Less is More


Take this as a bit of how-to inspiration (maybe? hopefully?) geared to the buyer who really wants to live in Toronto, to enjoy what urban life offers—vibrant, amenity laden neighbourhoods, easy access to everything, including transit; of course ‘vibrant’, amenities galore directly correlates to price here in the city. Detached or semi your target? If you have a healthy budget, if you’re open to exploring neighbourhoods you perhaps hadn’t thought of it’s doable. For a price. Core area the target? Condo is the affordable, and for me preferred, way.

Location, location, location (I suspect you’ve heard that one); if you’re like me, while my physical home has always mattered as well, my neighbourhood, my community, my immediate world outside my home matters big time. Every single day I am energized, I feel a sense of freedom, I’m inspired by just stepping outside my building: there’s the skyline, the Tower, everything a walk or bike away and rather than sitting in my car (though I do love to drive) I’m walking through the city, with my fellow Torontonians. Corny as it may be it’s really how I feel.

When I decided to sell a large four bedroom house (not in Toronto so no, I’m not rich) and come home to the core I wanted to do it affordably, I wanted my ‘location’ to be in the heart of it all, the solution being to adopt a condo lifestyle, a one bedroom plus den downtown.

My name is Brad, I’m now officially in the less is more camp. Starting the downsize was tough, midway was a challenge but I was feeling good about making some headway, now I embrace it. I’m surrounded only by the things I love, no filler, just what brings me joy and what I need.

If you’re going small/smaller/smallest you need to make the reduced space work for you. I’m plugging away at that—this afternoon getting a design quote on my built-ins for a den/office space—it’s worth the investment to tailor a space to your life.

Smaller condos simply do not offer closet space. A front hall closet: so much wasted space, the rod was placed at the back, the front half would have to remain open so I could get to the coats; I moved the rod forward, installed shelving up the back wall, I now have floor to ceiling storage behind the coats.

I have one good-sized walk-in closet in the bedroom, offers surprisingly decent storage but now it’s much better with a second row of shelving higher up for those items I don’t often need, I LOVE this improvement. I’m also shopping for a platform bed frame with drawers beneath, every little bit. Admittedly I have a weakness when it comes to clothes, shoes, bedding….but I now have that upper shelving! 🙂

Kitchen: this is a place to make efficient use of your space, chances are it’s much smaller, mine certainly is. I ordered my custom island/breakfast bar (and stools) from DesignRepublic in Toronto, a great outlet to source interesting pieces in the city, I wanted hidden storage beneath for small appliances, platters, no clutter in a small kitchen.

Cabinetry: I found after two months my pantry wasn’t cutting it, all those items that live at the back die at the back. Gliding Shelf Solutions to the rescue, Canadian made pull out pantry shelving available in plastic and wood, I chose wood, sturdy, quiet, smooth, supports up to 100lbs per shelf, that should do it. Smart Shelving is an authorized dealer for the product, they did a clean efficient installation. This was well, well worth the investment, my pantry is as organized as it’s ever been (or will be…).

Three shelves become four: slide out pantry shelving courtesy Gliding Shelf Solutions. Lifesaver!

Bathroom: of course small but I’m fine with that, I have a deep soaker tub, that’s the must-have for me. While I like the fixtures chosen by the builder there wasn’t enough thought to how people live so after contacting customer care to find out the brand name of the fixtures I ordered up additional. There is a small vanity but there was no medicine cabinet, not nearly enough storage—there are times to spend to really make your home your own but in this case I managed a budget friendly find for the bathroom: a high lacquer contemporary cabinet from IKEA, looks great, offers more than enough storage, $110. While we’re in the bathroom…when you’re buying new push for any changes to the unit you feel you want—minor disappointment for me: I wanted a different bathroom floor tile, it was already in place, we were getting other upgrades so that one did not go our way. Small bathroom, not a great expense to change, and it will be changed.

I’ve just had the whole unit painted (no builder basic white for me, and the quality of builder paint is terrible), my TV mounted, all unsightly wires hidden in the wall, it will soon be time to dress that balcony for spring, my balcony with the perfect view: my downtown Toronto skyline and that Tower.

A downtown life can be done affordably, for me it’s the perfect way to live. If it’s what you’re looking for please feel free to reach out anytime for pointers, I’m a condo convert, a downtown Torontonian at heart, I’m more than happy to connect.

