A modern family-home renovation that puts play first

The Toronto home of Greg Hall and Meghan Walker.

Riley Snelling/Riley Snelling

Eight years ago, Greg Hall and Meghan Walker, two entrepreneurs, bought their Toronto home because it had four separate apartments. Their plan was to live on the ground level, with Mr. Hall’s mom, who was in the process of downsizing, upstairs in a separate suite. Two basement units were to be rented out to offset the cost of the house.

At the time, the couple had a young daughter, and their 1,750-square-foot Summerhill flat felt comfortable. Things started getting tighter after their second daughter was born, more so with the birth of their third little girl. Two years ago, to alleviate their cramped quarters, Mr. Hall and Ms. Walker decided to take back their basement, doubling their living space. (Expanding to the second level was never an option – who would ever dare to evict their own mother?)

The renovation involved reclaiming the basement rental suites and making them part of the primary residence.

Riley Snelling/Riley Snelling

Though the ensuing renovation meant forgoing rental income, it doesn’t always make financial sense to move into a bigger pile. In addition to legal fees, real estate commissions and land-transfer taxes, the cost of single-family homes has risen from $600,000 in 2012, when the couple bought their duplex, to about $1.1-million in 2020, according to listing.ca.

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Plus, Mr. Hall and Ms. Walker had a very specific vision for their renovation – something they couldn’t just buy. “We wanted a home that embodied our values,” says Ms. Walker, a naturopath and podcast host. “Both of our backgrounds are in health. We wanted a healthy, environmentally friendly design. We also wanted something modern, yet something fun.”

“Play is an important part of life,” says Mr. Hall, a trained MD

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