1300 Yonge Street, Suite 100 Toronto, Ontario M4T 1X3 416-925-9191 helenbraithwaite@chestnutpark.com

Toronto Union Station’s Union Speaks event January 25th, 2018

Well Attended Union Speaks-Toronto Union Station

By now, everyone is probably well aware that  Toronto Union Station is going through a huge transformation and restoration. It is exciting to see this historic building that has functioned purely as a conduit for commuters become a space for people to congregate. Toronto Dominion Bank is the lead sponsor of this project and is working on creative ways to engage people within Union Station as well as to the extensive restaurant and retail options. Union Speaks was created to engage people in a healthy conversation about issues facing our city and beyond. Each Union Speaks event will have a different theme and will take place every few months in the west wing of Union Station. The next event will be held in the spring.

For anyone in real estate or with a general interest in development within our city, this latest Union Speaks was very informative, with insights from Toronto Union, TD Bank,The Design Exchange, and First Gulf.  The host of the evening was Salima Rawji, VP Development at the City of Toronto’s  Toronto Realty Agency.

The Toronto Union redevelopment is extremely respectful that the station is a world heritage site with history dating back to First Nations, so the evening began with an Indigenous song by a First Nations woman who spoke of  the Objibwa, Iroquois and Wyandot people’s history on the Toronto Union site.  She mentioned the many downtown street names such as Spadina that have Indigenous roots.

Toronto Union

The first speaker was Vanessa McDonald, VP of Brand Strategy and Partnerships for Toronto Union . Vanessa gave some clarity on  the transformation of Union Station from an near obsolete space into a dynamic environment for people to congregate, dine, shop and just meet up with friends.  Union has evolved beyond a mere conduit for commuters and many interesting shops and restaurants have already opened. Union Chicken and Amano Pasta are both sit-down restaurants with the option for take-out. They both will offer brunch and breakfast in addition to their extensive lunch and dinner choices. The Peace Collective, The Naked Beauty Bar, Chocolate X chocolatier are just a few of the premier retail offerings opening at Union. As you exit the Go train there is a world of options to enjoy at Union prior to entering  The Path. Condo dwellers can also enjoy all these new amenities within Union Station.

Union Draws the Last Sunday of Every Month

In addition to Union Speaks, they also host Union Draws where you can come to the station to learn to draw and sketch. There is no better place to start learning about perspective than than in this stunning historic space. Union Draws takes place on the last Sunday of every month and this past Sunday the session was lead by Alexander Josephson of Partisans Architecture, the firm that has had their hand in the renovations of the retail spaces. In the summer months, once the construction is done, Union Summer market will return to Front Street offering food, music and events to make lunch hour a little more interesting.  Both of these events are sponsored by Toronto Dominion Bank.

The Design Exchange

The second speaker was Shauna Levy of the Design Exchange.  A 2014 exhibit at the Design Exchange,  This is Not a Toy, was guest curated by Pharrell Williams. When Pharrell was asked why he would volunteer his time on this endeavour, his answer was that he wants contemporary art to be accessible to everyone and this has become Shauna’s mission.  Shauna shared with us the story of Edit, the exhibit that was created in an abandoned soap factory in the Lower East Don Lands last year and was tremendously successful in exposing the general public to art and design. Shauna is always thinking of what she can do engage Toronto and Toronto Union is a the perfect venue to showcase both art and design to the population. She is a strong supporter of the restoration and transformation of Union as she believes in re-purposing old buildings rather than demolishing them. Her love of Heatherwick has her dreaming of transforming the old flour silos on the lake into an incredible building as it has been done by Heatherwick in Capetown. She mentioned Bruce Mau, the well-known Canadian designer, and his involvement in Edit as well as Partisans, an up-and-coming architecture firm involved in Toronto Union’s transformation. I must say Toronto is well looked after with Shauna relentlessly striving to make art and design a part of everyone’s life here.

East Habour development

The next speaker was Derek Goring, the VP Development of East Harbour with First Gulf.  It was exciting to hear about the work that First Gulf has done collaborating with the City of Toronto while working on their plan of slowly and organically re-developing the Lower East Don Lands into an entire new community that will become quite self sufficient. The key to this development is transportation. First Gulf has worked with the city to devise a plan to change the path of the Don Valley as it connects to the Gardiner expressway and taking down the long ramp that leads you to the neighbourhoods of Leslieville and The Beach from the Gardiner. This will open up land for development and make the neighbourhood more welcoming and attractive.  They have also worked with the city to extend the subway and TTC to this area that historically has been very removed from any form of public transport. Derek did reference the Canary Wharf project in London as a parallel, however he qualified that this development is set up for success!