For instance, currently you’d find a 1+1 bedroom condo at Distillery District, with a storage locker (must-have for me) listed at $420,000. Food for thought…. 🙂

LOVE at Distillery District, right next door to my home…happiness












Does Size Matter?

And so it begins…

Bit of a blog break here, I’ve been rather occupied with a life challenge—I’ve been through the downsizing of elderly parents but I’m tackling my own, twenty-five years early.

Four years ago we sold our small, rather typical, but fabulous, Toronto semi in the east end (always an east ender here) to shuffle off to lovely Dundas Valley, and a much bigger house, for elder care—four years later we are trading in the four bedroom home with yard, large cedar deck, wood burning fireplace and so much more for a Toronto condo. Dundas truly is a gem but I’m a Torontonian at heart, have been for decades, I love the energy and all that comes with big city living, I’ve missed it dearly. And…I’ve decided to do something I’ve not done—live in a small space surrounded only by the things I really love ’cause that’s all I’ll have room for.

We’re going for the full urban experience, high walkability, Distillery District virtually at our door, a new streetcar line, our bikes (and bodies) will get a regular workout, we’ll drop to a one car household and with a gym in the building is there ever an excuse?

We’re downsizing ourselves, and a senior parent living in my house, we have to prep our lovely Dundas home, sell said home and set up life in the new Canary District Toronto!

Follow, post, suggest, share, it’s gonna be a ride 🙂

Late night sorting…






“Don’t wait.”

“The time will never be just right.”—author Napoleon Hill

Not to say you shouldn’t plan and budget, it’s really a reminder for myself 🙂

Try as I might my posts can be spotty and my own renovations land on the back burner while we focus on our clients. Don’t wait… don’t wait. BUT, when it comes to those renovations I’m on a roll now and I’m sharing.

Our home is an early 1950s Cape Cod in charming Dundas Ontario. I’ve talked about my house before: one owner before us, beautiful neighbourhood near conservation lands, well maintained just dated, quite. We’ve done lots on the outside, we’re finally moving inside.

Our main floor bathroom was vintage when we moved in, trippy blue wallpaper and blue fixtures. It also ‘featured’ a kind of Rococo lighting and mirror—white metal, ornate with flowers and vines….you know, the kind of thing you change and that bit we did immediately.

With our recent reno we suspected once the old tub came out we would see major water damage to a wall and we worried the floor too, some tile had come off before we bought; as a temporary fix we’d had a surround installed to prevent more damage. Thankfully when the wall came down the floor was fine, we had new cement backer board installed, waterproofed and Bob’s your uncle as they say.

Given it’s an older home we have a lengthy list of updates so with this bathroom we wanted to conserve funds, we wanted the work done right with quality materials but we wanted to conserve where we could.

As you can see A) I’m being quite brave showing these pictures of the before and B) it was really gratifying ripping this out!





The vanity is in excellent condition so we kept it, once we painted the room the existing counter top tied in nicely. Clearly white fixtures were in order, check! Outside the bathroom there was a hatch allowing access to the tub’s plumbing, should we need to access the pipes I will happily have a hole cut into the wall. Oddly the hatch was highlighted further with moulding around it because…..it’s a feature? Well, not now!

We debated keeping the ceramic but it really doesn’t add much cost to replace bathroom flooring, once the tub was removed there was no question we needed a refresh. One of our favourite elements in this bathroom is the grey linen tile around the tub, love the texture, I may be doing this exact tile in my next home I like it so much.

We have a senior in the home and sourced safe and secure but more attractive hand grips for the tub, a shelf for shampoo doubles as a hand grip, we removed the 50s wall insert toilet roll holder and installed a holder/hand grip in its place.


So, after waiting far too long to tackle here we are, a quick, affordable and effective update to our main floor bathroom. Classic grey, a bold print on the blind, the addition of crown moulding (there was none) is key for me, I love how crown finishes a room, so crisp!



Stay tuned….there’s a big new bedroom under way right now!



A Before & After, Long After



This is kind of like admitting you have a problem: I have a horribly, an embarrassingly, out of date bathroom in my house. There, it’s out.

I bought an early 1950s, one owner, Cape Cod house in charming Dundas three years ago. We love this house, the cove plaster ceilings, wood burning fireplace, hardwood throughout, I’ve an appreciation for the character and solidity found in older homes. We also want to retain some original features that the one owner family maintained, we don’t want to remove their stewardship entirely. We tackled some biggies (I feel the need to point out)—a wall of overgrown cedars surrounding the house blocking virtually every main floor window, a collapsing cold room (and the concrete porch above threatening to relocate into the basement), new sidewalks, new driveway which required replacement of a drainage system, a glorious large cedar deck (this is a particular favourite), some painting and removal of lots of 70s wallpaper and pink wall-to-wall.

