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New house, old neighbourhood after $800,000 rebuild

Two professionals raising two kids in Toronto is busy enough, but simultaneously rebuilding a house? The thought alone was enough to send Benita Chan into panic-mode.

The pharmacist didn’t know if she and her husband, optometrist Vince Law, had the stomach for such stress, when their lives were hectic enough already.

“I was really nervous!” says Chan, 43, of rebuilding the three-bedroom North York bungalow the couple bought in 2006.

While Law, 43, tried his best to talk his wife into selling the bungalow and buying a bigger house instead, she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving the neighbourhood they’d grown to love over the years.

Deer and fox have been spotted in their quiet cul-de-sac, hidden by the busy borders of Yonge St. and Hwy. 401, and their neighbourhood backs onto a leafy green ravine. Plus, the couple’s daughters, Kierstyn, 11, and Avery, 9, are friends with all the neighbours and their school is five minutes away.

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THEN: Chan and Law's original bungalow they bought in 2006 for $ 480,000.
THEN: Chan and Law’s original bungalow they bought in 2006 for $ 480,000.  (Photos courtesy Walden Homes)

In 2014, after the home they’d bought for $ 480,000 was paid off, the couple agreed they weren’t going anywhere. Instead, they finally got up the nerve to rebuild their house and add a second storey, plus a garage. The only thing remaining from their old bungalow would be the exterior walls and the foundation.

The family rented a house nearby and hired custom builder Walden Homes to tackle the project, which took 12 months to complete and came with a final price tag of $ 800,000.

“It was really helpful for us, they worked around our schedules,” says Chan.

Much of the stress that comes along with such a massive project was alleviated by hiring the Toronto-based builder, she says.

Walden Homes brought on architect Drew Laszlo and designer Cindy Van Ryn, from Snap Design & Contracting, to work on the rebuild, and kept Chan and Law in the loop with all the quotes from the various trades.

“Everything was very transparent,” says Chan.

Walden Homes owner Bruce Borden says 90 per cent of their business is with clients who are extremely busy but still want to have a hand in the process.

“It’s a partnership from the beginning,” he says. “Our role up front is to try and educate a lot; so people go into it knowing what to expect and once you know what to expect, then you begin to have some sense of trust; then the unknown becomes a lot less scary.”

DURING: The roof was removed for the new second storey to rise from the original footprint.
DURING: The roof was removed for the new second storey to rise from the original footprint.  (Photos courtesy Walden Homes)

Since she had little time to run around to different stores to see what she liked in terms of fixtures and accessories, Chan spent hours scouring Houzz.com. She would then show her favourite styles to Van Ryn, who would incorporate Chan’s taste into her selections.

The couple agreed they wanted a contemporary design throughout their new house. Chan says their favourite thing to ask the designer was: “Is there a square option?”

The rebuild increased the home from 1,100 square feet to 2,500 square feet — plus the 1,100-square-foot basement. As well as increasing the home’s size, Chan says she was adamant the new house would compliment their lifestyle. “I wanted something practical that worked with the flow of our family,” she says.

A mud room to “make the mess disappear” was at the top of her wish-list and she still gets excited over all the hooks, shelving and benches that keep her kids organized. A central vacuum with kick sweep — or floor-level suction inlet — takes care of dirt, sand and salt before it can be trekked through the house. “My husband says it takes up one-fifth of the home!” Chan laughs.

A mudroom to 'make the mess disappear,' does the job with wall-hooks, shelves and benches.
A mudroom to ‘make the mess disappear,’ does the job with wall-hooks, shelves and benches.  (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star)

Law, who is the chef of the family, gets teased for insisting on the biggest island possible and the biggest stove possible for his swanky new kitchen.

As well as his 10-foot, Quartzite, sit-up island, the space now boasts a six-burner gas stove from Wolf.

White shaker cabinets and stainless steel appliances round out the space, which is the central hub for family and friends. “That’s basically where we hang out. All the meal times and even with guests, we hang out there,” says Chan.

“My main theme was that it has to be practical and easily maintained,” she adds, admitting she vetoed her husband’s desire for marble countertops.

“I even went on plumbing forums just to see which brands would give you the least trouble!”

Vince Law is the family's chef and got kitchen wish list fulfilled with a 10-foot sit-up island with Quartzite counter and a six-burner Wolf stove.
Vince Law is the family’s chef and got kitchen wish list fulfilled with a 10-foot sit-up island with Quartzite counter and a six-burner Wolf stove.  (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star)

The family’s new home now has four bedrooms on the second floor, including a guest bedroom, separate bedrooms for their daughters and their own luxurious master suite that features a spacious walk-in closet and an en suite with heated floors, limestone throughout and a stand-alone tub.

While the original design of the new house did not have plans to build on top of the garage, Chan says they opted to pay the $ 35,000 for the additional space, which includes another washroom and laundry facilities.

The family makes good use of the basement now, too, with a TV room, office, bedroom, bathroom, storage room and furnace room.

Sleek and modern with built-in storage, the family room's design resonates with the question that the couple repeatedly asked their builder: 'Is there a square option?'
Sleek and modern with built-in storage, the family room’s design resonates with the question that the couple repeatedly asked their builder: ‘Is there a square option?’  (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star)

Neighbours have complimented the home’s exterior because it’s different from many of the other new builds going up.

Borden says there is a mixture of aluminum siding, new brick, existing brick, stucco and some wood elements, which all add texture. “How it presents itself in a more contemporary way is by unifying the colour,” he says.

Chan says she and her husband are proud to have survived the rebuild with their marriage in tact. “You have to be married at least 10 years to go through something like this!” she says, adding her family is never moving again.

“My blood and sweat is in this house!”

NOW: Along with the original first-storey brick exterior, the family's new home includes new brick, aluminum siding, stucco and some wood elements -- all unified with colour and trim.
NOW: Along with the original first-storey brick exterior, the family’s new home includes new brick, aluminum siding, stucco and some wood elements — all unified with colour and trim.  (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star)

THE NUMBERS

$ 2.2M: Bank’s latest appraisal of the new home

7: Times the couple changed their kitchen island size

39: Times they chose the square/rectangular or ‘edgier” option over round or curved option

3: Trips to the tile stores before Law and Chan gave up and deferred to the designer

6: Hours that Chan spent on plumbing forums to figure out reliable brands

5: Bathrooms in the house (including main floor powder room)

TORONTO STAR