Less is More

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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…).

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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…. 🙂

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Holidays!

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The holiday season: a time for family, friends, reflection.

I love Christmas, sure there can be frenzied schedules, it’s always a challenge to fit everyone in, but the pace of days slows, the world seems to take a deep pause December 25th (I love that!), there’s food, drink, merriment and time for gratitude. Many of us have so much to be thankful for, particularly in Canada.

The first image here is my living room of the past few years, a holiday picture perfect house, with real fire, in Dundas Valley/Hamilton. My return home to Toronto presents a different way to enjoy the holiday, out in my city, with my fellow urban dwellers, like visits to my neighbourhood Toronto Christmas Market at Distillery.

It’s what I love about big city living, the energy of diverse groups coming together, and, my space being a fraction of what it once was, we’re enjoying a mini-me Christmas at home and a bigger celebration on the streets of Toronto  🙂

Happy Holidays and all the best for 2017

 

brad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does Size Matter?

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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 🙂

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Late night sorting…

 

 

 

 

 

The Best New Thing in Hamilton?

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Hamilton is scoring lots of attention these days: revitalizing, growing, there’s new development and we’re one of the hottest real estate markets in the country, all good.

Something else that’s been garnering attention, deservedly, is the 541 Eatery & Exchange on Barton St E. Yes for many Barton has been an artery you drive along, you don’t stop, it’s been rather barren for a long time but that is changing. I just visited the eatery  this week and am smitten. It’s not simply a place to eat, though the food is great, it’s a driver of positive change in and giving back to the neighborhood.

The food is great and local and affordable. The 541 also uses a pay it forward system: those who have more contribute more, those who have less get an assist, as it should be in life.

If you can afford it you can buy a button for $1, it’s optional of course, that button goes into a jar so if someone cannot quite cover the cost of their coffee, baked treat, lunch, they can make up the difference from the pay it forward button jar. Brilliant.

When I visited this week I paid for my baked treats, asked about the buttons and added a few to the jar. A man in line behind me thanked me saying it’s a big help, he needs to dip into that jar at times and he appreciates it. For many of us $1 a button is nothing  and yet it makes such a difference, just $1. Proceeds from food sales at the 541 support various community educational initiatives.

Here we have a fine old building, beautifully restored and turned out, fantastic, warm staff, delicious local food, and they make it easy for all of us to contribute to the community.

I think this is one of the best new things in Hamilton. Please go, and buy a button.

photo 2   …blueberry scones, delicious!

 

Architectural Spotlight: The New Royal Connaught Lobby

Brilliant blog REBUILD HAMILTON if you’re interested in the present/future of Hamilton.
So excited about the Royal Connaught, going to check it out Monday!

Rebuild Hamilton

ImageWith a mixture of both neo-classical and contemporary design, the double-height lobby at The Royal Connaught has been brought back to its former glory and then some.ImageSurrounded by six, two-storey corinthian columns, the sheer size and pure white paint not only makes the columns pop, but also help define the space of the lobby. ImageImageThe ceiling is coffered with an intricate crown molding and three elegant glass raindrop chandeliers, while the floor features a combination of restored original marble and terrazzo tiles.Image ImageImageA grand staircase leads up to an impressive mezzanine, where the details in the foliage of the column’s capitals, and the lobby’s frieze design can be examined up close. The mezzanine also offers a great view of the space and the four large arched windows that look out onto King Street.ImageThe restored lobby will undoubtedly be great to not only host events, but also greet…

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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If  you read this blog you will know that I’m given to quoting song lyrics, generally ‘classic’ but I say The Clash from 1982 is now classic!

The decision to uproot and change a lifestyle by leaving Toronto is a big one. I know, I’ve done it and I love Toronto. Personally I don’t like expressions like ‘world class city’, there’s a handful of those and we know what they are, Toronto is an exceptional city, there’s no need to justify it further.

But, in the city home ownership is not just expensive it’s unattainable for many. First time buyer, moving up buyer, three kids needing more space—if you have a budget, who doesn’t, and if you also feel ‘but I don’t want a massive mortgage!’, well, you might have some challenges. The REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington just posted its best May ever, the  most transactions in a month ever. People are discovering the big value proposition in the Hamilton area. Yes there absolutely is a lifestyle change to consider if following the trend to move west, it’s an adjustment but it can be positive change you can’t get, or afford, in the city.

