Vivian Unesco, Toronto

Vivian Unesco, Toronto – Properties A and B (PDF)
Vivian Unesco, Toronto – Properties A and B (JPEG)

  • Adam G

    Interesting idea for a segment. I wasn’t sure how it would play out. So far, so intriguing!

    I think the key is to identify the factors that the client considers most important, and then match that with the design. In this instance I suspect the master bathroom and the storage are the least important, (the ‘if possible’ tag persuades me so), while the entertaining and the natural light is the most important.

    That said, I’d recommend A. It lacks the master bath and storage of B, but it has better light potential overall, in that all the major living/dining areas look directly at a window/terrace. B’s tiny dining area hidden so far away from a window suggests that she’d end up entertaining in the living area, leaving the dining area unused. In any event, B’s kicthen looks a little small for someone who likes to cook.[I'm wondering where the fridge went in A, but I'm guessing there is one in there somewhere!] Also, the second bedroom in A is probably more easily furnished than that peculiar den in B, and A’s second bed has light whereas B’s den does not.


  • Trent

    This is a tough one: I would lean towards property A especially if one would eliminate the bathroom that is taking up valuable living space. Removing the bathroom would also give a nice sight line from the entry and out the dining windows. I think a big second bath is a waste of space in a small home but I know people are stuck on having them. The kitchen is larger and there is a an actual entry (small but it is there) with a front hall closet. I also like the glass area for the dining and kitchen area in Property A. Property A is also a little closer to where Vivian works (10 minutes each way, it adds up).
    Good luck Vivian and welcome to home ownership.

  • James Scott

    Good morning,

    Unit A seems to have the majority of pros. Light coming from more than one direction, only the bathrooms have no direct light. Unit B’s spare room has no light at all.

    Considering that Vivian likes to entertain I think she would be disappointed having to dine in a dark corner behind the kitchen. The second bath would be convenient. Possibly the second room could do double duty as a spare bedroom as well as an office.

    Resale value is important if Vivian is only there for 5 years or so, 2 bedrooms and 2 baths would be a positive feature.

    Ten minutes of Toronto rush hour may not be that bad, but most of us could live without it, take the closer unit.

    Finally, I’ve seen what is coming out of the condo market in Toronto and the new stuff is not impressive at all. Not to say unit A is any better, but there must be a critical eye applied to the quality of the building.

  • Brad W

    John – For unit A, the pdf shows a SE exposure while your video shows a NE exposure.

    There is no question that buying a home is an important design decision but that is just one aspect of a successful purchase. Location, view, condition of the building, condition of the unit within the building, amenities available or nearby, fees, taxes, affordability, resale market, future development, etc. are some of the many factors which must be considered in any real estate transaction. In the context of this exercise, design is the focus but I do not think that the best design is necessarily the best buy.

    Despite the confusion regarding exposure, unit A has all living areas adjacent to light and, hopefully, a view. Unit B has a nice SW exposure but most of the interior living space will be dark and have no view. Unit A is not perfect but based on natural light available in all room it would be my choice.

  • Grace

    I’d definitely go with A because of the light.

    I suppose that resale considerations would keep most people from eliminating the 2nd full bath and bedroom, but I would do the following:

    enlarge the living space by eliminating the second bath

    combine the two bedrooms and master bath to create a one bedroom master suite

    find space for a powder room that is not in the middle of the living area.

  • Doug Roberts

    Unit A:
    Pros — Closer to work, loads of natural light, larger kitchen, square shape/right angled corners, front hall closet, laundry room, second bathroom for guests, third closet in spare room, only 10 floors to walk down when fire alarm goes off
    Cons — Small front entry, long walk to kitchen with groceries, standard master bathroom, smallish master closet, terrace faces north (?), space lost to unnecessary second bathroom

    Unit B:
    Pros — Spacious entry, short walk to kitchen with groceries, soaker tub in master bathroom, large walk-in master closet, large terrace that faces southwest
    Cons — Farther from work, minimal natural light in general and virtually none in dining area and den, small exposed kitchen, angled walls/corners, no front hall closet, no storage other than master closet, 20 floors to walk down when fire alarm goes off

    Considering only design, distance to work and the client’s expressed desires, and ignoring for the moment the many other important factors that Brad mentioned but which we have no information on, Unit A is the hands-down winner. In my view the biggest single factor would be the access to natural light, as one of the best ways to get your day off to a good start is to have early morning sun streaming into your bedroom and living spaces.

  • Louis Pereira

    I would choose Unit A, based on the layout and because the predominant living spaces, i.e. – (Living/Dining/Kitchen/Study/MB), all face natural light. Sure the entry suffers from ‘cattle chute’ syndrome, but the benefits outweigh this. As alluring as a brand new unit on the 20th floor sounds, 10th floor should be your max. Read this sobering article, The End of Tall Buildings…(

    I wouldn’t spend the extra money in removing the 2nd bath – Better to save up for the next purchase and leave it for ‘resale’ purposes (i dread that word). There is no advantage to having a ‘walk-in’ closet as it just takes up valuable floor space – there’s plenty of additional space elsewhere (closet in the next room) to store clothes.

