Loyal Housefly readers may remember my recent post House Crush Goes Green about HGTV host Emmanuel Belliveau‘s eco-friendly flip of a detached house in Danforth Village.  The house went on the market in early May for $679,000, later dropped in price to $649,000, and then to $619,000.  I’m pleased to report that the house has finally sold for $611,000.  This is obviously quite a bit below asking, but it is still one of the highest selling prices in the nabe. While the demographic of new residents is similar to other gentrifying areas like Leslieville or the Junction – newly married couples and young families – the area is still very much in transition and lacks the hipster amenities these nabes offer in spades.  I think buyers may have stretched to the premium price for an eco-friendly renovation had the house been located in an area that supports other elements of a green lifestyle, such as walkability, restaurants (lunch at Rawlicious, anyone?), and shopping (I’ll take two bamboo cotton onesies, please and thank-you Baby on the Hip).  It is a lovely home though and I’m sure the new residents will be very happy.


Exciting developments are afoot at Housefly.  I’m thrilled to share my first post for HGTVWhat Does 500k Get You in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal? I’ve got my snoopy hat on once again and this time I’m taking you inside the best homes your hard-earned 500k can buy in three major cities.  Remember to vote for your favourite property at the end of the tour!

Is anyone else suffering from a bad cold and general November in June state of mind?  While my friends and countrymen congregate on patios throughout the city tonight, I will be curling up with some must-see rentals.  Although I’m lucky enough to have the Film Buff on my doorstep, I had to travel to the back room of Queen Video at Queen/Spadina (no, not that back room) to acquire these goodies.  And of course, it’s a real estate themed double bill.  This is Housefly, remember!

First up, Indecent Proposal.  Weird choice you think?  Although this movie was made almost twenty years ago, it’s never been more relevant.  As you’ll probably recall, Demi Moore is offered a million dollars in exchange for one night with Robert Redford.  At the time, that was a ton of dough but in modern times, it barely covers the cost of a Toronto home in the Annex with necessary modifications for personal taste.  Doesn’t it feel much more realistic for an average person to be offered a mil in 2010?  I can kind of put myself in Demi’s shoes now.  And what you probably don’t remember is that the whole reason Demi agreed to this crazy scheme was because her dream house (a modernist architectural gem designed by her husband Woody Harrelson) was going into foreclosure due to the recession of the early ’90’s.  Seems like Demi and Woody over-stretched.  Um, hello – how’s that for tapping into the cultural consciousness?

The house that Woody built. Here he is admiring the ocean views and contemplating whether it was all worth it... unobstructed ocean views are very hard to come by!


Now for a slice of the lighter things in life – The Money Pit.  This movie was very hard to track down and I could only rent it as part of a Tom Hanks retrospective DVD.  So now I’ve got Dragnet and The Burbs if anyone’s interested.  Don’t all volunteer at once.  The Money Pit stars Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as a fresh-faced couple who purchase their first house without a home inspection only to discover it’s basically a tear down.

First of all, isn't this the best sweatsuit you've seen in ages? Move over Lulu Lemon! Note the never-ending drywall repair in the background. Apologies to the purists, but we're going to have to lose that lath and plaster!

I remember this being one of my childhood favourites, along with Teen Wolf and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.  Lots of Home Alone-esque physical gags which is always fun when you’re ten (don’t deny trying to set up a Micro Machines trap for your siblings!) but we’ll see how it holds up for 2010.  Given that it’s one of the only movies  I can think of that has a plot centered around renovation, I think we can safely deposit The Money Pit in our time capsule for the people of 2210.

Bon weekend, houseflies!

At what point do we lose our eagerness to camp overnight on Queen Street, content with a hard sidewalk, a single portapotty, and a dream?

Ahhh, the simplicity of youth.

We hear a lot about how unmotivated and lazy Generation Y is (or is it Z now?) but on my way into work yesterday morning, I witnessed much more effort than I ever expended  for Lollapolooza tickets.  As of Monday, kids started arriving at MuchMusic headquarters on Queen Street West with tents, coolers, and chemistry homework (hey, you gotta keep busy in line, right?). Wristbands for the awards show featuring Miley Cyrus, Drake, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry will not be given out until Saturday at 8am so Much security wouldn’t allow tents to be set up until Wednesday morning.  For the diehards (mostly Bieber fans), that’s THREE chilly nights to endure on the sidewalk.

