A west-end Toronto loft with a postindustrial vibe
Real estate reality TV producers moved back to Toronto from New York, but wanted to stay in a loft. A star of one of their shows found them the perfect place in a great family neighbourhood
Listing: One Columbus Ave., Unit 102, Toronto
Asking price: $2,495,000
Monthly maintenance fee: $910
Taxes: $5,300. 00 (2017)
Agent: Robin Pope (Pope Real Estate Ltd.)
The back story
Courtney Campbell and Kirk Hipkiss were living on the Upper West Side in New York when a new creative venture brought them back to Toronto in 2013.
The couple produces reality and documentary television about real estate and design for HGTV and Bravo, among other networks. Real estate addicts who have watched such titles as Selling New York, Selling L.A. and Big City Broker will know their work.
They were searching online for properties when they spotted a loft for sale at One Columbus in the west-end neighbourhood of Parkdale. Mr. Campbell and Mr. Hipkiss were familiar with the former industrial building from their days of shooting in Toronto.
At one time, a leather goods manufacturer turned out sporting goods in the red brick factory near Dundas Street West and Roncesvalles Avenue. The century-old building went through a few transformations before it was converted into 10 lofts in the 1990s.
"Coming from New York, where we lived in lofts, we were very comfortable with apartment living," Ms. Campbell says. The couple was also accustomed to navigating large cities as they raised two young boys.
Ms. Campbell and Mr. Hipkiss were both drawn to the authenticity of the post and beam architecture, warehouse-sized windows and polished concrete floors in the four-storey building.
"We've seen a lot of properties," Mr. Hipkiss says. "This one spoke to us. It had the wood, the glass, the concrete – everything."
The couple called Robin Pope of Pope Real Estate Ltd., who they had recruited to be one of the agents zipping around town in their docu-soap Big City Broker. The unit they were interested in had sold, but Mr. Pope knew that the owners of 102 might be interested in selling. They were, and the two sides struck a deal.
Mr. Pope believes the ground-level unit they purchased was more suited for a family with two kids, a dog and cat.
"It was actually very serendipitous," he says. "It never went to market."
In another case of happenstance, the couple's New York home was also on Columbus Avenue. In retrospect, a lot of elements lined up to make the move fortuitous, they say.
Mr. Pope says the three levels make the unit seem more like a townhouse or house. The main living area overlooks a residential sidestreet.
"You have the best of both worlds – you have loft living but it feels like a home."
The loft today
The couple found the 2,270-square-foot loft needed only a few tweaks to suit their roles as television producers and parents. The boys were quite young when the family moved in so Mr. Hipkiss reconfigured part of the main floor to make it more amenable for family living.
"Kirk is a frustrated interior designer," Ms. Campbell jokes.
Today guests arrive to a long entry hallway with plenty of space for coats and winter gear.
In the living area, Mr. Hipkiss added a wall of built-in shelves and cabinets so that the flat-screen television could be recessed.
The chef's kitchen has built-in appliances, a wine fridge and a stainless steel commercial-style stove. Mr. Hipkiss added a large island to provide an extra workspace and removed some wood slats to open up the dining area.
A window in the kitchen overlooks neighbourhood gardens.
"In the summertime, all the trees fill in," Mr. Hipkiss says.
An open area that served as a den was enclosed to create a quiet bedroom for the boys. The space under the staircase has become a more-or-less permanent fort.
Stairs lead to the master suite on the top floor.
"Because of the multiple levels, it seems more interesting," Mr. Pope says. "You come upstairs and it's a surprise."
The lower level has a third bedroom with a full bathroom. Beckett, nine, and Keifer, seven, use it as a recreation room and a secluded spot to practise playing the drums. The suite could provide a hide-away for a teenager or a guest, Mr. Hipkiss points out.
One wall is covered by graffiti art that creates a very realistic reproduction of the outside of a building in Hell's Kitchen.
"This is our homage to New York," Mr. Hipkiss says. "We were missing New York a bit when we moved back."
One Columbus has no common spaces and no amenities, but the residents tend to form a tight community.
"Because there are only 10 units, you all get to know each other," Mr. Hipkiss says.
The couple says the surrounding residential neighbourhood is ideal for families because it has parks, schools, eclectic restaurants, shopping and "tons of kids."
Nearby Sorauren Avenue Park has an off-leash dog area, and the West Toronto Railpath extends through several cool neighbourhoods. The woods and ponds of High Park are a short walk away.
"We wanted to make sure we were in a neighbourhood where I could take the dog on a Saturday morning and go out and get a coffee," Ms. Campbell says.
The best feature
The upper level provides a master suite with a spacious bedroom and sitting area. The ceiling of Douglas fir adds warmth and texture.
A large bathroom has a walk-in shower, a stand-alone bathtub and a view at treetop level.
Given their creative roles, Mr. Hipkiss figured it was a must to install a TV and speakers in the bathroom – even though Ms. Campbell declared the idea a bit de trop. Now that they have it, however, she's amazed at how enthusiastically the kids jump into the bath.
When the household becomes busy downstairs, she can escape to soak in the seclusion of the soaker tub.
"It's a nice little respite from the kids," Ms. Campbell says.