Year in Review 2011: the best houses, condos and cottages of the week

Year in Review 2011: the best houses, condos and cottages of the week

Let’s face it: taking a peek through a stranger’s home gives us all a voyeuristic thrill. But aside from when a place goes up for sale, it’s pretty well impossible to get inside without breaking windows (and the law—an open house with a realtor is one thing; gaining access with a crowbar is completely another). That’s why we take such delight in scouring the city every week to find the most opulent, outrageous and storied church conversions, summer getaways and stately mansions on the market. Here, our 10 favorite houses, condos and cottages of the week from 2011 (with a yurt thrown in for good measure).

1. $3.75 million for a Victorian that’s Rosedale on the outside and wild on the inside
In leafy, upper-crust Rosedale, the patrician estates are pretty much all classic, subdued and refined—at least on the outside. Behind this redbrick Victorian façade is a Keith Richards–worthy trip of vibrant colours and patterns. Click here for more details and a photo gallery »

2. $2.8 million for a country home built by one of Canada’s most celebrated architects
This sprawling property in the middle of horse country will surely cause you to don riding jodhpurs, take up polo and start speaking with a British accent. Intricately crafted and designed by Ron Thom, a master architect who built the house for an equestrian-loving friend, we love how each room is perfectly positioned to capture stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Click here for more details and a photo gallery »

3. $4.2 million for renowned architect Elmar Tampõld’s Hoggs Hollow home
Proving that style in the ’80s wasn’t all about loud aesthetics—bouffant hair, bright neons, Madonna—architect Elmar Tampõld (who designed the elegant Colonnade building on Bloor Street West, in addition to some 1,000 others across Canada) built this place in 1986 for his own home, and it’s as stunning as it is refined. The cool white staircase that gracefully corkscrews from floor to floor is the most striking feature, but the lush setting is also remarkable. Click here for more details and a photo gallery »

4. $2.5 million to get into one of the Annex’s classic Victorians
No other style of house is more iconic in Toronto than the Annex Victorian, and this gorgeous bay-and-gable, with it two-storey wrap-around porch, is a standout example. Inside, the original chandeliers, sconces, fireplaces and hardwood floors embody the spirit of the era. Outside, the upper veranda is a great place to spy on the Annex’s new peerage class. Click here for more details and a photo gallery »

5. $8.5 million for the former Eaton family 2,500-acre hunting preserve
For some people, summer cottaging is as about as rustic as swatting away a few black flies between the door of their BMW SUV and the entrance to a hermetically sealed, air-conditioned palace. But we think that lacks charm. This former hunting preserve, however, is everything a cottage should be: pared down, close to nature and restful (granted any place would be restful surrounded by 2,500 acres of pristine wilderness). Click here for more details and a photo gallery »

6. A photographic tour of an Occupy Toronto yurt
Sometimes, the smallest spaces are the best spaces—cozy nooks, comfortable corners, intimate grottos. But small spaces aren’t often heroic, with the exception of the mini-yet-mighty yurt. At this year’s Occupy Toronto, the round, tent-like structure became a shelter for social upheaval, a barricade against oppression, and a library (!) all at once, not to mention being cuter than a bug’s ear (just look at all the hand-painted detail!). Click here for more details and a photo gallery »

7. $2.9 million for a house built in a ravine in Lawrence Park South
We’ve always thought that living in a tree house would be cool, but the lack of plumbing and inevitable bird infestation always discouraged us. Living among the trees in this contemporary architectural stunner is a far more appealing option—the spaces are clean-lined and bright, and the open-riser stairs are far easier to manoeuvre than a rope or a rickety ladder. Click here for more details and a photo gallery »

8. $3 million for an arty, three-level condo with a sense of drama
There are three things that make this condo stand out against the hordes of generic glass boxes rising across the city: exclusivity (its one of only 10 units in the building), space (a 6,000-square-foot, three-storey place is as hard to come by in Toronto as a winning sports franchise) and stuff (the original owner was a world-travelling collector). Sadly, none of the wares come with the place (including the stripper pole in the bedroom), but it should give the new owners some interesting decor ideas. Click here for more details and a photo gallery »

9. $1 million for the coolest converted-church condo we’ve seen yet
With the number of church conversions we’ve seen over the past few years, it seems that real estate is the city’s fastest growing religion (sorry, God). This condo, in the bell tower of the Gothic-revival Abbey Lofts, maintains the ecclesiastical feel in a particularly quirky way, with the original beam work left exposed and the top of the tower (now sans bell) turned into a glass-enclosed sun room. Click here for more details and a photo gallery »

10. A mansion in the sky at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Residences
This is just about the most opulent, extravagant condo we saw all year. It’s on the 43rd floor of the new Ritz-Carlton building, so the space comes with an in-house gym, pool, room service, concierge and housekeeping. The most stunning feature, other than the tasteful, if traditional, decor is that the unit looks out onto Lake Ontario and the islands, so you’ll be able to keep an eye on your yacht in the harbor and  private jet at Billy Bishop. Click here for more details and a photo gallery »