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Home of the Week

Home of the Week, 222A Manning Ave., Toronto

Builders among first to recognize a burgeoning demand for modern architecture in traditional neighbourhoods

THE LISTING 222A Manning Ave.

ASKING PRICE $2.285-million

TAXES $6,645.82 (2016)

AGENTS Paul Johnston and Matt Manuel, Right at Home Realty Inc.

The back story

222A Manning Ave.

The shuttered building that once served as St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Elementary School had mostly turned into a backdrop for filmmakers and television producers by 2010, when developers decided that the location between Little Italy and Little Portugal would make a good setting for two rows of modern townhouses.

"We built a showroom in the former gym of the school," says real estate agent Paul Johnston of Right at Home Realty Inc.

The few infill projects that had been built in the area seemed designed to fit in with the existing Victorian-era streetscape more than to create a contemporary dwelling for a new style of urban living. Mr. Johnston says builders were just beginning to recognize the burgeoning demand for modern architecture in traditional neighbourhoods. The new townhouses would offer such luxuries as outdoor terraces, indoor parking and interior design by the Toronto firm of Cecconi Simone. They would appeal to buyers who didn't mind a few auto body shops intermingled with the old European sports bars.

Rob Guénette and Daryn Sutherland bought the spacious house at the southern end of the Manning Avenue row from the developer's plans.

The 1,100 square-foot living space includes a fireplace.

The duo, who both work in advertising and marketing, were living in an industrial loft. They needed more space for an expanding family but didn't want to sacrifice the loft's oversized windows, high ceilings and wall space.

The townhome's layout was well-suited for accommodating kids, dogs, photographs and books.

"We wanted to get away from a conventional use of space and treated the suite as a piece of art," said Elaine Cecconi of the design at the time. "It's a clean, simple unadorned look. Nothing is frivolous; everything is purposeful."

The house today

The main living space at 222A Manning.

Guests arrive to a slender entry way and a staircase of glass and wood.

"It doesn't have a grand entry so it's a surprise as you walk up," Mr. Guénette says of the expanding space.

The main living and dining takes place on the top floor, in an 1,100-square-foot space with a fireplace, light from three sides and a ceiling height of 10 feet.

The unit is unique because of this "upside down" design. The neighbouring units are more narrow, with dining rooms on the main floor facing the street.

An outdoor terrace offers views of the skyline.

"The higher you go, the more space you have, " Mr. Guénette says of 222A. "Having the dining area on this level is a benefit. We feel a little detached from the street."

A large door slides away to connect the living space to an outdoor terrace with views of the city skyline.

The family members spend most of their time on the third floor, Ms. Sutherland says. There's lots of room for lounging and everyone can retreat to their favourite spot. The family's rescue pup – a Terrier mix from the streets of Arkansas – favours the Eero Saarinen-designed Womb Chair next to the terrace.

The custom walnut dining room table can accommodate 12.

The couple had also opted for a Saarinen dining table but they found they couldn't get it up the stairs. Instead, they commissioned a custom-made walnut table that accommodates 12 for dinner.

The table will remain with the house, Mr. Guénette says.

Down one floor, the second level is for sleeping. The large master suite – enclosed behind sliding glass doors – overlooks the street. The ensuite bathroom has a soaker tub and a large glass-enclosed shower.

The master suite overlooks the street.

In the kids' bedrooms, slender windows – set high above the floor – bring in light but still allow privacy and sensible furniture arrangements.

"They really allowed us to maximize the space," Ms. Sutherland says.

A fourth bedroom is currently used as an office.

There's also a laundry room and a main bath on that floor.

The ensuite bathroom features a soaker tub.

The couple has made few changes since they moved in in 2013.

One change they did make was to add a second bar, kitchen and servery area to the media room on the main floor. There's a dishwasher, wine fridge and sink – along with a set of dishes. That way, when dinner is served outside on the backyard terrace, family members don't need to carry dishes down from the third-floor kitchen.

The backyard features artificial turf.

Outside, the backyard has been divided into two areas. There's artificial turf for the kids to run around on. Decking provides a comfortable space for a dining table and built-in furniture.

The lower level has extra room for storage and all of the mechanics. There's also a door from the house into the garage.

An elevator can help bring groceries up from the garage.

Inside, an elevator makes it easy to take bags of shopping and luggage from the lower-level garage to the upper floors.

"Otherwise, it's a bit of a haul with your groceries," Ms. Sutherland says. "For convenience and practicality it makes a lot of sense to have it."

The neighbourhood surrounding Trinity Bellwoods Park has been changing, but it still retains a bit of its original grit, which makes for a much more interesting urban culture, Mr. Guénette says. Down the street, a former industrial building was replaced with townhouses and a condo building.

"When we first moved in here, that was a working lumberyard," he says.

The slender entry hallway features a staircase of glass and wood.

Now, new restaurants are regularly popping up, Ms. Sutherland says. Well-known chefs have turned some of the old sports bars into destination restaurants along that stretch of Dundas Street West.

The house did not remain on the real estate market for long – it sold for the full asking price on Day 4.

Favourite feature

The kitchen at 222A Manning Ave.

The spacious kitchen area on the top floor provides lots of space for home chefs to work while remaining part of everything happening in the living area. Walnut accents warm up the sleek cabinets. The couple had a walnut espresso bar custom-made, in addition to the larger breakfast bar.