The listing: 2 Crocker Ave., Toronto
Asking Price: $2,245,000
Taxes: $6,728.68 (2020)
Lot Size: 23 feet by 45 feet
Agents: Paul Johnston and Matt Manuel, Right at Home Realty Inc.
Designer Myrlene Sundberg and artist John Palchinski were ahead of the curve when they opened a card and gift shop in downtown Toronto in 1977.
“We started at 320 Queen West before Queen West happened,” Ms. Sundberg says.
The couple’s small retail outlet was located on a stretch that would soon emerge as the cultural centre of the city. Fashion designers opened studios, curators launched new artists in their galleries, and Susur Lee was cooking to raves at Peter Pan.
In 1984, Ms. Sundberg and Mr. Palchinski returned to their design roots and opened Urban Mode, which became a destination for Torontonians seeking innovative home decor and contemporary furniture from Canadian and Scandinavian designers.
“We were part of the whole blooming of Queen West,” Ms. Sundberg said.
As committed urbanites, the couple lived downtown during those years, settling into a condo apartment on Queen’s Quay in the 1990s.
One thing Mr. Palchinski felt was missing was a home studio for his painting and graphic arts. The couple decided it was time to build a new house tailored to their needs and esthetic.
As the arts scene migrated further west on Queen, so did Urban Mode, which the couple moved to a larger space near Trinity-Bellwoods Park in 2005. They wanted their new house to be within walking distance of the new location.
Ms. Sundberg was in New York for a trade show when Mr. Palchinski found a rundown rowhouse at the end of a cul-de-sac on Crocker Avenue.
“It was only four blocks from the store,” says Ms. Sundberg, so they decided to purchase the property first and figure out a plan later.
Ms. Sundberg had often admired a modern new dwelling which sprung up in the neighbourhood. One day she was driving by and noticed the front door was open.
On impulse, she pulled over and ran up to the door to ask who the architect was. The homeowner enthusiastically recommended Toronto-based architect Kyra Clarkson.
The couple approached Ms. Clarkson and learned that she was already familiar with the Crocker Avenue property because of her own work in the neighbourhood. She was also experienced in the task of dismantling the last in a row of houses.
“I was quite apprehensive but Kyra had assured me she had done it before,” Ms. Sundberg says.
Construction took about one year and required carefully maneuvering the construction equipment around the older houses and garages nearby.
“You’re working in much tighter spaces so it gets to be quite tricky,” Mr. Palchinski says. “It’s challenging to work on a narrow street.”
The house today
Ms. Clarkson’s firm, KCA, designed a detached house with three bedrooms and three bathrooms and 2,145 square feet of total living space. The firm’s website describes Ms. Clarkson’s philosophy: “Every project aims to bring natural daylight into the centre of buildings, to foster a sense of connection between spaces, and to maintain a consistent simplicity in all details.”
Three years ago, the house was completed and the couple moved in.
“I wanted light to pour through it and it does.”
There’s an elevator at the centre of the home which rises from the lower level to the main floor and bedrooms above.
The kitchen with white, floor-to-ceiling cabinets is at the front of the home and the living area at the rear.
“John was adamant about having white walls so the art can hang on them and be seen properly,” Ms. Sundberg says.
She added colour in the form of wall niches that hold sculpture or plants.
There’s a small main-floor powder room just inside the entrance from the garage.
An open staircase with a glass partition allows light to flow through the centre of the home.
Upstairs there are three bedrooms and a bathroom with a walk-in shower and soaker tub.
The lower level has a recreation room, a bathroom and a flexible room that can serve as a home office or studio.
Ms. Sundberg says the house has lots of storage throughout and every space is carefully considered so that belongings can be hidden away.
“One of the things that Urban Mode has always been known for is small spaces,” she says. “It’s not how much space you have, it’s how you utilize the space you have.”
She chose white tiles and fixtures in all of the bathrooms because she wants the finishes throughout the house to remain timeless. Floors of white oak keep the palette light.
“It feels restful and peaceful,” she says of the interior.
Outside, the exterior is clad in black corrugated steel, with windows also framed in black.
“We both love black. We both love the industrial feel as well,” she says.
The best feature
The rear doors in the living area slide away to create indoor-outdoor space.
A compact, low-maintenance backyard provides a private sanctuary.
“We designed it in such a way that you just open the back doors and then your backyard becomes part of your house,” says Ms. Sundberg.
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