Sunday, July 29, 2012

Million-Dollar Home Must-Haves

Though million-dollar dwellings now seem like a dime a dozen in some places in Toronto, it does take more than the location and a piece of good-sized land to jump to the next threshold.

Throughout all the renovations I've done for my house, besides satisfying all my emotional needs as to how I want my house to look/function in a certain way, I constantly keep track of the "value" of my investments. Fully aware that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I've always made an effort to stick with the mainstream styles. As much as I love Monet, I probably wouldn't spend hundreds of dollars to turn his Water Lilies into a massive mural in my bathroom.

Here are some of the must-haves based on my experience buying, selling and investing in quite a few properties over the years. I typically focus on those that are relatively easy to change/upgrade. For example, to elevate a 60's house's 8-foot main floor ceiling to 10-foot would be neither an easy nor a practical upgrade.

1. Facade and Curb Appeal: may it be the more modern stucco/stone exterior or the traditional red brick/cedar plank combination, a well-maintained and clutter-free porch shows the home owners care about their dwelling.

2. Bright and High-Impact Entrance/Foyer: you would be pleasantly surprised how much more value some $5,000 marble floor tiles (vs. 12x12 ceramic tiles with giant grout lines) in your foyer would add to your overall property.

3. Mouldings and Wainscoting to Add Definitions and Characters: moulding is probably one of the highest ROI/high buyer impact upgrades you could ever add to your property. And the costs keep coming down these years with competition and vast selection of materials such as plaster, MDF and solid wood. Mouldings and wainscoting give a house the "always-there" appeal, and add characters to newly-built.
4. More Livable Square Footage: the most common way to add livable space is to finish your basement. A large and open area for games, entertainment and bar plus an in-law/nanny suite in the basement has quickly become a million-dollar home must-have.

5. Luxurious Kitchen: it is not a real-estate myth that kitchen and bath sell the house. Besides granite/marble countertop and solid wood cabinetry, the kitchen must be big enough to fit the entire extended family in, with plenty of room to move around. Not only should you be able to host a ballroom party there, but also all of the appliances should be new and preferably professional grade. Induction and multi-burner stoves are much sorted after. In recent years, I've also noticed that white kitchen cabinetry has become increasing popular, and there are so many finishes and details you could choose that they look nowhere similar to the cheap Melamine ones from the 80's.

6. Spa Bathroom: Miss your last trip to a spa? By having beautiful decor, natural stone tiles, double-sink vanity, and a high-end shower and free-standing tub, the feeling of a spa retreat in a home is easily attainable. Polished bathroom hardware and crystal chandelier can add touches of elegance and glam to an otherwise practical space.

7. Plenty of Storage:  Walk-in closets for the bedrooms, pantries, hallway closets, cold room/wine cellar, and garage big enough to fit the entire family cargo, are a few examples. Wall-to-wall built-in bookcase/media unit has seen its increasing popularity in a study, basement or even living room. The good news for those DIY warriors out there is that there are ample Ikea-hack ideas that would allow you to turn an inexpensive set of bookcases/shelves into a much more expensive built-in unit.

8. Outdoor Entertaining: The entertainment space doesn't have to end in the house. The whole "taking the living room outside" concept is becoming an increasingly popular demand by people in the market for a new home. A pool, separate dining and lounging area, and outdoor kitchen/BBQ are all bonus value additions to a luxurious, million dollar home.

So what is your home reno experience pertaining to the above must-haves? Any others you could share?


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Love That House: 93 Dunvegan Road

This house is yet another sign of the ever-rising Toronto detached housing market, especially in a prestigious neighbourhood like Forest Hill where inventory is scarce. The same house that was sold at $3.85 million, with tons of upgrades and renos later, is now listed at $6.2 million. And the key selling feature doesn't just stop at having Edward Rogers and Galen Weston as your next-door neighbours.

The unusual charcoal/dark window frames and red bricks combination gives the house a stately yet modern feel.

Always love a built-in and I need to find out which paint color was used.

This dining room looks very "Sarah Richardson": tasteful artwork on the wall, modern and sparkly yet not overwhelming chandelier, dining set in different wood tones, and a neutral area rug to anchor the space.

I believe Sarah used the same Linea marble tiles but in blanc in the foyer of her suburban "Sarah's House". It would seem that Robert Abbey's Bling Chandelier is super popular these days in a bathroom. Need I remind you that I used the same one in our Master Ensuite?

The home owner/designer is truly genius: they've made such a small room into a stylish conversation nook.

I hope you like Lou Reed, otherwise you’ll probably want to paint over that mural in the billiards room.
All photos sourced from Toronto Life

Thursday, July 19, 2012

This Is Awesome

My search for new books tonight led me to the "Paris in Color", which in turn took me to the author Nichole Robertson's blog, the Little Brown Pen's web site.