We launched our The Weekly feature focusing on a Toronto property vs a Hamilton area property to illustrate what your money can do for you. Maybe you’re in one of the above categories, I myself  moved for a bigger house outside the city to address an elder care situation, or maybe you’re just contemplating what would life be like…here’s  a shortlist, are you on it?  Top-10-Icon

1. Day to day traffic gridlock. You might have traffic here but it’s not the fight, the grind, and there’s parking…. in Dundas it’s free on weekends!

2. More space for kids to play outside. While I always found Toronto super safe, there’s space, nature and safety for kids here.

3. You will likely have a yard! I had a yard, an outdoor dining space really, in Toronto, no grass. My dog likes the grass 🙂

4. Get to know your neighbours  in a different way. Feel a different sense of community, people are out in the neighbourhood and there’s a slower pace once you get home, there seems to be more time and energy.

5. Priorities redefined. Maybe you continue working in Toronto but once you’re home you’re home, you feel separation. Of course this doesn’t stop your iPhone from invading but still….

6. It’s 2014, be a telecommuter!

7. Less of a wait for community services. Daycare spaces and other services you may need to access don’t put you into competition with nearly the same number of people.

8. Space. Big one. My house in Toronto, though I loved it, was 12′ wide. Literally. 1.5 bedrooms and 12′ wide. For much less I have a charming four bedroom Cape Cod with woodburning fireplace and the aforementioned grass. Oh, and a big deck.

9. Cottaging. If you have one you’re lucky. If you live in the city and long for cottage life but can’t afford one, or dread yet another gridlock adventure getting there, you don’t need one! The Dundas area is surrounded by beautiful conservation lands, hiking trails, a bike/running/horseback riding trail that stretches all the way to Brantford and the region is big with birdwatchers.  And we have waterfalls, everywhere.

10. Friendly faces. Yes this is a default position when talking small towns but it’s true. I always found Toronto to be a friendly city, some would argue, but I marvel at the daily hello and smiles, and ‘hon, dear, sweetheart’ I get from local retailers, cafes, restaurants. And yes it is sincere, a constant warm reinforcement of positive community connection 🙂

Whether you consider Burlington, Hamilton, Dundas, Waterdown, Ancaster or something more rural you’ll be pleasantly surprised (understatement) at how far your money will take you. Yes in some areas it’ll take you further than others but it will definitely buy you more for less and who doesn’t love that kind of bargain?

 

A Change is Gonna Come…

Sam Cooke. 1964. I like to quote classic lyrics; the songwriter talent for saying something in very few words is far beyond mine so I respectfully borrow. And this seems to aptly describe the revival of Hamilton that’s under way. I’m sometimes a little uneasy labeling a city a revival project, I worry I’m disrespecting what’s come before but the label simply signifies and celebrates positive change and that’s what this city is experiencing these days. BIG revival. There’s much to celebrate in its storied past but there’s a lot of cool happening in its present and future.

The local real estate market is hot (up 9% in March), sellers have enjoyed lofty selling prices and for the wave of homeowners moving further west from the Toronto area, the value for their dollar is exhilarating—you can buy space here! For much less!  Hamilton is stepping into a new spotlight.

Rather than me blathering on, perspective is presented far more eloquently in this CBC Q&A with Jason Thorne, Hamilton’s new GM of Planning and Economic Development, here is CBC Hamilton and Meet Jason Thorne. While we’re talking CBC, the broadcaster now has a presence downtown on James St. N., it’s a great source of local coverage, check them out.

This past weekend I went to a sales event for a new condo development, 150 Main West in the old Federal Building near downtown. It looks spectacular. For those of you into architecture, the design comes from Lintack Architects responsible for some exceptional work including the Stinson Lofts, another gem in Hamilton and, in my town, the beautiful contemporary pavilion in the Dundas Driving Park (the park offers a gorgeous escarpment backdrop if you’re in the mood for a family outing some sunny day, a picnic, tennis…)

photo-stinson-school-lofts-01         Original Stinson School…        stinson-school-lofts-4       Stinson Lofts 2014, brilliant!

Downtown Hamilton is undergoing big changes with dedicated entrepreneurs and businesses setting up shop, promoting their offerings, their offerings supporting the renewal of the downtown core. James Street North is chock full of artists, galleries, independent shops, cafes, restaurants and a vibrancy that is really working. Check out the monthly art crawl, the must attend is the annual Super Crawl, crazy fun!

King Street is home to the iconic Royal Connaught Hotel, below, currently being resurrected as a must-live address condo development—I can’t wait to get in there! Gorgeous old building.

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Proud residents here have been showing off and celebrating their Hamilton for years (here’s our official city site in case you want to do some research!).  And now the Hamilton of 2014, yes in revival mode, is a pretty hot commodity. Come see!