Home, ravine, lake
Scarborough home renovated to maximize stunning view of Lake Ontario
THE LISTING 9 Fenwood Heights, Toronto
LISTING PRICE $2,499,000
TAXES $6,377.51 (2016)
LOT SIZE 55 feet by 133.2 feet
LISTING AGENT Michael Carr, Salesperson, Re/Max Realtron Realty Inc., Brokerage
The first thing you notice as you walk up to 9 Fenwood Heights is Lake Ontario, which sits behind the house. There is a direct sightline from the glass front door to the back of the first floor that shows off the shimmering blue water.
"The layout of the spaces is geared toward the view of the lake and the forest below," said Esther Cheong, one of the co-principals of Toronto design firm z axis.
The lake view, which is preceded by a cascading ravine, is what originally inspired Ms. Cheong to transform the former structure into the modern house that sit on the lot today.
The back story
The previous home was a mishmash of styles: a gabled roof on part of the second level, a tiled roof with a stucco exterior and many, many small windows (17 on the front of home alone). Inside, it was carved into three apartments.
"It was a convoluted layout," Ms. Cheong said.
But it had some redeeming qualities, including its spacious size (about 3,000 square feet), a good foundation and terraces off of the back. For these reasons, Ms. Cheong decided to keep what she could and renovate the rest (basically everything above the lower level).
The entire design of the new home was premised on incorporating the landscape of the Scarborough Bluffs that surround the property.
"First thing we did was take that fence down," she said. "Then the forest became the backyard."
Then, she and her partner (and husband), Paul Fantauzzi, went about creating a modern home with clean lines and many windows to expand the view.
On the first floor, they opened it up and added a wall of windows along the back. They also shortened the first floor by a few feet to lengthen the terrace that was already there.
In addition to the kitchen and family room (with its walkout terrace), there is also a sunken living and dining room that have access to an at-grade stone patio space.
On the second floor, Ms. Cheong designed three bedrooms, including a master suite with its own bathroom and walk-in closets. There is also a secondary bathroom with a laundry room added on it.
And the lower level's layout was largely kept the same as before, a large recreation room, plus a smaller bedroom that even being below ground gets a fair amount of light thanks to some cut-outs at the top of the wall that separate it from the rec room.
Over all, Ms. Cheong followed a modernist aesthetic: clean lines, large windows and lots of storage.
"In a minimalist house, you have to build in a lot of storage, so you have somewhere to put all of your belongings and not have them in full view," she said.
Walnut cabinets are stashed all over the house, including in an extra-tall, architectural unit that the basement stairs snake around.
"I always design as if I was going to live here," Ms. Cheong said. "Because it's a more thoughtful design."
An example of this is the second-floor laundry, which has a "laundry closet" with different shelves for different baskets to sort your dirty clothes.
"It makes no sense to have a laundry anywhere else," Ms. Cheong said. "Otherwise, you're carrying baskets up and down stairs."
Ms. Cheong also added elements that are both functional and interesting to look at, such as the extended step on the main staircase. It reaches out under the staircase, creating a spot for people to put on or take off their shoes.
With her background in interior design, Ms. Cheong also brought the same meticulous thoughtfulness to furniture placement.
"In modern houses, when it's one big open space, you're not really sure where to place your furniture," she said, explaining that she always drafts a potential furniture plan.
This allows her to make sure practical elements – like the placement of electrical outlets and the "TV wall," which is separate from where the fireplace is located – are present.
With the average sale price of homes in the E08 sector pegged in January at $989,942, 9 Fenwood Heights stands at the upper end of available homes. "There is a big premium for ravine and lake-view homes," real estate agent Michael Carr said.
The crown jewel of the property is its environment. Nestled in a neighbourhood called Cliffcrest, Fenwood Heights winds around the top of the escarpment, giving the area a cottage-like feel.
"You're close to the city, but you're in this natural setting, which gives you a calm feeling," Mr. Carr said. The area was developed for residential use in the 1940s and 50s after Kingston Road was widened to make way for a more car-centric way of life (hence, the residential streets have no sidewalks.)
One of the best views from 9 Fenwood Heights is from the master suite. Both the sleeping area and the ensuite bathroom have a continuous view of the landscape below. There is also a terrace that sits atop of the family room.
"We built terraces [instead of balconies] because it integrates into the structure of the home," Ms. Cheong said. "They tier down, similar to the way the ravine tiers down. So it's not this foreign object floating in space."
"Picture having a coffee on this terrace as the sun comes up over the lake and the deer run through the ravine below," Mr. Carr said. "That's the place where you can really disconnect and unwind."