Welcome to my blog on housing, culture, and design.
If you're new to it - although I'm celebrating 26 years as a top producing Toronto realtor - my passion for all aspects of housing and home has led to my writing on many facets of urban life. My research and education includes a Canadian Social History Degree which focused on how the migration patterns of different cultural groups influenced Toronto's housing market from 1850 to 1970; an Urban Studies Degree that explored Gentrification in South Riverdale in the 1980s; and a Graduate Degree in Environmental Studies that researched the development of Adaptive Re-use Conversions into loft condominium living, including a fascinating psychographic analysis of its residents. It's how I launched my career as a Housing Conceptualist and Real Estate Marketer in the mid 1990s, spearheading the Innovative Space Marketplace specializing in new loft conversions, and eventually expanded to my love guiding clients in the buying and selling of unique urban character dwellings, architect-designed low maintenance living, and smart-buy investment properties at Urbaneer.
With training in finance, construction, urban planning, urban design and the psychology of housing and home - and a whole lotta rejuvenating, renovation and transforming my own personal dwelling, including The Button Factory on Clinton Street, The Movie House at College and Euclid, an 1880s Vintage Triplex In PEI, and - in progress - a 1960s purpose built duplex in Riverdale, I love a good design story. So when the call came from a design duo to list their loft, I was both mesmerized and impressed at their undertaking.
And I couldn't wait to feature it on the Urbaneer blog!
The Back Story
Located north of Eglinton Avenue east of Dufferin, The Forest Hill Lofts - once the Canadian headquarters of Coats Paton, a textile firm famous for its Beehive brand knitting yarn, dating from the 1930s, was converted into 137 loft condominiums in 2002. Ranging in size up to 1108 square feet, the lofts feature 13' ceilings, exposed structural elements of steel or fluted concrete columns, and large expanses of glass. However, like many redevelopments, the original fixtures and finishes used for the conversion were builder grade items, often mediocre in quality, and not necessarily complementing a factory aesthetic.
Back in March 2017 the architect design professional duo purchased the unit with the intention of making it their home for several years. However, just as they were completing their reimagination of the space, a new job prompted a relocation. As a result, the property has come to market with the intention of recovering their cost.
Here's what the unit looked like when they purchased it, with its very early 2000s aesthetic of cinnamon wood floors and cabinetry, builder grade washroom fittings, and dated light fixtures.
The Challenges And Obstacles Of The Original Layout
Here were the challenges of the original layout in the clients' own words:
"The mezzanine was originally partially enclosed by a wall that encased the side of the floor deck and reached just 3 feet shy of the ceiling. Although intimate, the space was dark, and a closet truncated the usable floor area, leaving the room small, uninviting and lackluster. When we first saw the unit, a bed occupied most of the floor space with little room for anything else. Furthermore, the wall enclosing the mezzanine extended to the living room floor, removing what could be additional square footage perfect for our young son to use, while visually opening the living space and articulating the mezzanine loft as a feature of interest. Originally, one would take the stairs to the mezzanine with the sole purpose of entering a second bedroom, as opposed to accessing a second level for 'living'. Removing the wall encasing the mezzanine and setting it behind the staircase exposed the structural steel deck of the mezzanine and freed the unique structural column, allowing it to be an architectural feature in the space. This reinforced the interpretation of the mezzanine as a separate level, as well as returning the unit to that raw, industrial loft quality. Additional space was found by pushing the former back wall of the closet to align with the face of the entrance closet below. The additional two feet provided enough room to create an intimate double bed platform with some shelving, a perfect place for some rest and seclusion. It's a terrific guest room, or alternate third bedroom if required. Overall, these interventions allow a complete continuity from the glazing on the lower level to the back wall of the unit on the upper level.
