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Toronto Real Estate

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Tag Archives: porcelain tiles

Cushy condo extras included

A competitive condo climate means swish finishes are often standard

By Suzanne Wintrob, National Post

It wasn’t too long ago that granite countertops and plush carpeting were considered expensive upgrades in a new condominium purchase.

But today’s feverish pace of construction means buyers in the Greater Toronto Area have greater choice in where to set down their welcome mat, prompting developers to lure them with high-end features and finishes often offered as standard. For those looking to own a piece of affordable luxury — meaning condo units in the $600,000 to $900,000 price range — that means onyx, quartz or figured marble countertops, porcelain tiles, wide-plank oil-finished hardwood floors, panelled refrigerators and dishwashers that mimic cabinetry, interesting lighting options and cool storage spots.

“When you get into that affordable luxury [segment], people don’t want death by 1,000 cuts,” says David McComb, president of Edenshaw Homes that is developing downtown’s 39-storey, 420-unit Chaz on Charles with 45 Charles Ltd. “They don’t want to walk in and see a beautiful display suite, only to find out in order to get to that level they have to spend another $150,000. We try to show exactly what they’re getting [so they] know when they look at the sticker price that value is in the number.”

According to Mr. McComb, the real beneficiary of so much building activity is the consumer. As he puts it, “Every developer has to do something a little better than their competition” and this is giving way to a higher level of finishes as well as a higher quality of workmanship.

His thoughts are echoed by Elaine Cecconi, founding partner of Toronto-based interior design consulting firm Cecconi Simone. Given the myriad projects on the go, she finds savvy buyers are much more informed about the choices available to them and, by extension, more sensitive to design and materials. With that in mind, Ms. Cecconi says, the differentiator is not necessarily in the materials themselves but in the design and how the materials are used.

Cecconi Simone is behind several of the GTA’s prestigious projects set to receive occupants over the next few years. While many have units ranging from $400,000 to million-dollar penthouses, Ms. Cecconi describes the affordable luxury category as the step between a starter condo and a single-family home. That means an upper-floor unit averaging $650 per square foot and measuring between 850 and 1,000 sq. ft., giving builders and designers a generous space to work with.

At this level, she says, kitchens are spacious, bathrooms have separate shower and tub, and walk-in closets are commonplace.

European influence is evident, with appliances touting brand names like Miele, Sub-Zero and Wolf and bathrooms carrying monikers like Dornbracht, Duravit and Kohler. Granite — a 1990s upgrade for floors and countertops and a decade later offered as standard — has given way to manmade quartz with names like Caesarstone and Silestone, she says. Carpets are rare, with engineered wood floors with oiled, smoked fume and matte finishes. Lighting has also gained prominence, with wall-mounted lights to illuminate art, dimmer switches, and multiple sources of lighting in the master bathrooms. Porcelain tiles are a hit for a “more elevated” look and feel, she adds, especially larger tiles measuring 12×24 and 24×24 inches.

Yet it’s not just the products and textures that are changing. The suites themselves are changing, too, with open plans making kitchens part of the living room rather than tucked behind a wall. That said, features and finishes are being integrated throughout the suite to create a harmonious flow.

At the glass-clad, 130-suite Pears on the Avenue, for example, refrigerators and dishwashers are concealed behind panelled front doors to look like cabinetry “so it melds together in a sleek look,” says Mimi Ng of Menkes Developments. She says the kitchen is a “showpiece” that beckons to be shown off to guests when they enter the suite. Similarly, at Ocean Club Condos on Humber Bay Shores the kitchen “becomes part the living environment,” says Stephen Price, chief operating officer of Graywood Developments, with the island becoming a piece of furniture that blends into the rest of the living space. And at Thompson Residences, woodwork on the walls is replacing drywall for an alluring appearance.

As for storage, suites at the affordable luxury level provide ample room to incorporate interesting stowaway options. Chaz’s bathrooms, for instance, offer six-foot-high medicine cabinets and extra-wide vanities, while the traditional kitchen backsplash incorporates a six-inch-deep shelf with glass doors. Edenshaw is also paying attention to purchasers’ age and stage, Mr. McComb says, with a wall-mounted floating vanity in the bathroom that incorporates accent lighting and illuminated light switches to cater to empty nesters’ aging eyes.

Interestingly, one area that is seeing less traction these days is high-tech. According to Mark Mandelbaum, chairman of Lanterra Developments, which is building Riverhouse at The Old Mill on the Humber River and other luxury properties around town, “Bell, Rogers and whoever wires the buildings have sufficient speeds right now that people are quite satisfied with public utility access to those kind of speeds” and so intelligent buildings are not in high demand. Instead, Riverhouse is putting its cash into a grand lobby, Paris kitchens, bathrooms with marble flooring and frameless glass shower enclosures, panelled kitchen appliances, and a quiet mechanical system.

Whether choosing finishes or getting them as standard, Ms. Cecconi urges would-be buyers to opt for natural colours and textures for lasting appeal.

“When a material is more natural, it’s more honest and there’s a timelessness to it, there’s an enduring quality to it,” she explains. “It’s easy to add colour and punch through paint or art or an accessory on a counter. It’s really hard to change a wall tile or a countertop. It’s so invasive and disruptive. If you want elements of fun or colour, or to inject a bit of humour or whimsy, it’s always easier to do it through things that are easily changed out. And it’s an easy way to refresh as well.”

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Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they just reproduce them here for people
who are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.

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