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Tours of 8,000 houses inspire a couple to rebuild their home


By the time you’ve toured 8,000 houses, your wish list of features for your own dream home would be pretty long.

That had been the case for real-estate appraiser Michael Lau, 37. He, with his wife Meagan, 35, also an appraiser, just finished building a new, 3,300-square-foot luxury home in south Etobicoke.

“We get so many ideas from seeing so many houses,” says Lau, 37, whose favourite splurge in their new house is the $ 30,000 glass-walled and mirrored gym in the basement, the likes of which he’d seen in other high-end homes.

The Laus, who are parents to Audrina, 5, Brinley, 3 and Maddox, 5 months, began searching in 2014 for the perfect spot to build their forever home, determined to stay within the boundaries of Alderwood, Mimico and Long Branch.

They settled on a 650-square-foot cottage in Alderwood, which offered a generous lot size of 40-by-133 feet, plenty of room to accommodate their five-bedroom, four-bathroom home.

“It is truly a hidden gem,” says Lau of Alderwood, which hugs the Etobicoke Creek all the way down to Marie Curtis Park on Lake Ontario. “The neighbourhood is definitely transitioning as more and more people uncover this pocket.”

The couple hired husband-and-wife team Lindsey and Gerry Anacleto to do the contracting and design work on their two-storey home. The Laus lived in their old house a short drive away during the eight-month rebuild.

Everything went relatively smoothly except for a three-week framing strike last May and a near-disastrous setback with Enbridge Gas.

The couple says the company had originally promised to put in their gas line by December 2016. Then the date got pushed back until April, meaning the family would face a winter without heat if they wanted to move in on schedule. They went to their local councillor, Mark Grimes, who called Enbridge on their behalf. Two weeks later, workers showed up to install the gas line.

Things didn’t go completely as planned with their budget, either; the original figure of $ 650,000 shattered, with the final tally coming in closer to $ 900,000.

Lau says all the extra costs were related to making the home unique; such as the exposed grey brick wall in the stairwell that spans all three levels.

“I’ve seen exposed brick in houses usually in the basement but thought it was a good feature to have in the stairwell for maximum ‘wow’ factor,” he says.

The coffered ceilings in the living room, custom floor vents to blend into the hardwood and porcelain tile, as well as heated floors in three of the bathrooms added to the extra costs.

The Laus’ airy, open-concept kitchen and dining area boasts 11-foot ceilings and oozes natural light. Adding to the luxurious feel is the nine-foot Cambria quartz island, the Tiffany Crackle subway-tile backsplash straight from Italy, and a Restoration Hardware dining table.

Upstairs, the children have their own private enclave, a three-bedroom wing at the back of the home, with their parents’ 400-square-foot master bedroom situated at the front. The master bathroom boasts a $ 10,000 soaker tub which had been snapped up for $ 3,300 on clearance, and private toilet and showering rooms.

The couple, who run A.L.L. Appraisal Services Ltd. out of the new house, also built a large, self-contained office space just inside the front entrance, where two of their administration staff work each day. The office has been outfitted with custom work stations, a fridge, a wetbar, a microwave, a Keurig coffee maker and a flatscreen TV.

Their functional mud room on the main floor includes a large doggie shower for their 7-year-old purebred boxer Nevada, for easy cleaning after long muddy walks along the nearby Etobicoke Creek.

Custom pre-school style cubbies for each of their children occupy the other half of the mud room, keeping the kids’ shoes, bags, coats and other accessories organized. “This was my dream,” says Meagan with a laugh.

She says the family-friendly neighbourhood has been incredible, between the helpful moms’ groups and proximity to parks, schools, a swimming pool and a baseball diamond.

“We are completely in love with the home,” adds Lau. “On the flip side, we feel bored now! The build was such a significant part of our lives for almost two years.”

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THE NUMBERS

$ 519,900: Amount the Laus paid for the original Alderwood cottage

$ 1.7 million: Amount their new house has been appraised for

$ 900,000: Amount their previous 1-1/2-storey home sold for

$ 20,000: Cost to upgrade the sewer and water mains

1: Church pew used as a bench in the front hall

5: Times a week Michael uses his luxury home gym

1: multi-purpose basement, which also includes a guest room, bathroom, kids’ playroom, sports bar and storage closets

1 and 2: The numbers on the seats from the former Maple Leaf Gardens, which Lau bought for his basement sports bar

20: Minutes to Union Station from nearby Long Branch GO station

TORONTO STAR | LIFE | HOMES