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175 Wynford Drive, Investment Condos on the Eglinton LRT Line

If you’re reading this in Toronto, then you’re living through (or have just lived through) the largest expansion of the TTC’s transit network since the 1960s. The Crosstown LRT is a light rail train line that runs nearly twenty kilometers across Eglinton Avenue between Mount Dennis (Weston Road) and Kennedy station. The line has twenty-five separate stations, ten of which are underground. The Crosstown LRT will link to fifty-four bus routes, three subway stations and various GO Transit lines. This train line will transform Toronto and give oxygen to new condominium developments that, as they mature, will come to define new neighbourhoods.

new TTC map of Toronto showing Eglinton LRT line 2019The Crosstown is being presented as a highly efficient transit solution that avoids congestion by carrying passengers in a separate train line right-of-way transit lanes separate from regular traffic. It will transform Toronto and now suddenly we have a transit map that more resembles a major world capital.  The vehicles will use the PRESTO proof-of-payment system and will have multiple entrances and low floors to ensure fast and accessible boarding.

Anytime there’s a new train station there’s a burst of development near the scene. This has been the case with every rail expansion since the dawn of the Age of Steam.  What makes the Eglinton LRT so special, and indeed a little overwhelming, is that there are twenty-five new stations and each new stop represents significant real estate opportunities.

What are the Eglinton LRT Line Stations?

The Crosstown LRT line runs beside and below Eglinton Avenue between Mount Dennis (Weston Road) and Kennedy station.  The names of the stations are (from west to east) Mount Dennis, Keelesdale, Caledonia, Fairbank, Oakwood, Cedarvale, Forest Hill, Chaplin, Avenue, Eglinton, Mount Pleasant, Leaside, Laird, Sunnybrook Park, Science Centre, Aga Khan Park & Museum, Wynford, Sloane, O’Connor, Pharmacy, Hakimi Lebovic, Golden Mile, Birchmount, Ionview, and finally Kennedy Station at Kennedy Street and Eglinton Avenue.

What Canadian Artists Were Commissioned for Eglinton LRT?

The Government of Ontario has committed $8.4 billion in support of new transit for Toronto and some of the money will be spent on art. The artworks selected for the Eglinton Crosstown are world-class, contemporary, impactful, and context-appropriate enhancements to public space and civic infrastructure. The selected artists contributing designs to the Crosstown project include Janice Kerbel, Douglas Coupland, Rodney LaTourelle with Louise Witthoft, Hadley + Maxwell with Sara Cwynar, Sarah Morris, Joseph Kosuth with Dagmara Genda. Integrated art components will be installed at six stations: Mount Dennis, Caledonia, Cedarvale, Eglinton, Science Centre and Kennedy station.  These projects are part of a professionally designed public art program that will place Metrolinx on par with leading transit agencies and help improve Toronto transit riders’ experience.

Eglinton Light Rail Transit will Transform North York

Eglinton LRT - Crosstown LRT vehicle Light rail vehicles can travel as fast as 80km/hr, but that doesn’t mean the trains will travel that fast on the Eglinton line. Their actual speed on the new tracks will be determined by the spacing of the stops and the speed limits of surrounding traffic. It will be a bit of a signalling challenge to be sure as the trains travel beside the roadway but they still cross over two dozen major north south arteries.

The projected ridership of the Crosstown is 5,500 passengers per hour in Rush Times by 2031. The capacity of the Crosstown vehicles is 15,000 passengers per hour in either direction. Cars can be removed or added easily, thus providing the flexibility to accommodate ridership demands. Light rail transit is a proven technology that is used around the world, including extremely cold places such as Edmonton, Calgary and Minneapolis.

There are scattered jewels of investment all along the Eglinton LRT line, but Premier Matrix is particularly interested in Wynford Gardens Condos, a new condo development by Allied-Hotel-Properties-Inc located at 175 Wynford Dr, Toronto.175 wynford drive, condos in torontoThe name of the project is Wynford Gardens, and its being developed on the North East Corner of Don Mills Road & Eglinton Avenue.  This is one of the first major developments along the new rail line. Due to the heavy investment of the government on the LRT network, most major corners along the LRT line are being redeveloped in the process. The Don Mills & Eglinton intersection site includes a 34-storey condominium building, along with a six-storey hotel and a six-storey seniors’ residence.

Wynford Gardens is a huge project all by itself.  The new towers at 175 Wynford Avenue, according to plans submitted by Quadrangle Architects, would add 755 residential units to the site, along with renovations and reconfiguration to some of the existing structures. The 39-storey tower would add 431 suites to the site, and the 32-storey tower will add 324 units. Parking is being created in a four level underground garage which has 766 spaces for residents and visitors. 578 bicycle parking spaces would also be available for resident use. The main floors of the new towers would contain a multi-level restaurant, bar, and lounges, along with daycare facilities and outdoor children’s play area. 1,442m² of indoor residential amenity space would be provided in each tower on both the 3rd and 4th floors.

Phase One condominiums will be followed by a general transformation of the suurounding property into a mixed-use development, featuring condominium and town home residences, along with significant office and retail areas, community facilities, and municipal infrastructure. This will further increase the values of Wynford Gardens residences.

Science CenterArtist’s Vision of Science Centre Station on the Downtown Relief Line

The Science Centre station is designed as a transfer station between the Downtown Relief Line (DRL, which in my rendering is called the Don Mills-Downtown Subway) and the Eglinton LRT line. The station is entirely underground. The DRL portion of the station is located on the SW corner of the Don Mills/Eglinton intersection, under part of the existing north parking lot of the Ontario Science Centre (which the station is named after). The Eglinton LRT station is located north of the DRL platform, under Eglinton Avenue. A bus terminal is located at the SE corner of the intersection, which has potential for mixed use development above. The station is connected by an underground walkway to the Ontario Science Centre.

The station design has a science theme. Giant “stick and ball” models of water molecules hang above the DRL platform, and the “stick and ball” motif is replicated as columns in the rest of the station. Natural lighting is provided by skylights over the DRL platform, which appear at ground level as giant glass cubes in a public plaza, which is built over the DRL platform on a part of the Ontario Science Centre parking lot.

