Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd, Brokerage
1300 Yonge Street, Suite 100 Toronto, Ontario M4T 1X3

Frank Lloyd Wright part of the Prairie School of Architecture

Frank Lloyd Wright was a very influential American architect who could also be quite controversial.  A great book to read about the life and personal affairs of Frank Lloyd Wright is Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank. He certainly had a colourful personality in addition to his artistic talents. 

Frank Lloyd Wright designed more than 1,000 structures, 532 of which were completed. He was a proponent of “organic architecture”, a belief that buildings should be in harmony with their natural surroundings. His most famous creation was Fallingwater (1935), a home in southwestern Pennsylvania, that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and open to the public as a museum.  The building was designed for the family of Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar J.Kaufmann, Sr. and there is both architectural history and Kaufmann family history woven into the story of the making of Fallingwater. This striking building is layered into the waterfall and has intricate details throughout. Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture philosophy has influenced many architects. He was a key member of the Prairie School movement of architecture in North America which paralleled  and shared some elements with the Arts and Crafts movement in England.

Another concept Wright developed was the Usonian house, whose simplicity was in direct contrast to the grandeur of Fallingwater. These homes were utilitarian in design, but with a modern twist.  Wright wanted to appeal to the average American in addition to the ultra wealthy for design work. 1937 was the thick of the great depression and Americans wanted to live simply. This article by ThoughtCo does a wonderful job describing these homes.

A few months ago I had the pleasure of visiting Hollyhock House in Los Angeles. It is a spectacular site on a hill in Barnsdall Art Park, overlooking the city skyline. Hollyhock House is a fine example of his work, including the sad reality that it was never actually finished as a result of a dispute with the owner over a theatre room. One of Wright’s key concepts was the principle of “compression and release”. The idea was to have low ceiling heights in hallways leading to a great room that opens up with high ceilings. The living room in the home has a massive fireplace with a moat around it that was fed by an outdoor fountain, although apparently it never actually worked properly.  Every detail of this home had Wright’s touch, including furniture and intricate geometric stained glass windows. He could be slow to complete his jobs as he was forever customizing every detail which often frustrated the homeowners and led to friction. 

The Guggenheim Museum in New York is another famous landmark created by Frank Lloyd Wright. Visitors walk up its iconic spiralling ramp to explore the exhibitions. As with a number of Wright’s buildings, form and function were at cross purposes and there have been issues with water and window seals that had to be overhauled over the years.  The building itself is very striking from streetscape and its unique layout makes for a very different way to experience a museum.

On a recent visit to the newly curated MoMA we saw A Model Of St Mark’s Tower, a highrise tower designed by Frank Lloyd right that was never actually built. Unfortunately, plans and budgets sometimes change and projects get abandoned as was the case with this one. 

Another spectacular example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work is his own personal estate Taliesin (Welsh for shining brow) in Spring Green, Wisconsin, a sprawling 600-acre property that originally belonged to Wright’s maternal family. Loving Frank gives more insights into his life at Taliesin including details of his mistress Maman Borthwick, who he began seeing after leaving his first wife in Illinois. His design principles from the Prairie School come into play throughout the compound, where locally-sourced limestone was used to blend into the landscape of limestone outcroppings on the Wisconsin plains.

Wright also created Taliesen West in Arizona as his winter home, and he continued his theme of organic architecture and the use of locally-sourced materials there as well. The site became home to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, though, sadly, it was just recently announced that the school will be shut down due to lack of funding. I am sure it was a privilege for students to study in the presence of exceptional architecture while surrounded by Wright’s details and principles on a daily basis. A shame that the learning environment will close. 

For those interested in learning more about Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings and his design elements there are architecture tours offered in both Los Angeles and Chicago.  Fallingwater and both Taliesin sites offer property tours that will resume once we recover from the COVID-19 crisis. As we quarantine at home during this pandemic we do have the good fortune to be able to enjoy his architecture remotely via this site: 5 Frank Lloyd buildings you can explore remotely!

