But it's not going to be easy. There are very few of them—that's half the prestige bit.
The other? You must have money, lots.
Then you'll have what everyone wants, a symbol you can really live in!
EVERY NIGHT A THIN layer of oats sifts gently down through the ceiling and dusts the living room below. If that seems a little odd, it’s only because the living room was once two box stalls, the room above it was a hayloft and the oats are left over from a pre-World War I breakfast for a couple of horses. But artist Kenneth Danby and his wife Judy don't mind this small inconvenience.
“As soon as we walk around up there, the oats start coming down. I guess I'll have to vacuum the living room every single morning as long as we live here,” Judy says, unregretfully. After all, what’s a little extra vacuuming to a dedicated coach-house lover?
The Danbys spent months driving around Toronto streets in search of a coach house to rent before they found this one. They found sixty, half of them being lived in. At that time the Danbys were part of a small army of hunters in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto who hopefully comb the likeliest districts and knock on doors to ask occupants if they happen to be thinking of moving out. Now the Danbys are entrenched residents themselves and strangers are knocking on their door.
What really is the attraction of the coach house? Perhaps it’s Instant Prestige. The coach house owes its existence to the era when the term “carriage trade” meant wealth and elegance. Though it may be only a humble adjunct to a stately mansion, there is an association of ideas. Even the poorest coach-house dwellers feel rich.
But as demand grows, it's becoming increasingly necessary to be rich as well. An American doctor recently paid $40,000 for a coach house in Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Heights. It has a superb view of the city and is crowned with a louvered cupola, a sure sign that it’s authentic. The asking price for one Montreal coach house is $70,000, a sum which realestate dealers say is perfectly reasonable. Toronto's largest and most elegant coach house is being offered for sale at $105,000 (only because the owners. Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Thompson, are moving to the United States),
and it features a two-story living room with one wall of glass. It’s roofed with the original wood shingles and though the shell of stone is there, little else lingers from the old days. But it the price tags on coach houses are a little staggering, they're still a sound investment. Mrs. Elaine Kelly is a real-estate dealer in loronto who last year picked up one of the few available coach houses in Toronto's Rosedale district Two weeks later she was offered $7,000 more than she paid for it. She turned the offer down without a second thought. "I love the place." she says. "It's compact and it s private. Living in a coach house is the closest thing to country living while in the heart of a big city.”
In loronto a coach house can only be sold separately from the big house it belongs to if it has it s own access to the street. If it is located behind the big house and shares a driveway, it must be sold as part of the entire property. I hat s why most coach houses are rented. Tenants pay extra for charm, since coachhouse rents are in the neighborhood of $200 to $300 per month. You can get a luxury apartment for that, with heat and water and a swimming pool thrown in.
Perhaps that s why some tenants are nervous. Often they have no lease and have spent a considerable amount of their own money on repairs and renovations, while "out there" are
With a bit of luck, you've finally found a coach house.Bt
FIND AN OLD STABLE continued
plenty of people ready to offer higher rent for the same privilege. Dr. Lionel 'liger, a University of British Columbia sociologist, jealously guards his coach house on Shaughnessy Heights when he takes off for Europe or a lecture tour.
Fearing eviction to make way lor a friend or relative of the owner, or a stranger who will pay still more rent, makes many tenants almost furtive; like the Toronto woman who doesn't mind letting people see her white-brick coach house in fashionable Forest Hill Village as long as her name isn't mentioned in print. Another Toronto woman refuses to discuss the whole coach-house-living syndrome. “If nr like it. that's enough.” she says briskly. “1 don't cape to discuss it publicly.”
Finding a coach house usually takes diplomacy, nerve, and administrative flair. Ten years ago a Montreal stockbroker, Douglas Creighton, made a list of all the coach houses between central Montreal and central Westmount. He came up with sixty. Though half
have since been torn down, people still ask Creighton for his list.
Vancouver architect Andy Ross was so anxious to rent one he knew would soon be vacant that he cooked an exotic dinner for the lady w'ho held the lease. She was so impressed that she sublet to him. But TV commercial producer Russell Moore of Toronto, after knocking on coach-house doors for months, found an unused one and offered to fix it up just so he could rent it. The owner was impressed— too much so. Moore’s plan sounded so enchanting that the owner decided to fix it up himself and give it to his daughter for a wedding present.
Coach houses are rarely advertised for rent. If you want one you must somehow connect with the grapevine system that passes the word along, and then you must be resourceful and quick. If you're lucky, you take it sight unseen (that’s what a Toronto executive did when a man he met on a flight to New York mentioned that he had a coach house for rent)
and you ask about the rent later. Coach-house addicts put up with lack of storage, small rooms, lack of parking space, a variety of heating problems and all those people who knock on your door to ask if you’re planning to move —just so they can enjoy the charm, the style, the privacy, the garden and the good address.
The coach house didn’t always enjoy such a status. As recently as 1945 they were con-
ow the really hard work begins—you have to guard it jealously from your friends
sidered nothing but a stopgap on the way up to larger and more elegant houses or apartments. Now the coach house is the top. Most people who live in them are executives, protessionals, and university staffers.
Coach-house dwellers are often afflicted with diplopia (double vision), whereby they see two rooms at once: the room as it is now and the room as it was in the days of the carriage and pair. “Right under this living-room floor is the turntable where the carriage used to sit to be turned around.” they will tell you. Or. "Our bedroom was the groom's quarters. The kitchen was the tack room.” For them this somehow enhances the value of the house.
Most coach houses date from about I 885 to 1910. Each one is totally unique, since both the size and the style match the Big House in front. In turn, the Big House was matched to the pocketbook and tastes of the original owner. And as new owners perform successive renovations, they become more unique. The Bernard Diekmans, /
continued on pape 33
COACH HOUSES continued from page 17
Once a coach-house dweller, you’d rather fight than switch
for instance, live in a Toronto coach house complete with cupola that still opens no ventilate the upstairs.
The Diekmans have lived in theirs for seven years and would try to find another one if they had to move. Many changes have been made to it — the addition of a fireplace, the replacement of the carriage doors with a broad bay window — but the living-room ceiling is still the original tongue-ingroove with fresh coats of paint.
Larger coach houses are often ornate. with towers and dormer windows and sometimes space for two carriages and as many as six horses. A huge one attached to Branksome Hall, a Toronto private girls’ school, features a basement stable, and the same feature is found in a Victoria coach house that Peggy Walton-Packard uses as a studio in which to sculpt.
Some coach houses were not actually coach houses at all, but simply stables (The coach was kept in another building.) An example of this is the white stuccoed, green-roofed house of Joseph Bobyk, a Toronto hairdresser. It once housed two horses and the groom. Though tiny, the Bobyk house is dramatic, because of a high-ceilinged living room with a gallery running across one end.
Once hooked, coach-house dwellers don't like to change their way of life
and sometimes go to great lengths to preserve it. Mrs. E. R. Sugarman lives in a handsome coach house in Toronto’s Rosedale, which has a white, brick-walled dining room and a living room in the hayloft. She first rented the coach house twenty years ago, moving into it from a luxury apartment. Life jogged along happily until
three years ago when the estate went up for sale and her coach house went along with it. She was sure that she would be evicted.
“I couldn’t bear to leave my coach house,'' she says now. “It's the only house I ever felt at home in. I was writhing on my bed just thinking about it!”
One night of that kind of torture was enough. So Mrs. Sugarman bought the Big House in front, just so she could continue living in the Little House behind it. ★
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