Further East Harbour Details:
  • 60 Acres, Canada’s largest planned commercial development
  • 11 million square feet of office and institutional space
  • 2 million square feet of retail, food, entertainment and cultural space
  • More than 70,000 jobs
  • A new multi-modal transit hub
  • Adaptable and innovative building systems
  • Extensive parks, public squares and green spaces
  • Designed to respond to contemporary trends
  • Ever-changing environment using temporary exhibits, pop-up shops and events
  • Open and walkable retail streets
  • A community within the city that is active 24/7
  • Mix of indoor, weather-protected and street-oriented retail that will create an all- season environment
  • East Harbour is currently the “best located, worst connected” site in the city
  • In order to unlock the site for the development, East Harbour relies on significant enabling infrastructure referred to as 3 Rs: Road, Rail and River
  • From 2014-2017, First Gulf worked with all three levels of government and all interested stakeholders to achieve approval and funding for these projects and that has been achieved
  • Reconfiguring the Gardiner Expressway to accommodate a new intersection at the Don Roadway
  • Provide direct access to and from East Harbour from the DVP
  • Removal of all Lakeshore Boulevard ramps allowing for the extension of Broadview Avenue through East Harbour into the Port Lands
  • A multi-modal transit hub
  • Highest level of public transit service
  • 2 commuter lines (GO/Regional express rail/SmartTrack) with subway-type frequency
  • 1 subway relief line
  • 2 LRTs (Broadview and Queen’s Quay)
  • Multiple bus lines
  • Shuttle service to Union Station in less than 5 minutes
  • The Don Mouth naturalization project
  • East Harbour is currently located in a floodplain, which restricts East Harbour from being developed
  • The naturalization project will provide permanent flood protection, removing East Harbour from the flood plain and allowing for development
  • It also protects approximately 700 acres in the port lands
  • All three levels of government have committed to fund this $1.3 billion project
  • 2013/2014 Development
  • 2015/2016 Infrastructure
  • 2016/2017 Approvals 
  • 2019 Construction begins
  • 2021 Initial occupancy

TD Bank sponsorship 

The last speaker was  Tyrrell Schmitt, VP Global Brand and Customer Experience, TD Bank. It was great to see how engaged Toronto Dominion Bank is in terms of community events and engagement within Toronto Union, through initiatives such as sponsoring cell phone charging stations, the Union Speaks series, gift-wrapping at Christmas and greeters to ensure people can navigate through the construction. Their enthusiasm to transform Union and create a community was wonderful to hear.

I suggest you start watching for upcoming events at Union Station and enjoy watching as this transformation unfolds!

Shauna Levy referenced two great Jane Jacobs quotes:

“New ideas use old buildings” 

“Designing a dream city is easy; rebuilding a living one takes imagination”

Collectively Torontonians are carrying on Jane Jacobs’ work using their imaginations to grow this city into a vibrant place to live that celebrates both multi-culturalism and diversity. I am very excited to see the East Harbour development unfold to finish the re-gentrification of what had been derelict waterfront. I am also looking forward to more Design Exchange events and all the upcoming events at Toronto Union Station!

“New ideas must use old buildings” Jane Jacobs







Read more >

Toronto Luxury Real Estate: New Stress Test for Mortgages

I felt I needed to write about the new stress test that will be used as of January 1st, 2017 to qualify home purchasers for mortgages. These stress tests are designed to protect home buyers from mortgage default in a rising interest rate environment. The government has introduced a new cushion that will affect all uninsured mortgages (those mortgages with a down payment of 20% as well as all mortgage refinances).

  • Home buyers now qualify at the greater of the Bank of Canada posted rate (4.99%) or their contract rate +2%. This means if your rate is 3.39% you would be qualifying at a rate of 5.39%.
  • Signed purchase and sales agreements dated prior to January 1st qualify under the old rules
Some Examples of the Effects of the New Rules

Based on an interest rate of 3.39% (stress test qualifying you at a rate of 5.39%) and an amortization of 30 years.

  • $900,000 purchase price with a 20% down payment ($180,000 down) with $5,000 in taxes.  Mortgage amount $720,000. Income needed to qualify before the stress test was $105,000 and after the new street test $120,000, an increase of $15,000
  • $1.5 million purchase price with a 20% down payment ($300,000) Mortgage amount $1,200,000 with $8,000 in taxes. Income needed to qualify before the stress test $170,000 and after $205,000, an increase of $35,000
  • $2.5 million purchase price with a 20% down payment ($500,000) Mortgage amount $2,000,000 with $10,000 in taxes. Income needed before the stress test $270,000 and after the stress test $335,000.  An increase of $65,000
What You Qualify for Under the New Rules

Using a 30 year amortization, rate of 3.39% (qualifying at 5.39%) and taxes set at $7,000 with 20% down payment

A couple with a combined income of $250,000 could afford to pay $2,350,000 for a home before the stress test would now qualify for a home priced at $1,880,000 

A couple with a combined income of $150,000 could afford a $1,050,000 for a home before the stress test would now qualify for priced at $840,000

A couple with a combined income of $90,000 could afford to pay $720,000 before the stress test would now qualify for a home priced at $575,000

We do need to make note that on January 17, 2018 the Bank of Canada increased its overnight lending rate to 1.25% from 1%. The 6 major banks have followed their lead, and increased their prime rate.