COVID-19 has changed the economic landscape for now so we shall see what unfolds with architecture as it relates to new construction. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the elements of Usonia will come into play as a possible recession unfolds and we perhaps move to a simpler, more modest aesthetic and way of living.

Happy May!  Stay home and we will soon be through this.


Helen Braithwaite

Real Estate Representative, Chairman’s Award 2017-2019

Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited


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Happy Easter and Passover weekend from our family to yours!

We enter into a the Easter long weekend that is normally one for congregating with family and friends to celebrate. With the current stay at home orders and the current state of emergency it will be virtual celebrations with Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts. Wishing everyone a lovely long weekend creatively celebrating with family and friends safely from the comfort of your home. I also want to say  thank you to all the health care workers and essential workers on the front lines during this COVID-19 pandemic that allow us to have the luxury of staying in the comfort of our own homes.


Helen Braithwaite and Michelle Phillips

Sales Representatives

Chestnut Park Real Estate

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Alvar Aalto: Principles of Functionalism

As the events of COVID-19 unfold, we have been hearing that we are in uncharted territory and are going through unprecedented societal change. We are all making changes to our daily lives to help stop the spread of the disease. Though this seems new to many of us, over the past century there have been various examples of contagious disease outbreaks that required self-isolation and increased sanitation that, interestingly, have played a role in architecture and design. Tuberculosis used to be a life-threatening contagious disease because antibiotics for treatment were not made until the mid 1900s. Before antibiotics, the measures to cure the disease were thought to be fresh air, bed rest, light therapy and diet. Sanatoriums were built as a place for patients to be treated and heal, removed from society due to its highly contagious nature. 

Alvar Aalto designed the Paimio Sanatorium in Paimio, Finland and this was a key work in establishing his international significance as an architect. Aalto followed the principles of functionalism to design the Paimio Sanatorium as it was intended to be a healing element through its architecture, contents and details.  

Design for the building began in 1928, construction started in 1930, and the building was completed in 1933. Since tuberculosis is transmitted by bacteria, all surfaces were designed to be easy to clean and the spaces could be easily aired. There were no sharp edges, unnecessary decorations or shelves that would gather dust or bacteria. The interior materials and surfaces were also chosen to be durable and easy to wash. The flooring was rubber, ceramic slates were used throughout the building and it had various shiny painted surfaces. The lobby desk was curved with no edges and shiny so it too was easy to clean. The large windows allowed for maximum light through the lobby area. 

The site of the project was chosen for its remote sandy terrain in the middle of a pine forest that was deemed to be a “healthy” location.  Patients came to the sanatorium to be isolated from the community to prevent the disease from spreading. They were encouraged to promote healing by taking long walks in the fresh air on fountain-studded paths around the property. 

Patients’ rooms were decorated and painted with healing in mind and were rich in colour. The light walls and darker ceilings were intended to be peaceful for individuals who would be lying down for much of the time. The door handles and wash basins were all designed in collaboration with doctors to promote health and well-being of the patients. The patients’ rooms, sun balconies, common areas, maintenance and technical spaces were each in their own wings. Patient rooms and social areas were oriented directly south to maximize the favourable light. 

The furniture was made using natural materials such as wood, rather than steel, in accordance with the functional principles. One furniture piece designed for the sanatorium was the Pikku Paimio chair. The Paimio was one of the most recognizable furniture pieces of the era, and its back was intended to assist the patient in breathing.


The Paimio Chair             

Once antibiotics became available in the mid 1900s the sanatorium gradually converted into a general hospital.  Some major changes have been made but the key characteristics of the architecture and furniture remain. However, since 2014 the hospital functions have been moved to other sites, and new uses are being investigated for the building, with preservation of the architecture and its contents as important factors to decisions about the future of the building. 

Given the current COVID-19 pandemic we are rethinking both how we live and what protection we require to prevent transmission of this disease. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how functional design elements such as the ones used at the Paimio Sanatorium will be integrated into the future planning of hospitals, public spaces, offices and homes to ensure our health and safety.

Be well my friends!

Helen Braithwaite* and Michelle Phillips, Real Estate Representatives

Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.

