29 Swanwick Ave., Toronto
Asking Price: $1,574,000
Taxes: $6,902.60 (2023)
Lot Size: 19.5 by 150.28 feet
Listing agent: Jason Walker, Royal LePage Signature Realty
House hunting can be a slog of must-haves and red flags, of balancing potential versus weighing downsides. And sometimes it’s as simple as whether the local park is dog friendly.
That’s what happened to Kyra and Sarah Gerber in 2003 when they stopped to look at 29 Swanwick Ave. in Toronto on the recommendation of Kyra’s father, who is a realtor.
“We were fairly new, married but three years in, and we weren’t really in the market yet,” said Dr. Kyra Gerber, who is a chiropractor. “Off we went to the open house and we showed up a half-hour early, so we started walking around the neighbourhood. We walked into Norwood Park, and there’s a fenced off area: ‘Is that a dog park? If that’s a dog park we’re going to buy this house.’”
Sure enough, it was. And sure enough they did – with a little financial help from family. The next 20 years were about making it their forever home; doing major retrofits to all three levels while working together at their clinic where Sarah is the director of operations. “It makes carpooling easy,” Dr. Gerber said.
The changes make for an indoor and outdoor oasis with the entire second floor serving as an extended primary suite and the basement level serving as half home gym and half guest suite.
The only reason they are looking to sell is the beckoning call of the wild. It all began a few months ago when they travelled to Vancouver Island to visit family and spent many hours in nature on outdoor activities.
“I’m from there, and it was like a switch that flicked in me: if I had a chance to move back there I would,” said Sarah. The discussion of what that would look like sparked a compromise: if they don’t want to leave Ontario yet, what about moving to a lake here?
“It just opened the door to possibilities,” said Dr. Gerber. “It was definitely a bittersweet decision, but this home will be the right fit for somebody else now.”
The house today
This neighbourhood is called the Upper Beaches, a stretch of similar-era houses that run north/south between Kingston Road and Danforth Avenue.
The crimson-coloured front door opens into a small foyer and front sitting room. There’s a TV mounted here above a gas fireplace.
The stairs to the second level climb up on the left, but straight ahead is a dining room, with a huge tempered glass table, between the living room and kitchen.
“Both of us are very interested in nutrition, food and entertaining, and prerenovation it was a functional kitchen. But Kyra is quite a bit taller than me, so I was ducking when we worked in there,” said Sarah.
The mission of making the space more efficient and also clutter-free is accomplished by adding a large central island with a light-grey quartz top, flanked by pantry storage and counters on both walls.
There’s even what the couple can a “kitchen garage” – a place for all those appliances you need occasionally but not constantly: “You open these two massive doors, with shelving and drawer space, so all the extra small appliances have a place to get tucked away.”
Steps down from the kitchen is a sun-roofed solarium Dr. Gerber uses as an office with a large closet for outdoor gear. It could be converted into a main-floor powder room.
The backyard has been landscaped with a mix of interlocking brick and stone with a carport/kayak storage structure providing shade. There is mutual driveway from the street, but new fencing makes it so narrow that it would be difficult to get more than a motorcycle to the backyard. The yard backs onto land for the Calvary Baptist Church, and a shaded seating area and firepit behind the carport offers that rare slice of seclusion that can still be found in urban Toronto.
Down the stairs and off the solarium is a level that had been an income-producing apartment but is now extended living space with a mirror-wall home gym (complete with boxing speed-bag) and TV area. There’s a guest bedroom here, and a three-piece bathroom with a large bench in the glass-enclosed shower (perfect for relaxing under the water or dog washing.
The upstairs oasis
The entire second floor is opened up like a loft apartment, with a tempered glass wall and door at the top of the stairs.
The couple added a balcony off the bedroom so they could sit in the rear yard’s tree canopy. The front of this level was rebuilt as a massive bathroom/dressing room.
One might have privacy concerns about the soaker tub and separate shower that stand in front of the large street-facing window, but a little innovation solves the issue. There’s a motorized and programmable blind that comes down across the whole window at night.
“When you’re taking a tub in the daytime we can have that blind up and not be seen,” said Dr. Gerber. “When it’s lighter outside all you get is reflection.”
“We tested it a lot, trust me,” said Sarah.