Current prime rates: Scotiabank 3.45%  RBC 3.45% TD 3.6%

Note that changes in prime will increase variable rate interest rates which are generally set at prime -0.50%. Scotiabank had a variable rate of 2.7% before the stress tests and after the stress test the variable rate mortgages are 2.95%

Insured Mortgages

Insured mortgages are only available under $1 million and are for purchases with a down payment of less than 20%. The minimum payment is 5% on the first $500,000 and 10% down on the difference, up to $1  million.  Those looking for an insured mortgage are qualified at the Bank of Canada rate of 4.99% or their contract rate, whichever is higher. If your contract rate is 3.14% you still have to be able to qualify at 4.99% for you mortgage. This may price first time home buyers out of the market if their only hope of homeownership was through insured mortgages.

Thank you to Darlene Hanley of Oriana Financial for such a comprehensive explanation of the new stress test rules and what they do to home purchasing power.


Read more >

Toronto’s 2018 Interior Design Show: Luxury Living Inspiration

I had the pleasure of attending Toronto’s Interior Design Show last Thursday night with my daughters. I am so happy they also enjoy exploring interior design! It is always nice to do a walk through this annual design show to get ideas for your own home and it is an excellent resource if you are about to undertake a renovation. It is very handy to have so many vendors at the same place and to see the products you may have seen online or in a magazine.

Design Show Trends


Made Made in Canada
  • There were many  design booths that offered Made in Canada options for that mid-century modern look with a twist. The above photo is Small Batch Solid wood Furniture made locally in Toroto by Charuk and Ford. You don’t have to invest in the “named” mid-century design to get that look and sometimes it is nice to have something more unique. 608 had two great Scandinavian inspired chair designs  N22 and the Noce Series by Evan Bare.
  • Retro is still very popular in the design world.

  • Smeg is still a hot item from toasters to fridges including a limited edition Dolce and Gabbana fridge for those looking for something whimsical to spice up a drab kitchen.

  • Appliances are a very important part of any kitchen renovation. Luxury homes require built-in coffee makers, microwaves, fridge and freezer drawers, and warming drawers integrated into the kitchen design. It was fun to see the new technology in the appliance world. Wolf and Subzero remain dominant players in the appliance market however Miele is producing some quality appliances. Miele actually had a vacuum display showcasing the evolution of the vacuum cleaner. I do believe their vacuums are one of the best on the market today.
Clever Design for Small Space Living

  • With the trend for small space living, many of the vendors offer clever storage solutions. Kroft had a cleaver minimalist design for hanging.  I also really loved this shoe storage idea.

  • There is also a trend for multipurpose furnishing. We saw a murphy bed transformed from a simple bookshelf to make full use of your space if you are living in a micro-apartment. The bar below is perfect for a small condo that lacks the cupboards required for storage. This portable bar is both aesthetic and functional and can move with you–well worth the investment.

Pre-Fab is now Design Savvy and Cool
  • Pre-fab has come a long way! I was very impressed with The Bunkie Co. which is following the trend for small space living. The Bunkie Co touts that these pre-fab small space buildings do not require a permit in almost all of North America. I would still do my due diligence on what your local building by-laws are prior to proceeding. I thought one of these could make the perfect gym space at a cottage! In fact on their website a cottage gym in Lake of Bays is showcased.

  • Axiom by Turkel Design and Dwell Prefab have a collaborated to create very contemporary and design-savvy larger prefabricated buildings for today’s modern lifestyle that take the environment into consideration.
Patterns are in!
  • Patterned tiles are very popular for flooring and also walls and table mats! I was impressed with Locus Vie + Hidraulik  who create high quality and durable floor mats and table mats. These mats are heat, bacterial and stain resistant in addition to coming in an assortment of  stunning patterns. There was also a vendor that designs custom vinyl tiles for a wall surface.

Black is Bold
  • Black and white create a great contrast, especially in a bathroom. This stand- alone matte black tub and shower with black trim create a real statement.

Carpets are an Art Form
  • Carpets are art pieces in addition to a soft surface for your feet. W Interiors had a beautiful art installation of hung carpets that looked like watercolours in addition to a stunning carpet of a graffiti art tunnel.

  • Comfort is very important to today’s lifestyle. Montauk, Monte Design Home Collection and Style Garage were displaying large comfortable sectionals. Style Garage also displayed a lovely leather banquette to make dining more cozy!
Statement Lighting is Big!

  • Lighting has become an art form which we saw at last year’s IDS with the Gweillo light and this year we saw with the Transforma light by Jacob Antoni, the focal piece of the Ontario Wood display. The Anony Highwire Pendant was another showstopper that is so new it isn’t on their website yet!

  • Gas fireplaces are still big and there was a huge variety, from the pebble look with flames to the traditional. I was most impressed with the Stuv fireplaces that had a clean, contemporary look. Stuv produces both gas and woodburning fireplaces and wood stoves.