I went out on my lunch hour to chat with a few of the campers.  We already know the Why – the unexplainable exuberance of youth – but I was curious to find out How.  What I discovered is that these kids come VERY prepared.

In addition to the usual Bieber and Jonas Brothers fanzines (yes, Tiger Beat stills exists… after all, you can’t practise kissing on a computer screen), I saw lots of novels (“Jane Eyre” as well as the “Twilight” books) and a few girls were doing some cahier/livre French homework while getting some sun on their legs.  There was a circle of mani-pedi’s happening (I kind of wanted to join in – my nails are a mess!) and some ghetto blasters for those spirit-lifting singalongs when times get tough.  Most kids brought tents, tarps, sleeping bags and coolers stocked with everything from Orange Crush to pasta salad.  Pillows were carefully set up to form makeshift couches outside the tents – you know, indoor and outdoor living space is important.  I saw one enterprising young soul inflating an air mattress.  If you have to camp, camp in comfort!

I found the sight of these Tentflies very uplifting.  Who needs to drop 600k on a teeny semi a half hour streetcar ride from downtown when you can enjoy a pied-a-terre in the heart of the city?  They’re quite a spiritely bunch too so if you’re on Queen West, feel free to knock on one of their fabric doors and say “hi”.

Oh boy, oh boy.  You can imagine how excited I was to see this very special issue of Toronto Life waiting for me when I got home last night.

Inside you’ll find a full monty run-down of the To Bubble or not To Bubble debate and how your neighborhood might be affected if the market goes down the tubes.

I was over the moon to be interviewed for the piece and happy to see my incredible real estate agent Kara Reed sharing some stories from the battlefield.

A must read for all creatures great and small!

Often described as the Annex of tomorrow, Dufferin Grove is perhaps the most community-driven neighborhood in Toronto.  The heart of the nabe is Dufferin Grove Park, a leafy 14-acre oasis featuring a communal outdoor oven where Terroni-quality pizzas are lovingly prepared for neighborhood potluck suppers while Gen Y-ers update their Facebook status from grassy knolls, connected to the net via park-wide Wi-Fi.

The famous wood oven at Duffy Grove Park. I'll have a margherita pizza with extra basil please.

The park also features a year-round farmers’ market, live music in the summer and puppets on ice in the winter, open campfires, an off leash dog zone and wait for it… an upcoming composting bio-toilet!  It’s like an all-inclusive resort over there.  I know where I’m headed for my next vacation!  The best part is that all of these resources are available due to the initiative and organization of a very hard-working neighborhood collective, the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park.

Vendors flog their wares at the immensely popular farmer's market. Photo by Funkaoshi.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire... Photo by Friends of Dufferin Grove Park.

Located just a hop, skip and a jump from this little slice of heaven is my House Crush of the week.  Listed at $789,000, this detached three bedroom, two bathroom house was completely renovated in 2004 with a three storey addition.

While many houses are described as “rare opportunities” by listing agents, this one actually is.  The location within the ‘hood is superb – one block south of the park and one block north of College Street.  You’re close enough to enjoy all the revelry of Little Italy without having to deal with drunken suburbanites making out on your lawn.  Being near the West End Y is another great perk… who doesn’t like shooting hoops with the lead singer of Sloan?  While many neighborhoods have experienced a downturn in bidding wars over the past few weeks, the lack of substantial renovated homes in prime Dufferin Grove resulted in a $91,500 premium for this casa, with a final selling price of $880,500 (112% of list).

Time to go inside!

The lovely open staircase brings a little grandeur to the space. I can totally visualize big entrances on the first day of school and prom night. Or it could be a perfect setting for an impromptu family concert performance a la the Cosby Show!

To re-visit this magical TV moment, click here.  A definite contender for my favourite Cosby episode, second only to the one where Denise sews a lacklustre imitation of a Gordon Gartrelle shirt for Theo or the one where everyone conspires against Theo to transform the family home into the “Real World Apartments”.  Genius!

The dining space is much larger than the living space and I'd consider reversing the two rooms if I lived here. I know - controversy!

See what I mean? This cosy living space, currently being used as a home office, would make for a wonderful dining space, especially with the French doors leading to the front porch. Cue Alabama accent - "Why I do believe tiz a mighty wonnerful evening for a pitcher o' lemonade". Can't you just see yourself throwing those doors open during a dinner party on a hot summer's eve?

Not the most exciting kitchen of all time but a light, airy space perfect for family gatherings. I can visualize some good home cookin' happening in here while the kids noodle their math homework, or whatever the kids of the future study, at a nice rustic table.

