toronto apartment tour 2020: part 1 – planning and inspiration

Hi friends, it seems like almost no time at all has passed since my Toronto house tour post and that is entirely because I procrastinated finishing that one for much longer than I care to admit to.

In reality, it has been only four months since we moved out of that house and as of two weeks ago, we moved back to Toronto! Hopefully we’re here for a while because we have since built a wardrobe in the bedroom that is going to be a fun adventure to try and move out.

Apartment Hunting

Even though it was just going to be Mike and me, we were looking at 2 bedroom places so we can have two separate home office spaces to ideally not drive each other insane.

Our apartment hunt took us less than 2 weeks all said and done, but it drained us like it took a month. We shortlisted some places to look at over a weekend, did viewings from Monday – Wednesday, applied to this apartment on the Thursday and got confirmation that our application was accepted by the following Thursday. This was only feasible because neither of us were working and could be very flexible with when we viewed places.

We ended up going with a 1+den apartment after doing some extensive analysis of the pros/cons and subjecting our friends to a lot of “OKAY BUT WHAT’S YOUR TAKE???”.

– in a neighbourhood we like
– the cheapest rent of all the places we looked at
– purpose-built rental
– bright and well-maintained
– office won’t have a door
– smallest space of all the places we looked at
– no laundry in-unit (but is in the building)
– only 1 bathroom
– less storage than the other places (and does not have a storage locker since it’s not a condo)
– no private outdoor space

We decided that in the end it would be enough space for the two of us since the den was an actual den and not just a glorified nook, and it was a real perk that the building is a purpose-built rental so we know we won’t get N-12’d or N-13’d out of our place in a year.

When we signed in early August we locked in our rent at $1925 which was also well under our budget. I know that rent prices have only gone down since then but we really wanted to be settled before Mike started work. There were nicer (roomier) condos that we were also considering but they were going to be much more expensive than this place. Perhaps we’ll have regrets in a few months and wish for more walls, but I don’t currently have a job, so living beyond our means is probably not a good idea.


I spent a lot of time on Pinterest searching phrases like “rental apartment inspo” and “small space flexible living??” and everything that came up was either not a rental apartment, or places where people felt comfortable just installing a bunch of stuff into the walls or even doing small-scale remodels in. This was not useful for our planning needs since we weren’t about to roll in to this unit and DIY built-in shelving everywhere.

Other than the tried and true Instagram and Pinterest browsing, here is where I ended up going for inspiration: Apartment Therapy, the Toronto Home Zone group on Facebook (to look at pictures of the cute furnished places), Reddit (r/AmateurRoomPorn, r/FemaleLivingSpace, r/MaleLivingSpace, r/IKEAhacks), and browsing TikTok (#rentalhacks, #smallapartment, #apartmenthacks, etc.).


We had 3 weeks before our move in date to plan what furniture we needed to buy and how to make it all fit into the space. After all, our 1+den is only ~650 sq. ft. which by Toronto standards is not even bad! But compared to our last place, it meant that we were going to have to be very choiceful about what we bring and how we use it. We also only physically toured a comparable unit on the same floor (with a slightly different layout) before we signed the lease as we weren’t able to view our actual unit. Instead all we had for planning purposes was a floorplan, some pictures of an empty similar unit, and pictures of the actual unit taken by the previous tenants.

We found a tool called Homestyler that allowed us to mock up a 3D version of the apartment. The tool is free to use and has some pretty neat features, like importing an existing floorplan and being able to toggle between the 2D plan and the 3D walkthrough. I spent a few hours building all the walls and windows in the tool so that the 3D render would look accurate but you don’t need to do that if you just want to plan on the 2D version. We had also been working with the plan for a couple of days before realizing our unit was the mirror version of the given floorplan but luckily it was very easy to just flip everything we already had.

Our mocked up floorplan with furniture, as well as the 3D rendering of the space.

There are definitely similar tools out there that you can use instead but what I really liked was the ability to input custom dimensions for the furniture. We would scour the Homestyler catalogue to find furniture similar to what we already owned/wanted to buy, and then simply adjust the size to be the exact dimensions needed to check if that piece would fit in the room.

We left ourselves some clearance between the furniture in all the rooms since we didn’t have all of the actual measurements. This turned out to be a good call because once we got into our unit on the 1st and did some real measurements we realized that we were off by 6 inches in many places. Luckily all our planned furniture still fit in the space!

I found a grey couch from the Homestyler catalogue then changed the properties to that of the couch that I already owned.

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have seen that some of us took liberties with the planning tool.

As you can probably tell from the picture of the other unit, we were going to be starting from a blank slate in this apartment which is pretty typical as rentals go. Our key challenges were going to be:

  1. Creating both an office space (for Mike) and an entry space in the den
  2. Creating a living room space that would also function as a work space for me
  3. Adding storage that didn’t involve installing things into the walls wherever possible (kitchen, bedroom, living room, bathroom)
  4. Not bankrupting ourselves with all the furniture we needed because we were starting out with only a couch and bedroom furniture (the woes of divorcing Jill)

I personally also wanted to make sure that I tried to balance the new things that we needed to buy out of necessity with secondhand and pre-loved items as well. As much as I would’ve loved to be able to furnish our entire place with Facebook Marketplace and thrift finds, those often take some time to source something that suits a specific need/space or can be really hard to haul back without a vehicle. We really needed to be set up by the second week of September (when Mike started working) and also would not have a car while living here – thus, a large IKEA order and more online shopping than I would’ve liked.

The good news is that because of our meticulous planning, our apartment has come together quite quickly and there are only optimizations that need to be made now. Can’t wait to show you what we’ve done with the place!

Next up: an in-depth tour of our living room! Here’s how the reality stacks up against the planned vision.

2 thoughts on “toronto apartment tour 2020: part 1 – planning and inspiration

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