(Transit City LRVs shown here modified from AdelDunc’s Adelaide Tram model in Google 3D Warehouse)

The Aga Khan Museum

Aga Khan Museum is the TTC station on stop east of Wynford and here lies a World Class museum of Islamic art, Iranian (Persian) art and Muslim culture. This is a fixture in the North York Muslim communities and all across Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The museum is an initiative of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network. It houses collections of Islamic art and heritage, including artifacts from the private collections of His Highness the Aga Khan, the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, and Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan, which showcase the artistic, intellectual and scientific contributions of Muslim civilizations.

The History of the Aga Khan Museum

In 1996, the Aga Khan bought the property at 77 Wynford Drive from Shell Corporation. In 2002, he bought the adjacent property, which was formerly the Bata Shoes Head Office. On October 8, 2002, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) announced the establishment of the Aga Khan Museum, Ismaili Centre and Park on the site.  The foundation-laying ceremony for the project was attended by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on May 28, 2010.

The museum was designed by architect Fumihiko Maki and opened on September 18, 2014.  It’s a 10,000 square-metre structure that’s set within formal gardens and surrounded by the Aga Khan Park which was designed by renown landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic.  Also present on site is the Ismaili Centre which was designed by the Indian architect Charles Correa.

The Crosstown is currently under construction and will be complete by 2021. The project started back on November 28, 2012, when Metrolinx, and the City of Toronto and TTC signed a master agreement for the implementation of the Toronto Light Rail Transit Program. The agreement formalized the construction and future operation of the four new Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines in Toronto, which will improve public transit and ease congestion in Toronto. Metrolinx will own the LRT lines, and the TTC will operate them.

Sample travel times:
Current (via bus) Crosstown LRT
Kennedy station to Yonge-Eglinton takes 40 minutes, and will be reduced to 26 minutes on the LRT.
Kennedy station to Eglinton-Keele takes 73 minutes, and will be reduced to 38 minutes on the LRT.
Eglinton-Keele to Eglinton West station takes 16 minutes and will be reduced to 6 minutes on LRT.


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Weekday GO Train Service Will Raise Niagara Region Real Estate Prices

Weekday GO Train service to Niagara Falls spells new opportunity for land speculators eyeing the most golden region of the Golden Horseshoe.  Railroad expansions are typically followed by investors’ hasty rush for land and resources, and Niagara Falls’ properties are already worth more today than before December 2018, when Go Train service expansion prospects were particularly bleak.  That’s one of the surprises in this story; nobody expected the train service would be in place until 2023 as that is when the previous Liberal government had tabled the expansion. But Doug Ford’s PC Government, citing mass transit congestion, sped up delivery of the service.

small photo of GoTrain in Niagara region

St Catherines Ontario, Welland Ontario, Niagara on the Lake, and the City of Niagara Falls property values are certain to rise on renewed interest from urban dwellers seeking to escape to the orchards. The idea of living and raising a family in farm country while working two hours away in the city appeals to many Canadians.  And not just any farm country, Niagara Region is our country’s most prolific fruit belt, our primary wine region and a key tourist area that’s soaked with 18th century battlefields and well preserved 19th century monuments. This is the world of wine tours, Shaw Festival goers and countless Bed & Breakfasts accommodating an estimated 20 million people who visit Niagara Falls each year.

As of Monday, January 7th 2019, GO Train commuters are now able to take a single train, weekdays, that travels between Niagara Falls and Union Station. This is Metrolinx’s first step in a long-term effort to expand service on its Lakeshore West line, and it comes four years ahead of schedule.  The news was presented in person with much fanfare by Sam Oosterhoff, Jeff Yurek, and Kinga Surma of the Progressive Conservative Government of Ontario, and then crystallized in a press release issued December 14, 2018.

mpp Jeff yurek - twitter pic

On that day, Jeff Yurek, Minister of Transportation, Kinga Surma, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Transportation, Sam Oosterhoff, MPP Niagara West, along with Leslie Woo, Chief Planning and Development Officer for Metrolinx, visited the rail station in St. Catharines to announce that the government will introduce long-asked-for weekday GO train service to Niagara Falls and St. Catharines on the Lakeshore West line.

The move began Monday, the first day back to work and school for many Ontarians, and was announced by the transit agency in December. There is only one daily eastbound and westbound trip as of now.

GO trains in Niagara Falls

The current weekday 6:39 a.m. trip from West Harbour GO in Hamilton will now start at Niagara Falls at 5:19 a.m., stop in St. Catharines at 5:41 a.m., and then continue with the regular stops and schedules.

The westbound 5:15 p.m. trip from Union Station to West Harbour will continue to St. Catharines at 7:22 p.m. and finish at Niagara Falls at 7:47 p.m.

The cost each way is $19.80 with a Presto card, or $22.30 cash.

Niagara Region as an Investment Opportunity, by the Numbers

Niagara Falls, Ontario has a population of 447,888 today, and the city predicts it will have 610,000 residents by 2041. If they meet that target they will realize 26% growth over the next 25 years, which also means that there will be an annual growth of 1.35% each year. This will be mirrored by the city’s employment, which will also grow from 185,000 in 2016 to 265,000 by 2041. Tourism and the hospitality industry accounts for a large portion of the city’s employment, and this sector is due to double or triple in size in the next few years ahead of the upcoming 2021 Canada Summer Games, which will be hosted in the city.

Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls

List of New Condos in Niagara Region

Development by: Mountainview Homes
Drummond Rd, Niagara Region, ON
Townhome Prices From The High $300,000’s CAD
Move in 2020
Lyon’s Creek Homes
Lyon’s Creek

Development by: Mountainview Homes
Tallgrass Ave, Niagara Falls, ON L2G 0A4
Home Prices From The Mid $400,000’s CAD
Move in 2019
Sparrow Meadows
Sparrow Meadows

Development by: Mountainview Homes
Silverwood Avenue, Welland ON
Home Prices From The Mid $300,000’s CAD
Move in 2019
Timberwood Estates
Timberwood Estates

Development by: Mountainview Homes
1110 Hansler Rd,Welland ON
Home Prices From The Mid $300,000’s CAD
Move in 2019
West Community Homes
West Community

Development by: Mountainview Homes
Richmond St, Thorold, ON
Home Prices From The Mid $400,000’s CAD
Move in 2019
One Twenty Condos
One Twenty

Development by: Mountainveiw Homes
Hurricane Rd & RR 20, Pelham, ON
Condo Prices From The Mid $300,000’s CAD
Move in 2021
Saffron Estates
Saffron Estates

Development by: Mountainview Homes
Pelham St & Hwy 20, Fonthill, ON
Condo Prices From The Mid $300,000’s CAD
Move in 2019
330 Prince Charles Drive Condos
330 Prince Charles Drive

Development by: Evertrust Development Group Canada Inc
330 Prince Charles Dr, Welland, ON
Condo Prices TBA CAD
Move in TBA


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Conversation with James Bradeen on 543 Richmond Condos

On Tuesday Sept 18 2018, Ovais Qassim met James Bradeen to discuss the new condominium development by Pemberton Group that has recently been announced for 543 Richmond St in Toronto. Here’s what they discussed,

Ovais: Good afternoon everyone, thank you for joining us today. My name is Ovais Qassim, I’m from Premier Matrix Realty. We’re here today with James Bradeen. Harlowe Realty and the Milborne group have been retained by the Pemberton group for the launch of 543 Richmond. The purpose of today’s interview is to talk a little bit about the Pemberton group, the developer, but more importantly 543 Richmond, a new project that you’re launching.

James: The Pemberton Group is one of the largest developers in the G.T.A. Over the last couple of years we’ve launched projects downtown from Time & Space, to Social Condominiums. We’ve also launched a number of projects in Richmond Hill and Mississauga and even Oakville. So a strong presence throughout the G.T.A. as a whole.

Ovais stands beside an architectual model of 543 Richmond Condos in Toronto

Ovais: The location, the neighbourhood, what makes it great?

James: 543 is steps away from the entertainment district.  You’re minutes away from the financial district, so that (you’re close) to one third of the jobs in the city, or  about five hundred thousand jobs. You’re minutes from the theatre district, and the fashion district, and so you have some of the most exciting restaurants nearby as well as the best nightlife areas in the city. All just steps away, so this is one of the most exciting projects and locations that we’ve launched in quite some time.

Ovais: And it’s actually saddled between King West and Queen West, and we know that Queen West has been rated the second most trendiest neighbourhood by Vogue magazine just recently.

James: Absolutely.

Ovais: Tell us about the project itself and how many units do we have and how many stories, the different types of units, and the unit mix.

James: So the building is fifteen stories tall, it’s comprised of about four hundred seventy six suites and they will range anywhere from studios at about three hundred seventy square feet up to three plus dens at about one thousand forty five. So really quite a versatile range of more economical suites and the studios up to more livable spaces in the three plus dens.

Ovais: Tell us about what’s the most exciting element of the project for you.

James: Absolutely, yes so there’s about fourteen to fifteen thousand square feet of amenities located between the second and the eighth floors. On the second floor you have an outdoor space with a seasonal pool right, as well as barbecues, cabana areas there’s going to be three separate party rooms scattered again between the second and eight floors. As well as a theatre room, games room, a multimedia area, essentially everything that your clients could want.

Ovais: I know that there is a lot of retail around at the base of the existing buildings in the neighbourhood, what will this project have?

James: So located just off of Portland and primarily towards the east end side of the building there’s going to be about eighteen thousand square feet of commercial space that will certainly be quite complimentary to the building amenities as well as the surrounding environment.

James and Ovais at 543 Richmond showing

Ovais: Nice. One last question is this a good investment?

James: Absolutely. So if you look at the actual resale numbers in the area they are on par if not slightly more expensive than the majority of the Suites that we’re launching at this point in time. So that’s one metric that really shows that you’re buying four years in the future but at today’s price point, another very important component is all of the pre-construction projects that are launching in the area at this point in time they’re quite a bit more expensive, they’re twelve fifty to fourteen hundred and in some cases even more per square foot. So there is tremendous value and for that reason I do believe it’s one of the best investment opportunities in the city today.

Ovais: Thank you so much for coming out.

James: Thank you for having us.

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TIFF’s Festival Street Initiative Ennobles King Street in September

It’s happening again this September.  The 43rd annual Toronto International Film Festival is the fifth time the popular entertainment event will take its festivities to King Street.

TIFF at King Street and Peter Street - King Blue Condos

This year the street looks a little different; the media center at King and Peter now lies in the shadow of the nearly completed King Blue condos building at 355 King St W.  The forty-three story condominium  tower looms over the street, and this is just the beginning for what the future has in-store for King St, the noblest street in the downtown core.

TIFF media center at King and Peter Street

In partnership with the City of Toronto, TIFF once again hosted their Festival Street initiative on King Street West, and Premier Matrix photographers were there to capture the excitement on Opening Morning, Thursday 07 September 2018.

Festival Street at TIFF on King Street in Sept 2018

At the beginning and end of the walk, TIFF volunteers will gladly take pedestrian’s phones and make lovely selfies that are picture-perfect sharable moments for their social media channels.

Months ago, the city announced that once again King Street West between Spadina and University avenues will be closed from 5 a.m. Thursday Sept 7th, to 5 am on Monday September 10th.  All the shops and especially the restaurants on the street offered specials to draw in celebrities and movie lovers from across the city and province.

TIFF on King Street with King Blue condos in the background, La Fenice

In a press release sent out by the city, Coun. Michael Thompson (Ward 37 Scarborough Centre) shared the City’s growing appreciation for King street when he penned that, “As the leading public film festival in the world, TIFF has helped establish Toronto as an international film capital while Festival Street now attracts more than 150,000 annual visitors, resulting in a significant increase in visitor spending in the Entertainment District.

Condominium projects on Wellington Street to the south of King, and more towers on Richmond and Adelaide to the north of King confirm these streets have bright futures too. 543 Richmond Street is a very exciting project nestled between the conflicting cultures of King and Queen Stree and sales in this project will definitely be affected by its proximity to this pedestrian friendly Festival setting.