*Chairman’s Award 2017-2019


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Toronto Real Estate and Life: Uncertain Times

What a difference even one week has made to how all of our lives are affected by coronavirus and COVID-19. What used to seem like a problem on the other side of the world has reached Toronto. It is a new reality we all have to face. Yes social distancing is a shock to people used to all the activities urban life provides but we all need to listen to medical experts and lay low at home. I personally am in hibernation watching the real estate market and will make myself available to clients on a need-to basis. Chestnut Park has advised us all to work remotely unless we absolutely need to go to the office. All offers are now to be done through email rather than a formal offer presentation at our office. Our clients’ health and safety and that of Chestnut Park’s staff is of utmost importance. Despite this new reality, homes are still selling and many with offer dates. In fact, there were multiple deals that took place over this past weekend at Chestnut Park.  Below is a message from our Chris Kapches, our president and CEO.

MARCH 17, 2020
Dear Clients and Friends,

COVID-19 has created exceptional challenges for our friends, families, communities and businesses. The Chestnut Park team is working together to mitigate these challenges, to the extent possible.Over the past week, the Chestnut Park team has rallied together to assist one another, and to support our agents and clients by implementing various protocols to reduce risk to our employees, agents and communities. We believe that we have implemented the necessary protocols that will enable us to continue to provide our clients with the up-to-date market insights, service and guidance that they have grown to expect. We will make necessary adjustments to our practices and protocols as more information becomes available.

As difficult decisions are being made, and as people will invariably be affected, I am confident that our communities, our businesses and our friendships will grow stronger and thrive. I encourage everyone to stay supportive of one another, and we will continue to provide services to our clients, agents, and the community that we serve during this difficult and trying time.

Chris Kapches
LLB, President and CEO, Broker of Record

I keep thinking about what it would have been like during the Spanish Flu, sequestered in homes, frightened but without the same level of communication that we have in 2020. As terrible as this COVID-19 disease appears to be, we are in a better situation than 1918. We at least have the comforts of home and a very strong food supply chain (despite what those flocking the grocery stores feel).  We have computers, Netflix, and can embrace family time whether they are with you or on FaceTime or a phone call away.

Staying at home can feel a bit boring but actually it is a great practise for all of us to slow down a bit and enjoy the comfort of our homes. It is a very anxious time for all of us and exercise is a great way to clear your mind. Those that know me know I love my Peleton for a quick at- home workout. What many may not know is that there is a great app that has a variety of workouts including Yoga, Meditation and Running, Boot Camp and Cycling (if you have a different stationary bike).

A free meditation podcast is available at Power Yoga Canada

Online classes are available at Misfit Studio

Here is a list of the best online classes for further ideas

I feel for parents with young kids trying to occupy them at home, limiting play dates and honouring social distancing. This is the time to dust off the board games, pull out a deck of cards, bake some cookies, watch an old classic, start that puzzle you received as a present a few years ago.

Frozen 2 is being released tomorrow to help parents in entertaining little ones. Universal has announced it will release to streaming its current movie releases to keep people home.  It is also still ok to get outside for some fresh air as long as you keep a safe distance from others. A ravine walk certainly clears the mind.

Also think of all the odd jobs were are behind on at home, the tax paperwork need to organize, all those home projects we procrastinate. It is a perfect time to settle into a good book.

Please, I urge you to enjoy life as a homebody as everyone who stays home can slow the spread of infection and actually help to save lives!

If you have coronavirus symptoms there is an online Ontario website to self-screen. Please don’t rush to testing centres until you do this self screen. There are COVID-19 testing centres that are separate from hospital emergency rooms to get tested. If you want to call a health professional for advice 811 is the number to call not 911. Telehealth Ontario’s number is 1-866-797-0000

As we all think of ourselves and our loved ones’ health, we also need to think of those in need who may not have the resources we do to ride this wave out. Consider donating to your local food bank. I donated to The Stop , Daily Bread  Food Bank  and Parry Sound Harvest Share  to support a Muskoka area food bank as well. I want to wish everyone well as we ride out this pandemic. This too shall pass and life will return to a new normal. Be safe, be well and be smart.



