an ode to toronto ft. a much overdue house tour

LIVING

Right after we moved into our little rental house in Toronto in 2018 I told Jill that I wanted to take pictures for the third installment of my apartment/house tour series. No, no one asked for this content but I like having photos of the places I lived in to look back on and I’m personally very nosy when it comes to others peoples’ places so I guess it’s only fair.

I didn’t take pictures right away because we were still unpacking and there were boxes everywhere and it didn’t feel lived in yet. It didn’t help that our landlords had painted almost every square inch of this place white before we moved in. It took us months to chip away at that sterility with art and furniture and decor and plants (and girl hair and cat fur). We lived in that house for two whole years and I never got around to taking photos until two months before we left. In fact, as I finalize this post, we’ve already been moved out for over three months. My timing is not impeccable.

House hunting in Toronto feels like going on the world’s shittiest treasure hunt (excuse me – you want how much for how small a space?!?), but this place was actually worth its weight in gold. It had everything we were asking for; 3 bedrooms so the Law BoysTM could use one as an office, a backyard, a parking spot, and close proximity to the subway. There was even plenty of storage space down in the basement as well as the washer/dryer. We maybe could’ve also asked for windows with better sealing and stronger water pressure but we also had a 20 minute TTC commute to all our offices so sometimes you take the bad with the good.

illustration of the house because it turns out i never took a picture of the front at any point during our two years living there

It was perfect for us. Two floors and plenty of space so the 4 of us could all spread out and not feel like we were sardines in a condo can, high ceilings, extremely reasonable rent ($2900 + utilities for the whole house), and super lovely landlords. The owners previously lived in the house themselves and were just renting it out while they prepared to demolish the place and rebuild. Before our original lease was up, they ended up hitting some delays with the construction so we got to extend by another year. After years of being in co-op, it felt amazing but also weird to not have to pack up and move every 4 months.

THE TOUR

“Welcome! This house is 100 years old! Yes, it’s a little tilted, we know!” – Jill and I would chirp as we happily gave house tours to anyone who happened to drop by. “You’ll notice that it is hilariously narrow, only 12 ft across, but ridiculously deep especially once you consider the backyard.”

FRONT AREA

One of the downsides of living in an older house is that you sometimes stumble upon weird quirks, like the complete lack of a real foyer, and the fact that our front door was actually at the side of the house. Thankfully the owners left us the front wardrobe so we had some storage for coats and things. They also left us the kitchen table and chairs which was probably for the best because the set we had in Waterloo would have been way too bulky for this space.

KITCHEN

Moving onto the kitchen!

  • beautiful light during the day due to the skylight
  • tons of cupboard storage
  • sorry, what are drawers? literally never heard of them
  • similarly – counter space???

The microwave lived on a stool in a corner and the kitchen cart was banished to the far wall because anywhere else would’ve closed off the kitchen space. There was also only a single outlet in the entire dining/not-a-foyer section of the house (by the vacuum on the left of the wardrobe), so we had to run an extremely long 20 ft. extension cord from the living room to power the appliances that took up permanent residence on the cart. There were many trips to the basement to reset the living room breaker over the years when someone inevitably forgot that turning on both the kettle and a hairdryer would be a bad time. That someone was usually me.

LIVING ROOM

The living room was an extension that they built at the back of the house. Since it was newer, it heated by way of an electric radiator which translated to us only heating it in the winter when we wanted to use it. The skylight + 2 walls of windows meant that it was freezing in the winter and a death trap in the summer. Spring and fall though? Perfect. It only seems small because it’s not part of an open concept ~ living/dining ~ space, but it also got the nicest light throughout the day and you could even close the door to the rest of the house! Who wants open concept anymore? Not me, that’s for sure.

When we moved into the house there ended up not being enough space in the bedroom for my trusty IKEA dresser so we left it in the living room. I feel like people don’t typically put dressers in living rooms but it worked out so that we would have some storage space down here!

During our first year at the house, we made do with the pile of cushions we called a couch before I finally gave up and traded it on Bunz for a 6 pack of cider and bought a real couch that sat more than 2 people and didn’t sag several inches in the middle.

Over the last couple of years we hosted many planned and impromptu gatherings in this little living room and I’m so glad that we had the space for it.