Air France ambassadors on King St W at Simcoe St. 07 Sept 2018

Visitors are also welcome to grab a drink at one of the extended patios, and there’s plenty of free things to line-up for all along the promenade. Below is a solid installation opposite Roy Thompson Hall in which Lorielle was giving away lipstick. The attraction also asked for each participant’s name and email address in connection with a prize giveaway of free TIFF movie tickets.  In this manner, the marketing attraction collected the contact information for thousands of would-be consumers living and working in the downtown core.

free makeup and SWAG at TIFF 2018 on King Street in downtown Toronto

There were also gourmet food trucks, and food giveaways at Simcoe St and University Ave.  Sabra Dipping Company LLC had people lining up down Simcoe Street to taste their Middle Eastern-style and other food products, including hummus, tzatziki dip, guacamole, and Mediterranean salsa.

lining up for free Humas at TIFF

TIFF is a popular film screening festival that engages more than 450,000 film lovers annually.Festival Street saw 150,000 visitors over its four day span, and was a driving force behind increased revenue for many local bars and restaurants.  This is a great way to cement the success of the King Street Pedestrian Pilot Project which is a new initiative to close the road to private automobiles.

Now the TTC had to close the thoroughfare to streetcars too, and the road closure affects streetcar service on the 504 King, 514 Cherry and 304 King night services. During the five-day festivities, Simcoe and John streets between King and Wellington streets will be closed as well.

Toronto Film Festival opening day on King Street 07 Sept 2018

But the TTC is actually a proud supporter of 2018 TIFF

Through their partnership, TIFF and the TTC help film loving riders get access to free TIFF movie tickets.  Street teams are set to distribute free Festival and TIFF Bell Lightbox tickets, culminating in a special TTC Free Screening at Roy Thomson Hall on Sunday September 9th 2018. The Festival event was open to all TTC riders; anyone with a valid Metropass or PRESTO card could get free entry into the spacious Roy Thompson Hall main screening room.

TIFF street festival on King St at University, 07 September 2018

There’s something for everyone on Festival Street.  Attendees can see vintage TIFF movies playing at screens along the way, or they can also listen to great music from Kayla Diamond and other up-and-coming talents on the Slaight Music Stage.  This is just the beginning for TIFF, Toronto and King Street.

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How New Condominiums on Queen Street Can Help it Stay Hip

Toronto today is starkly different from the sleepy, mid-sized city that existed just a few decades ago.  Affordable bungalows that were built on the edge of town in the nineteen seventies are now sitting on centrally located properties worth millions.  Subway and streetcar lines that used to serve the city adequately, are now congested and overcrowded with an expanding mass of commuters.

But the biggest difference can be seen looking out at Toronto’s skyline. Everywhere you look, from the lake shore all the way up to North York, luxury condominium towers have popped up on nearly every available plot of land, and some surprising developments are re purposing older buildings and using existing historic facades. See below, Waterworks at 505 Richmond St W (at Augusta Ave).

Waterworks condominium building on Richmond St at Augusta Ave

Situated perfectly between the pedestrian friendly King St and the culturally rich Queen St there are several interesting projects. Above we see Waterworks, but just 1/2 block west is 543 Richmond and 520 Richmond is happening across the street. These projects have a lot of interest because of their location.

The rapid increase in condominiums along Queen Street makes perfect sense; Toronto’s population has increased dramatically in the last decade and now more people then ever before need better places to live. As a result, condominium towers have become a staple of Toronto’s architecture.

While the thought of living in certain neighbourhoods in Toronto has always been more aspiration than practical for the average resident (hello Yorkville and Rosedale), Queen St blends rich and poor folks together, business people with the artists, students, and every one in between.

But this has left some people wondering, what happens when the urbanization of Queen St is complete?  And more importantly, what can we do to ensure that the culture, the residents, and the architecture that makes Queen street has today, that very thing that makes it cool, doesn’t fade away?

The architecture of the old buildings on Queen St. in Toronto

Grafhitti Alley in Toronto

A huge part of what makes Queen so cool is the atmosphere. While the diversity of the people walking and working and living on Queen certainly contributes to the laid-back vibe of the street, another one of the main factors is the architecture.  Graffiti Alley runs behind Queen St W and ends at Portland St.

Queen St culture creates economic boom in west central Toronto

Graffiti Alley is a good example of how Queen street is a mix of old and new.  There is now about a kilometer’s worth of wickedly independent art on the walls of varying quality. CBC Comedian Rick Mercer used the alley as backdrop for his famous weekly TV Rant (and other alleys farther along) for many years. The alley is still frequently being repainted, but of course each artist must now present a portfolio of previous works when they ask the permission of the building owners.

Queen Street is still pretty low-rise and low key. While the eOne building soars high above the rest of the neighbourhood at Queen and Peter, the quiet presence of the historic Campbell House and venerated music halls like the Rex and the Horseshoe Tavern used to anchor and foster the culture that manifests on the rest of the street.  And the cycle is complete with fancy shops.

Queen and Strachan - Starbucks is goneSee above the corner of Queen and Strachan is now so hip that even the Starbucks coffee shop on the corner wasn’t cool enough – its a Bailey Nelson retail store now.  These are super-fancy shops. While there’s certainly room to build more condominiums on the street, it’s important for Toronto to maintain the careful balancing act that exists between increasing the amount of living space available to residents while still protecting the cultural hipness of the venues, shops, and restaurants that make Queen St so unique in the first place.

Trinity Bellwoods park in TorontoTrinity Bellwoods Park extends the fancy shops and high value real estate right up to Shaw St which has become a north south bicycle thoroughfare and one which motorists are now beginning to avoid as the route is frustratingly slower due to the cyclists. The coolness remains on Queen St west past Ossington.Drake Hotel and Death and TaxesMoving farther west, The Drake Hotel, Death & Taxes bar on Beaconsfield, and The Gladstone Hotel on Gladstone Ave are all venues with good vibrations.  But this is a really sensitive area as many new condominiums have been built on the south side of this block, on Abell St.

new condos at Queen and Abel St in Toronto

The fact of the matter is, Toronto is more populated than ever. People need places to live and those places need to be centrally located. But there’s a way to create more living spaces for people without tearing down older buildings and replacing them with condo buildings that clutter up the skyline.

One of the best ways to do this is to regulate which condo proposals are approved by the city.  New housing developments approved by the city shouldn’t just blend in with the existing infrastructure, they should stand out and be works-of-art and unique in their own right.  Someday years in the future there should be activists eager to protect the building from the wrecking ball.