    Brad does brings up critical questions about all other factors influencing your decision. In addition, how vibrant is the immediate area?…Are you living above retail (good thing). Is there a good mix of buildings, demographic, income. Are there ‘eyes on the street’? Read…’The Death and Life of Great American Cities – By Jane Jacobs

  • Paul C

    There seems to be a consensus growing. Working within the selction criteria set forth (design), I would also recommend unit A.
    10 minutes closer to work
    10 less floors to travel
    Corner unit, more natural light
    More flexibility with bedroom 2, could be study could be guest room
    Wide hall by main bath (leading to living) has some furnishing potential
    Living would likely furnish better
    Has front entry closet!

    Great new segment.

  • John Brown

    Brad, thank you for pointing out the north arrow error on the pdf. It has been corrected.

    Louis and Brad, you bring up a good point about other factors. The quality of the environment outside on the street is critical. Hard to simulate in a web based design school exercise but critical in real life.

  • John Brown

    How interesting that the consensus is so clearly about Unit A. I thought there would be more difference of opinion.

    Would it make any difference if Unit B was less expensive, allowing Vivian to make a modest renovation, like changing the location of the kitchen, for the same purchase price?

  • Terri

    The natural light was my main criteria, although distance to work is a close second. I was leaning towards A because of the entry with closet (I hate B’s entry) and then I thought that B would have more light later in the day, which would be nice for entertaining. But if that terrace in B has a roof, then the bedroom will get very little actual light, whereas A will get morning sun–something very appreciated on days off.

    A is my choice based on light. Even though Vivian won’t see the afternoon sun unless she stands at the end of the deck, she can still enjoy her mornings without standing on the deck. Also, the corner exposure offers more view potential, depending on the buildings around hers.

  • Doug Roberts

    I realize that the client is not looking to renovate, but if she buys Unit A she should really look at doing something with the master bedroom door, which blocks access to the master bathroom when it is open. Having to close the bedroom door to access the bathroom would be incredibly irritating, particularly given that the client will be living alone and should not otherwise need to close the bedroom door. The simplest solution would be to hinge the door on the left so that it can open flat and out of the way against the bedroom wall, although replacing it with a pocket door would be a more elegant solution.

  • Doug Roberts

    John, in response to your question my answer would be no. Access to natural light is too important to a person’s wellbeing to be sacrificed for a slightly lower purchase price. Relocating the kitchen in Unit B might improve it slightly, but would not even come close to making up for the lack of natural light.

  • Paul C

    Interesting wrinkle, although the choice of where to move the kitchen may not make that much of an improvement over the other(many) short falls of unit B.

  • John Brown

    Do you not think that the south south west exposure of Unit B is better than the North and East exposure of Unit A?

  • Belle, Toronto

    I too vote for Unit A. If the apartment is to be sold in five years I think it will appeal to more buyers because it is a 2 bedroom/2 bath. It has much more natural light. Also it is closer to work which is an important plus.

  • Doug Roberts


    I am not a big fan of condos with south south west exposure, as you will end up getting the harsh late afternoon/evening sunlight, the same sunlight that we were all trying so hard to block out with trees, garages and pergolas over the past 2 days in the Wu/Cars case study. The solar gain from this harsh sunlight can really heat up a unit in the hot, humid summer months in Toronto and in Unit B there is no opportunity for cross-ventilation. The solar gain would be more welcome in the cold winter months, but would likely not be much of a factor in reducing the cost of heating Unit B.

    Furthermore, even with the south south west exposure, the amount of natural light that Unit B will receive will be limited by the fact that it only has 1 window that is flush with the exterior of the building, being the living room window. The other 2 windows face onto a deep terrace which is covered and enclosed on 3 sides, which would significantly cut down on the amount of light that comes in through those 2 windows. In comparison, Unit A has 5 windows that are flush with the exterior of the building and a sixth window that faces onto a terrace which is not as deep and is open on 3 sides.

    Morning sun is the best, and Unit B would never get any.

  • Sean

    Unit A is the better choice, especially if it is to be sold later, as mentioned above.

    Even though A is north facing the extra windows of A are much better than the limited number for B. It also depends on what tall buildings surround each building. At night there will most probably be a lot of ambient city light.

    I would find Unit B’s jumble of doors near the bathroom and angled wall of the main bedroom annoying.

    My concern with A is the area of the dining space but having the dining area of B right next to the entry and not near a window is far worse.

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    Me? I’d pick A for the greater overall light and closer to work counts.
    That said, B has going for it:
    *More loft like and Vivian asked for that.
    *Better South exposure for her herb garden.
    *Better use of closet space.
    *Potentially better view of the area because it is higher up.
    *Although the kitchen is smaller, I think I’d rather entertain in B than A.
    I’ve never lived in a big city, but I agree the local scene and proximity to support items like shopping, library, doctors, culture seem like they should play into the decision almost as much as distance to work.

