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Art Gallery of Ontario director preps artist enclave home for sale

For lots of Toronto homeowners, Victoria Day held special significance this year: It was the last day of normal life before they listed their property for sale.

One such owner is Matthew Teitelbaum, who is departing his post as director of the Art Gallery of Ontario to become director of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. He and his wife, Susan Cohen, put the “for sale” sign in front of their family home at 31 Summerhill Gardens this week.

On Tuesday, real estate agent Eileen Farrow of Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. was having photographs taken and finalizing her recommendation for the asking price. Choosing precisely the right price is a fine art, explains Ms. Farrow, so she was conferring with some of her Chestnut Park colleagues, including Alison Dyer, who used to live on the street.

“The strategy is to price sensibly in order to attract lots of people,” says Ms. Farrow. “We’d love to have multiple offers.”

The agents discussed the architectural details, landscaped garden and the private parking pad. “Parking is huge,” says Ms. Farrow.

She also observes that the house, at about 2,200 square feet, is larger than it appears from the street. “It’s very demure from the outside.”

They settled on a price of $1.825-million. Offers will be reviewed on May 26th.

In Toronto’s blazingly hot market, buyers have been competing for houses even in the carriage trade segment.

Just last week, Ms. Farrow points out, a large, detached Victorian-era house just around the corner on Summerhill Avenue sold for $3.725-million with four offers. That’s $825,000 above the asking price of $2.9-million.

Mr. Teitelbaum and Ms. Cohen have raised their two sons in the quiet enclave just south of Yonge and St. Clair.

“We’ve lived there as long as we’ve lived in Toronto, which is 22 years,” Mr. Teitelbaum says.

The circa 1912 home was a rooming house back then. A room that currently serves as a study was a bathroom with wall-to-wall carpeting and a bathtub in the middle of the room, he says. “It was a 1970s bachelor-style room,” he recalls with a chuckle.

The couple made some immediate changes to turn the dwelling back into a single-family home. Eight years ago, they brought in architect Mary Jane Finlayson to renovate the main floor.

They asked her to improve the connection between the living room, dining room and kitchen, and to change the way the interior related to the outdoors.

“We wanted the rooms to have a greater sense of scale – so the notion [is] when you were in one room you got pulled to the next,” he explains. “There’s a sense of space as continuity.”

They tore out a pantry and washroom that were blocking off the view of the garden and created a seating area in front of a large window. “We took that volume and opened it up.”

Ms. Finlayson also made sure the space was designed to accommodate the couple’s collection of paintings, photographs and sculpture.

“As you can imagine, that’s important to us,” says Mr. Teitelbaum.

From the main floor, doors open to the back garden, designed by William Chandler of Chandler and Co.

Upstairs, the second floor has three rooms that could be used as bedrooms.

Three years ago the couple brought in architect Elizabeth Sisam to create a third-floor master retreat with a bedroom, a large bathroom and a study with doors opening to a balcony in the treetops.

Mr. Teitelbaum says the Summerhill Gardens enclave has always had a strong sense of community. “Because it’s basically a cul-de-sac, there’s not a lot of traffic.”

The Rosehill Reservoir, the ravine parkland and the Yonge subway line are all within a short walk.

Mr. Teitelbaum says painter Tom Thomson once lived in the area and artist Michael Snow lived on Summerhill Avenue in the 1960s. The neighbourhood continues to attract those connected to the creative arts, including architects, writers and film director Atom Egoyan.

Mr. Teitelbaum and Ms. Cohen aren’t the only ones selling in the neighbourhood: Author Barbara Moses also lives on Summerhill Gardens. Next week, she will list her house for sale with an asking price of $2.795-million.

Real estate agent Leeanne Weld Kostopoulos of Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd., Johnston and Daniel Division, says the house is set high on the hill with landscaped gardens and a private door to the Rosehill Reservoir park.

“Multiple decks overlook the reservoir and there’s a gate to go right in,” says Ms. Kostopoulos says.

The house is extensively renovated, she adds. Because the asking price puts it into the luxury segment of the market, the homeowners have decided not to set an offer date, she says.

If the collections of vintage chairs and old suitcases piled on sidewalks around the Summerhill neighbourhood are any guide, more homeowners may be preparing to come to market.

Ms. Farrow says she expects many listings this week and next after a lull heading into the long weekend. These weeks are key, she says, before the market typically slows in the summer.

Last week, she says, potential buyers seemed preoccupied by planning getaways to the cottage. “People had already started thinking about how many chickens and hamburger buns do I need to bring up north.”

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