Unique architecture and a style of décor that’s visually appealing and offers something to engage the eye is just the beginning. From rooftop gardens to restaurants and cafes, the new condos on Queen should incorporate other experiences and culturally relevant ideas into their blueprints that are accessible to the public and that mesh well with the rest of the city.

Candy Factory Lofts and The Drake Hotel launched cool on Queen Street

In the year 1999, the Candy Factory Lofts project along with the relaunch of the Drake Hotel marked the beginning of the modern age of cool on Queen Street.  Both projects were difficult to accomplish and started the trend of making condos on Queen.  The white brick facade of the Candy Factory made it especially appealing to renovators and it stood out among numerous other rustic older buildings that are full of charm and character that could easily be converted into new living spaces. Right beside the Candy Factory, which is a legitimate Heritage building, is the Chocolate Factory which is a faux old building. The Chocolate Factory Lofts is a purpose-build five story condominium complex that borrows some design from its neighbour.

Chocolate Factory Lofts, Candy Factory on Queen St. W Toronto

Regardless of old or new buildings, an author could make the argument that these two condominiums really helped change the entire neighborhood for the better, and they helped transform what was perceived by the public as seedy and made it sensational.Candy Factory Lofts at Queen and Shaw in Toronto

CeDe Canady Company at 993 Queen Street West in Toronto in 1973The Candy Factory lofts at 993 Queen Street West are now considered one of the ideal living spaces in the city, epitomizing the lifestyle of West Queen West.  But back in 1999, it was difficult to get anyone on board with the redevelopment.

Although it was named after the candy factory that last occupied the space from 1963-1988 (Ce De Candy Co. – the makers of Rockets, a trick-or-treating staple every Halloween), the building’s history begins over a hundred years ago. The structure was originally erected in 1907 as a garment factory.

Ce De Candy Co. occupied the building for a quarter century before finding a new location in Mississauga in 1988. The building remained empty until the mid-1990s when a developer discovered the site and had the idea of converting the vacant space into a series of lofts inspired by the Tribeca neighbourhood in New York City.

inside lobby of 993 Queen Street West - Candy Factory LoftsBut without a solid plan in place, it seemed like the condo conversion would never happen.  This was a big building with over a dozen spacious units on each of the six floors. Issues ranging from financing woes to strife and acrimony among the partners plagued the project, but the building project was eventually completed in the year 2000.

The next major issue developers would face? Attracting investors and tenants. While potential buyers found the rich history, the character, and the overall aesthetic of the lofts incredibly appealing, they were hesitant to come to an agreement because the general vibe of the neighbourhood hadn’t quite caught up to the appeal of the building. West Queen West was still rather rundown and a little unsafe back in the early 2000s.

So, while the average buyer was wary of putting down the money to live in what used to be a dodgy neighbourhood, the psychologists, doctors, and other mental health professionals working at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) right down the street were quicker to see the benefits of living so close to work. Once they had purchased units, other buyers began putting in offers as well. But it still wasn’t enough.

What finally tipped the scales in the Candy Factory Lofts’ favour was police officers. In addition to the doctors and psychologists from CAMH purchasing property, local cops were another early adopter of the Candy Factory Lofts because they saw the appeal of the uniquely renovated industrial spaces and weren’t concerned about how shady the neighbourhood was. Any other potential buyers holding out were assuaged by the sight of police cars regularly parked out front and no longer felt concerned about their safety.  And now two decades later there are dozens of new restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops and thousands more residents.

While there is no parade or street festival for Queen Street West, it has just as much culture as College and Dundas St.  More importantly, it has undeniable national-level fashion credentials and that makes it a destination for Millennials inside the City of Toronto.  The stretch of fancy shops from Bathurst to Trinity Bellwoods park gives the street a new economic importance at City Hall.  Everyday and with every permit issued, urban planners and property developers foster this excitement for tourists who make their way east and west, while ensuring that the street still meets the needs of the locals.

Theatre Company on Queen StIn a city that’s rapidly becoming inaccessible for the average person to afford, Queen Street West is one of the rare neighbourhoods that houses people of every age, background, and income bracket. The diversity of occupants living and working on Queen Street provides the foundation for what makes it so cool, and that’s why it’s so vital to ensure there’s affordably priced housing for everyone.  See above the Summer Works Theatre Company which is pay-what-you-can but yet somehow has the funding to distribute an expensive program for free.

A little farther down the street however and we encounter the knife’s edge. At Queen and Dufferin there was once a business called the West End Food Coop but now, as of August 14th 2018 that is gone.

West End Food Coop closes on Queen St W at DufferinAbove is the Grand Closing of West End Food Coop at Queen and Dufferin. Not many photographers are around to capture the moment that the proprietor closes her shop forever.  The rent has gone up (doubled) and the business is being forced out by the landlord who has other plans for the space.

Gentrification is often the beginning of the end when it comes to taking formerly ‘cool’ neighbourhoods and stripping them of everything that makes them unique. While condos aren’t solely responsible for gentrification, they are a symptom of a bigger problem. Cultural homogeneity is the biggest threat to Queen Street’s cool factor, and we can already see it playing out in various neighbourhoods across Toronto from Parkdale and the Junction in the West to Regent Park and Leslieville in the East.

Dollarama is the end of cool on Queen Street.

the cool stops at Dollarama on Queen St condominiums

Queen street in particular has always been known for its high concentration of artists, musicians, performers, and other creative types; it’s no surprise, of course, that most of those struggling creators and ‘starving artists’ are not pulling in the kind of income needed to afford mortgage payments on a condo. Residents who used to be able to afford housing are being priced out to make way for those who can afford to spend thousands of dollars a month buying or renting a condo.

Parkdale in particular has been under a microscope lately as residents are being evicted from their homes but can’t afford to live anywhere else in the city; as a result, many of them are forced to relocate to cities in the suburbs surrounding Toronto.

City Hall needs to protect and foster the diversity of residents on Queen street because it’s that diversity that makes Queen so cool. Without an eclectic mixture of residents, Queen street will lose the catalyst responsible for its growth and its culture and it will risk stagnation and eventual decay.

