500 Wellington St. West, Suite 202, Toronto
Asking Price: $3,088,000
Taxes: $12,966 (2021)
Monthly Maintenance Fee: $2,056
Agents: Gloria Yeung and David Birnbaum (Re/Max Hallmark DG Group Realty)
The back story
It was several months before the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of Toronto when entrepreneur James Brody asked designer Mazen El-Abdallah to transform a condo unit he had recently purchased on Wellington Street West.
“The apartment is huge, but it was pretty basic when I walked in – lots of drywall,” Mr. El-Abdallah says of his first visit.
Mr. Brody had just moved to Toronto from Vancouver and he had seen Mr. El-Abdallah’s work in a condo at 20 Niagara St. He admired how the creative director of Mazen Studio had used interesting textures to bring life to the otherwise bland walls.
The designer quickly saw the potential in the two-bedroom-plus-den at 500 Wellington. Suite 202 has 2,475 square feet of living space with nine-foot-high ceilings and a wraparound terrace.
The house today
The boutique building has only 16 units, with two units on each floor. That arrangement allows for semi-private elevator access right to the unit.
To Mr. El-Abdallah’s eye, the existing entryway did not take advantage of that luxury feature.
“It felt like you had entered the back of a building – with an industrial door and no sense of arrival,” the designer says.
Mr. El-Abdallah added texture to the long hallway that leads from the entrance and past the bedrooms to the living area by bringing in the same charcoal brick that clads the exterior of the building. He placed alabaster sconces along the hall and used slatted walnut panelling to hide closets and storage.
“I wanted to play it up and make it more interesting, so that when the elevator doors open up you see something special.”
Throughout the space, Mr. El-Abdallah kept the floors light with limestone in the hallway and a pale oak in the living area.
“We tried to make sure that there was a balance between light and dark and soft and hard,” Mr. El-Abdallah says.
In the great room, Mr. El-Abdallah treated the kitchen, dining and lounging areas as one continuous space. The modern Scavolini kitchen was of good quality, but Mr. El-Abdallah favoured more moody tones over the bright, glossy white.
“I thought it could be a lot more sophisticated,” the designer says.
He kept the existing cabinets but reworked them and ordered new doors in slate grey to extend the palette established with the charcoal brick. The reconfiguration saves the client money and also doesn’t waste good materials.
“I’m not interested in throwing things out for no reason – that doesn’t help the world in any way,” Mr. El-Abdallah says. “I didn’t feel it was compromising anything.”
The kitchen includes two refrigerators and a wine fridge. There’s a coffee bar and an illuminated wine cabinet in the dining area.
The designer used seven slabs of dramatic grey-and-brown marble imported from Italy for the kitchen countertops, backsplash and island top. The same stone surrounds the fireplace in the living area.
An awkward corner where Mr. Brody slept on an inflatable mattress before his furniture arrived was turned into a casual seating area with a built-in banquette.
Coming from the West Coast, Mr. Brody was keen to bring the outdoors in by connecting the living space with the outdoor terrace.
Mr. El-Abdallah created an outdoor lounging area with a sofa, barbecue and built-in bar. Cedar trees in planters line the terrace to provide privacy and an evergreen backdrop in four seasons.
Completing the project just as Canada began shutting down and cities imposed states of emergency was challenging, Mr. El-Abdallah says.
Border closures and a rail strike meant that many of the pieces they were expecting were delayed en route. Tradespeople were nervous about showing up to finish their work, the designer says.
“It was a very tricky time – there were a lot of unknowns.”
The designer says the completed project fits well within the urban streetscape not far from the bars and restaurants of King Street West. On Wellington, several Victorian warehouses and industrial buildings have been turned into lofts and studios.
“It’s fairly gritty and rugged – that’s what I love about Wellington,” Mr. El-Abdallah says.
The designer says he imagined his young client would be entertaining often so it was strange that the pandemic rules wouldn’t allow for the dinner parties and gatherings he envisioned.
“It’s a quiet street but also close to the action. It’s the kind of place that everyone would end up at the end of the evening.”
The best feature
Mr. El-Abdallah turned the primary bedroom into a haven for relaxation. He took out the wall that borders the hallway and replaced it with a sliding-glass door.
He played with layers of sheers and blackout curtains so that the windows can be open to the light and views of nearby buildings or be closed off completely for privacy. The floor is carpeted.
“I love carpeted bedrooms – it’s soft and luxurious and like a hotel.”
Throughout the process, Mr. Brody was sending images of spa bathrooms to Mr. El-Abdallah so the designer had a good sense of the mood he wanted to achieve in the ensuite.
“The bathroom is very long so I had to find ways to break it up,” he adds.
There’s a walk-in shower with a stone ledge and a deep cast iron tub with a wood surround.
Rich, dark marble lines the walls and tops the vanity.
“It kind of evokes water,” says Mr. El-Abdallah of the patterns swirling through the stone. “I think it’s used to good effect.”
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