  • Paul C

    Just for fun and based on your earlier “would it make a difference if…” post…exactly how much of a budget is available for renovations ? :-)


  • Terri

    I agree with what Doug says about light and flush windows, etc. A covered terrace is not going to offer all that much light–southwest exposure or not.

    I disagree with Jim about entertaining in B. I imagine it would be more irritating. You’d have everyone going through that maze of doors to find the bathroom. And sitting together in a bleak back corner to eat…you’d have to be a fantastic decorator to overcome that space.

    At least with A the guests are greeted by an actual room for greeting people (living room). They can choose to go sit at the bar after arriving, whereas in B they might get stuck at the bar or worse, the kitchen table, because that’s where the first available seats are at. And if there’s no coat rack, they might throw their coats over those chairs too… Maybe that’s what Vivian will do too.

    What a shame this condo B is new–what happened to the evolution of design anyway?

  • Terri

    I just missed your reno, Paul. I like the new entry. But I see that we lost our large southwest window somehow ;)

    The reality is, if Vivian had that much money to spend, she could probably find a better plan to start with.

  • Paul C

    Whoops!! Try this one. I must confess as well, I probably cheated a bit, in placing the front closet in the “filled/solid” space from the original plan. I was just feeling sad for unit B. Didn’t even get one vote…poor guy.

    Thanks for the feedback.


  • Louis Pereira

    ^That’s better Paul…i thought there was something missing. If that window wasn’t there to begin with, we’d see the builder/developer go into super gouge-mode and charge an arm ,leg and some other important body-part for that extra window

  • Robert Bierma

    what about ceiling height? if unit b had an extra 1-1.5 ft height it might not make up for less windows, but it would help to get the light further back into the unit

  • Cat

    Flat A is the clear winner for me, based primarily on the windows. The windowless closet of a den of flat B is too depressing to consider. Windows facing whatever direction are far superior to no windows.

    Other points I noted…Although the entry to A may be a little cramped, it is a real entry with a closet. B just seems to dump you into the dining room. Although A does not have the big walk in master closet, its total closet space looks larger to me than B. A has a second bedroom closet and the hall closet, as well as a nice pantry in the kitchen.

  • James Scott

    Ok Team,

    Looks like the party is in Unit A, hors d’oeuvres and martinis will be served tomorrow at seven. Hey Viv, is this affair catered?

    The good thing is we can take the TTC to get home.

    Have a nice weekend everyone!

  • Doug

    Hi All

    What a great exercise! I see this conundrum on a regular basis with home buyers, as a realtor I often see home buyers being swayed by the finish of a home rather than the design/layout. Looking at the floorpans we can objectively asses the design and see how we would live in the home. ‘A’ is the clear winner but Vivian is having a tough time deciding which one to choose. This is a testament to how well the developer has decorated and staged the unit to make it attractive and therefor salable. A home that shows (staged decorated) well will sell faster, regardless of design. That says people often dont see how the home is lived in. This is true with all types of real estate. I think any new home buyer ought this segment. Thanks for the slow home lessons John!

  • Anonymous

    I wonder about the ceiling behind you…pot lights, track lights AND a chandelier all in one small corner? (and all beside a window, too). I think it is a little too much, but then again I am NOT a fan of track lights or pot lights.

  • John Brown

    The design school segments are filmed in our retail store in Calgary. The lighting is a combination of elements – the chandelier is for sale, the potlights are for demonstration, and the tracklights are for retail task lighting. We wouldn’t put all them together in a real space.

  • John Brown

    Thanks to everyone who contributed to the exercise. It is interesting to read the thoughtful commentary. Echoing James’ sentiment – clearly Unit A is the winner for Vivian.

    I will make sure that next week’s project is a little tougher. We can’t everyone on the same side.

  • Anonymous

    I do like the chandelier!

  • John Brown

    The chandelier is produced by a company called Bocci, from Vancouver.I like it too.

  • Marja G-R

    Hi John, I just learned about your website and think it is very entertaining and interesting. Keep up the good work!
    About this exercise, can you tell me which unit Vivian choose in the end? I am very curious. I must say I am convinced unit B would suit her needs better. With the build-in terras (where her potted herbs would flourish compared to the north facing balcony on unit A), large windows, large bedroom and bathroom. Although unit B has more windows, the set up is much more conventional (she is looking for the opposit). And she does not need 2 bathrooms, this is clearly a waste of space when you live on your own. Thanks for your reply

  • John Brown

    Marja G-R,

    Welcome to the site. I am glad you are enjoying the site. I haven’t thought about this exercise for awhile so it was nice to revisit the discussion.

    The consensus from the group was for Unit A an I think that is the choice that Vivian would make.