  • A very slick looking elevator was on display manufactured by Savaria that clearly understands that aging baby boomers want aesthetic design when it comes to any lifts in their private residences.
  • Outdoor space is very important even with our Canadian climate. This heated fibreglass mid-century inspired bucket chair below certainly warms you up!  A few of these chairs would be a nice addition to the stand-alone heaters and outdoor fireplaces used to extend patio season.

Small Batch Aritsans
  • Fine design can be in the little details from a notebook to serving implements. It was interesting to see all the creativity at the Design Boom and Studio North are of the IDS show.
Bring a Hint of Nature to your Home!
  • Succulents are still a thing! These sculptural plants are the perfect way to bring nature indoors in any space as they are very low maintenance.

I hope I have provided you some ideas for around your home.  I will be attending the Artist Project in February and shall highlight some affordable art I spot at the show.



Read more >

Resolutions: Time for Fitness Toronto!

Back to Fitness Toronto!

Welcome to 2018! We can now focus on getting back to fitness Toronto! I am not sure about you but I have missed a few workouts and eaten a few too many shortbread. January is resolution time! I thought I would highlight a few gyms in the city to get you back to a fitness regime. There are so many Toronto fitness opportunities I can only touch on a few that I hope you can work into your schedule.

Personal Training

Totum Life Science is run by Tim and Stacy Irvine who gained their experience at the former Toronto Fitnes Institute. They opened Totum in the mid-90s looking to provide science based fitness and health to their clients.  Totum is a great spot to get personal one on one training. It is conveniently located at Yonge and Roxborough with an additional location north on the same block above the old Roots, just under Roots Yoga. Their trainers provide a very comprehensive approach to training that is based on both mobility and strength to provide for healthy aging. I have trained at Totum for years and I do believe I remain as active and injury free as I am as a result of this style of training. For those looking for a stretch class that is more scientific than you basic yoga class  David Torrance offers a great Kin Stretch class on Wednesday nights at 6:15pm, you will learn a bit about body mechanics as you stretch.

Fitness Classes

Ultimate Athletics has an extensive repertoire of classes ranging from TRX, kettlebell, rowing, kickboxing, aerobics, stretch and barre to name just a few! The gym is run by fitness couple extraordinaire Vlad Radanovic and Paula Ryff. They have quite the following! It is a very positive and energetic club run by manager Aja Zylberberg. Fun fact: they have a great selection of athletic wear sourced by Aja who has an eye for fashion.

Ferris 360 is a great place for the ultimate circuit class with lots of cardio included! There are a variety of times throughout the day so you can work them easily into any schedule. The location is a bonus as it is steps from Davisville station. For those that don’t want to pay for the one on one training these classes certainly cover all bases for a full strengthen combined with cardio.

Cross Fit

For those inclined to do Crossfit Crossfit Metric on Mount Pleasant just south of Eglinton is a good option. The majority of the staff are ex-military and they certainly know how to push people to their maximum.  Crossfire Metric has both classes and personal training. I am currently training here with a former yoga instructor turned cross-fit junkie, Kathryn Griffiths Kearsey who you can follow on Instagram Toronto Cross Fit Project.  Kathryn’s husband David Kearsey, is also a part of the Toronto Cross Fit project. David (DK)  is a sought after Toronto trainer that works with clients at Yorkville’s Crossfit YKV and for the downton dweller he trains clients at Crossfit 416 . Kathryn and DK are educated trainers that know how to push people to their limits without injury. They are very knowledgeable on how diet combined with training creates optimal results. There are many Crossfit gyms in Toronto just be mindful that you choose a gym with well educated staff!

Cardio Junkies (I know there are a few out there, myself included.)

Spin classes

Soul Cycle, Spin Co and Rocket Cycle all have an extensive list of spin classes with great music and instructors. My little secret are Shelby Pilot’s classes at Totum for those in Rosedale/Summerhill area as the bikes have a read out to know how hard you worked and I enjoy the music that is retro and not quite as deafening relative to Spin Co and Soul cycle.


Barry’s Boot Camp is an amazing place for interval training. The class alternates between floor work and aggressive intervals on a treadmill. This is not for the faint at heart but guaranteed to increase your endurance levels!

For those who want to continue running outdoors through ice and snow Running Room offers run clubs as wells as Lululemon through out the City of Toronto with excellent training programs for upcoming 10ks, 1/2 marathons and full marathons. I have just completed the Lululemon 40/80 run challenge and succeeded in running 80 kilometres in under 2 weeks. This challenge is the perfect launch into my training for the Washington Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run run this spring. Toronto offers two excellent marathons locally the Good Life Fitness Marathon in the spring and the ScotiaBank Waterfront Marathon in the fall.


Scullhouse is a rowing based workout that claims to burn more calories per hour than spinning, running or swimming and provides a full body workout. Worth a try for those seeking high intensity yet low impact exercise.

Triathlon Training

There are so many triathlon races in Ontario through out the spring and summer. Toronto Triathlon takes place in July. Trisport Canada and Multisport Canada have triathlon races you can choose through out Ontario. It offers a great excuse to escape your downtown condo urban life to enjoy rural Ontario. Toronto Triathlon Club is the perfect way to train for these events.

