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By Mark Pavilons
If you take an aerial view of Kingscross, you'll see a mosaic of properties and homes that epitomizes the new iteration of King Township.
This historic estate subdivision was one of the first in the GTA to set the bar high in terms of beautiful homes on beautiful lots.
A precious enclave to be sure, Kingscross is undergoing an evolution, a face lift of sorts. It's highly sought after, to the point where local niche builders are getting weekly inquiries.
Hard at Work Inc. has grown exponentially over the past two years, to the point where it has had to expand its services to include full renovation builds. The demand for large-scale renovations has necessitated the need for a stand-alone company – Hard At Work Reno. The two companies share upper management and offices.
Owner Peter McCarthy is the creative force behind Hard at Work. Pointing to a 3,000-square-foot addition on a home on Kingscross Drive, McCarthy said they have to work with the rolling terrain and topography of the lot. Despite the size of the some of the projects, the lot integrity and open spaces remain largely intact.
Looking at the progress of a 12,500-square-foot bungalow, McCarthy pointed out the majority of clients have reached the pinnacle of success, and now they're building their dream homes. They're pulling out all the stops and building some of the most impressive houses in the province.
King Township has already established itself as the most affluent community in all of Canada, both in terms of property value and household income. It's no wonder that pockets of King are home to the very affluent, the uber rich and famous if you like. Hard at Work built the Kingscross home for HGTV star and real estate investor Scott McGillivray. The entire build was featured on “Moving the McGillivrays.”
King's location and access to major commuter routes, along with its rural charm are among the draws. McCarthy noted that many successful entrepreneurs today conduct a lot of business on their mobile devices – anywhere, anytime. They find Kingscross to be the ideal locale for a home base.
McCarthy drops by another project, an 8,000-square-foot home bolstered by reinforced steel. The open concept home is incredibly expansive and spacious. When complete, it will boast tons of glass and even a vacuum operated glass elevator. An indoor garage/showroom is another interesting feature.
Referred to as the “Bridle Path of the North,” Kingscross is a hive of activity.
Some long-term residents don't support the flurry of activity and changing characteristics of this neighbourhood.
But McCarthy said new home-buyers have a vision.
“Change is vision,” he said. “Nothing stands still.”
Many new buyers are paying a premium just for Kingscross lots. McCarthy pointed out that repurposing the properties is inevitable. Many of the homes were built with electric heat and are on well and septic systems. Some have no basements and others are at the mercy of the high water table in some areas. They are tearing down the outdated homes and creating truly unique dwellings. No two are alike, making Kingscross a really interesting tapestry.
Yes, the buildings are grandiose and opulent. Clients, according to McCarthy, are asking for double-stacked garages for their car collections; two-island kitchens; underground parking; indoor pools and “closets the size of bedrooms.”
McCarthy points out that many of these luxuries are not intended to show off, but for the owners' enjoyment and need for organized space.
Large rooms are the trend, with many bathrooms and closets looming larger than some downtown condos.
Most of these buyers also require interior designers. Their desire for the best has led to a unique partnership between Hard and Work and renowned designer Jane Lockhart. She is principal designer of the Toronto firm she founded in 1997, Jane Lockhart Interior Design. She's an award-winning designer, TV personality, and author who's well-known for her expertise in interior design and colour. She has also successfully developed and launched two lines of furnishings.
“It's amazing to work with her,” McCarthy said.
What the Lockhart team does is look after all the interior architectural details on behalf of McCarthy's clients.
“He hands it over to us and we give it our full attention so its exactly what the client wants. Peter is a wonderful builder, who works with fantastic trades. It's a great collaboration,” she said.
In Kingscross, Lockhart said it's important to consider the natural beauty and light available on the premium lots. You always want to work with what is naturally available and here, nature and light are in abundance.
“Adding a great loggia or screened-in porch to maximize outdoor time is a must. From a building standpoint, natural underground streams need to be managed to ensure the houses will last a lifetime.”
Lockhart said she loves the open spaces and in Kingscross, creating voluminous, two-storey rooms that capture the light and still feel cozy “was a pleasure to help create.”
She pointed out that almost everyone's “wants” are similar. The top of the list is maximizing space, creating beautiful vistas and focal points.
“At Kingscross, what makes these houses special is the lot size and the ability to design houses of seemingly unlimited space. In the city the spaces are limited with little room for expansion. Most people want a classic house that will stand the test of time, nothing too trendy, with modern conveniences like heated floors, discreetly-placed pantries, and specialty appliances.”
Passion is always a part of Lockhart's work.
“I enjoy working with clients who appreciate the details and fine craftsmanship of good design. Beyond colour, textures and fabrics, they pay attention to layout, flow, millwork details, and expect perfection.”
Kingscross, she noted, is like tracing history through residential architecture. From ‘70s style we see random modern, almost Brutalist architecture (like the Science Centre and York University), to a renaissance of traditional to ultra-modern design. The city has grown to meet this area of large properties so it's now conveniently located close to the main highways and access to the city.
In order to meet the needs of his affluent customers, McCarthy said they rely on their core group of extremely skilled tradespeople.
The work, and McCarthy's reputation, has created a steady flow of customers. McCarthy said he takes each client through the entire process and meets with them 24/7 if necessary. He works with clients and architects to interpret what they want. He will take virtually any idea and make it a reality.
“They (clients) are all very involved,” he said.
McCarthy takes pride in his builds and he takes the trust clients place in him very seriously.
McCarthy and his team – Conrad Kijewski, Jane Lesperance and his son-in-law and partner Vince Oppedisano – have been going strong for the last eight years. Oppedisano is the hands-on front-line worker, on site 12 hours a day, juggling trades suppliers and clients. He is McCarthy's right-hand man and without him, they wouldn't be where they are today.
Hard at Work is truly a family business. McCarthy's wife Ellen, runs the financial side and manages the office. She also advises clients on interior finishes and is an expert on exterior acrylic coatings. Tara McCarthy handles all the real estate sales and purchases, and also looks after most of the building permits required for the start of the projects. Steven McCarthy juggles his studies at U of T and devotes his free time learning the business and helping his father. He has mastered all of the equipment, including the excavator and does all the drone documentation for every project. His years of Xbox have made him a natural at anything with a joy stick.
McCarthy has built a rapport with his friends, neighbours and new homeowners. He often hosts community get-togethers for his neighbourhood.
McCarthy's personal demand for quality is evident in his builds. The retired Royal Plastics executive and inventor (he marketed the first plastic extrusion garden sheds) has a creative eye. His customers demand the very best in terms of both aesthetics and functionality.
It's not all business for McCarthy. He has been a regular supporter of various charities, including the King Township Food Bank.
New neighbours in this unique community are not only the who's who of powerbrokers in Ontario, they're putting King on a totally new map.
For more on McCarthy's work, visit www.hardatworkinc.com.
Excerpt: If you take an aerial view of Kingscross, you’ll see a mosaic of properties and homes that epitomizes the new iteration of King Township. This historic estate subdivision was one of the first in the GTA to set the bar high in terms of beautiful homes on beautiful lots.
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