A large, sunny room with a partial en-suite (meaning there are two doors, great for evading your assailant during sibling arguments). Gotcha - oh no you don't!

Which child do you love more? Think you love them both the same? Impossible when someone gets to occupy this perfect bedroom! The new owners may want to consider making this their master as the original charm of the stained glass window and fireplace make for a wonderfully cosy nest.

"Now honey, if we get separated in the bathroom just find a policeman and ask for help or meet Mommy next the bathtub". Maybe I'm too accustomed to the small bathrooms of old houses but I found this one huge! Great for families though.

Kick back, slip into your Lululemons and relax.

Here's where things get a little trippy. This is not the basement bathroom you'd expect but why not go for some colourful tiles in a completely unexpected palette? At first I didn't know what to make of this scheme as it's so the opposite of the crisp white bathrooms we're used to seeing but... that rainbow shower really grows on you over time. I'd love to take a shower in there and see the tiles through squinted eyes and the streams of water. Remind me to bring a bathing suit to open houses in the future.

The Deets:

College/Dufferin, Detached, 2-Storey, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms

List: $789,00

Sold: $880,500 (112% of list, May 2010)

Taxes: $3,667 (a steal for a detached home on this lot size!)

Lot: 22 x 13o Feet

Parking: 2 spaces

Remarks For Clients: **Stunning Detached 3+1 Bdrm Home In Prime Dufferin Grove. Gut Reno’d & Expanded In ’04 (Incl A 3 Level Addition)W/ Top Quality Materials & Workmanship. Spacious Eat-In Kit, Elegant Mstr Bdrm W/ Walk-In Closet & Luxurious ‘Spa’ Bthrm, Gorgeous, Full Height Family/Media Rm In Bsmt, Beautifully Crafted Built-Ins, Panelling, & Custom Millwork Throughout**Steps To The Park & Restaurants/Shops On College**An Inspiring, Unique Home Not To Be Missed!

First comes love, then comes Sold!, then comes an empty house waiting to be filled with special objects.  While everything from chairs to tea kettles can be considered household art in the gallery called your home, what about the old-fashioned things we hang on walls?

I never grew up with art in my house and didn’t frequent museums or galleries until fairly recently.  Over time, the art bug has spread and I’m enjoying the process of filling my home with original art.  The most important lesson I’ve learned when shopping for art is that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of the piece or if it matches your sofa or chairs.

Art is all about impulse and finding a piece that inspires emotion, whether it’s happy or contemplative or nostalgic.  You can’t really over-think your reaction to art and shouldn’t worry about the technique or whether or not your BFA pals will be impressed when they see it.  My approach to art is pretty consistent with my feelings about most things – I don’t care if it’s high culture, low culture, corporate or indie, cool or passe.  If something inspires a reaction, I’m interested.  And just like relationships, you can’t force yourself to fall in love with a piece of art because you “should”.

Of course, art can be very expensive and it’s daunting to consider spending a lot of money on something so “frivolous”, even if it is a very special piece.  I think it’s important to seek out up-and-coming artists as you build your personal collection, creating a vibrant mix of established and emerging artists in your home.

I recently read about Portland, Oregon based artist Matte Stephens on Victoria Smith’s design blog sfgirlbybay.  Matte paints with gouache on illustration board and plywood and his art takes inspiration from cityscapes, his wife Vivienne and his pets.  Matte’s work can be seen at Jonathan Adler and Velocity Art and Design, and limited edition prints of his original gouache paintings are available at his Etsy store.  I just ordered Fall in Central Park ($35 USD) and can’t wait to hang it in my kitchen, probably in a white frame like the ones below from West Elm (9×11, $16 USD).

I love the retro colour palette of Matte’s work and his whimsical interpretation of everyday life.  Naturally I’m a fan of his paintings of houses and city buildings, but I also love his spunky portraits of woodland creatures like owls, foxes, and elves.  His piece Vivienne and Friends, Wisconsin 1974 would be a great addition to a kid’s bedroom.

Vivienne and friends, Wisconsin 1974.  Limited edition print by Matte Stephens

I’ve included a few of Matte’s prints below for your enjoyment, currently available at his Etsy store.

Gramercy Park NYC small print

Visiting the sea lions in Central Park. Limited edition print by Matte Stephens

Feeding Birds. Limited edition print by Matte Stephens