The listing: 301R Davenport Rd., Toronto
Asking Price: $3.25-million
Lot Size: 40 feet by 73 feet (irregular)
Agent: Paul Johnston (Right at Home Realty Inc.)
The contemporary mews house at 301R Davenport Rd. started out as a stable with stalls for six horses in the 1890s. The brick building stood behind a grand Annex home that has long since been replaced, said real estate agent Paul Johnston of Right at Home Realty Inc.
In 2014, Linda Fuller and Harold Snider had been looking for a renovation project when Mr. Snider spotted the building listed for sale on Kijiji.
He suggested Ms. Fuller take a look at it when she was in the area to drop off the family dogs at the veterinary clinic. She drove around the area but couldn’t spot it.
“We couldn’t find the lane and that was kind of intriguing,” Ms. Fuller said.
She studied the map and – when she returned later that day to pick up the pets – found the lane leading to a courtyard behind the landmark Creed Building at the corner of Davenport Road and Bedford Road.
At the time, the former stables had been divided up into two makeshift apartments. The exterior was hidden behind stucco and Corinthian columns.
“I think we have photos because we were so appalled by it,” Ms. Fuller said.
The couple appreciated the location on the edge of Yorkville and the Annex, and they were looking for a unique space after living in a traditional home in Forest Hill for 31 years. They saw past the shabby renovation and purchased the old building.
“It came down very easily,” Ms. Fuller said of the false façade and interior partitions.
The couple and their adult offspring began working on a plan to transform it into a modern residence.
“Our friends thought we were crazy,” Ms. Fuller said. “When we brought them down the laneway, and they looked at this place, they said, ‘What are you thinking?’”
The family project would draw on a range of talents: Ms. Fuller has a background in architectural and graphic design while Mr. Snider is a data architect. Their son Damon Snider is in industrial design and his sister Vanessa Snider works in technology.
“We all have an integrity about design,” Ms. Fuller said. “It has to be unique, functional and beautiful.”
The house today
The one-storey stable and its original beams and brick wall were mostly demolished to make room for a new house with up-to-date insulation, wiring and plumbing.
The two-bedroom, three-bathroom house has more than 2,000 square feet of living space over two stories. The ceilings are nine feet high on both floors.
“I didn’t need that much space – I needed efficient space,” Ms. Fuller said.
The main floor has an open plan combining the kitchen, dining area and living area. A powder room and a sculptural staircase divide the space.
Ms. Fuller said the modern kitchen was designed to be spare and functional. There’s a large island, integrated appliances and a built-in cooktop.
The walk-in pantry stands behind a wall of cabinets. A door from the exterior makes it easy to take groceries straight from the car to the pantry. There’s a second prep area and sink back there as well. That way, party guests who like to hang out in the kitchen don’t need to see all of the mess of meal preparation, Ms. Fuller said.
“I love the idea of just hiding it away,” she said.
Ms. Fuller wanted the industrial look of concrete and exposed ductwork.
The main floor has a polished and sealed poured-concrete floor with radiant heating. Programmable RGB strip lighting can be set to any hue that suits the evening’s festivities.
“When you’re entertaining and you want to have cocktails, these types of things set the mood,” Damon Snider said.
The floating staircase has a steel stringer, glass railings, and ash treads that highlight the natural wood.
“This had to be a piece of sculpture,” Ms. Fuller said of the staircase. “This isn’t a mass-produced house.”
Double sets of doors lead to the outside from the living and kitchen areas.
Hidden blinds can also be operated by remote or programmed to rise and lower on a timer.
Upstairs, the home has two bedrooms each facing into a central outdoor patio that overlooks the courtyard.
Outside, the building’s exterior is clad in black steel. It has a landscaped yard with snow melt. There are two parking spaces and a lounging area.
While the single-family dwelling is at the rear of buildings on Davenport and Admiral Road, it’s not an official “laneway house.” That means it receives services such as mail delivery from Canada Post and garbage collection by the City of Toronto.
Mr. Johnston said the house is suitable as a condo alternative, a studio or a live/work space. Its location in the design district around Davenport and Avenue Road makes it particularly appealing to interior designers and other creative types, he pointed out.
In many ways, the house behaves like a condo, Mr. Johnston said, because of its expansive windows, central location and low maintenance.
“It’s a great deal more distinctive and considered than most condos,” Mr. Johnston said.
The best feature
The master suite has doors leading to an outdoor patio. There’s also a double walk-in closet and a laundry room.
The ensuite bathroom can be closed off to make a quiet retreat with a skylight.
“There’s a rain sensor so it will close automatically if it rains,” Mr. Snider said.