Muskoka training

If you enjoy winter in Muskoka  Tri-Lakes Training is now open by appointment year round and there are also weeknight fitness classes. Once the May long weekend hits the gym offers weekend classes and in July and August there are daily classes. Tri-Lakes is also offer a Triathlon Clinic at Cleveland’s House, detail are found on their website.

I hope this list has inspired you to get out there, get fit and have fun!

Happy New Year and  please have a look at my  December 2017 Toronto Real Estate Market Report  that  highlights the luxury real estate sales in Toronto in 2017. Be aware that  in January the new stress tests for conventional mortgages are implemented by the banks so before you buy make sure you know what you qualify for. If you need any assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.



Read more >

December 2017 Year End Toronto Real Estate Market Report

One would say that 2017 was a wild ride for Toronto Real Estate. We saw an extremely tight  housing supply drive prices up to an all time high in April which caused government intervention. In order to curb the sharp rise in property prices in the GTA the Ontario Government implemented the Fair Housing Plan. It created new rules for landlords including rent price control and a foreign buyer’s tax of 15%.  One could say this intervention did help as prices have retreated from those manic highs in the fall. There are still some questions as the whether the new tenancy rules have hurt the rental supply.  The new rent control rules appear to have contributed to the continued  tight rental supply in the city. Rental housing is now unaffordable to many people in the downtown core.

Year over Year the average sale price was still up from 2016 at $735,000 December 2017 vs. $730,000 December 2016.  This is much lower than the peak we saw at the end of April 2017 where the average price cleared $900,000. The average sale price in central Toronto for December 2017 was $741,000. A detached home in central Toronto is $1.25 million vs $910,000 in the 905 area. At the April peak were almost on par. Central Toronto remains a strong market (please see the table below) with the bulk of the correction occurring in the 905 area code. The biggest change we have seen is a much needed increase in listings from only 4166  properties listed last December to 6330 December 2017. Most of this inventory increase is outside central Toronto which explains the larger price corrections in those areas.

In 2018 we shall see what effect the introduction of the new stress tests for conventional mortgages will have on the markets. It will probably cause some pressure on the lower end of the market which is comprised for the most part of  condominiums. To clarify the new stress test requires banks to qualify mortgages assuming the rates are 2% higher than current interest rates. This is a prudent thing to do when looking to borrow money. It ensures that you can afford your mortgage if interest rates increase when your mortgage is up  for renewal in 5 years.  The luxury market will probably not be as affected as wealthy purchasers are not looking for financing and if they are they would not be as leveraged as the entry level buyer.

I thought at this time I should highlight the 2017 luxury homes sales in select Toronto neighbourhoods.

Bridle Path: 7 sales over $10 million and 46 sales over $5 million

Saint Andrew’s: 17 sales over $5 million

Rosedale:  3 sales just shy of $10 million and 17 sales over $5 million

Forest Hill: 1 sale over $10 million and 15 sales over $5 million

Annex: 8 sales over $5 million

Casa Loma: 2 sales over $5 million

Yonge and St Clair: 1 sale over $5 million

Lawrence Park: 14 sales over $5 million

Condo sales are now the largest part of the Toronto MLS sales making up 65% of all Toronto Real Estate Board transactions on MLS  as they provide the most affordable option for property ownership. The Luxury Condo market in Toronto however, is gaining traction in Toronto.  People are beginning to embrace the turn key lifestyle so we shall see an increase in the luxury condominium sales over the next few years.  Condos in Toronto were originally built to provide an affordable alternative owning a home. Now the market is demanding larger square footage, luxury and ammenities when purchasing condominiums. This has created many luxury pre-construction sales, not on MLS. Camrost Yorkville Residences, Mizrahi the One, 200 Russell Hill Road to name a few.

There were 13 Condominium sales on MLS over $5 million and 1 sale on MLS sale over $10 million. This statistic is a little deceiving as the pre-construction sales are not included in the MLS system and also know in the luxury market quite often properties do sell off market. The Four Sesason Residences Penthouse suite that was offered for sale for $36 million sold firm at the end of 2017 off market as an example.

Of the 13  condominium sales over $5 million 8 sales were in the Yorkville-Bloor Street vicinity, including the penthouse unit in The Florian that sold on MLS over $10 million. Only 2 sales over $5,ooo,000 were downtown, 1 sale was at Yonge and St Clair and 2 were in the Rosedale area.

There were 133 condo sales in Central Toronto between $2,000,000 and $5,000,000 of which 59 sales were in the downtown area and 52 of them were in the Yorkville area. 

For more details on the Toronto Market check out Chestnut Park Real Estate’s President and CEO Chris Kapches’ market comment are found in the  December 2017 Toronto Real Estate Market Report

Should you require assistance or more detailed sales information, please do not hesitate to contact me. Having timely market knowledge allows for a savvy investment decision when it comes to listing or buying your home.

Happy New Year!