We are nowhere near done though, the pristine vintage 70s kitchen awaits (there is a certain charm to it), some stubborn wallpaper on a vaulted ceiling needs to come down via scaffolding, and the subject here: our main floor bathroom (the blue room, we had a pink one too) is currently undergoing its transformation.


This was a pretty straightforward renovation, we weren’t moving plumbing or shifting the room but we did have water damage from a leaky, rotting tub surround wall we were concerned about, luckily it turned out to be nothing in the end. We also removed the antiquated hatch in the hall allowing access to the tub’s plumbing.

This is the embarrassing before, and during (gotta say it felt good at this point!), we’ll unveil the after once we’ve painted and dealt with some final touches!


If You Build It They Will Come


It’s not yet spring and the market in the Hamilton area is keeping pace with recent seasons i.e. we’re hot, multiple offers abound—our last several offers have been in competition, it’s mid-January! Burlington, with its crown of #1 mid-sized city in which to live, is always solid, and, for my Toronto friends, you know your market sizzles, always.

This isn’t just a market update here, we’re talking about fixer upper properties—if that’s on your radar, Hamilton has such an array of potentially fine old homes just waiting for some attention. We currently have clients who are looking at a first buy and fancy a character fixer upper they can make their own; we have clients who see the solid upward movement in the market here and want to invest in ‘new Hamilton’ in the form of a rental property; and there are others who see potential in taking on a property needing some 2015 attitude and then flipping.

Given we here at core have extensive experience in renovating and flipping we thought for the next couple of posts we’d dig into house flips and offer up some tips if you’re feeling inspired to dive into your own. Flipping can be lucrative with an educated approach but there are considerations:

First off,

  • Burlington holds great appeal for home buyers—it’s a fantastic waterfront city with beautiful neighbourhoods, a bustling downtown, all the conveniences of urban life while being surrounded by natural beauty and an easy GO Train commute into Toronto. Burlington is a destination city, oftentimes these are homebuyers with the finances but not the time to do the job. These homeowners quite often prefer that someone else complete the home for them so it’s move-in ready, and, they are willing to pay for that convenience.
  • Hamilton is a city in quick transition. It has a large number of potentially fine old homes in established neighbourhoods that have aged with little attention to upgrades; now these homes are ready for new owners to transform, to bring a fresh 2015 perspective. Hamilton is hot, it’s proven in recent years to be the target of Toronto area home buyers looking for space and value, first timers and investors looking to add a rental property to a real estate portfolio; whatever the case Hamilton has consistently rated one of the hottest and most solid real estate markets in the country. And it’s a prime candidate for the flipper.


1  Find out how much capital you have to get started. If you’re getting a mortgage be prepared, there are different rules when purchasing a secondary property and if you’re flipping a bank may or may not want to finance it for you. Short term lending=not much interest for them.

Be sure to find the right realtor to help you with the process, this is key. If they’ve gone through this process they will know what to look for as far as areas to focus on and the right style of property to buy. You might think it’s all about the house but keep in mind that lot, location and amenities can make a big difference. You need to know your target market on the selling end.

3  If you’re aware of what you can expect to sell the property for at the end of the project it will determine how much you’ll be investing into the renovation. You may as well maximize your return right? Plan ahead, and, know your market.

Stay tuned to our upcoming posts for more tips; we’ll highlight some of our Before & Afters too!


Attic space? You can carve out additional living space and highlight charming character elements like the crossbeams in this conversion.



Contemporary fireplace update—better!

Before & After

Ah yes, the before and after; we all love the promise of the after but too often live too long with the before.

At core, in addition to working with buyers and sellers, we offer a one hour staging consultation, and, half the team here has had extensive experience in renovation and higher end house flips, there’s a wealth of knowledge, dos and don’ts at your disposal.  We’ve all been there—we live in a space for some time, we’re used to it, we don’t have a fresh perspective. If you’re considering selling why not get four more eyes (that have seen almost all) in on the project?

Following is a collage of images of rooms we’ve been involved with; some are renovations, some involve fresh eyes moving furniture and belongings around the house (it’s amazing the impact of simply moving things from room to room, from floor to floor, at times just moving something into the basement…).

