Founders of architecture and design firm turned former grocery store and rooming house into a contemporary live-work space
THE LISTING 1587 Dupont St.
ASKING PRICE $2,395,000
TAXES $6,130.16 (2017)
LOT SIZE 24 by 120 feet
AGENT Paul Johnston, Right at Home Realty Inc.
Many of the trailblazers who helped revitalize the west Toronto neighbourhood known as the Junction Triangle were artists and designers. Six years ago, Linda Corbett and Andrew Fee joined the migration when they purchased a two-storey brick building on Dupont Street near Dundas Street West.
That stretch of Dupont was mainly known at the time for rotisserie chicken, antique furniture and a hotel for cats. Ms. Corbett and Mr. Fee were scouting about for a project when they first saw the property at number 1587. The circa 1904 building had started out as a grocery store, then fallen into disrepair during decades of use as a rooming house.
"Everything was left in here from over 50 years of living here," Mr. Fee says.
As the founders of architecture and design firm SOMA Studio, Mr. Fee and Ms. Corbett could look past the detritus. They envisioned a contemporary live-work space with a residence at the front, a stand-alone studio at the back and a garden in between.
"We build things. We're creative people and we need space for that," Mr. Fee says. "We looked at going the traditional-house route, but it really did not meet our needs."
Mr. Fee figured the home's position between the Perth/Dupont branch of Toronto Public Library on one side and a shoe maker on the other would make for quiet neighbours.
The couple also saw potential in a neighbourhood in transition. The former tracks of Canadian Pacific Railway had already been transformed into the nearby West Toronto Railpath and refurbished industrial warehouses were being put to creative new uses. Construction was under way on the expansion of the rail corridor that would eventually bring a greater number of commuter trains and the Union Pearson Express through the area.
The residential streets running south from Dupont were lined with Victorian semis and small neighbourhood parks.
"There's so much fascination with what's to come here," Ms. Corbett says of the area. "There are five parks to walk the dog, even though you're 20 minutes from Yonge and Bloor."
The house today
Guests arrive to a weighty wooden door and a brick façade with rows of tall windows.
Inside, there's a foyer with a limestone floor and walls panelled in rift-cut white oak with an oil finish rubbed on by hand by Mr. Fee. The solid white oak staircase to the upper level appears suspended in front of the windows. "We floated it to feel lighter and it's lit from underneath," Mr. Fee says.
He deliberately positioned it at the front of the 2,600-square-foot house, he explains, to dampen any traffic noise from the street.
"I put the staircase at the front to act as a buffer," Mr. Fee says. "That works very well."
The oak-panelled gallery hall separates the main stair from a second stairway down to the lower level. There's also a powder room lined in oak with a hand-rubbed Danish oil finish.
The media room has built-in painted cabinetry wired for high-tech equipment.
A hallway leads toward the centre of the house, where another entrance at the side lets the couple bring groceries from the laneway parking at the rear straight to the kitchen. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide views into a tranquil pocket garden.
Beyond the garden, the space expands into a large combined living and dining area with kitchen. The former exterior wall of the house is now lined with floor-to-ceiling kitchen cabinets that Mr. Fee crafted himself from riff-sawn walnut. "By the time we got to the fridge, this is all addition," Mr. Fee says gesturing to the volume beyond.
There's a large island topped with honed Carrara marble, a chef's range and a built-in refrigerator and dishwasher.
An intricate screen allows light into the loft-style bedroom while also separating it from the living area below. Mr. Fee says the design was inspired by a screen the couple saw in a hotel in Palm Springs, Calif. They had it created from computer-cut panels and suspended from the walls.
"I wanted it to feel like it was slipping," he says. "It becomes more architectural and less interior decorating."
The master bathroom has a frameless glass shower, a stand-alone Italian Corian tub and custom-made vanity. The walls and floor are lined in marble.
Throughout the house, windows are placed to allow maximum connection to the outdoors.
"There's a sense of these layers going on," Ms. Corbett says of the view through the windows to the studio and the trees beyond.
The former garage has been turned into a two-storey studio. There, the couple has a complete mobile shop that they can pack up and move to the location of a SOMA Studio project.
"It's always transitioning," says Ms. Corbett, who designs carpets and has them handmade in Nepal from Tibetan wool. "This is living space, but it's also creative space."
Upstairs, there's a large open-plan office and a full bathroom. The entire studio could be used as a nanny or in-law's suite, Mr. Fee points out.
"We did this office so it could be many things to many people. It's the kind of space that encourages someone who is creative," he says.
The couple says the commercial/residential zoning designation allowed them much more flexibility in building. For tax purposes, the property is currently considered a residence, the couple says.
The best feature
The ceiling in the living area at the rear of the house soars 19 feet high. Large, Bauhaus wooden doors slide away to open the room to the garden. The windows above were designed by Mr. Fee and built of Spanish cedar.
A wood-burning Stuv fireplace, imported from Belgium, is set into a surround clad in Travertine stone. The living area has views into the courtyard garden, where plantings include pin oak trees and a Japanese maple.