Room for dreams and memories

Since 2011, Kendal Gerard, 27, has blogged about life in her East York bungalow.

The blog was project-oriented at first, and so named Before and After. Eventually it was renamed to reflect a big decision she and her husband, Pierre Landry, 29, made to Little Bungalow: Less Space, More Happiness. After a year of increasingly ambitious blueprints, Gerard and her husband, decided that the original 1940s floor plan was just fine.

“When we bought it was beautifully staged and freshly painted. It was small, but really appealing,” she said.

The Landrys had been looking move out of their apartment into a “proper sized house.” The cute bungalow popped up on the MLS listings when Gerard made the momentous decision to reduce her bathroom requirement from two down to one. At the first viewing, Gerard was in love. It was her husband who wasn’t feeling it.

“There’s no way. It’s too small,” Landry had said during the backyard conference.

That was in in 2010. The Landrys were, like many Toronto couples, finding it a challenge to land an affordable, but livable home in a housing market strapped by a limited supply of single-family dwellings.

Flashback about 60 years, and another husband and wife found themselves in a similar situation.

It was 1949 and Winston and Marjorie Rogers were also hoping to land themselves a little bungalow. Winston (now deceased) and Marjorie, now 90, had arrived in post-war Canada from England on separate ships with two small sons in tow. Eventually they landed a veteran’s rental unit. The apartment was nice enough, but the busy intersection of Westlake and Danforth wasn’t exactly kid friendly.

“There was no place for the children to play,” Rogers said, sitting in the living room of the same war bungalow she had shared with her husband and six children.

“(Winston) put our name in again to get a place up here,” she said. ‘Here’ being the veteran’s community now known as Topham Park. The rest is history.

Two couples, two houses, two eras, similar problems.

Both couples were house shopping during a housing shortage. Rogers and other veterans were contending with the stagnation in development during the Great Depression. The Canadian government answered the call for housing in 1945. The crown corporation called Housing Enterprises Canada Ltd. (better known today as the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation) helped build approximately 300,000 units.

The Landry’s 2010 housing shortage came in the midst of the Great Recession. Rock bottom interest rates intended to stimulate growth did their job, flooding the Toronto market with first-time buyers and hostile bidding wars.

The Landrys wanted to avoid a bidding war if they could, and the little bungalow had no other offers.

“If we’re going to buy it, it has to be because we’re going to renovate it,” Landry had said. Not a problem. His wife’s father worked for an architectural firm and had a passion for building and renovating homes. All the boxes on their wish list were checked. They were sold.

“We moved in and plans started developing for the house to be massive and two stories.” Month after month passed with architectural plans being traded multiple times between the Landrys, Kendal’s father, and the architect.

“With every pass, everything just got bigger, more expensive and further away from what we had in mind when we bought the house,” Gerard said. “We just weren’t comfortable.”

They also realized after living in the home for a year that the size of the house worked for them.

“We called (my father) up one day and said ‘It’s off,’” Gerard said.

While Gerard eventually researched the history of her home at the Toronto Archives, it was what she learned from the realtor that was hard to imagine.

“I was floored to learn that the original owners raised a family of four in the house,” she said.

What would the Rogers family of eight say about bungalow living in the 1950s? Gerard’s fateful one-bathroom decision illustrates the point. While she described on her blog ‘the dance’ that she and her husband do in the morning to share the bathroom, the Rogers’ second eldest son Keith Rogers, described the large family approach as “production-line bathing.”

“Next, next!” laughed Marjorie Rogers. “I was in there washing everyone in the bath every night.”

And though she raised six children in that small house, Marjorie Rogers said that it wasn’t that hard to manage.

“Well, you only get them one at a time,” she said. “And you’re just delighted to have them.”

Two families, two bungalows, one bathroom each, each appreciating what a 1940s home has to offer.