206 Howland Ave., Toronto
Asking price: $1,429,000
Taxes: $5,346.94 (2015)
Lot size: 16.12 ft. by 150 ft.
Agent: Maggie Lind, sales representative, Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.
For some couples, assembling IKEA furniture can be the start of a marital war. But, last year, Andrew and Lindsey Ball did something even more daring: They decided to redesign their home together.
Luckily they didn’t come into the project blindly. Mr. Ball owns Mooredale Contracting and Mrs. Ball is on top of real estate trends in Toronto.
They were so happy with their work on their own home, they decided to do it again to a new property.
“There were certain things that I knew I wanted to replicate in the next home,” Mrs. Ball said. “We wanted to create a property that we would really love to live in.”
The back story
So they gave their agent, Maggie Lind, a mission to find a fixer-upper that they could transform. That’s how they came across 206 Howland Ave.
“Most people might have walked into that home thinking it wasn’t that awesome,” Mrs. Ball said. “But it was exactly what we were looking for.”
They bought the old row house in May of this year and started on their top-to-bottom renovation that cost just less than $300,000.
“It was a typical Toronto house in a lot of ways,” Mr. Ball said.
Some trademarks were skinny hallways and lots of little rooms. The house also used to have three kitchens. But, it was still in good structural condition, Mr. Ball said.
“There wasn’t a single crack in the plaster or any paint peeling off the walls,” he said.
The quality of the house wasn’t the only thing that drew them to it. They loved that it had an additional room off the back on the first floor.
“We knew then that there was potential for this house to feel much bigger than most row houses feel like,” Mr. Ball said.
The house is deceiving from the curb. Standing on Howland Avenue you have no idea how long the lot is or how high the ceilings are (even on the third floor they are 8 feet).
“There is far more space in here than you would ever imagine,” Ms. Lind said. “It’s just under 2,000 square feet above grade.”
The Balls knew they wanted to utilize the space so that it would accommodate a family such as theirs, working parents with a few little ones. They worked with Josh Theriault, of Fine Lines Design, to draft up the renovation plans, which followed Mrs. Ball’s two guiding principles.
“Sightlines were really important. If I’m in the kitchen, I want to be able to see the kids in other spaces,” she said.
But neither of them wanted to create a home that felt like overly open – like a loft. So, they made sure there were things that divided the space on the first floor, such as an entryway closet near the front door and a kitchen counter that doubles as a breakfast bar and a way to delineate the start of the family room.
“Practicality was the other thing,” Mrs. Ball said. “Like having a powder room on the first floor. We’ve got a three-year-old and to be honest, potty-training a three-year-old and having to run upstairs constantly isn’t the best.”
When it came to the second and third floors, they also approached the design as parents. On the second floor they put a nursery room, a linen closet and laundry unit and a large master suite. The third floor has two more bedrooms and a linen closet.
“We toyed with putting the master on the third floor but we think that a lot of people want to be between their kids and the front door for safety reasons,” Mr. Ball said.
In the basement, they created a few kid-friendly features. For example, they installed a mudroom area near the basement entrance (which is accessed from the front of the house).
“I know for our house in the winter there are like 10 pairs of shoes at the front door,” said Mrs. Ball. “So having a separate entrance is such a luxury.”
There is also a large room in the back of the basement that the Balls envision as a playroom for kids. That space, though, could be converted into an in-laws suite because there is a three-piece bathroom on the same floor.
“Having the option of an in-law suite in the basement can be appealing for people trying to afford the Annex,” Ms. Lind said.
While it’s important to have plenty of practical kids’ space, carving out a relaxing spot for the adults was also important for the Balls.
“The master bedroom is going to be a really nice retreat for whoever is lucky enough to get this house,” Mr. Ball said.
The master suite is located on the east end of the second floor. When you first step in, it seems like a regular-sized room with a wall of built-in closets on one side and enough room for a Queen-sized bed. But then you realize that it curves around. The Balls took the space leftover behind the laundry closet and turned it into a walk-through closet and spacious bathroom.
“I’ve often found myself calling [the master suite] ‘my room,’” he said with a laugh.
For Mrs. Ball, her favourite space is the open first floor, not just because it has good sightlines but also because it has a balance of kid and adult space; with plenty of room in the front of the house for a living and dining space for entertaining and then a family room off the back of the kitchen, leading out to the backyard.
“I think the family room is going to be so useful for the family that will live here,” she said.
“We’re so proud of this house,” she added. “We’ve put so much heart into it.”
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