I’m also airing my own dirty laundry here (Brad not Corinne!): I moved to this house two years ago and lived for a year longer than I should have with a cold room that either needed major rehab or removal (early 1950s Cape Cod house here), we opted for removal which also meant waterproofing a new wall and replacing a front porch.

We’re showing you ours…..we’d love to see some of your work before or after!


LR collagefireplace

bathroomFotor09118017 photo(5) living room dining

And here it is, the sorry state of my cold room. The block was cracking badly (in one upper corner you could almost see daylight!), the surrounding earth was winning the battle. We removed the existing brick and concrete front porch (which itself needed a bit of a lift), removed the cold room but left the concrete floor in place for the porch supports, blocked in the doorway, waterproofed, added fill, and a new porch replaced the original brick and concrete.

When it came to porch replacement we opted for the less expensive wood version (pressure treated no longer comes in just the green tinged version, ours looks like cedar, in fact it looks very much like the pricey cedar deck on the back of the house); with the new fill, building sufficient support for the weight of a brick porch was going to ramp up the cost and we have other projects.

As we’ve been working on the house we’ve kept certain original elements, it was a home owned by one family only, we wanted to keep some of what they loved and cared for so when it came to the porch we reused the original wrought iron railing.

Fotor0713173052 photo 2photo 1 photo 2


Set the Stage

Looks like we took a late summer break here on the blog! Alas, summer is over, we are back. And into…..Renovation Season

2013-08-05 18.26.132014-08-10 20.14.49

It’s upon us (for some of us it seems a constant) and like many you may find the idea of tackling a renovation in your home a little daunting.  Considering selling your home? You’re probably thinking that the spring market is your target; yes it is the traditional kickoff to the selling season. If the scenario fits this is the time to plan those last minute renos that will get your home looking its best and early, you want to be ready to hit it.


If you don’t already have a vision first up is to determine the look—if it’s a reno for you then have fun figuring it out! If you’re selling, take into consideration your area, you want your house to compete but you also don’t want to waste money over renovating if it’s unlikely to come back to you. There are countless great resources out there: magazines and websites will present lots of ideas. Start saving pictures of what inspires you. Websites like Houzz will enlighten and you can easily save these ideas online by creating Ideabooks for each of your renos. TIP: to save other sites that inspire try Pocket


Once you’ve got a direction the best way to save both time and money is by finding the right person to do the job. Yes budget is important but we’ve seen many clients with a timeline in mind then try to do too much of the work themselves, that timeline stretching to the breaking point ie that spring kickoff passes them by. Finding the right people is usually the scariest part of a reno—where to find these people? You can never be 100% sure you have the best contractor or trade but start by asking friends and family, it’s often the safest route. There are also websites providing names of local tradespeople that are certified or licensed and insured (just my opinion but I’ve had success with Homestars while living in Toronto and Dundas). Researching the people who won the “Best of…” reader’s choice awards can also give you some valuable leads.


After you’ve chosen a few names for consideration be sure to ask for references. Don’t feel bad about this, it’s important and they expect it, if they’re offended then you’ve discovered early on that this isn’t the right person. When you call their references be sure to ask specific questions about the type of work done, you want to ensure it was comparable to what you need done at your home. You can also request an emailed photo of the completed work, most of us are thrilled to pass along ‘the good ones’ and show off our home.


Choosing your materials can be another daunting task, if you don’t have the extra money for a designer this is where your array of inspirational photos and resources come into play.  Take the time to note the way everything works together such as flooring, cabinetry, counter tops, back splash, paint colour, lighting and window coverings.  All of these elements should work together to make the renovation a true success. Try not to be overwhelmed…this part can be the most fun!


Finally, consider the renovation carefully to ensure that you aren’t sinking money into something that just isn’t necessary before selling.  And remember, your taste may not grab another and the majority rules on the open market.  In other words try to stick with those neutrals we’re always yammering about. Your personal touch can be a nice add-on but be sure it’s an easy fix too.

Spring. ‘Tis the traditional kickoff but times are changing, the Hamilton area is seeing tremendous sales gains (do we need to add Toronto is too?!), you don’t necessarily have to wait. Food for thought: there are far fewer homes to compete with in the fall and winter real estate market and the right buyer is always out there!

If you’re considering selling sooner rather than later, please feel free to CONTACT US for some no obligation advice about the best ways (and the quick and easy ways!) to ensure you’re putting your home’s best foot forward.


logo site