Globe & Mail Home of The Week: 63 Metcalfe Street

Extensive renovation and restyling by successive owners brings life back to an old Cabbagetown house.

Globe and Mail

June 21, 2024

By Carolyn Ireland


63 Metcalfe Street, Toronto

Asking price: $2,599,000
Taxes: $8,728.18 (2023)
Lot size: 16 by 91 feet
Agents: Daniel Bloch and Liora Tal, Harvey Kalles Real Estate

The backstory

During Keith Pfeiffer’s first visit to Toronto in the 1990s, the South Africa native was invited to a dinner party in the city’s historic Cabbagetown neighbourhood.

Mr. Pfeiffer recalls being charmed by the Victorian streetscape. He had no plans to move to Canada at the time, but in 2008 his partner Lawrence Reiter suggested the two do exactly that.

“We just couldn’t deal with the crime any more,” Mr. Pfeiffer says of life in South Africa.

The couple felt the need for a change and Toronto seemed like a safe and inviting city.

They rented in the Annex for a while and considered Victorian homes in the area. But for Mr. Pfeiffer, most city neighbourhoods couldn’t match the character of Cabbagetown.

About 10 years ago he went to look at a slender Victorian-era row house for sale at 63 Metcalfe St.

The 2 1/2 storey home was dilapidated after years of neglect.

“There was no staircase to the second floor – you accessed it from outside,” he recalls. “I looked at it and said, ‘this is too big a job for me. I’m out.’”

Mr. Pfeiffer and Mr. Reiter continued their search for a less overwhelming project. They purchased another late-19th century home and refurbished that property.

“My big passion is walking into these Victorians where they have stripped the character out and putting the character back in,” says Mr. Pfeiffer.

About three years ago the house at 63 Metcalfe came up for sale again. This time Mr. Pfeiffer and Mr. Reiter were pleasantly shocked by the transformation.

In the years since Mr. Pfeiffer first walked through the door, another couple had purchased the home and undertook an extensive renovation.

The two decided to buy the property and add their own style over time.

The house today

Mr. Pfeiffer and Mr. Reiter got to know the previous owners, who described evicting the raccoons who lived in the attic and cleaning up the property.

“It was a mammoth task,” says Mr. Pfeiffer.

They also built a new staircase to the second floor but this time they made it a little wider than the original staircase from the late 1800s would have been. That made tasks such as carrying furniture up to the higher floors much easier, Mr. Pfeiffer points out.

Walls have been removed on the main floor so that the living room at the front of the house is open to the dining area in the centre and the kitchen at the rear.

“The proportions are enormous,” Mr. Pfeiffer says of the high ceilings that allow room for grand chandeliers.

Mr. Pfeiffer revamped the kitchen area, where the previous owners had a built-in banquette along the home’s rear wall. The door to the garden was along the side.

That arrangement was practical for a family with three kids, Mr. Pfeiffer says, but it cut off the kitchen from the backyard.

“It made the house incredibly dark,” he adds.

Mr. Pfeiffer removed the banquette and had floor-to-ceiling French doors and windows installed.

He had the outdoor deck raised to the level of the kitchen so that it’s easy to step outside for lounging and dining or soaking in the hot tub.

The area between the kitchen and deck has become a family room with wood-lined walls to delineate the space and add texture.

Throughout the four-bedroom home, the previous owners chose a simple scheme.

“They went black and white with the entire house – doors, floors, window frames, et cetera,” says Mr. Pfeiffer, who decided to keep that envelope in most rooms but added some colour in the form of tiles, paint, wallpaper and art.

In the kitchen, Mr. Pfeiffer retained the white cabinets but refinished the marble countertop. He also changed the taps and cabinet hardware to an antique gold finish.

He also visited salvage shops to find reclaimed Victorian elements such as the plaster ceiling rosettes.

Upstairs, the home has three bedrooms and a family bathroom with a soaker tub.

In the bedrooms, Mr. Pfeiffer had floral wallpaper murals printed in Turkey to match the size of the walls.

The partly finished lower level currently serves as a home office.