The former open “den”, used as a dining area by the previous owner, was sandwiched between both washrooms along the corridor. This was an odd communal/gathering place, which didn't feel welcoming among the more intimate and private zones for domesticity, including the master bedroom along. Knowing this area would better function as a second bedroom, a partial height wall was built to create privacy while allowing daylight to enter. The addition of a light well brings some sunlight from the master bedroom into this bedroom as well as creating some visual interest to the intimate space.The original kitchen and washroom millwork/fixtures felt dated and better suited for more typical suburban home than an industrial loft. Mismatched wood finishes in the kitchen, on the floors and in the washrooms made the space seem visually cluttered. The kitchen millwork was updated to a clean matte white with a monolithic porcelain backsplash and counter. The washrooms were also fully updated, one with a soaker tub and another with a walk-in shower, all done in a mix of glossy and matte whites. Omitting millwork in the bathrooms was done intentionally to have these rooms read as functional, clean and timeless".
The Design Program
Here is how the clients addressed the obstacles:
"Connectivity, to each family member, to the outdoors, and to history co-exists with private and multi-functional spaces creating a unique urban retreat in this former garment factory. The corridor from the main entrance to the kitchen serves as the primary axis separating the private (bedrooms and bathrooms) from the collective convivial spaces (kitchen, dining, and living room). The “floating” bookshelves along the edge of the mezzanine - made using more utilitarian materials to feel more honest and factory-friendly - create a secondary axis bridging the lower open area to the upper mezzanine area while defining them as separate spaces. At the intersection of the axis, the “nook” encloses a custom built-in sleeping area (upper level), three separate and concealed storage areas, a coat closet and the stacking washer/dryer.
The outdoor terrace is an extension of the interior space and a private sanctuary. To one side, the dark grey reinforces the continuity of the interior west wall while the plant life creates a boundary of intimacy and tranquility. On other side, the continuous glass wall blurs the physical limits of the interior and exterior spaces, its transparency allowing the unit to bask in natural light. A limited material and colour palette serves to enhance the feeling of calm and openness. The predominant use of white reflects the abundant sunlight that enters the space, acting as a blank canvas against the polished concrete floor and the raw industrial nature of the steel mezzanine and staircase. The simplicity of the architectural millwork, and lighting, the use of natural wood (maple) along with the deep grey accents serve to create balance, depth and texture within the space, while the diaphanous draperies soften the environment while filtering the west light".
What Makes This Loft Successful
To walk into this space makes one acutely aware of that the level of creativity, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail undertaken is exceptional.
Here are the features I particularly treasure!
- the graceful, sculptural and yet space-expanding aspect of the pendant lights suspended in the living area
- the gossamer quality of the light-filtering custom drapery fabric
- the dynamic colour-play between the orange of the kitchen faucet and the blue of the island's metal frame
- the inviting coziness of the cabin bed complete with book-nook
- the light-well situated high on the west wall of the second bedroom which references the dramatic height of the ceiling, the remarkable volume of the space itself, and depending on the light, the time of day
- the kid-friendly play-space beneath the mezzanine level, ideal for exploring, creating and imagining or for a having great game of hide and seek - and also uniquely kid-sized
- the connectivity of indoor and outdoor space, the ability to transition indoor or out from living or sleeping quarters, and while on the balcony, the feel and the sound of smooth river rock beneath one's feet
- the floating nature of the bespoke mezzanine bookcases - providing not only useful storage, but concurrently defining and connecting the mezzanine loft with the larger living space below
- the exposed structural steel frame-work of the mezzanine and stairway - and how ideally suited it is for playing with a magnetic alphabet
- the balance of infusing contemporary elements while respecting the iconic factory style and industrial heritage.
Given this family had to relocate, they letting us steer the sale in the hopes of recovering their acquisition, renovation (around $100k), buying and selling costs, listing the property with the strategy of coming to market with a holdback on offers. Check out A Fresh Factory Redux In The Historic Art Deco Forest Hill Loft - NOW SOLD!
I Tip My Hat To The Sellers' 'Cabin Bed', as I created one myself!
You can read about it in I Love A Built-In Bed
Here's one for you! If you'd you've always wanted to own your own slice of heaven in one of the vibrant neighbourhoods east of the Don Valley, this loft listing in Riverdale's Glebe Lofts on Pape Avenue, which was converted from a Presbyterian church into residential units two decades ago, gives you an idea of what's available! We called it A Heavenly Sanctuary In A Converted Riverdale Church - Now SOLD!
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Can The Urbaneer Team Assist You?
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~ The Urbaneer Team
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage - (416) 322-8000
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