There are a good number of red-brick 2.5 storey homes in downtown Kingston, and they're every bit as important to the streetscape as the older limestone homes. These tall brick residences are a century old, give or take (this one dates to 1925). And you mostly know what to expect before you go inside - a living room at the front, giving onto a dining room, and then a summer kitchen gone year-round at the back. A straight line, then, of pretty-enough boxes. Add a staircase with a nice newel post to hold onto, maybe, the centre of each tread worn down into a pleasing approximation of a smile.
Well 463 Victoria St isn’t really like that. Or rather, it’s a compelling riff on those old ideas. A classic reimagined, full of twists and turns, rooms you didn’t expect, bursts of brilliant colour and whimsy, and just good old smart design sense.
For me, the centre of the home - the axis around which the other spaces orbit smoothly - is the kitchen at the rear of the house. It’s a true eat-in space, with a good pantry and brilliant backsplash, as well as half a dozen windows facing both east and south. You can exit this room and move towards the front of the house, or you can make for the laundry room and bathroom instead. This time of the year, though, you’re as likely to head outside, to the raised deck, and down from there to the lower patio with its lovely cedar arbor, and on into the deep, private yard.
Your first impression, though, pulling up on the street, will be of the landscaped front yard, and the bright brick itself. A reassuring glance, perhaps, up to the metal roof. There’s a good mud room, one of the best we’ve seen, just inside the door, and then you enter the living room, this one with a gas fireplace and built-in bookshelves. This is where you curl up with your Munro or your Humphreys, your Saunders or your New Yorker. It’s a formal sort of room, but laid-back too. A parlour, then; let’s settle on that.
Further back, and off-set, is a family room that I’ve not really seen in this sort of house before. I suppose if you threw a lot of dinner parties this is where you’d install the dining table, but to my mind having a space for the kids to play, or sneak screen time, is too valuable to give up.
The second floor has three good bedrooms and a fancy bathroom. It’s exactly what you want up there. The bonus, though, is the very good loft, with windows front and back. You sleep at one end and sit at the other; that’s how I see it. If you can convince someone to bring you food and wine, you can have your very own lost weekends. Which sounds mighty fine until you realize you’d miss out on all the smashing outside space down below, and that very fancy kitchen. Come to think of it, the hardest part of living here might just be deciding where it is you want to hang out next. An embarrassment of riches, then.
As I wrote that down, by the way - “an embarrassment of riches” - I realized for the first time (this is the most indulgent of digressions) that it’s a collective noun, just like a murder of crows, or a bellowing of bullfinches, a pounce of cats, a bed of eels, a stand of flamingoes, a host of promises I’ve made to myself to stay on-topic…