THE OFFICE

“This is our very narrow staircase where several friends were traumatized after moving Vick’s pillow top queen-sized mattress in what was referred to after as a “reverse birth”. If you look above you, that is a painting that the owner of this house put up there for some reason! We don’t know how he got it up there. Moving on, we have the office on our left…”

Not only was there enough room in this house for an office (And with a door! What a concept!) but the four of us could also be spread out over two floors. What’s most surprising is how no one ever fell down the stairs during our time here.

In this section it becomes abundantly clear that I only ever took pictures of the cat and not really pics of the house. Any view of the various rooms in the house just happens to be the convenient background for these pictures of B.

OUR BEDROOM

Jill and Matt took the downstairs bedroom (huge bay window for all of Jill’s plants and also for the cat to hang out in) and we took the upstairs room. No bay window but we did get the only closet in the house and also the air conditioning unit right outside our door.

Yet another wardrobe left by the owners (“That thing is coming down with the house.”) probably because it was built in the room and would never be able to make it down the stairs. It meant that we had plenty of closet space (It’s not just me!!! Mike’s suits and stuff take up a lot of space too!) but also forced one option for bed/wardrobe configuration. Under the bed we had 4 plastic storage bins that have wheels and a hinged lid for easy access to clothes that didn’t need to be hung up! They were a perfect way to make use of the under-bed real estate – definitely recommend if you have the height clearance.

The one bed position option sure didn’t stop me from constantly rearranging all the smaller pieces of furniture in the room though!

There was no overhead lighting in this room so Mike set up a smart bulb in a basic IKEA FADO lamp and we put The Orb on top of the wardrobe as our main light source. He also set up a pseudo sunrise/sunset sequence which was so helpful in prompting us to put away our devices and go to sleep at night, as well as being a much more effective morning alarm.

FOOD AND FRIENDS

These days when I reminisce about living in Toronto, I am usually thinking of all the food we made and ate with friends in this house.

Or I’m thinking about the local food places in our neighbourhood that I miss and crave daily; Schmaltz for some Nova Lox, every brunch club Sunday at First & Last, pastas from Annabelle, and the very delicious and fragrant roti from Roti Cuisine of India which you could always smell on your way home which is exactly how we were always tempted into buying it for dinner. The only picture I have of roti isn’t even mine, it’s Jill’s – mostly because there was never any time to snap a picture before it was devoured.

Honourable mentions go to the local farmers’ markets, my oyster guy (yeah, I became a person who has an oyster guy), and my favourite neighbourhood cheese shop (I know, I know).

Also, the luxury of having a backyard in Toronto! Yes, those are corns cooking directly on the coals in the first picture because we forgot the grill in Mississauga. Yes, we did eventually retrieve the grill so we could BBQ like actual humans. Jill lived her best suburban mom life and planted flowers and vegetables in the backyard while I happily ate the fruits (and vegetables) of her labour during our summer BBQs.

Bonus photo set: the cat in all the windows the house had to offer her!

MOVING / LEAVING

Every conversation I had about moving out sounded a little like this: “Oh you’re moving next week? Wow, what a weird time! How is the packing going? Where are you moving to?” Yes I am, yes it sure is, I’m pretending like I don’t have to pack up the other half of this house, and I’m moving back in with my parents because of plans we made before quarantine happened but I’m not mad about it because it’s nice not having to think about rent during a global pandemic – haha, am I right?

Jill and Matt moved out first and I was pretty bummed out when that happened. Mostly because we still had a couple weeks in a now half-empty house, but also because it was the end of an era, and really because B was gone. I got over this about a week later, when Jill provided a 7AM update that the cat knocked the fish off his shelf while trying to drink out of his water, causing the vase to shatter – soaking everything on her desk.

That cat is a fluffy demon and I miss her very much. Jill too, I guess. (The fish did not survive. We put B on trial that week and she was found guilty and sentenced to approximately 2 days of not being allowed near Jill’s desk.)


Our little house is now torn down and now only a pit exists in its place. End of an era, truly! I’m so glad that I got to live with my friends (and Mike) and enjoy all Toronto had to offer us for the last 2 years. We will never find a place like this again – especially for the price – and I have resigned myself to this fact. The timing of COVID starting in March followed by moving out in April was financially serendipitous but also made for a depressing end to our first years in Toronto.

Goodbye, house!

Anyways, all this to say that Mike and I are going to move back to Toronto this fall so if you know of a cute 2BR for $2500 in the Annex, let us know!

This has been a tourism piece for The Annex.

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