Work 416-925-9191 Cell 416-461-3114  helenbraithwaite@chestnutpark.com



Read more >

How to Create Lagom in Your Own Home

Nordic Neutrals

After writing about Hygge I felt I should also discuss Lagom (pronounced LA-gom). Lagom is a Swedish term meaning “living with just the right amount”. The start of a new year is the perfect time to introduce Lagom into your life.  After a holiday of excess with too many gifts, dinners, cookies and glasses of wine it is time to take ourselves back to our discipline. Lagom is an entire way of life but I shall touch on what you can do around the home to create a Lagom space in your own home.

Mid-Century Teak Lounge chair

I grew up in a home that had many Danish influences. At the time my parents had purchased the Scandinavian pieces as they were reasonably priced. Our dining table was teak, we had the teak nesting tables and an iconic Danish lounge chair. Little did they know how popular these were going to become in the 21st century! I wouldn’t say we practiced Lagom as my parents had a lot of other things taking away from  the philosophy.

I have always liked the way the Danish live with such simplicity yet their spaces have a warmth to them.  I love to visit Huset, a store in Venica, CA that sells only Scandinavian products as the there is such a sense of design style yet there is a contemporary simplicity. Now that I have read about Lagom the philosophy is to live peacefully.

How to Bring Lagom to Your Home.

Decor – Don’t make things complicated. Keep it simple with a few key pieces yet create a balance and harmony by softening your space with natural materials and other elements of nature in art or fabric choices. Some examples would be: hardwood, slate or another natural stone floor rather than laminate; birch veneer walls instead of drywall; wooden children’s toys in lieu of plastic.

Colour – Keep things neutral with small splashes of colour to keep a calm environment this creates a balance. The Scandinavian colour code is Nordic Neutrals and greys to keep distractions to a minimum. This colour scheme creates a calm environment which is the key component to Lagom. True Scandinavians accent with just blue but I believe it is ok to add something a little more whimsical and still achieve a calm space.

Living Plants Add a Touch of Nature Indoors

Bring in Some Nature- Adding some fresh plants into the home to gives a sense of outdoors inside. I particularly enjoy succulents as they are quite sculptural and from a practical sense are very low maintenance.

Furniture – Each furniture piece should have a function and each piece of furniture should bring you joy. If you do not get joy from it then it is time to donate to friends, family or a worth charity such as Habitat for Humanity. I have also found that Value Village is a great place to drop off items now that Goodwill has gone.  It always brings me joy when I give something I am not using to someone else and I see their joy.

Minimize Clutter – Throw out old magazines, books, newspapers, Christmas cards that don’t have sentimental value to you. A good rule of thumb to control clutter in a home is when you bring something new into the home something else should be given away.

Gifts, Heirlooms and Objects–  The wonderful gift-giving of Christmas does lead to a few unwanted gifts rather than feeling obligated to keep them please pay it forward and gift it to someone who  may appreciate it. Fulskåp (pronounced FOOL-scap) is a Swedish term for a cupboard full of gifts that have no use to you.  Family heirlooms are lovely but if the objects don’t bring you happiness it is time to pass it on. Please know Christie’s is a great resource should you consider selling any Art, Jewelry, Handbags and antiques that may not speak to you. Walk around your house and remove things that don’t bring you happiness but do keep a few key pieces to connect to your history. They have said happiness is found not through objects but experience. Take a nice family vacation with the proceeds.

Death Cleaning – The Swedish term is “dostadning“, a brilliant concept. It may sound morbid but as we age our need to acquire more things diminishes and it makes sense to purge your belongings starting at 50 to spare your children this burden after you die.  There are a few rooms in my basement I need to tackle. Your kids do not want your family heirlooms or any collection you may have.  Millennials want to live a simply with less clutter and in smaller spaced to free them up to go an enjoy experiences and travel.  This explains the trend to condominium living for a turn key lifestyle. Toronto’s condo sales were the bulk of the sales (condominium sales made up 65% of all reported sales by TREB for 2017). Death Cleaning is not an afternoon job but rather a change in your state of mind to slowly rid yourself of belongings that you don’t use, don’t need or don’t bring you joy.

Less is More

Here a few Design stores in Toronto that carry Scandinavian modern pieces that will inspire you to embrace Lagom  Mjolk. Quasi Modo and Studio Pazo

One can’t exclude IKEA that is the source of all things Swedish for the budget minded but also know that Lagom is about fewer things of higher quality.

Online sources to seek out  Design within Reach, All Modern, Gabriel Ross

On a personal Lagom level, here are six things you can do to live the Lagom lifestyle like the Swedish according to Health Magazine:

  • Start your day with a Morgondop, a morning skinny dip.
  • Be happy in solitude. Travel alone, go to a movie or an Art gallery by yourself.
  • Create a “capsule wardrobe” which refers to a minimal but highly practical closet of quality clothes you love that are also very versatile.
  • Take breaks from work. Head to a coffee shop and sit, sip and enjoy. Breaks have been proved to increase productivity.
  • Learn the art of listening. Swedes rarely interrupt or talk over people and pauses are completely acceptable! North Americans are conditioned to constantly talk.
  • Do some good deeds or random acts of kindness

To get the full scoop on the Lagom lifestyle I recommend you read Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living.  If you missed my blog on Hygge a Danish term for “cozy living” you may enjoy reading that too! Wishing everyone a smooth transition back to work and school routines after the holidays!

