In March of '08 I was nearing the end of a major client reno (and living in our rental house), when my brother told me about a property for sale that he had just seen - it was in a hot up and coming Toronto neighborhood but was in dire need of a complete interior reno. Since he was going to have some time on his hands for the next 5 to 6 months he suggested the idea of purchasing the property and reno'ing the house together as a joint project - he’s an excellent rough carpenter and very experienced handyman. For him it was short-term work, for me it would offer me the opportunity to be my own client, design a renovation for myself......and have the option of moving into the house if I chose or sell it depending on how things went.
We bought the house pretty much on the spot, and in a bidding war with 3 other buyers. The seller was an elderly gentleman who was quite sick and would be moving from this house into a hospice. As much as I hated paying over asking price for the house, it was gratifying to know that the funds from the sale were much needed and would be well used to provide for his care giving.
The house was a 1913 row house with a 1980's addition on the back, the house was surprisingly much larger than it appeared from the outside. It was a 3 bedroom, 3 washroom house with the added bonus of a family room off the kitchen, a finished basement with 8' ceilings, a fenced private yard with a large deck and a private 1-1/2 car garage. Here’s a look of some of the before shots,,,,,,,and all I can say is that it looked better than it smelled. This house was NASTY, with a capital P.....Ewwww.
The front exterior before. I instantly fell for the original 1913 brick facade and the huge old tree. There were wonderful corbels across the top of the facade that aren't visible in this pic. The bright yellow door was an indication of what we'd find on the inside....
There wasn't a trace of victorian character inside the house however, it had undergone a builders reno in the early 80's. Someone must have found a deal on orange and yellow paint - it was everywhere!
There was evidence of water damage everywhere, notice the kitchen ceiling. A new roof had eventually been installed 2 years earlier but none of the prior water damage had been repaired. The cabinets were barely hanging on the wall, they were rotted right thru the back.
The upstairs hallway. The smell was utterly foul, those are urine stains on the carpet and there was animal feces everywhere. We were told the place had been used as a rooming house for many years. I did like the skylight and all the natural daylight it brought to the stairwell and hallway.
A tiny ensuite bathroom off the back bedroom on the second floor. The only working toilet of 3 in the house. The vanity cabinet was about 15" wide with the worlds smallest sink. The stencils had been spray painted on the walls throughout the bedroom too.
The main bathroom on the second floor. Niether the toilet or tub were functional. The black hole in the ceiling above the shower was rotted thru to the roof from the previous leaks. I loved the amount of daylight from the skylight and surprisingly it was actually in good shape with no signs of leakage.
The laundry room beside the washroom was narrow and also only had six foot ceiling height.
Despite the extremely poor condition of the house I realized it had a lot of desirable features, tons of space and loads of potential. Because this house would be a short term investment for me, the decision to buy was all about the house’s resale potential, and when it comes to affordable single family homes in the city, this house checked all the boxes:
- location (10 min to downtown)
- public transit on corner
- 3 bedrooms
- 3 bathrooms (2 on the second floor - rare!)
- famiily room off kitchen
- PARKING with Garage
- victorian facade
- thriving neighborhood ammennities, 1/2 block to starbucks, organic butcher, organic bakery, juice bar, cheese boutique, schools, and a slew of some of toronto’s best and hottest new restaurants and cafes.
- 2 big beautiful mature old trees, one in the front, one in the back
- with a finished basement, it offerred 1800 sf of living space
Stay tuned for Part 2 on this Victorian Row House Reno, I’ll take you thru the reno budget,,the strategy, and post lots more after pictures with an overview of each room, the design process and some of the cost saving details and products that were used. Below is a sneak peek of the finished house....