American by birth, it was marriage that brought Sheila here from Rochester, New York in 1999. The marriage ended, but Sheila’ s love of Toronto endured.
“I don’t have any relatives, blood relatives in Toronto but I have an amazing friend family and the beauty in that is that you get to pick those people.”
An artist and respiratory therapist, Sheila has made Toronto’s east end her home for over 16 years. In that time, she and her yoga studio, Seven Seeds, occupied 7 different spaces in the area. Gentrification was rampant; it was a time of constant upheaval and transitions.
Things started to stabilize for Sheila in 2013. She merged Seven Seeds Studio with Leslieville’s Spirit Loft Yoga and started thinking about selling the Queen Street semi she had bought with her sister after her divorce.
“We purchased it at a time in my life when finances were challenging and she was there to help me. After several stormy years, life took on a steady flow… and I wanted to stand on my own two feet. I didn’t feel the need for a business partner anymore and I was ready for my own place.”
Sheila’s first house, a massive 4-bedroom in Rochester, had cost her $32,000. She knew she’ d need a lot more than that to get into Leslieville’s hot real estate market on her own. And that the expected proceeds on her joint venture house, split with her sister, wouldn’t be enough to make that happen.
Trevor examined all the angles and came up with a plan. It was far-fetched, perhaps, and certainly a long shot, but in Sheila’s special case there was potential for a land assembly. Many months of work paid off: developers bought Sheila’s property, along with the adjoining ones, and paid her more than market value.
With the finances settled, the search began for a place that Sheila could really call her own.
“I thought about moving to Hamilton. I thought about moving back to the States, I thought about Main and Danforth. I thought about moving to Etobicoke.
But in the end my heart, my heart kept saying, ‘ I’m going to find a place here.’ [Leslieville]…I really wanted to be in the neighborhood. It’s been my community for 16 years. My friends, my business, my local hang-outs – this is my sweet little corner of Toronto.”
It took almost 3 years to close the development deal, with many twists and turns along the way. During that time, Sheila looked at condos, townhomes, new projects, and older homes, all the while patiently knowing that the perfect place was out there. And then there it was. She recognized it the moment she walked in.
“The light, the warmth, the overall feel was amazing… truly breathtaking.”
Sheila’s new home is a chic but modest 1100 square foot multi-level townhousealong one of Leslieville’s tree-lined streets. The kitchen – a roomy, renovated space that opens to the whole house – is one of her favourite rooms, often filled to capacity with friends and neighbours.
“The kitchen is fantastic and it’s the heart of the home. I mean, I know it sounds corny… Everybody loves a kitchen and to me food is love… you get your people there and you’re just enjoying each other.
Although I love to cook – it’s my go to activity when life gets too frenetic – I wasn’t cooking very often over the last year because I felt disconnected from my home. I had already “left the building”… But now I’m totally back into it. I love the organic markets that have popped up over the past few years… You get to know people, there’s that neighbourhood feeling. It’s different when you’re making your food and thinking about the people who sold it to you with love, and you make it with love, and you share it with your friends – you share the love.”
In the rest of the house, Sheila made a few minor renos before moving in. “I had 3 months to move in and a little bit of a budget. So I picked what was really important to me and took care of it before all my furniture moved in. I would never have thought of knocking out two awkward closets to fit a custom bed, but when [Trevor] suggested it, I knew right away that it would make a big difference. Everyone that sees it loves it.”
Two of her favourite features took no work at all: underground parking and landscaped lawns. “At this point in my life, I didn’t really want to shovel anymore… I didn’t want to have that constant worry of ‘Oh, I should be home pulling weeds.’”
The new house has given Sheila a whole new perspective on the neighbourhood.
“There’s a vibrancy to living life directly on Queen Street, but my new street is quiet and lined with trees. And quiet. Did I say quiet?”
“When I lay in bed now all I can see are the treetops and the sky because my bedroom is on the top floor of my multi-level home. It has such an open and airy feeling. It’s like being in a tree house.
When I lay myself down each night and I settle into the quiet, I can hear my heartbeat now… instead of the streetcar.”
“When I wander the neighborhood I’m experiencing it in a completely different way. There’s so much less weight on my shoulders now… I feel like I have more space and time to just enjoy being here and exploring.”
Sheila’s new home has also given her a new perspective on life. “It’s freedom man. Freedom. I come and go and I walk the dogs and I almost don’t even know what to do with myself yet.”
Now comfortably settled into her new home with her two dogs, Rowan and Tony, Sheila has no regrets.
“I was nervous about paying the right price but [Trevor] helped me with that and that was important. You were a good guide… a friend…and you had my back.”