t need to go downstairs for drinks.
The bedroom has a built-in headboard and furnishings.
Doors open from the bedroom to a private deck outside.
“You walk out to your little deck with your view of the CN Tower,” Mr. Ancerl says. “For six months of the year, you have the L.A. lifestyle.”
The best feature
The kitchen is flooded with natural light throughout the day, says Mr. Wilson, while the chandeliers create atmosphere at night.
The couple spends most of their time in the kitchen and family room, he adds.
The windows that create the two-storey glass box at the rear are clad in black aluminum, says Mr. Ancerl, who often drives along Harbord Street. When he happens to pass by at night, he can see the light glowing from within.
“It looks like a big, black loft, he says. It looks fantastic. And I think, yes, I did that one right.”
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