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How the doctor learned to be patient
An ER physician finds her dream home only to embark on a long, major renovation

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Friday, July 6, 2018 – Page H6

TORONTO -- 24 High Park Gardens, Toronto


Size: 50 feet by 102.93 feet

Price: $3,788,000

Taxes: $14,464.14 (2017)

Listing agent: Andrea Morrison, Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd., brokerage

The street beckoned her. That is how Brenda Alves described High Park Gardens.

"It has an enchanted presence about it - the way the giant oak trees create this canopy," Ms. Alves said.

She discovered the one-way residential strip after she and her family moved to the Roncesvalles-High Park neighbourhood in Toronto's west end in 2010.

"And we'd go out of our way to walk down this street," she said. "We loved it so much and we'd joke, 'One day, we are going to live on High Park Gardens.' " Then, about six years later, she decided to make that joke a reality. She wrote a few handwritten notes that expressed her interest in purchasing homes along the street (none were on the market at the time). One of those notes was fatefully dropped off at 24 High Park Gardens.


At the time, she knew the home was under construction and recalls her note saying: "I love this home, I see it has just begun construction. I know this is presumptuous and I'm not sure if you're the homeowner or if you even want to sell but if by chance you are thinking of selling the home when it is complete, we would love to talk about a precompletion deal."

In fact, the contractor, Stephen Keating of SK Design Build, had been approached by about a dozen people who were interested in the home after he bought the property in 2014. But something about Ms. Alves's note and her vision for the home helped her stand out from the other suitors.

When Ms. Alves - who is an emergency room doctor at a nearby hospital - got to visit the home for the first time, the contractors had just finished the demolition; the walls were bare, the floor in the basement was dirt, but the old front porch had been enclosed, which would eventually become a dining space surrounded by windows.

It wasn't the first time she and her husband had tackled building a home. They were involved in the creation of their cottage three years ago.

She was excited for the opportunity to dip into construction again.

"I find it's a nice balance from working in ER - which can be crazy, hectic and unpredictable. I know some people think that construction can be those things, too, but I found it was much more black and white." Prior to this renovation, the home was four apartments, and before that, it was a single-family home. But the new owners and their contractors had a focused goal: Bring the manor back to its original grandeur.

"This wasn't just a gut. It was a restoration," Ms. Alves said, adding that the secondary goal was to give the home the necessary elements for a modern lifestyle. "I am so thankful that the vision that I had aligned with that of the contractor and we were able to pull it all together."

In total, the renovation took nearly three and a half years to complete. "It was a long renovation," she said. "But it was worth it."


The final product involves almost 6,000 square feet of renovated space, featuring the work of architectural technologist Daniel Brodsky, interior designer Alison Milne and smart-home specialist George Hardy of Connected Living, and a newly landscaped backyard by Chris Foley.

The first floor includes a front foyer and great room, which encompasses four areas: the living room, the dining room, the kitchen and a family room that leads out to the backyard.

"We have three young boys, so the open concept [of the main floor] was important to us initially because of entertaining, but it has also been a blessing from a parenting point of view," Ms. Alves said. "You can always have eyes on them and they love to run laps of the space!"

On the other side of the main floor is an enclosed office with the original set of mahogany and glass French doors and a mudroom at the back with hand-painted cement tiles.

On the second floor there are three bedrooms: a nursery, a guest suite with bay windows looking out onto the street and the Marlee roof and copper eave and master suite with its en-suite bathroom and two walk-in closets.

The third floor has two more bedrooms and a bathroom with a soaker tub, while the basement has a giant recreation room, home theatre room (with a fireplace with an original mantle), laundry room (with marble countertops) and a full bathroom.

"It's not that common where there's a back-to-thebricks renovation in this style of home in this neighbourhood," agent Andrea Morrison said.

So far, the reception from touring agents has been good.

"When other agents have come in, they have all remarked on how beautifully the renovation has been executed and that it hasn't been just a strip down. They really appreciate that some of the historical details have been kept," Ms. Morrison said. "It gives it so much more character than other renovations."

When it came to deciding on the $3,788,000 price tag, she said she used her 30-plus years of experience in high-end homes in this part of Toronto to help guide her.

A big part of the pricing comes down to the extent of the renovation and the fact that "no expense was spared for the materials," Ms. Morrison said. Examples of this can be seen throughout the house, such as the mahogany fan blades and curtain rod in the master bedroom that match the mahogany doors that lead out to the private balcony.

While touring the home, Ms. Alves can explain everything from the choice of the new oak floors to the reason why the kitchen hardware is brass versus the copper fixtures in the master suite bathroom. But the attention to detail is really exemplified by the appliance cabinet in the kitchen.

"When you open the door, the electrical to it goes on. But when you close the door, the circuit is cut. So there is no danger in keeping a toaster or coffee maker inside."

And the details are not just cosmetic.

Most of the rooms are soundproof and there is sound-dampening between the floors, including in the first-floor powder room - done so that guests can have total privacy while using the loo.


Ms. Alves said one of the features that originally sold her on the home was the stained glass window above the landing on the stairs, between the first and second floor.

"It makes me smile every time I can go by it. The colour, the beauty, I just love it."

The very large window has a floral display that features emerald green, rose, gold and aqua shades of glass.

Ms. Alves explains at that various points in the day - depending on the position of the sun - the living room and staircase get washed in a rainbow of colours. "That window is so warm and inviting. It makes the whole home have a good feeling."

It is one of many original features that she kept in the home. Others include the solid oak door at the front entrance (and its brass lion's head knocker), the fireplace mantle in the basement, which was transplanted from the second floor and a pair of doors in the basement that were salvaged from the first floor, having originally been the French doors to the area that is now the living room.

"It's very bittersweet to be leaving," Ms. Alves said. But one more home renovation project awaits them. "I want to take what we've learned here and give ourselves to another home.

"But I am going to miss so much. A lot of the original details - such as the stainedglass window pan - you can't recreate or buy that. It's a very special place."

Associated Graphic

Brenda Alves enjoyed walks on High Park Gardens in Toronto and jumped at this house while it was still under construction. She says the open-concept main floor was important - for both entertaining and raising three young boys.


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