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Toronto Real Estate Home of the Week: Starting from scratch in Toronto’s Bennington Heights

Raffi Tutundjian/Jagged Lens

The listing: 442 Heath St. East, Toronto

Asking Price: $7.65-million

Taxes: $18,699.75 (2018)

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Lot Size: 43 by 240 feet

Agents: Cailey Heaps Estrin (Royal LePage Real Estate Services Heaps Estrin Team)

The back story

On the lower level, a recreation room provides a place for games.

Raffi Tutundjian/Jagged Lens

Cailey Heaps Estrin was not looking for a new family home when she found a large and private property in the Bennington Heights area of Toronto. She was looking for a clean slate.

“We bought it for the lot,” Ms. Heaps Estrin says of the parcel at 442 Heath St. East.

Ms. Heaps Estrin says the neighbourhood near Moore Avenue and Bayview Avenue is a peaceful enclave because of its position atop the bluffs of the Don River Valley and close to Mount Pleasant Cemetery. The winding streets and cul-de-sacs add to the feeling of tranquility, she says.

She knew the 240-foot stretch of land would easily accommodate a pool and outdoor entertaining area.

The existing three-bedroom house – with a mansard roof on the exterior and very low ceilings inside – didn’t work for Ms. Heaps Estrin, her husband and three young children.

The couple brought in the architecture firm Sixteen Degree Studio Inc. to design a warm and contemporary house that would also showcase their vintage furniture pieces and art collection.

The house today

The 4,205 square feet of above-grade living space was designed to be equally comfortable for family life and entertaining.

Raffi Tutundjian/Jagged Lens

Ms. Heaps Estrin asked Kelly Doyle and Stephanie Vermeulen of Sixteen Degree Studio to create a house that would appear unassuming and in keeping with the neighbourhood.

“We really wanted it to feel quiet on the street,” Ms. Vermeulen says. “That was intentional.”

On the interior, Ms. Heaps Estrin asked for high ceilings, clean lines and timeless materials.

The 4,205 square feet of above-grade living space was designed to be equally comfortable for family life and entertaining – without a hierarchy between adults and kids.

“We eliminated a formal living room,” Ms. Heaps Estrin says. “That’s not how we live.”

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She asked Ms. Doyle and Ms. Vermeulen for an open plan, but one that provides some separation between rooms on the main floor.

The staircase to the second floor separates the front of the home from the rear, for example, while a double-sided wood-burning fireplace delineates the family room from the breakfast area.

The couple wanted a warm and contemporary house that would also showcase their vintage furniture pieces and art collection.

Raffi Tutundjian/Jagged Lens

“Most often, when you open the front door you can see the whole space,” Ms. Heaps Estrin says. “I wanted something more sophisticated than that.”

Ms. Doyle says visitors arriving at the front door can see a sliver of the family room and backyard beyond.

“We love a sightline through the house that just gives you a glimpse,” Ms. Doyle says. “You have a glimpse, but you don’t get to see the whole thing until you step down into the space.”

It was important to Ms. Heaps Estrin, she says, that the interior would not have any bulkheads or other elements cluttering up the design.

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The duo designed a steel frame building that hides all of the structural and mechanical components.

Ms. Heaps Estrin also asked for a space for sheltered family life at the rear.

The result is a large combined kitchen and family room with wall-to-wall windows and sliding doors that open to the backyard.

“The back half has been very private,” Ms. Heaps Estrin says.

The position of the kitchen’s island provides the chef with a view of the goings-on in the family room and the backyard.

Raffi Tutundjian/Jagged Lens

The kitchen is centred around a Lacanche range imported from France. The refrigerator and freezer are hidden behind custom-made cabinets painted a deep navy blue.

The position of the kitchen’s large island provides the chef with a view of the goings-on in the family room and the backyard beyond.

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Ms. Doyle points out that the marble-topped island would not look out of place in an old world kitchen in Italy, yet the floor is of modern, polished concrete.

A secluded home office is tucked in beside the kitchen, and the adjacent breakfast room has access to the lounging area outside.

There’s a powder room and a mud room with a custom-built area for the care and feeding of the family’s English Mastiff.

The dining room has a sitting area with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the front garden and street.

Ms. Doyle says the corner window was created to bring in additional light from the south. But the design was a challenge for the contractors and the Germany-based window manufacturer.

“The glass shows up and it has to be to the millimetre,” she says.

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All of the heating and cooling systems, light switches and electrical receptacles and heating systems are as low-profile as possible.

To create the feeling of warmth, the architects designed millwork that runs from front to back and changes purpose along the way.

Raffi Tutundjian/Jagged Lens

Throughout the house, the architects chose materials that will not look dated after just a few years.

“We didn’t want people to walk in and say ‘oh that house was built in 2016,’ ” Ms. Heaps Estrin says.

To create the feeling of warmth Ms. Heaps Estrin sought, the architects designed millwork that runs from front to back and changes purpose along the way. At the front of the house, for example, white oak doors hide the coat closet. In the kitchen, the cupboards contain the pantry. And at the rear, the built-ins house the entertainment system.

For a timeless appearance, Ms. Doyle and Ms. Vermeulen chose hardwood floors in a traditional herringbone pattern.

The antiqued mirror on one wall of the dining room is an updated version of the Victorian-era mirror that might be found in a house in Rosedale.

The stairwell is partly hidden by a metal screen that works well with a few select pieces of mid-20th-century furniture.

Light streams into the centre of the house from a light well above.

“It’s just another little peekaboo moment that we liked,” Ms. Doyle says.

Upstairs, the bedrooms open into a central space for lounging and reading.

One bedroom has an ensuite bathroom and a window seat overlooking the street.

The luxurious master suite is designed for privacy.

Raffi Tutundjian/Jagged Lens

Two kids’ bedrooms share a jack-and-jill bathroom with double sinks.

At the rear, a luxurious master suite is designed for privacy.

The bedroom has a gas-burning fireplace and a picture window overlooking a green roof. The large ensuite bathroom has a stand-alone tub and separate shower.

On the lower level, a recreation room provides a place for games. There’s also a fifth bedroom, a home gym and a wine room.

Materials such as reinforced concrete and spray-foam insulation make the building strong and energy-efficient.

“It’s a solid house,” Ms. Doyle says.

The best feature

The backyard is an oasis, Ms. Heaps Estrin says, with a concrete in-ground pool and stone patios.

Two cabanas provide change rooms and a built-in bar. There’s an outdoor kitchen and gas fire bowl.

The back gardens have an irrigation system and landscape lighting.

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