Image copyright RM Renovations Image caption Joe de Vere and Georgia are part of a family-run restoration team
Mystery surrounds how a builder and his daughter transformed a decrepit hairdresser into a beautiful addition to the endangered tourist attractions of Toronto’s historic Danforth Avenue.
“On the Danforth, it’s a hip, edgy place, it’s up-and-coming and interesting, but there’s a lot of decline,” said Joe de Vere, 44, who spoke as he walked to the construction site of the picturesque Mahicore Hotel.
“You can see the facades are crumbling, it really looks like the place is falling down.”
He has found a good client in Antonios Demasotis, the owner of the Mahicore, who offered to donate the building if Joe and his wife, Georgia, could transform it, paying for the work in hard cash.
Image copyright RM Renovations Image caption Joe and Georgia’s father and sister have worked as toff painters and sculptors in London
“It was the first thing we could think of, because they’re trying to breathe life into an area that needs it,” Antonios said.
The new Mahicore – completed in spring 2018 – has become a green attraction for children, as well as an ideal place for couples to eat lunch on a gloomy Toronto day.
Antonios says that the new hotel – surrounded by tall, gnarled hedges – acts as a counterpoint to the eerily empty and empty windows of the main branch of the Toronto Public Library on nearby Kensington Avenue.
“Everything is stripped down, saved, re-purposed and given new life,” said Antonios.
Antonios Demasotis is finding creative ways to reuse old material on his Danforth building
The tarmac of the new hotel was laid in a way that allows water in, allowing the parking lot water to drain into the basement, the excess water used to keep the paint dry.
The windows are made from handmade plywood painted a warm off-white, and gold plasters (flourscreen) fill the spaces left when windows were cut from the facade.
“What we want people to know is that wood used to be seen as expensive,” said Joe.
“A rich man’s product, but there’s plenty of it out there, people are just not aware of it.”
In Canada, the sandstone and marble used in many of the country’s theatres and churches can be had for free and sometimes more cheaply than a good plasma screen TV, he said.
Image copyright RM Renovations Image caption Joe says that wood previously viewed as expensive is now cheap and plentiful
There are some long-established icons of Canada, such as the Queen Elizabeth II Theatre in Toronto, but an average of 1,000 jobs are lost every year due to property deterioration and anti-growth sentiment, he said.
Both he and Antonios hope that preserving these architecture-built wonders of the Danforth will take some of the sting out of the fragile industry in Canada’s biggest city.
– Additional reporting by Alexander Tupper