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Toronto Luxury Real Estate: John B. Parkin a Toronto Mid-Century Architect

Now that I’ve shared a bit of information about Mies van der Rohe, I wanted to highlight a significant mid-century Canadian architect, John B. Parkin, who collaborated with Mies on the TD Centre design. John B. Parkin was the largest Architectural firm in Canada in the mid-century.

John B. Parkin Designed Headquarters to the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA)

John B. Parkin received his degree in Architecture from the University of Toronto but headed over to England for a few years to establish his career. He returned to Toronto in 1947 to begin his own practice, then partnered with John C. Parkin (no relation, just a fellow architect) and then brought his brother, a landscape architect, on board to create John B. Parkin Associates. The company continues today, but there are no Parkins working there any more. In the 1950s through 1960s John B. Parkin was involved in the design of many Toronto landmarks, including Toronto City Hall, the Ontario Association of Architects Headquarters, the Toronto-Dominion Centre and an assortment of public schools, TTC bus exchanges, and a gas station.

Bata Shoe headquarters demolished in 2007 and currently the site of the Aga Khan Museum

The Bata Headquarters was a fine example of John B. Parkin’s work but the building and land around it was acquired by Aga Kahn and the building was demolished to build the Aga Khan Museum.

Blog TO wrote a fabulous article highlighting John B. Parkin, touting him as The Architect that Changed Everything in Toronto, that is worth the read.

John B. Parkin is also known for a North Rosedale home located at 3 Old George Place. It was an iconic mid-century home that overlooked the Rosedale ravine on two levels. There was a lovely lower-level living room that featured a stone wall and glass with views out to the circular swimming pool and yard that gently sloped to the ravine. It was rated a Heritage A home, but due to a series of unfortunate events has been completely transformed into a new home that doesn’t really resemble a John B. Parkin design in any way. The now-demolished home at 75 Bridle Path was another fine example of his residential work the home of John C. Parkin the principal designer of John B Parkin and associates. I do feel Toronto has lagged in terms of protecting mid-century properties as demonstrated by two bungalows in South Rosedale slated for demolition for condos and townhomes.

Photo Courtesy of Jacquie Jensen-Roy

Fun fact: John B Parkin designed the Rosedale Subway Station.



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Toronto Ritz Carlton Residences: Luxury Living at its finest

Just Listed!

The Ritz-Carlton Residences. Luxury at its finest.
183 Wellington Street West, Suite 4404

This light-filled corner suite offers breathtaking south and west views of the lake and the city that are truly living art from sunrise to sunset! Daydream as you watch the sailboats in the Toronto Harbour and lose yourself in the vast lake views towards Niagara. In the evening, the west views steal the show with twinkling cityscape lights that can be seen to the horizon.
This spacious suite offers approximately 3300 square feet of living space with an exceptional split plan layout featuring three bedrooms plus a den, a rarity in the Toronto condominium market! Direct elevator access to the suite and top-quality finishes throughout.
You’ll be enchanted from the moment you walk off the elevator.
For further details or a private showing call Helen Braithwaite 416-925-9191 or email

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Toronto Luxury Real Estate: February 2020 Market Statistics

Another record breaking month for real estate in February, we have a shortage of listing putting upward pressure on prices. Condominium sales continue to increase with with an average price of $722,675 and detached homes in the city are now close to $1.5 million. For further details please listen Chris Kapches, President and CEO of Chestnut Park Limited

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Toronto Luxury Real Estate: Chestnut Park Real Estate Chairman’s Award 2019

I started down the Toronto real estate path over 15 years ago given my passion for homes, architecture and design coupled with the desire to help people. It is alway a nice feeling to achieve success.  Thank you to my clients and colleagues for my third year attaining Chairman’s Award.  I am truly appreciative all the assistance I receive at Chestnut Park. It certainly helps to have top notch management and a fabulous support system at the firm to be able to achieve results. Thank you to my lovely clients who I am blessed to work with. I am proud to be a part of an amazing brokerage firm that is a Christie’s International Real Estate Affiliate.