Yes. Queen can absolutely still be cool with condos on every corner. The key is to ensure there’s a balancing act in place that respects the existing architecture, and the lower income residents and especially the artists who inspire and who are inspired by the Queen Street community.  Multi-purpose condo buildings and other visually appealing housing options can be used amplify and energize makes Queen Street West so unique.

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King Street Transit Pilot Increases Value of Entertainment District Condos

A green transportation pilot program is being tested on King Street, a central corridor for commuters in the City of Toronto.  All year long (2018) the whole of King Street from Bathurst to Jarvis is closed to privately operated vehicles, while bicycles and streetcars are encouraged to use this corridor. The big benefit will be to people living in the area, as the Walk Score for sections along this path will soon be among the highest in the nation.

For those of you that don’t know about it, the King Street Transit Pilot was conceived with the intention of moving people more efficiently on public transit, improving public spaces, and supporting business and economic prosperity along King St. The pilot aims to improve the transit reliability, speed, and capacity on the busiest surface transit route in the city by giving streetcars and cyclists top priority from Bathurst to Jarvis.

King St West

Motorists in Toronto have known for many years the King St is a streetcar corridor and to be avoided by anyone in a hurry. Cyclists actually loathed King St before this project launched for the same reason – its no fun cycling behind a streetcar and having to stop and wait and watch passengers board every block. Readers are thinking that cyclists could simply ride around the idling streetcars but you really can’t and the speed of the morning commute makes it likely the streetcar will catch up anyway. Plus there’s always another behind and another behind that one etc…

Although there has been much discussion of this environmentally-friendly endeavor for many years, Toronto city planners only launched the pilot in November 2017.  Their argument to council was that by banishing private vehicles they could improve TTC travel times and the reliability of streetcars on King, one of its most congested transit routes across the bottom the downtown core.

Why do so many people NOT support the King Street Transit Pilot?

Toronto Police Services are enforcing the new traffic rules which restrict drivers’ through-movements, forcing them to turn right off King street at most major intersections. (Through-traffic is allowed at Simcoe and York streets, which are one-way and therefore not conducive to right turns off King.) The city has also removed all 180 on-street parking spaces along King in the project area, which runs between Bathurst and Jarvis St.  These actions infuriate drivers, especially Uber drivers in their own private vehicles, and they cripple delivery trucks and require construction people to do endless paperwork for special permits for their trucks.

The #ReverseKingCarBan is a Twitter hashtag and activist group with many notable members and several local business owners.  The most vocal objectors are nightclub and restaurant owners on King between Spadina and University.  They strongly object to the ‘green-way’ and the manner in which it was foisted upon them, and they claim their revenues are down as much as fifty percent. They have taken to attacking Mayor Tory personally. But economists believe the move has increased the value of the existing properties and if these business cannot succeed here their premises will soon accommodate those who can make it work.

So who loves the new pilot? People do, especially commuters. Every weekday, 65,000 public transit riders travel along King, making it the busiest daytime route in the city.

Artists on King Street Make Masterworks of Inspirational Street Art

The art on the street is terrific in some installations, but can be underwhelming in other spots.  There are now over fifty ‘activations’ or places where street art has been created or installed along King Street between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets, and there is no doubt these curiosities will help add to the vibrancy of the transit corridor project.  Most of this art will remain for the duration of the pilot.

The TTC and City of Toronto are constantly monitoring and evaluating the success of the project. This scrutiny involves the collecting data before and during and after the pilot ends in order to assess the impacts and benefits of the program.  Data is collected through methods such as tracking TTC streetcars using GPS, monitoring car travel times using Bluetooth sensors, and by collecting pedestrian, cycling and car volumes using video analytics.  Monthly updates will provide the latest data on the City of Toronto website.

Is the King Street Transit Pilot Program a Success or Failure?

Its a success. Both the City of Toronto and independent media reports (Toronto Star, Globe&Mail)  estimate that the new thoroughfare can take almost eleven minutes off the trip across town at peak times. If you multiply that time-savings across the multitude people who use the route everyday, the effect is monumental, and represents a societal shift and the positive evolution of urban planning over commercial interests more inclined to favour their goods over people.

Automobile lovers and drivers all over the city have to change their ways, or their routes at the very least.  Maybe this move will cause a million people to rethink their lifestyles?  All other routes across the bottom of the city are sure to be at least 10% to 15% busier without King St now closed to privately owned automobiles.

Pedestrians have to change too.  The zombie-walkers must now adjust their response to changing traffic lights and learn to wait for the walking man signal at crosswalks. That’s because of the changes in signal phasing at many of the intersections within the Pilot Project area. New protected right turn phases have been added to the cycles, meaning that the pedestrian signals that used to switch to ‘walk’ a few seconds after the opposing traffic’s light turned red now have a small delay built in. Despite this new protected right turn phase, many pedestrians are simply ignoring the fact that the ‘walk’ sign hasn’t activated yet and begin crossing the intersection anyway, eliminating the ability for vehicles to make a protected right turn off of King. Like with drivers, this new timing will require a bit of adjustment for pedestrians as well.

New Condominiums on King Street are Capital Investments

Construction on the Kingly Condos seen below was well underway when the King Street Pilot Project was announced.  The site at King and Portland was something of an obstacle for city planners who welcomed the development, but were now seeking to reduce access at the street address.  Cement trucks, dump trucks and heavy equipment haulers were squarely at the other end of the spectrum.  Various workarounds were conceived and executed and the big winners here are the buyers who locked into this lifestyle and community, assuming the pilot program yields permanent changes in street design.

King St Condo under construction at Portland

543 Richmond St. condominium development is another project that will inevitably benefit by the changes in municipal infrastructure that could result from the test. With this being a Pilot Project, the TTC and City Planners have already stated that they intend to make adjustments and improvements to both the physical infrastructure and the vehicle/traffic signal timing as the project moves along.

This bold transit initiative has certainly changed people’s perceptions of King St, and although the Pilot Project is scheduled to run no later than December 31, 2018, the experiment has already, on some level, changed this thoroughfare, and this part of the city forever.

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Elevator Advertising – Ad Networks Compete for Toronto Condos

Elevator advertising is not new, but today there’s a strong push to sign-up more buildings and secure new territory because of the increased value of the ad networks.  These unique media networks, which would probably prefer to be considered message delivery systems, are growing at exponential rates by offering property managers discount screens and free installation. Why?