Read more >

Happy New Year! Goodbye 2017 and Hello 2018 Hygge style!

Hygge Mantle

Before I discuss the concept of Hygge I would like to thank my family, friends, clients and Chestnut Park Real Estate. 2017 was very successful year for me and couldn’t have done it without all the support and encouragement!

We say goodbye to 2017 which was a challenging year both political and socially with the antics of Trump and the “Me Too” movement.  I think we all want to count on 2018  to be a year of comfort, hope and happiness. This made me realize I should post about Hygge (pronounced HUE-gah), the art of cozy living. Hygge is currently a popular buzzword on the lifestyle and healthy living  front. Hygge, a danish term is “the art of creating intimacy”. In the winter months we all want to feel cozy in our homes curled up by the fire with a book.

I thought I would give you the abridged version of what you can do to create your own Hygge home.

Roaring Wood Stove

Home entertaining – Instead of bracing the cold it is time to cocoon and have a few close friends over for cheese fondue by the wood burning fireplace. I will share a cheese fondue recipe that is our family favourite. The perfect apres ski or snowshoe dinner!

Cheese Fondue is the perfect winter food

  • Buy Ace, Fred’s or Blackbird Bakery baguette, Ace Raisin Walnut bread and Fred’s Walnut Bread and cut into cubes. It is great to mix the breads for extra flavour.
  • Grate  3/4 lb Gruyere 3/4 lb Emmenthal and mix a sprinkle of flour in (2 tablespoons)
  • Cut a clove of garlic and wipe the fondue pot then add 1 1/4 cup white wine heat to almost a boil and add a drop of fresh lemon or Kirsch (depending on your palette preference)
  • Slowly mix in cheese mixture and stir with a whisk until dissolved
  • Light the fondue stand up and enjoy
  • We add carrots, green apple and other vegetables to offer a lower carb alternative for people.

Thank you to my dear friend Kate Pearce for this amazing recipe that has become a family tradition!

Alessi has a wonderful ceramic fondue set but any kitchen store will have one. Worst case just use a pot and improvise.

Hygge is all about curling up with a book and a cup of tea

Tea – hot tea is the ultimate in comfort, there are so many fabulous teas available and Clearview Tea Co. has an extensive collection of organic teas to soothe the soul. For non tea drinkers a nice big cup of cocoa does the trick.

Candles and succulents the perfect combination

Candles – For those that don’t have the option of a roaring woodburning fire candles and votives are a fine option to warm up a room. Tuck Shop Co. sells some great neighbourhood candles with wonderful scents as well as Woodlot candles.

Diffusers – I happen to be obsessed with Saje for their bath salts and aromatherapy blends. I have a diffuser in many of my rooms and you can alter you scent based on your mood and the seasons. For the winter there are Mountain High, Celebrate and Peppermint Twist diffusers scents however my favourite scents are Liquid Sunshine, Stress Relief and Rain Forest.

Sheepskin is the ultimate Hygge

Throw blanket – have a cozy cashmere or alpaca throw on the couch. The Cashmere Shop in Yorkville has some wonderful throw blankets, for something more eclectic Absolutely Inc.  has interesting throws.

Carpet – Sheepskin rugs are big in Sweden and do add that warmth to create the perfect Hygge. Elte has an extensive selection of carpets to warm up any space.

A comfortable rug underfoot, cozy sofa with throws, pillows and the warmth of living plants. Hygge Perfecfion!

Comfy Sectional – Hygge is about getting comfortable and putting your feet up. Sectionals are the best for that if not find a nice ottoman to do the trick. Gus Modern has some wonderful choices at reasonable prices and some proportioned to apartment living.

Having a Hygee Home is now considered part of a healthy lifestyle! Here are 7 more ways* to create a Hygge home which overlaps a little with my next article on Lagom.
  1. Your home should never be magazine perfect
  2. Less is more in terms of furnishings and decor
  3. Music is an integral part of Hygge
  4. There should be something in the home that is part of your history. I have always said your home should tell a story about you as that is what gives it a soul.
  5. Lighting should give you a nice ambience and also provide a function to read a book, see your food.
  6. Surround yourself with well chosen items. I was once told my home was well curated….it sounds silly but I do put thought into each object we have in our home.
  7. Most importantly a home should feel cozy.
*Source House Beautiful UK “Hygge: 7 Styling Tips to achieve a  Scandinavian look at home” Morton Georgsen. October 2016

 Now you have some tips on creating Hygge in your own home this winter! Just light a candle or start a fire and curl up with your favourite book listening to the LP playing on your vintage turntable and relax. 