Mr. Pfeiffer says Metcalfe is a very quiet street with lots of friendly people nearby willing to help each other out. He enjoys sitting out front and talking with neighbours as they pass by.

“In South Africa we lived behind these huge walls,” he says. “In a lot of cases, I never met my neighbours. Now they’re a call away.”

The best feature

The top floor of the house provides a primary suite with plenty of privacy.

The bedroom at the rear has a gas fireplace and doors opening to a deck.

There’s an area for coffee and built-in closets provide lots of storage space.

The large bathroom has a double vanity, claw foot tub and ceramic floor ties imported from Portugal.

For that suite, Mr. Pfeiffer removed some of the black and white finishes and added blue and muted gold.

“I just wanted it a little bit softer.”


Toronto Star Home Of The Week: 6 Jessie Drive

Toronto Star

June 1, 2024

By Carola Vyhnak

Don Mills

6 Jessie Drive (Don Mills)

Asking price: $1,349,000
Size: 2,214 sq. ft., including the 288 sq. ft. finished basement
Lot: 13.35-by-76.9 feet, 1 car garage, front drive with two parking spaces
Bedrooms: 4 plus 1
Bathrooms: 3

The sellers: When Debbie Brown and Shane Howarth were house-hunting a dozen years ago, they had their hearts set on a detached home with a big backyard in the southeast part of the city. But much to their surprise, they fell for a three-storey executive townhome with a back patio in an entirely different area. It had everything they wanted — and more.

“We realized it was a bit of a hidden gem,” Howarth says of the location in a quiet Don Mills enclave near parks, woods and nature trails.

Bigger than houses in their initial search area, the townhome is a light-filled 2,200 square feet with abundant storage and four big bedrooms. “We went, ‘Oh, my God! This offers us so much,’ ” Brown recalls. “With the open plan and high ceilings, you get an immediate sense of space and airiness. The huge bedrooms (were) a real treat.” Indeed, two of them became sanctuaries for the couple’s mothers, who live with them.

With no grass to cut and a park across the road for their now 13-year-old son, “whenever really missed having a big backyard,” Brown points out. The front balcony is their go-to spot for relaxing, chatting with neighbours and watching kids play, Howarth says.

The parents fondly recall activities with their son, who “from toddler to teen,” has doubled in height, according to the growth chart in his bedroom. Howarth remembers building tracks for Thomas the Tank Engine in the boy’s room while Brown’s memories revolve around bike-riding lessons with training wheels.

But it’s on the main floor, where they spend most of their time, that their living space really shines. “We’ve had wonderful Thanksgiving meals here,” says Brown, explaining the kitchen and open dining/living rooms can accommodate numerous visitors. And the square opening in the connecting wall means hosts and guests can still chat during food preps.

Among the projects they’ve done — kitchen updates to renos in all three bathrooms— one that really stands out is the midnight blue wall on the main floor. “We love the drama of it,” says Brown, remarking on how it “warms and grounds the room, and makes the rest of the (all-white) house pop.”

The agent says: Unlike many older Toronto houses, this 21-year-old townhome is “generous” in size and fully updated, says sales rep Daniel Bloch of Bloch Real Estate Team. At just over $1.3 million, it’s priced attractively considering all the upgrades the sellers have done, he says. “There’s a lot of room for real estate value to grow here,” says Bloch, who notes its investment potential and suitability as a multi-generational residence.

Highlights include:

Large finished room on lower level suitable as a bedroom, den or home office

Direct access to garage and three parking spaces

Close to major highways

Shopping, dining and cultural options within walking distance.

While the house itself is outstanding, it’s further enriched by the locale, according to the owners. “It’s about the whole neighbourhood,” according to Brown, who explains the “intimate and private” pocket is populated by a close-knit, sociable community. It’s also “central to so many things,” say the couple, who note there’s even a TTC community bus to take residents around.

With their needs and circumstances changing, the family is saying a sad farewell to neighbours and moving on.

Listing Broker: Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd. (Daniel Bloch & Liora Tal)