After browsing through her print shop, I immediately ordered the "Paris in Color" book.
Source: The Paris Print Shop

She is amazing at capturing the most vivid colors through everyday objects. You should check out her blog and her book.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sausalito and Watercolor

Sausalito and watercolor, that's pretty much what I was up to for the past week. While we had our new fiscal year kick-off in San Francisco, our company piggybacked a Sausalito cruise for us. The wine was good and the views were stunning, but who would have thought words like "wind chill", "freezing" would be tossed around in the high of July? I highly recommend that you completely bundle up for a Bay cruise like this.
From top left clockwise: Golden Gate Bridge; Sausalito Ferry; Sausalito Ferry; Sausalito Ferry + A Guy on Standup Kayak; Boats at Sausalito Ferry; Alcatraz; Alcatraz; Alcatraz; San Francisco Download in the distance.

Of late I am intrigued by the details and layers of colors one could accomplish with watercolor, so I picked up watercolor painting again. The first attempt was to imitate Birds of Ashmae's Peony, and I think it turned out okay. The Iris is original and I like how the purple-blue contrasts the yellow when put together.
From top left clockwise: Iris Watercolor; Peony Watercolor; Iris and Peony Watercolor framed; Framed on the basement shelf.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Love That House: 11 Doon Road

And I really, really love this house! This 6000-sq ft, 5-bed and 9-bath stunner is located in one of the neighbourhoods I am monitoring, York Mills.

The stately and symmetrical facade surrounded by manicured landscaping is everything that I ever dream of.

In how many houses have you ever seen a baby grand in the middle of the foyer?  

It's so dramatic, and works perfectly with the "theatre hall" type of ambiance in the foyer.

I would be at a complete loss to decorate a grand living room like this. The home owner or the designer seemed to have pulled it off by staying with neutral color tones and lots of architectural details. Don't you just love the chandelier?

It would appear that a white kitchen is essential now in million-dollar properties. Love the professional grade stove/grill and double ovens.

The dining room right next to the kitchen has a killer view.

On to the second floor, you'd never guess that this is the lounging space for the master bedroom -- it's almost the same size of my current living room.

And this is the master bedroom. Again, the home owner wasn't shy of playing up the architectural details in the it!

The master ensuite seems a bit small, but with 9 bathrooms inside the house, you can take a deep soak in a different one each day throughout the week!

I know Anthony will die for a bar like this in the basement. Gin and tonic, anyone?

And remember my next/dream house must-haves? A large, deep and treed backyard with privacy! And there you have it!

All photos through Zoocasa.

This house hits every single note on the must-have list, so let me go win some lottery before someone else grabs it. :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Our Next House Must-Have List

We moved into our current house three years ago, and have since been on a reno spree until we started to feel a bit "home reno fatigue". It's only until after we've lived in the house for a while did we realize what we are still after for a true dream home. Don't get me wrong, our current house is great and comes very close to what we thought "this was it":

  • it has been renovated from top to bottom;
  • it's in an awesome neighbourhood with decent schools (so much so that we constantly have agents and people ring our doorbell asking if we are selling our house...speaking of which, perhaps I should put up that "No Soliciting" sign :-));
  • the house is almost 5,000 sq ft, more than ample for a couple without kids.

However, of late I gradually come to the realization that this isn't our dream house, and this isn't IT. Though we are not moving for another couple of years, I've started to dream up my next house's must-have list:

  1. It has to be in a mature neighbourhood, preferably one of these three: York Mills, Rosedale and Leaside.
  2. It needs to have a large or deep and treed yard with privacy. One of the downsides of living in a new subdivision is that the streetscape is so bare, and the backyard is typically small. Baby trees will take years to grow to provide shade.
  3. Ideally it has a symmetrical facade. A house with front door tucked on one side of the house just doesn't cut it for me any more.
  4. It has at least two smaller built-in convention ovens. I realize how much I love to bake to decompress, and the single giant convention oven I have right now not only takes long to preheat but is also not energy-efficient if I only want to bake a loaf of cake.
  5. It should have gas stove or induction cooktop. Do you know how many seconds an induction cooktop takes to boil a full pot of water? 30 seconds!
  6. On top of all the above, though it can have less square footage, our next house should also have all bells and whistles we already have in our current house.

Something like this will be perfect for me, thanks very much. :-)

Do you think this type of house exists? Is this too tall an order? Does the "love it or list it" ever come across your mind amidst your home renos? Are you still in search of your dream home?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Basement Craft Game Room Design

Lately when I was in my husband's man cave enjoying movies over a beer, I couldn't help but noticing the empty space right next to it that's yet to have a purpose. My plan was to leave it as a flexible space: may it be for craft, games, or in the future play room if we ever decide to have kids.

The area highlighted in grey is the space I referred to. As you could see from the following plan, it's right next to the entertainment room, and together they are essentially one huge open living space. Despite the fact that the room is odd-shaped and a corridor run through part of it, it still offers pretty good usable space with a long L-shaped wall. The window was perfectly situated in the middle.

Here are the options I am tossing around to utilize the space.

Option 1: Built-in base and upper cabinets with a desk in the middle. My easel goes in the corner. Add a harvest table for crafts and games.

The built-in cabinet and desk combo would look like this:
Source: Young House Love

Option 2: Utilize the entire L-shaped wall and run base cabinets through.

I am not sure if I need that much storage (or can we ever have enough?) since I already have this big bunker on the other end of the room.

Option 3: this is the most stylish option with a built-in banquette flanked by base cabinets. It offers ample seating and storage.

So which option would you go for? Any other suggestions?

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