How can these companies afford to practically give away their merchandise?

Visio Media in Toronto condo tower is captive audience - Tenant TV systemThe 18 inch flat screens now playing ads in thousands of elevators across Canada’s biggest urban centers represent just a fraction of an increasingly valuable closed-circuit broadcast TV network.  The system is emerging and getting lots of attention because it works!  The biggest players in the field are using programmatic messaging, allowing social media interaction and even using facial detection technology for measurement and dynamic ad delivery. That means that every unit is intelligent and responsive to its own immediate audience in real time. Visio Media flat screen ad network delivery system in condo tower elevator

Its a win / win for property managers and tenants as the ad network also carries other valuable information that makes ignoring the screen difficult.  When deployed in bank towers downtown, the system provides advertisers access to executive eyeballs, and even in condominium towers across the city it finds highly desirable and difficult-to-reach audience of affluent and influential urban consumers.

If you are sharing your elevator with a small screen, then it probably belongs to one of these four expanding elevator-media networks:


Captivate Network is among the oldest and most established elevator broadcasters; founded in 1997, Captivate now has a digital media company with a network of 12,000 high-resolution, flat-panel elevator and lobby displays in 1,800 premier office buildings across North America

Their marketing ascertains that Captivate’s in-office media provides entertaining content to 10+ million professionals during the workday from best-in-class providers. Captivate uses an intelligent ad delivery system that is very aware of local demographics, time of day and season when showing their advertisements to elevator occupants.

Here is their video wherein they outline their pitch to property managers.



Visio Media has a nationwide network with buildings in Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.  This is what the company did with the money they received from an accelerator Accelerate Fund Invests in Visio Media in October 2017, and unlike Captivate which targets commercial properties, this Edmonton based startup is more focused on urban residential towers.

Visio Media’s Elev8 system strives to help businesses impact ready-to-spend urban residents with their advertisements, while enabling property managers’ communication with their residents.  Visio Media has the most technologically advanced elevator flat screen display network in the marketplace.  Each 18-inch screen mounted in the top corner, above the door in the car, has a tiny camera and software that scans shapes of faces and bodies of occupants to perceive certain determining factors. The data collected can include height, facial hair and face shape and these factors combined with others are used to determine gender and age. That information along with time of day and season are used to determine the best ads to display.  This ‘patented anonymous detection system’ is considered non-invasive photo recognition technology because none of the media is recorded; there is no record of the passengers in the car other than ridership stats. Below is the video from their website.


Pattison Onestop

Perhaps the most visible player in this space is Pattison OneStop and that’s because they have the deal to put 15″ elevator screens and 46″ lobby screens (the largest in the industry) above the subway platforms in three of Canada’s busiest cities.  Given this very auspicious and exclusive media broadcast space, they have evolved unique content which is a blend of real-time news, weather and entertainment programs that mirrors CP24 in some respects.  They focus on helping commuters and so traffic information and especially public transit delays are priority messaging on their screens. Their network has an estimated reach of 1.1 million across the country, and is available in seven urban markets: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

When it comes to business towers and residential towers, Pattison systems are not found inside the building elevators like the first two competitors listed above, but rather they focus on the high traffic areas in front of the elevators.  They have partnerships with several high profile property management companies across the province; firms like Minto, Oxford and Homestead, plus their own sales force have grown their Ontario Residential Network to 680+ buildings. Here is their video,


MaxTV logo

MaxTV Media is the smallest and hungriest player on the scene; this local enterprise was born here in Toronto and is rapidly expanding by offering discount hardware and service in Brampton, Mississauga, North York, Vaughan, and Markham area condominiums.  MaxTV is building an ad network by promising to ‘evolve’ the old school tenants’ Interactive Digital Notice Boards.  What is that you might wonder?  If you lived in large condominium buildings in the 2000s you would have seen flat screen TVs used as message boards with line after line of updates posted by residents and staff.   MaxTV Media has evolved, or is evolving a better system of delivering notices. Their website boasts that their 1,089+ installations now reach 167,845 + Residents and have delivered 23,055+ Notices.  You can watch the MAX TV  video presentation online here.

Elevator Advertising is an ‘up and down’ business model.

Elevators are socially awkward environments where even the most confident and self-assured individuals tend to look at their feet and fidget with their keys.  Elevator advertisements give peoples’ eyes a welcome place to rest; riders can now intake visually rich and relevant information such as headlines and appealing images from the day’s news, stock quotes, and weather and clever advertisements.  For residents and business executives who can put their minutes in the elevator to better use, the screens are easily ignored, since they are small and often don’t emit any sound. But for most riders, the screens are highly effective instruments for information delivery.  Connecting these TVs together makes an effective ad messaging network, and that is the big prize that drives these companies forward and why they are offering Toronto area property managers such great deals today.

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CanEggs Protein Powder Photo Shoot in Luxury Toronto Condo

Last week we helped food and beauty professionals create health & wellness and luxury lifestyle stories to benefit all society simply by giving them access to one of our premium suites at King and Dufferin.  The condominium unit located at 38 Joe Shuster Way faces south and has a wide balcony with a fantastic view of Lake Ontario on the horizon and Lamport Stadium twenty stories below.

Lamport Stadium adds to the Walk Score of King and Dufferin

On the day these people gathered in the unit there just happened to be a historic rugby game being played in this open-air sports venue which has just recently been re-sodded and now appears a brilliant emerald green.  The Toronto Wolfpack rugby team pounced on the London Broncos and destroyed them with a clear and easy victory at home.  A tech company sponsor pegged the attendance at 7300+ people in the bleachers, but we know there were dozens more watching from balconies across the street. EmagTO’s article about the day focused primarily on CanEggs photo shoot and the people at our job site.

CanEggs condo photo shoot in Toronto, luxury lifestyle

Some of the guests at the photo shoot included Martin Dasko from Studenomics, a student finance blogger with a vast readership here Toronto and in colleges and universities south of the border.  Christina Paruag is the editor of FemEvolve health and wellness magazine.

