Toronto Star Profile of Modern Townhomes in Toronto
Mingle all the way: There’s a small-town vibe on the street where the two Pauls live.
“You see all these dinner parties going on and it’s incredibly animated,” says Paul Johnston. “We wave to our neighbours from the sidewalk. And when we’re inside having dinner, it’s great fun to realize there are people walking by.”
Johnston and his partner Paul O’Brien credit the large, multiple windows in their contemporary townhouse for fostering the everyone-knows-everyone feeling. They moved into the bright, three-storey unit — one of 45 in the Trinity Bellwoods Town+Homes project — less than two years ago after deciding they were ready for a radical change from their renovated Victorian house in Chinatown.
It was the right move for Johnston, a real estate agent, and O’Brien, creative director of a small ad agency, who both work downtown, find “great joy” shopping at the local butcher and bakery, and love entertaining family and friends.
They like the mix-and-mingle seating options their open floor plan allows.
“Because the kitchen is in the centre of the space, people can sit around the island or on the couch,” explains O’Brien.
“And we can do 10 for dinner very easily,” adds Johnston. “More than 10 and we don’t make dinner, we make reservations,” he jokes.
Johnston offers a rather indelicate description of their approach to adorning the old Vic: “Christmas could throw up all over it and it worked.”
But “this house works better when it’s uncluttered and sleek,” he says. O’Brien rhymes off a short list of decorations that include an eight-foot real tree, gold ornaments on the dining table and candles throughout.
“Minimal,” he sums up. “Really simple with hints of sparkle.”
Switching styles meant leaving their old wood-burning fireplace behind for a marble-faced gas fire that provides the “same warmth and sparkle,” says Johnston. “We love it. And I don’t miss the logs.”
The only member of the family who doesn’t relish everything about the new space is Rafiki, their five-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback. He avoids the kitchen when it’s abuzz with activity.
“He’ll sit upstairs completely unhappy” until the hoopla dies down, says O’Brien. “It’s quite amusing to watch.”