Brand building through storytelling

My sweet unlikely home

My friend Audrey thinks I’ve lost my mind, although she’s too polite to say so in as many words. What she did say is this: “It’s too small. You won’t be happy there.” My friend Lisa’s verdict was “Eeew! It’s a horrible area! So many hostels!”

Neither of these loyal, well-meaning friends has yet seen the loft that my husband and I just bought, to the amazement of everyone we know, not least ourselves.

When we cashed out of our dream condo in a posh part of town, we thought we’d return to where we started: a quietly welcoming house in an undiscovered area like the one where we raised our son. I could picture the roofline, crowned with fresh snow, and the gabled room under the eaves where I would write. I saw my favourite painting over the fireplace, and next year’s Christmas tree twinkling in a broad bay window. With my husband, I compiled a checklist of essentials: two home offices, separate room for the TV, deck for barbecuing, basement to hold all the stuff we’ve got to have, even though we haven’t touched it in years.

No such house turned up. Not in our price range, anyway. And did we really want to fret about eavestroughs again? Rather than settle for a hum-drum box of a condo that we’d inevitably compare to our current spiffy penthouse, we went looking at mid-size lofts.

Have you ever noticed that when happily married people lose their spouses, they’re drawn to someone completely different—and often more freewheeling? They’re wise enough to know that since they can’t recapture the past, it’s time to embrace the ragged possibilities of the future. Together, my husband and I have encountered a similar dynamic . After years of cornice mouldings, we set our sights on the exposed beams and soaring ceilings of reclaimed industrial space.

We thought we were only sussing out the market when we stepped into a loft so small, we wouldn’t even have gone there if we’d known the square footage. It’s half the size of our condo, with no room for home offices, a separate TV room or 37 years’ worth of stuff. But I loved its eccentric beauty, which looked nothing like a magazine spread on loft living, in which the artfully stripped-down furniture appears to have migrated directly from the ads. Every corner bore the stamp of devoted owners with a confident sense of style that both reflected and expanded our own. I knew we’d come home, and I could tell from my husband’s face that he knew it, too.

Bob DylanWhen I was 16, with a headful of dreams about living in the Village, I aspired to a scruffier version of this loft. The kind of place Bob Dylan would live in—and did as an upstart folkie looking for a  break. In Volume One of his memoir, Chronicles, he writes, “[The] couch was a padded back car seat with spring upholstery…The room smelled of gin and tonic, wood alcohol and flowers.” I never did have a bohemian pad, in the Village or anywhere else. Life overtook me, with diaper pails and mortgages. In my 50s, I’ve discovered that it’s not too late to have what I always wanted.

Looking for a home is like looking for love, and you don’t find your partner—or your space in the world—by ticking off items on a checklist. If I’d stuck to a checklist, I’d never have found my husband. But here we are, about to embark on a new adventure, in part of town that’s perfectly safe, despite Lisa’s qualms. We’ll be walking distance from a farmer’s market, a number of theatres and the best chocolate in Toronto. We still have to figure out just where we’re going to work, but what’s life without a challenge? I can practically smell gin and tonic, wood alcohol and flowers…

Posted by Rona

Leave a Reply

Stay up-to-date with Rona.

To see what’s on my mind these days, friend me on Facebook.

Miss my old site?

Visit the archive to find your favorite blog posts and Chatelaine editorials or browse my published articles. Sorry, I’m not blogging anymore.