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home of the week

Chris Zylik/Chris Zylik

2446 Belyea St., Oakville, Ont.

Asking Price: $2,989,000

Taxes: $4,380.96 (2022)

Lot Size: 52- by 184-feet

Listing agent: Lauren Zylik, Sutton Group Quantum Realty Inc., Brokerage

The backstory

Chris Zylik knows custom-home building; even as a boy he was hanging around his father’s job sites and for the last dozen years they’ve been working together building other people’s dream homes in Oakville, Ont.

In 2019, Mr. Zylik found the kind of property he had been looking for to try his luck at his own dream: a hundred-year-old farmhouse left over from the development of the Toronto bedroom community. His plan was simple compared to the massive mini-mansions he built in his day job: a modernist addition on the back and an update that maintains the farmhouse charm on the street.

But as is often true of the best laid plans, reality intervened. “I started digging into it and found there were way too many issues; structural rot, foundation issues. It wasn’t worth keeping,” he said. In the end, everything had to go. Plans had to be revised, starting with a new deeper basement even though he kept much of the original street profile. Construction began in February, 2020. But as the whole country was about to discover, business as usual was not going to be possible.

“I’d say my original estimate versus how much money and time I ended up spending, I was about 40 per cent over what I had expected,” Mr. Zylik said. “That’s with me doing all the exterior work myself, all the expensive interior finishes. I even built a little bit of the cabinetry myself, did the steel stairs myself.”

  • Home of the Week, 2446 Belyea St., TorontoChris Zylik/Chris Zylik

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He and his father stopped taking new clients for custom homes as the pandemic took hold because they suspected they would no longer be able to guarantee budgets or timelines, and his own experience ended up proving the wisdom of that caution.

“I had the lumber show up for the ground floor; The next load of lumber didn’t show up for 2½ months,” he said. “What would happen is the lumber suppliers would say they could pull together 90 per cent of your order … but if you don’t have the entire package of joists and beams you can’t build the floor.”

What was an experiment in modern farmhouse style ended up being a Herculean labour of love.

The House Today

Looking at a before-and-after picture you might think Mr. Zylik hadn’t torn the whole thing down and rebuilt it: It’s very similar in shape from the original down to replicating the white plank siding. On closer inspection, there’s been some changes, such as reorienting the porch so the front door opens to the left into a long living space flanked by floor-to-ceiling window drawing light in from the street-side. This combined living and dining space flows the length of the house to windows facing the backyard.

The minimalist space is segmented by storage built-ins at the foyer, a white-painted brick fireplace in the centre to define the living room and a large black-quartz island anchors the kitchen on the back of the house. The window-wall at the rear features can fold open to turn the covered patio into an extension of the entertaining space.

A short hallway off the kitchen leads to the main-floor primary bedroom suite. A corner-window dominates the space and a wall of built-in cabinetry for storage limits the need for a separate closet. A four-piece bathroom completes the suite.

“I built the mahogany vanities in the master bath and the powder room,” Mr. Zylik offers.

The house was built for himself, but the main-floor bedroom has a bit of future-proofing pulled from what many of his retirement-age Oakville clients are looking for. That said, the house is far from a bachelor pad: there are two more large bedrooms upstairs with a four-piece bathroom and another bedroom-bathroom combo in the finished basement that could serve as a nanny suite.

Favourite features

Building a minimalist house is about getting the details right, because there’s no distractions in the decor to hide mistakes, and that’s the challenge Mr. Zylik relished.

“It’s really easy to build a stark white operating room house without any life to it, which we’ve done for clients,” he said.

All the walls are white, but the flooring throughout is wide-plank white oak, which warms up the spaces. All the trim and doors are solid wood, not MDF. The windows are carefully placed to maximize light: A short channel off the front patio leads to a window that looks onto the floating stairs to the second floor, which lets someone in the main-floor bedroom look around the corner and see all the way to who is ringing the doorbell.

Even small details, such as the no-curb tiling in the glass-walled showers in the main and second floor bathrooms don’t happen by accident.

“In order to not have a curb going into the shower, that’s one of the those things that gets planned into the original engineering: your floor thickness is typically 12 inches, so you use a 10-inch joist there,” to leave space for the drain tray. “At the end of the day, you kinda notice those little details from being able to design it from scratch: I know the quality is there,” Mr. Zylik said.

And even though he wishes he’d not tried to build his first home for himself during a global pandemic, it won’t stop him from trying again. “I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life,” he said.

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