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Toronto Luxury Real Estate: January 2020 Market Report

January 2020 showed a jump in the of 7.725%  year over year in the average sales price and a sharp rise in the number of sales up 14% year over year. The days on market is under one month as there is a shortage of inventory in central Toronto. The lack of listings is causing upward pressure on prices and we are back to the bidding war environment. The Stress test and basic affordability does help curb the price increases. Under $1 million properties are the most frenzied as you can qualify of an insured high ratio mortgage under $1 million.

For full details on the Toronto Real Estate Market please see Chris Kapches, CEO of Chestnut Park Real Estate Market report in the video below.

Please know I have buyers for quality properties in Summerhill, Forest Hill, Annex and Rosedale. Some of my buyers are willing to renovate and others are looking for a turn key opportunity. Should you wish to quietly sell your property please do not hesitate to contact me. We can easily do a property appraisal for you and decide what a fair value would be for you home.


Helen Braithwaite

Sales Representative, Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited

Chairman’s  Award 2017,2018,2019

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Toronto Luxury Real Estate: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

I thought it was important to highlight this mid-century architect, a German-born pioneer of modernist architecture and the final director of  the Bauhaus School, a critical mid-century architecture school. Mies left Germany for the United States in the wake of the Nazi rise to power. They did not condone this modern movement and the school was closed. In the United States Mies headed up the school of architecture at the Armour Institute of Technology (later renamed the Illinois Institute of Technology) in Chicago.

The reason I wanted to share a bit of information about Mies is because of downtown Toronto’s spectacular TD Centre, a stunning example of his work. Mies van der Rohe was the design consultant for John B. Parkin and Bregman + Hamann, the architects, and Fairview Corporation, the developer. The towers were built between 1967 and 1991. The design integrity has been maintained right down to his iconic Barcelona chairs in the lobbies. I always enjoy heading up to Canoe restaurant to take in the architecture and I had the pleasure of working in one of these towers in my first job out of university.

Mies’ style of architecture was similar to other avant-garde architects of the day. He  worked to assemble his structures using modern materials as efficiently as possible, featuring clean lines and shapes and minimal colour to incorporate the outside into the interior as best he could. 

Mies is also famous for Farnsworth House, a commission for a country retreat outside Chicago. This glass house is raised six feet above the flood plain of the Fox River and is supported by eight simple posts. With this home he played with the relationship between people, shelter and nature. The most unique feature of this home is that no interior wall touches the floor, and walls of glass the create an exoskeleton around the home.  It certainly was advanced for the time it was built, 1947-1957. The house became so famous it was purchased in 2004 for $7.5 million, including the 60 acre property, and turned into a museum that is managed by National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Farnsworth House is said to have been a strong influence for Philip Johnson’s Glass House located near New York City.

Other buildings of significance that Mies van der Rohe designed include the National Gallery in Berlin, the Seagram Building in New York (which is very similar to the TD Centre towers), the Chicago Federal Complex and the Houston Art Gallery.

The Bauhaus movement was all about providing well-designed buildings and furniture for the common man.  So Mies was much like Charles and Ray Eames in his design pursuit. I think many of us have or dream of having a Barcelona chair! Unfortunately, in 2020, this iconic chair has become rather cost-prohibitive.

In his 1981 book about modern architecture, From Bauhaus to Our House, Tom Wolfe called the Barcelona chair “the Platonic ideal of chair”, and wrote that, despite its high price, owning one had become a necessity for young architects. “When you saw the holy object on the sisal rug, you knew you were in a household where a fledgeling architect and his young wife had sacrificed everything to bring the symbol of the godly mission into their home.”

Fun Fact: Ludwig Mies was his original name  but he changed his name to Mies van der Rohe as he made the transformation from tradesman to architect. Mies in German means lousy so by adding his mother’s maiden name to his name it appeased the German elite.

Ludwig Mies van Der Rohe 1927 chrome-plated tubular steel and cane chair currently on display at the MOMA in NYC.

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