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Northwest Toronto rebuild is this family’s DIY dream home

When Marco Vieira leaves home each day to go to work, he doesn’t get in his car, or go to a bus stop, or even walk a few blocks. His total commute is about 25 steps — and he can get in a visit with his parents along the way, too.

The 39-year-old owner of Epic Designs Inc. is also the owner of two side-by-side houses in Toronto’s northwest Silverthorn neighbourhood.

One is a single-storey home from the 1950s; his parents rent the main floor and Epic’s offices occupy the basement. Next door is the ultra-modern, 3,000-square-foot, two-storey house he designed for him and wife, Lina, 39, and their daughters, Leah, 10 and Sofia, 7.

It stands in the place of what used to be a small, two-bedroom ’50s-era bungalow that the couple had torn down in spring, 2016 to make way for the new home that also serves as Vieira’s showroom.

The architectural technologist was at work in his office in spring, 2015 when his dad called out from upstairs that people were moving furniture and boxes from the house next door. Vieira immediately approached the seller and jumped on the chance to buy the house when it went on the market for $ 350,000. Tear-downs on his street have since sold for up to $ 650,000.

While Vieira estimates the rebuild of his family’s home would cost an average customer between $ 680,000 and $ 750,000, his pricetag was a little more convoluted. Vieira and his company have worked closely with contracting firm Rovimat Group Inc. for 12 years, so an exchange-of-services deal was worked out with Rovimat owner Rolando Pires. Vieira says it allowed his family to stretch their dollars as far as possible.

“His expertise and contacts allowed our dream of one day designing and building our home a reality,” Vieira says, adding construction began in March 2016 and was finished just before Christmas.

The result is a stylish, airy, open-concept home. Its minimalist vibe allows artwork to pop off the crisp, white walls and the house showcases design features like a floating walnut staircase with glass railings and white, quarter-sawn oak floors. Instead of walls, step-down stairs separate the functions of the space on the main floor, along with the use of geometric, floating ceiling panels and varied ceiling treatments.

“Once you go clean, open-concept and eliminate hallways, everything seems bigger, too,” Vieira says, adding it’s a good return on investment to spend a little more on design and get something unique that sets your home apart.

Creative thinking was used in the powder room on the main floor, as a photo of a giant wave transcends into a piece of glass that fills the entire wall. In the living area, outside-the-box thinking puts a set of classic old suitcases and a vintage radio retrieved from the previous house to great decor effect.

Vieira says the process of creating his family’s home was actually more difficult than when he designs other people’s houses.

“It was harder because you’re afraid to make mistakes,” he says. “You want to do it for yourself, it’s home to us, but you want other people to say, ‘Oh, that’s why you did it. That looks good.’ ”

Lina, a hair stylist, had plenty of input into the home’s design — especially in the kitchen, which boasts extra-large cabinetry, a supersized sink, six-burner gas stove and a concrete tile fireplace.

“It needed to be functional, that was our biggest thing,” she says. “We needed something where we could always hang out together and we could see the kids back and forth. It works for our lifestyle.”

It’s a lifestyle that includes plenty of entertaining, and Lina was adamant it would be an open-concept space so she wouldn’t miss out on anything.

“I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen by myself when everyone is having a good time!” she says. “Everyone ends up at the island. We have a lot of friends and family over. The kids are up here.”

The upstairs level has a loft-like feel, thanks to its 15-foot ceilings in the atrium, giant architectural beams and supersized fan to cool and circulate air to the floor below. Transom windows offer plenty of natural light to the middle portion of the house which would normally be dark.

There’s a deck overlooking the backyard off the master bedroom and their daughters have their own rooms with built-in closets and study nooks.

The basement has one of the couple’s favourite features: a heated polished concrete floor. It also has a guest bedroom, bathroom and living area, with walk-up to a covered backyard terrace.

Their backyard sees a lot of traffic as the route the kids use to run back and forth to visit their grandparents next door. Vieira says it’s something you can’t put a pricetag on: “They feel like they can wander in and out freely.”


4: Sheets of glass broken during the building process

$ 1.3M: Approximate market value for the rebuilt home

4: Bins of garbage to empty the old house

10: Families invited for Christmas dinner in their new home

100+: Visits to Home Depot during the rebuild

15: Shades of white colour samples pored over

50: Cubic yards of gravel used to raise and drain the basement

3+: Visits per day the kids make to their grandparents’ house next door

12: Age Marco met Lina, but they didn’t start dating until he was 22

100: New homes Epic Designs has worked on over the years (they handle about 80 projects per year)