Great Spaces: Inside A House Filled With Can-Con

Photo by Derek Shapton

Photo by Derek Shapton

Mary Abbott grew up outside of Guelph in an old farmhouse so secluded that her parents didn’t bother with curtains. “The land around us was made up of fields and forests,” she says. “It was extremely private.” Abbott has since left the rural life behind. She’s a corporate lawyer, her husband, Kevin Gormely, is an executive at a printing company, and they live in the middle of the city with their two small boys. Still, she channeled her upbringing when they rebuilt their home last year. The property is ensconced in the tree canopy of the Moore Park ravine, so she opted for giant picture windows with no coverings. Even the master bedroom is ­drapery-free—Abbott and Gormely enjoy waking up with the sun. The couple, working with architect John O’Connor of Basis Design Build, also kept the ­interiors spare to better showcase their extensive collection of contemporary Canadian art. Spare, but not spartan: O’Connor incorporated natural materials like soapstone, birch and Douglas fir to add rustic warmth. So even though the house looks modern, the palette is as ­elemental as the towering trees outside.

For the rest of this story, please see the March 2014 issue of Toronto Life magazine.

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Flavour of the Month: Nine of the City’s Best Mocktails

best-mocktails-toronto

1. Pirate’s Grog

The Sailor’s Delight at Drake One Fifty is a scurvy-fighting, high seas mash-up of muddled rosemary, fresh cranberry juice, apple cider, ­Jamaican ginger beer and a spicy-sweet dash of cherry–chai masala bitters. $6. 150 York St., 416-363-6150.

 2. Not Quite Sake-tini

JaBistro’s Spicy Celery Lime is an ideal pre-sushi aperitif for those who don’t like their cocktails sweet. Ginger syrup and celery bitters evoke long-brewed, none-too-sugary iced tea with a sharp hit of lime. $7. 222 Richmond St. W., 647-748-0222.

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Great Spaces: Inside An Art-Mad House

Photo by Derek Shapton

Photo by Derek Shapton

Astrid Bastin recently gutted her century-old, midtown ravine-side house. Just about everything was updated—except the barn-shaped gambrel roof, which she maintained. Bastin, who was born in Bogotá, runs AB Projects, a cultural exchange program for established Canadian and Latin American artists. She mainly works with avant-garde mixed media artists and often gives them a live-work space in her home for a few months, then helps sell their work; the commissions are invested in the organization. As a result, the first floor of the house is a showcase for experimental pieces. A tiny TV shows a blinking eye, for example, and a series of speakers play noises such as crunching gravel. Even her driveway is an installation, with a piano that plays Chopin every evening from 5 to 7 (the tunes are quiet enough not to irk the neighbours). The ­renovation, by Dean Goodman of LGA Architectural Partners, was tailored to highlight the ever-­changing assortment of artwork. The expansive walls are MoMA white and there’s plenty of room for the crowds of curators, collectors and art lovers Bastin often entertains.

For the rest of this story, please see the February 2014 issue of Toronto Life magazine.

The Incredible Rise of Team Subban

Photo by Joanne Ratajczak

Photo by Joanne Ratajczak

In 1970, when Karl Subban was 12 years old, he discovered hockey. His parents, a diesel mechanic and a seamstress, had moved him and his three brothers from Portland Cottage, Jamaica, to Sudbury. They were one of the few black families in a predominantly French neighbourhood called Flour Mill. Karl’s parents bought him a pair of skates at the Salvation Army, which helped him make friends. Soon he was playing pick-up games with the French kids, worshipping the Habs and imagining he was Ken Dryden.

As the years passed, Karl remained obsessed with the sport. He graduated from Lakehead University and began working as an elementary school teacher. He met his wife, Maria, a quality control analyst at CIBC Mellon, at a New Year’s party in 1981. Together, they bought a four-bedroom house on a winding Rexdale street just north of the Woodbine Racetrack and had five kids: ­Nastassia, Natasha, Pernell Karl (who goes by P. K.), Malcolm and Jordan.

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Great Spaces: Four of Toronto’s Boldest, Boxiest New Homes

(Photography by Derek Shapton)

(Photography by Derek Shapton)

Torontonians are finally rejecting fussy Victorian architecture and going bold. In almost every neighbourhood, there’s a house or two that stands out. They’re tall, modern and boxy—the new Toronto aesthetic. Here, a look inside some of our favourites.

great-spaces-bold-toronto-avenue-and-lawrence-intro

he people: Alireza Saeed, a structural engineer, his wife, Azi Lessani, and their two kids, five-year-old Deniz and two-year-old Doreen
The place: Tetris House, a 3,200-square-foot home near Avenue and Lawrence

A few years ago, Saeed commissioned the architect Reza Aliabadi to build a gleaming modern house in North York. It was perfect—except for the school district it was in. The family only lived there for a year before they decided to move to Avenue and Lawrence, where the kids could attend the public schools Ledbury Park and Lawrence Park Collegiate. But Saeed loved his first house so much he wanted an exact replica in his new neighbourhood, so he enlisted Aliabadi to do a repeat performance. The resulting place is 1,000 square feet smaller, but all other specs remain the same: a home office, basement guest suite, walk-in wine cave and party space, all stacked neatly on top of each other like pieces in a game of Tetris, which gives the house its name.

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Great Spaces: Five Garage Conversions to Swoon Over

Geoffrey Roche in his North York pool house (Derek Shapton)

Geoffrey Roche in his North York pool house (Derek Shapton)

Torontonians don’t like compromise. We want to live in the city, and we also want guest rooms, art studios and dens. The answer? Convert out unused sheds, garages or pool into precious square footage. Here, five drool-worthy makeovers.

Photo by Derek Shapton

Photo by Derek Shapton

Who: Geoffrey Roche, a 60-year-old entrepreneur and former ad executive, and his wife Marie Claire
What: An 800-square-foot pool house with an office, dining area and sleeping quarters
Where: North York

For over 20 years, Roche was one of Canada’s top ad executives, but in 2011 he left the business to start a social media company called Poolhouse. He keeps an office at Yonge and Eglinton but often works in his backyard pool house, which is the perfect place to hold meetings, impress clients or steal away for a few hours of solitude. When he bought the property, the pool house looked like something out of That ’70s Show. Architect John Tong redesigned it with vibrant orange walls, two fireplaces (one inside, one outside) and a bar area, giving it the playfulness of a Silicon Valley start-up. At night, the place can be used for parties or poolside cocktails. And tucked in the back are a Murphy bed and bathroom for guests who’ve had a few too many to drive home.

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Reason to Love Toronto: Because the Aliens, Vampires and Robot Cops Came Back

Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim was made in Toronto

Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim was made in Toronto

When the alien-invasion fantasy Pacific Rim—by blockbuster director Guillermo del Toro—wrapped at Pinewood Studios in the Port Lands last September, it left a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, with cherry trees and Japanese cop cars strewn across monster-mangled, Roppongi-like streets. The film, which opens in July, cost $150 million and was the largest production in Toronto history—employing a crew of nearly 1,000 local carpenters, camera people and extras. It was also proof that the industry has finally perked up after a long dry spell. Continue reading