DANCERS CREATE AN AIRY LIVING SPACE: CLAPBOARD HOME HAS CHANGED WITH THE ZAMPROGNA CLAN
Lou and Pauline Zamprogna's house has so much personality, it seems like a member of the family.
And what a family this is: daughter Gema, 19, twins Dominic and Amanda, 16, twin black cocker spaniels, Sammie and Sophie, and a host of young dancers, theatre school students, instructors, actors and assorted groupies and wannabes.
Mealtime is all the time and, as Lou says, you never know whose face you'll see when you climb the stairs at the end of the day, or when you step out of the shower in a towel. I'm sure there's material for a sitcom in there somewhere.
Within, it feels like a sprawling old farmhouse. So much so, it's easy to forget you're on the second and third floors of a grand old Victorian clapboard beauty that doesn't seem to have a single brick in it.
Though it began life as a landmark home with nothing but farmland around it, today it sits near the busy corner of Sherman and Main.
In 1976, Lou and Pauline were newly returned from England and looking for a place to set up a combined home and dance studio. Rather urgently, too, since baby Gema was about to arrive.
"Never go house-hunting with a woman who's eight months pregnant," Lou says now. "All she wants to do is nest; she falls in love with any old house you look at; and when you get in the car and drive away, she's always in tears."
At that time the stately farmhouse had been carved up into four apartments "and was full of people," says Pauline.
"It seemed to be a house of corridors," says Lou, "and everything was pink and green high-gloss enamel. But it felt good to us right away, so we looked beyond that."
The first job was to open up some walls, close others off and create that 'nest' on the second floor plus a dance studio on ground level. Tall ceilings and well-proportioned rooms were rediscovered once the partitions came down, and the space feels generous and airy.
The baby's room was little more than a closet with a window. With open porch below it and fresh air on three sides, little Gema sometimes had icicles forming on the inside of her walls.
Today this little alcove works beautifully as a small office off 'the new living room'.
Camel-colored carpet throughout and grasscloth on the walls, creates a warm background for an eclectic collection of furnishings, original art and lamps. A green leather sofa and two comfy tapestry armchairs anchor the living room. Everything says "relax; sit on me."
Through a charming deep doorway fitted with glass-fronted cabinets, you discover the 'new living room', (It's been called this for about 15 years now.)
A cosy, quiet sitting room, it functions as a homework locale for the two Hillfield-Strathallan scholars in the family and their frequent visiting study groups.
In the dining room, old french doors open onto a miniscule Romeo-and-Juliet balcony no deeper than the door swing. Light spills in onto a theatrical 'fainting couch' from England.
A gateleg dining table sits against the wall when not in use and there's room for a good sized group around the '20s era Wurlitzer baby grand. Duck your head to avoid a chandelier.
At the back, the kitchen is flooded with sunlight from glass doors on two facing walls. On the third side is a lovely stained glass half-moon window, the gift of a friend.
Several walls came down in this area to open it up into a friendly and functional kitchen.
A few years ago, a deck was tucked into the ell of the building. The other french door leads to the fire escape stair at the rear, from which you look down onto the swimming pool.
The dogs run up and down the fire escape to take their outings in the backyard. Sitting on the deck for coffee or a summer supper, or after a few laps in the pool, it must be hard to believe you're right in the thick of the city.
There's a tiny apartment behind The Dance Centre, which has been rented out over the years to a number of friends and members of the Zamprogna's extended family.
Today it functions as a Green Room for the instructors and a rest room for anyone who needs it.
It seems to have its share of magic too. Over the years, some of the apartment's tenants have gone on to greater things, including:
-Larry Herbert who starred in Crazy For You in Toronto
-Jimmy White who also had a role in Crazy For You
-Victoria Snow who now works as an actor in Los Angeles
-Jeff Renn, a Vancouver actor.
PUTTING HISTORY IN ITS PLACE
The Zamprogna's made an interesting discovery when they were demolishing a wall in the updated bathroom.
"A carpenter had placed a little pair of his baby's shoes in the wall," Pauline said.
"Black lace-ups, handmade and very old. We learned they did this for luck when building a home in the old days."
Delighted with the find, the Zamprogna's thought they might display the little shoes in a frame or glass case. However, that night lying in bed, Pauline had a vision of "this little barefoot spirit running around the house looking for his shoes." In the morning , they replaced the shoes and drywalled over the space.