385 Wellesley St. E., Toronto
Asking price: $1,798,000
Taxes: $6,889.41 (2018)
Lot size: 16 feet by 93 feet
Agents: Lisa-Marie Doorey and Linda Chu, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada
The back story
If you’ve ever been handed a toasted pine nut martini at a shindig in Toronto, chances are your concoction started out as an experiment in the home kitchen of Michelle Hunt and Laura Panter.
The co-founders of the Martini Club built a business out of designing custom bars for all kinds of celebrations – from film festival after-parties to wedding receptions and 30th birthday fetes.
The pair launched the business in 1996 by taking over popular bars on their slow nights and serving outlandish cocktails, Ms. Hunt says. At their first gathering, 18 people showed up. Within six months they had 882.
“People went bonkers,” Ms. Hunt says.
Many of those concoctions were the result of a lot of measuring and mixing in the kitchen of their starter house in Leslieville, Ms. Hunt says.
By 2011 the business had gone international and the two were living in the Corktown area when a friend called to tell them about a “for sale” sign he had spotted while riding his bicycle through Toronto’s Cabbagetown neighbourhood.
Ms. Hunt had long aspired to live in Cabbagetown and their friend thought the red-brick Victorian at 385 Wellesley St. E. would appeal to the couple. The builder’s renovations were still underway but Ms. Hunt and Ms. Panter rushed over to peek inside.
“It wasn’t even finished yet,” Ms. Hunt says.
The two quickly made an offer, which was accepted.
The house today
The builder had purchased No. 385 when it was a rundown property in the middle of a row of houses built around 1900.
“It was the last of the rooming houses on that strip,” Ms. Hunt says.
Rather than maintain all of the original features, the young builder decided to keep the Victorian shell on the exterior and create a modern dwelling on the interior. With the lower level included, the house has 2,660 square feet of living space.
Residents and guests arrive through the wrought-iron gate to a front porch with a brick archway above. The original front door is still in place, while a clear glass transom window above brings in light.
A living room with a contemporary fireplace overlooks the street. The builder had designated the dining area at the front of the hosue and the living area at the rear, with the kitchen in the centre. Ms. Hall says the couple decided to flip the lounging and eating spaces around so their large dining table could be near the sliding rear door that opens to the deck.
The kitchen has built-in storage that rises to the height of the 10-foot ceiling. There’s a stainless-steel range and a large island topped with Caesarstone. Ms. Hunt says guests can easily flow between the open-plan main floor and the deck, where the pair do their barbecuing and al fresco dining.
“We have since pulled off quite a few events there – inside and out,” Ms. Hunt says.
One of the duo’s most famous drinks, the Malpeque martini, which includes frozen vodka, homemade cocktail sauce and one freshly-shucked oyster from Malpeque Bay in Prince Edward Island.
The concoction has inspired the couple to invite lots of foodies and shellfish specialists to the house for an evening of fun.
“We’re friends with all the oyster shuckers,” Ms. Hunt says.
The main-floor deck sits under the canopy of a large Manitoba Maple. Stairs lead down to a parking area that can be reached from a rear laneway.
“That makes for a great shade deck. We wanted a really private shade deck for entertaining.”
Upstairs, the second floor has two bedrooms which share a full bathroom. A third bedroom at the rear is currently used as a media room.
On the lower level, a recreation room has lots of built-in storage and a full bathroom.
Ms. Hunt says Cabbagetown attracts artists, set designers and lots of creative types among its residents.
“The neighbourhood is truly a magical place to be. It’s a sweet little community.”
The best feature
The third-floor master suite provides a haven after a busy evening of mixology, Ms. Hunt says.
“That’s the reason I bought it.”
There’s a spacious bedroom at the rear with sliding glass doors leading to a sun deck. Glass panels provide a clear view of the outdoors.
At the front, a large bathroom has a walk-in shower with a bench.
Ms. Hunt says the deep soaker tub in front of the window is a good place to relax with a view of the Mulberry Tree outside. She finds a tray of classic gin cocktails makes the ideal accompaniment.