Martin Dasko with Christina Paruag of FemEvolve magazine

The man seen below operating the blender is Sam Dhutia, founder and CEO of CanEggs Ltd which processes poultry eggs into a clean source of protein. The powder is made locally by spraying freshly cracked, mechanically separated chicken egg whites through a fine nozzle and then evaporating the moisture from the mist in midair using high efficiency drying ovens.

Sam Dhutia makes smoothies with egg white powder in luxury condo in Toronto

Let’s be clear there is nothing new about powdered eggs, and nobody ever claimed that dehydrated foods were healthier than fresh fare, but everything has its advantages.  Today, egg white powder is primarily used for baking pastries on an industrial scale. Fifty years ago, when the process was first perfected, powdered eggs only real demand were by the armed forces. Both Canadian and American WWII armed forces served powdered eggs, sometimes daily, to troops serving overseas and the meal was even more popular during the Korean conflict.  (There are over a dozen episodes of M.A.S.H. which show the kitchen-workers making and serving powdered eggs.)

What’s new? The industrial baking ingredient is now available online in 1kg and 2kg boxes online, and is finding new markets among muscle-builders and  and make-up artists alike.  Here’s Jennifer Turner of Modern Makeup who made a recipe for egg white powder face masks or beauty masks on her blog. She is applying the face mask to Alice Li – 2018 Miss World Ontario.
Jennifer Turner masks a beauty mask on Alice Li

At 4pm, timed to be hot & ready at the start of the rugby game, Amico’s Pizza delivered an Italian themed feast that included two different salads, six dozen BBQ chicken wings and two huge deluxe pizzas.  You can read all about the luxury condo photo shoot on Amico’s Pizza blog.  Here’s a great shot of Anna Belani the media producer getting a second slice.

Producer eats pizzaThe afternoon ended with the models wearing beauty masks and drinking egg white powder infused fruit smoothies on the balcony which was staged with Velago outdoor furniture for the occasion.  Below you can see Alice Li and her sister Kat Li are relaxing on their Ronco outdoor sofa which retails for approx $400 in their showroom.

Kat and Alice Li in Ronco outdoor sofa by Velago Patio Furniture

The idea was to show attractive young people enjoying the best things in life, twenty stories above the crowd.  The platform was perfect for people watching and the traffic snarls on King Street after the game ended reinforced the idea of escaping the commute by living in the core.

Trish and Jason and Alice Li with Sunbeam 6cup blenders

The afternoon ended with all participants getting a Sunbean 6-cup blender and one kg of CanEggs egg white powder with which they might experiment making smoothies and beauty masks themselves, in the comfort of their own homes.

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Lots of Transition Game, 05 June 2017

Premier Matrix Realty would like to offer a friendly challenge to readers to identify which condominium  projects in Toronto these pictures , and we’ll be watching the comments for your answers and hopefully we can award congratulations to the winner and maybe a small prize.  On the morning of Tuesday 5th June 2018, this author wandered Toronto and was impressed by the size and scale of these building lots in transition.

Site #1, where is this deep hole in the ground in Toronto – 05 June 2018

can you guess where this site is located in Toronto

Site #2, where is this supermarket being demolished? What project is taking shape here this summer?

site in downtown Toronto

Site #3, where is this narrow patch between residential apartment towers? There’s no basement being prepared for this building site.

Bloor Sherbourne construction site

This crack of sunlight may be another clue to this third and hardest photo. If you know the locations of these properties please prove it; let us know in the comments.

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What Is Pop-Up Staging? Budget-Friendly Home Staging at Its Best

| Mar 2, 2017

In this HGTV-saturated era, most home sellers have heard of home staging, a practice of arranging furniture in your home to make it look as alluring as a photo spread in a design blog. But what is pop-up staging? Consider it the bargain alternative that uses fold-out “fake” furniture for a fraction of the price of actual home staging.

Pop-up staging has taken off in the past few years, because the benefits of traditional home staging are undeniable: According to industry data, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more money, on average. Still, traditional staging is not cheap: Staging fees for a 2,000-square-foot home will typically run in the $7,000 range. One reason for this high cost is that the furniture takes up so much storage space between gigs.

“As a traditional home stager, I had acquired 30 homes’ worth of furniture,” explains Karen Nielson, adding that she (and by extension, her clients) had to pay to store it all in a warehouse, have it hauled in a moving truck to clients’ homes, then returned again to storage.

Hoping to curb these costs, Nielson founded Dandy Pack, a pop-up staging company which creates the illusion of furniture with cardboard boxes draped in slipcovers. Rather than using vast warehouses and moving trucks, Nielson can now fit a whole home’s worth of furniture in a car, and change the look of the pieces by changing the slipcovers. Plus, from a distance (or in listing photos), Nielson says, you can’t even tell it’s “fake.”

How much does pop-up staging cost?

A starter kit from Dandy Pack, which includes a bed, couch, ottoman, and chair, costs $1,031, which represents significant savings. Plus, for someone going the DIY route, pop-up staging has the advantage of being portable and easy to assemble; stagers say it would be simple to go from an empty house to fully staged in one day.

Beyond the cost and ease of setup, pop-up staging may trump traditional staging in another key way: by maintaining a neutral home decor style that won’t rub sellers the wrong way.

“Conventional staging with real furniture involves choosing a style—with its patterns, colors, art, and accessories,” says Douglas Pinter, an industrial designer behind inFormed Space, which rents out foldable “prop” furniture, delivered in two rolling bins. Cost: $1,899 to $2,199 for two months. Best of all, the white furniture gives people a sense of a room’s scale so they can imagine how a sofa would fit, without being overwhelmed by a shabby-chic aesthetic, for example, if that’s not their thing.

What are the downsides of pop-up staging?

While pop-up furniture may save you money, you do run the risk that certain buyers might be turned off when they realize the furniture is fake. Especially with top-of-the-market properties, buyers might wonder where else you’ve tried to cut corners to save a few bucks.

And depending on how much furniture you already own, the cost savings might not be that great. If you’ve got some great pieces already and a good eye, you might save more money staging with what you’ve got.

Still, if your home is empty, pop-up staging can save some serious coin. Plus, if you’re worried that the pop-up furniture doesn’t look natural, you can try a hybrid—i.e., mixing large faux pieces with smaller real pieces like end tables and accessories.


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