The listing: 154 Shuter St.
Asking price: $3.25-million
Taxes: $6,800.00 (2016)
Lot size: 44 feet by 52 feet
Agent: Gina Athanasiou, ReMax Hallmark Realty Ltd.
The Back Story
In the early 1900s, the business of F. Rosar Undertaker operated from a stately Victorian-era house at the corner of Sherbourne and Shuter streets in Toronto.
In 1910 the Rosar family had a new red brick coach house built behind the funeral home on Shuter. The carriages were stored on the ground floor and a lift was used to hoist the horses to their stalls on the upper level.
Eventually, the family-run business moved farther north on Sherbourne Street. The coach house was used as a printing shop for a time. A husband-and-wife photographer and artist shared it as a live/work space for about 20 years.
In 2012, the current owner, Diane Devenyi purchased the building and began an extensive renovation. The former tax lawyer gave up her law practice to earn a Masters in Education. She is now involved in holistic learning, literacy and educational reform.
The House Today
Ms. Devenyi loved the history of the coach house and its setting across the street from Moss Park.
At the time, the top floor had a skylight that gave her a glimpse of the trees in the park and the city skyline beyond. She saw the potential for a dramatic transformation.
“It was the view that actually inspired me to buy the building,” she says.
The main floor had already been renovated by the previous owners. The doors that the horses once passed through are now double doors leading into the large main floor living area, with 12-foot-high ceilings, a kitchen and a Murphy bed hidden in the wall.
A hallway leads to a bedroom with ensuite bathroom. A side door leads to a hallway and the staircase to the second floor.
Upstairs, rings used to tether the horses are still attached to the yellow brick walls of the interior. Ms. Devenyi points to bricks that were worn down by the horses rubbing against them. The outline of a manger is still visible on one of the walls.
The pine floors on the upper level have been restored. Drywall and potlights were pulled down from the ceiling to reveal the original wood.
“It was all hand-sanded and stained,” Ms. Devenyi says.
A bedroom on the second floor has been created with a sleeping platform on one level, a sitting area on another and the space for a walk-in dressing area below.
Ms. Devenyi is selling the building before the renovation is complete. She could have finished it according to her own vision, she says, but a new owner may have different ways of using the space.
“I’m not going to finish it,” she says. “It would only be a lot of added time and expense for me – and for them if they were to change it.”
The builder was very creative and came up with ideas for enhancing the interior’s character by exposing the heavy I-beams and other elements.
“The design process was a lot of fun,” she says.
The second-floor kitchen is built on a concrete platform that has underfloor heating she says. The pantry is hidden behind the work area so that the kitchen will also look clean and uncluttered.
There’s a second room that could be used as a bedroom or a study on that level, and a large space for living and dining.
Stairs lead to the third level, which has been rebuilt to create a large master bedroom or guest suite.
Ms. Devenyi envisioned a large, open room with a standalone bathtub partly obscured by a double-sided fireplace. The shower and toilet areas would be enclosed. There’s also space for a small guest kitchen and a laundry room.
Massive steel trusses have been used to define the space.
“The builder is from Hamilton so he’s a steel guy,” Ms. Devenyi says.
A wall of windows brings in the light and doors open to a large terrace with views of the trees and the cityscape.
“Going to sleep with the view of the skyline and waking up with the sun is heavenly,” she says.
Above, the roof is angled to accommodate solar panels. There’s also a food-grade membrane on the roof that can be used as part of a system to collect and reuse rainwater. As the water flows off, Ms. Devenyi is able to catch it and use it to water her plants.
“The harvested rainwater is great,” she says.
The 4,300-square-foot building is a legal duplex, so a future owner could live on one floor and rent out the other or live in one portion and work in another, points out real estate agent Gina Athanasiou of ReMax Hallmark Realty Ltd. The zoning would also allow for a commercial venture in the building, she adds.
Ms. Devenyi says she would have liked to see her plan through to completion, but she’s ready to hand the coach house off to a new custodian.
“I’ve realized my time serving this building is complete,” she says. “Somebody is going to recognize the uniqueness of it.”
The Best Feature
The 600-square-foot terrace is sheltered behind the red brick façade. Because the property has very little outdoor space, Ms. Devenyi envisioned the terrace as her garden. She planned to have a green roof and hydroponic tower gardens for growing fruit and vegetables.
The overhang of the roof is designed, she says, so that the sun would not pass the threshold of the upper floor at noon on the day of the summer solstice. During the winter when the sun hangs low in the sky, however, the light reaches all the way into the bedroom.
“The whole intention was to get as much passive heat as possible,” she says.
Loft buildings often have rooftop terraces, Ms. Athanasiou points out, but the coach house provides the feel of a loft in a separate dwelling.
“You’re completely detached and you’re completely on your own,” she says.