Read more >

Toronto November Real Estate Market Report

November saw a small drop in average sale price down 2%  year over year to $761, 757 and a much needed increase in inventory to 14,349 vs 10,456 in November 2016.  The central core of Toronto and the E1, E2 and E3 remain quite robust. The condo market is extremely strong as that is where the affordability is. We also saw a lot of activity in the condo market ahead of the new mortgage stress test that will be introduced in January. For a full market report please see  Toronto Real Estate Market Update Nov 2017

I thought it would be helpful to highlight the sales in a few of the central  Toronto neighbourhoods to show how much stronger prices are in the core of Toronto.

November sales stats:

C01 Downtown West of Yonge to Dufferin: average sale price for a condo apartment was $614,000 and $1,597,000 for a detached home

C02 Annex and Yorkville : average sale price for a condo apartment was $1,149,000 and $2,109,000 for a detached home

C03 Forest Hill, Casa Loma, Wychwood park: average sale price for a condo apartment was $873.343 and $2,327,333 for a detached home. This includes Forest Hill which had a significant sale of a signature $15,000,000 estate this month.

C04 average sale price of a condo apartment was $556,000 and $2,224,000 for a detached home

C09 Rosedale Moore Park: average sale price for a condo apartment was $882,941 and $3,538,371 for a detached home with the highest sale price reaching $8,200,000 in November for a signature double lot home on Binscarth Road in North Rosedale.

C10  average sale price for a condo apartment was $731,458 and $1,856,406 for a detached home.

C11 average sale price for a condo apartment $389,619 and $2.344,375 for a detached home.

C12 average sale price for a condo apartment $1,060,750 and $3,349,700 for a detached home. The highest sale price was $5,033,000 in November.

I am always available to provide useful market information to my clients. Do not hesitate to call me if you require information on sales in your neighbourhood or if you would like to inspect a property. I feel having an educated buyer or seller makes any real estate transaction a smoother one.

Stay tuned for my December report which I shall highlight all the signature properties that have sold in Toronto throughout the year 2017.





Read more >

How to enjoy the City of Toronto for the Holidays.

I thought I’d share some of the holiday traditions that my family embraces throughout City of Toronto during the festive season!

  • Seeing the Hudson’s Bay Company holiday windows is always a delight! Finish the evening off with a skate at Nathan Phillips Square, just across Queen Street, surrounded by holiday lights and of course the iconic TORONTO sign.

  • The Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District should not be missed! This market is a fabulous destination to get some Christmas shopping done while getting into the Christmas spirit. There is such magic in the air with plentiful Christmas decor including an enormous light-filled tree. There are rides and a petting zoo for the kids too! Throughout the day there are festive performances to get you into the holiday mood. Our tip is to avoid the weekends and choose a mid-week night to be able to enjoy the festivities without the crowds. This Christmas Market is a great spot to get some Christmas shopping done as there are several interesting boutiques in the distillery. Bergo Designs is a great place to find hobby-themed Christmas tree ornaments and they also have Alessi ornaments for those wanting a more contemporary twist to their tree.



  • Taking in a Holiday concert is always a lovely way of embracing the holidays such as Children’s Christmas Chorus Saturday December 16, 2017 , The National Ballet of Canada’s The Nutcracker Suite  or Ross Petty’s A Christmas Carol. Common Boots Theatre is performing The Story in Christie Pits Park at 7:30pm throughout December. For a more extensive list refer to Toronto Theatre for more options throughout the City of Toronto.
  • The Twelve Trees of Christmas at the Gardiner Museum is always on our list. It is great to see the creativity of Toronto designers followed by lunch in Yorkville and Christmas shopping.
  • The Evergreen Brickworks is a perfect place to enjoy an urban escape strolling the  trails or hiking the Rosedale Moore Park ravine which is part of an extensive City of Toronto ravine system. Afterwards stop by Cafe Belong for a cup of cocoa. The Evergreen Garden Market has beautiful fresh Christmas trees and winter greens as well as a selections of locally sourced environmentally conscious gifts. It is a great spot to shop for that green thumb on your list! Evergreen Winter Village is on every weekend through December. Please note they have an Etsy Holiday shop ever Sunday.
  • The Art Gallery of Ontario has an very good gift shop for finding a unique gift for that person that has everything. Don’t forget AGO Bistro (formerly Frank Restaurant) for your holiday lunch.

I truly want to thank my clients for making 2017 my best year in Real Estate. I enjoyed working with all of you and feel blessed to have such wonderful clients. I could not have achieved this without the support of friends and family. Thank you.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season! Stay tuned for my January New Year’s Resolution post!



Helen Braithwaite

Read more >

October 2017 Toronto Real Estate Market Report

The Market was up 2.3% year over year which is exactly what we want to see for a healthy sustainable market and the days on market still remain quite low at 23 days. The bulk of the sales continue to be condominiums as that is where the affordability lies. The average price for a condominium is $550,000 however note this rises to $620,000 in the central Toronto area. The average detached house price is significantly more at just over $1mill for the entire GTA and that jumps to $1.287 million in the central core of Toronto. The full market report can be seen below.

Toronto Real Estate Market Update Oct 2017

Read more >