An ideal starter home in the East End

Inside the Danforth-area house of two Toronto lawyers, who’ve updated the space with a bohemian-contemporary look
Portrait photograph of Justin Martin and Zoe Hountalas

Only one day before the first pandemic lockdown, Zoë Hountalas and Justin Martin, who’d been dating for about a year, moved in together. Martin, then an associate (now a partner) at Lerners LLP, decamped to the condo that Hountalas, a lawyer at Koziebrocki Law, rented near the St. Lawrence Market. For the two busy litigators, the unit’s close quarters became a persistent pandemic-era challenge. By 2021, the couple had decided to upgrade to a larger space and, at the same time, enter the world of home ownership.

In the spring of 2022—after meeting with a financial planner, saving up for a down payment and canvassing the real-estate market—Hountalas and Martin bought a two-and-a-half-bedroom, semi-detached house on a quiet street just south of the Danforth. To be more precise, it’s located in a neighbourhood called “The Pocket,” a residential area that’s cozily encircled by the TTC’s Greenwood yard, the Bloor-Danforth subway line and the CN railway tracks. “We really like the neighbourhood,” says Hountalas. “There are parks everywhere. It’s close to the subway. And it’s super easy for us to get to work and go to concerts and restaurants.”

Justin Martin and Zoe Hountalas in their East End home

The homeowners
In the spring of 2022, Justin Martin (a partner at Lerners) and Zoë Hountalas (a lawyer at Koziebrocki Law), bought a semi-detached house just south of the Danforth. “It’s kind of the perfect starter home,” says Hountalas.

The home’s open-concept living room and spacious dining area were obvious selling points. But it had other perks, too. “I immediately liked the porch and the hardwood floors,” says Martin. “The only thing I miss about our downtown condo is the beautiful view of the city skyline and the CN Tower.”

Hountalas and Martin, who got married last summer, were delighted to find a newly renovated home that didn’t need a ton of work. No water damage. No archaic electrical system. No mold in the basement. Still, the new homeowners wanted to make some modest improvements. After moving into the place, Hountalas started to decorate it in the bohemian-contemporary style of Shea McGee, the star of Netflix’s Dream Home Makeover. “She has very simple designs,” says Hountalas. “It’s all about textiles, natural woods and white walls with little bits of colour.” In the upstairs bathroom, she sanded down the “very 1970s” patterned blue tiles and repainted them white. And she loves the leather couch in the living room, whose caramel colour is in perfect sync with the bohemian vibe. Martin, who describes his aesthetic as “whatever Zoë wants,” has been happy for his more stylish wife to take the lead.

In truth, though, what the couple values most about the home is what it has the potential to become in the years ahead. “We want to grow and have a family,” says Hountalas. “It’s kind of the perfect starter home.”

Zoë Hountalas and Justin Martin’s dining room

Dining in
On weekends and holidays, Hountalas and Martin like to host dinner parties for friends and family in the dining area. “I do the classic big meal for Christmas and Thanksgiving,” says Hountalas. “In our condo, it was much more cramped.”

Zoë Hountalas’s cookbook collection

Book smart
An avid home cook, Hountalas likes to try out recipes from her growing collection of cookbooks. One recent favourite is the Brussels sprouts with cranberries and blue cheese that she found in Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings. Martin, for his part, specializes in classic Italian dishes.

Zoë Hountalas and Justin Martin’s wedding album

My small Greek wedding
This photobook commemorates the couple’s summer 2023 wedding in a small fishing village on the island of Andros, a two-hour boat ride from Athens. Hountalas, who is half Greek, has spent summers at her parents’ nearby vacation home. For many of the 64 wedding guests—30 of whom were lawyers, a mix of colleagues and friends from law school—it was a welcome introduction to the pleasures of Greek life. “We got married in a stone amphitheatre on a cliff, with a beach-party reception afterwards,” says Martin. “Mamma Mia! is my mom’s favourite movie, so she was beyond thrilled.”

Zoë Hountalas and Justin Martin’s Kitchen Aid stand mixer and cutting board

Kitchen essentials
Martin’s mother grew up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. His grandfather worked on the island as a fisherman. This cutting board—a wedding present from Martin’s uncle—is made from Cape Breton larch wood, adding a dash of Maritime flavour to the kitchen’s decor. The Kitchen Aid stand mixer, meanwhile, is particularly useful on “pie days.” About four times a year, Hountalas invites her parents and sister to come over and bake different types of pies. Martin tries to keep out of the way, but he enjoys the role of official taste tester.

Zoë Hountalas’s Samuel Taylor Coleridge collection

Classical musings
Hountalas, who double-majored in English and political science in her undergrad, acquired this 1933 Samuel Taylor Coleridge collection as a Queen’s University law student, during a semester abroad in the UK. Her background in literature has proved useful in her litigation practice: “When I have a trial, I’m trying to tell someone’s story.”

Zoë Hountalas and Justin Martin’s picture of an Amsterdam streetscape

Featured art
Above the couch in the living room, Hountalas has hung a monochromatic picture that depicts an Amsterdam streetscape. She purchased it after another semester abroad, during law school, at the University of Groningen, which is located in the Netherlands’ northern region. On weekends, she sometimes visited other European cities, such as Amsterdam and Lisbon.

Zoë Hountalas in her home office

Office space
The couple converted the home’s spare bedroom into an office. “If we’re both working at home, Justin likes to go into the office, and I’ll be downstairs in the dining room, which has really nice light,” says Hountalas. “That way, we can have our own space.”

Photography by Arash Moallemi.