Posted by: Daryl & Wendy Ashby | September 3, 2010

Gen Y’s At Home

Meet Majed and Magdalena Turk. They’re young and successful. He’s a teacher and she’s a project manager. Together, they have a five-month-old son named Milo and a dog named Pharah. 

Like the Gen X families a generation before them, they recently bought their first home, just in time to welcome their son into their lives. It’s micro living with a spectacular view and exactly what they wanted. 

But there is a difference — and a big one at that. Unlike previous generations, the Turk’s family home doesn’t have a backyard for a swing set, a second bedroom or even a double garage for guy stuff. 

In fact, at just 664 square feet high above Laurier Avenue at Bank Street, you could say their entire home is the size of a garage. 

And they couldn’t be happier. 

“The space is awesome. We have fewer hassles and much less stuff,” says Majed, 32. “At first my wife was unsure, but every time we go and visit family in their three-bedroom home in Kanata we see the clutter and toys everywhere. We’re so happy that we live in a small space.” 

They’re not alone. With condos ranging from 468 square feet to 1,500 square feet in the thoroughly modern condo, the Mondrian, and prices between $120,000 and $550,000, the Toronto-based developer says they’re inundated with young urbanites keen to buy into micro-sized living. The spaces are small, says agent Urban Capital Developments’ Maureen O’Connell, but they offer something the suburbs can’t: affordable and stylish minimalist living in the city’s centre. 

“A lot of young Generation Y professionals in their 20s and 30s are buying these smaller places. They work for government, they have a lifestyle, so they buy a one-bedroom luxury condo that’s 500 square feet, where the space is incredibly well utilized,” says O’Connell. “Their world is downtown and with the smaller units, they’re still able to enjoy their lives and not be mortgage-poor.” 

That’s not the only allure. Of Urban Capital’s three condo developments — East Market, the Mondrian and Central — phases one and two of Central have already earned 40 points towards LEEDs Certification, an eco-responsible building code that is increasingly being adopted by the industry.

Central’s condos at Bank Street and Gladstone Avenue are finished with sustainable hardwood floors, man-made stone kitchen counters that, unlike granite, don’t emit gases and dual flush toilets to reduce waste water. 

There’s also energy-efficient lighting, a Virtucar hybrid car sharing program and a green-planted roof to create oxygen. Water from the roof is also collected for use so residents can wash their cars. 

Then there are the beautifully appointed common areas — a lounge, media room, gym, multipurpose room and landscaped outdoor barbecue area. Together, says Grant Algar, whose Toronto-based company handles the buildings’ interior design, “it’s really a lifestyle choice — a very continental lifestyle — where you live in a smaller space, you sleep there, but you’re out a lot. 

“I think Generation Y realizes that they can get a job, have a career and have the freedom of a home base without a yard. They’re building equity sooner than their parents, and that gives them freedom to travel.” 

For the Turk’s and their friends, that’s a huge part of micro-living’s appeal. “We travel as much as we can, to two or three countries a year,” says Majed. 

“We’re not rich, we’re just managing. My friends are seeing how much we’re saving by not renting, so they’re buying in.” 

Located on the 22nd floor to avoid street noise, the Turk’s residence in the Mondrian is a study in minimalism, well-appointed space and light — plenty of light. The condo boasts floor to ceiling windows facing the river and the Gatineau hills, giving the family “views of the mountains and the sky,” says Majed. “You don’t have to go out to a tea shop to people watch. You sit at the kitchen table and take in the amazing view.” 

Once the Turk’s son arrived, a nursery was set up in the multi-purpose den — which is also part office and part kennel. They purchased a compact, portable bed system that can be easily wheeled from the den to living room. The den — separated by barn doors that slide open to create more visual space — has a chaise and functional office table that folds down to one foot wide when not in use. 

Even Pharah, a small, barkless, hypo allergic African basenji, is a perfect canine addition to the family.

Finding cleverly designed furniture has proven to be a major challenge for the couple. Relying on trips to specialty stores in Montreal or on custom-made pieces, Majed says it took time to fully furnish the condo. 

“The majority of living room furniture is designed for much bigger spaces, and if you bring them into a smaller unit, you lose a lot of functional floor space,” he says. 

“We had to get rid of floor lamps, because they just take up too much space. Instead, we had the electrician come in and install ceiling lights.” 

To take advantage of the high ceilings, they also chose a tall cafe-style kitchen table.

Finding furnishings that suit the space is a challenge they share with neighbours. “There’s a garbage room in this building and every week it’s filled with furniture that people move in with, then can’t fit into their homes,” he says. 

“Some of it is very new. They’ve bought it thinking it would work, but in the end, it goes out to the curb. The trick for living in a small space is to take your time. Don’t rush it. You will find the right pieces.”

Furniture issues aside, Majed says there is one other benefit to micro-living. “It makes you bond. You can’t leave and pout when you have a disagreement. 

“You have to learn to deal with things and be patient. We’ve been married for seven years — we’ve never been closer.”

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