Living on the edge // Going in House

Living on the edge of the Scarborough Bluffs


Behind the façade of Patrick James’ modest Toronto home lies a spectacular backyard view of Lake Ontario.

By Mike Landry

On Tuesday May 26th, 2009


Overlooking the Scarborough Bluffs from the hammock in his backyard, Patrick James can see foxes, rabbits, and New York

Patrick James doesn’t talk too much about his busy weekdays at a downtown boutique firm. He likes his weekend gig, and it only takes a quick hop on the GO Train to Toronto’s east end to see why.

Looking out on the large deck in James’ backyard, past the eroded slope of conservation land that is part of the Scarborough Bluffs, Lake Ontario sparkles with six or seven brilliant blues. It’s a view you’d expect from a seven sisters boardroom, not from a modest four-bedroom backsplit.

“It’s cottage living in the city,” says James. “I come home and see the lake, and it’s totally relaxing.”

James moved into the house with his wife Mara and their 11-month-old last May. Soon they were watching Independence Day fireworks rise up from New York State, enjoying “moon therapy,” and listening to waves in the backyard while baby Natasha spied rabbits, foxes, cardinals, and deer.

They didn’t do much to the fifties-era house beyond repainting the too-blue walls and putting up a hammock between two large maples. They left the original architect’s signature marks: the large patio door windows and an antique school bell hanging next to the doorstep.

The view is spectacular, but it’s a colourful Cuban Cubist painting that greets you. It was the first piece in the international art collection adorning James’ walls. A partner with Pinto Wray James LLP, specializing in litigation, employment law, and administrative law, James can be flexible about when he travels. The art, from Australia to Costa Rica, are his souvenirs.

When home though, James’ time is spent locally. It’s easy in Guildwood Village. The 51-year-old subdivision is free of big box stores and heavy traffic, and weekends can be spent among the tree-canopied cul-de-sacs taking part in events like Guildwood Cleanup Day and enjoying “nature at its best.” For James, an avid fisherman, that means casting off for salmon in the fall.

“Really, whether or not I catch anything, the novelty is that I’m down from my backyard fishing in the lake,” says James in his polar fleece, looking at the lapping water, before adding, “but I do hope to land a few.”

The Lowdown:

Name: Patrick James
Firm: Pinto Wray James LLP
Areas of practice: Litigation, Employment Law, Administrative Law, and Human Rights
Year of call: 2005
Home location: Guildwood Village, Toronto’s east end
Building profile: Four-bedroom, 2,400 sq. ft. backsplit on a 50 x 140 ft. plot abutting the Scarborough Bluffs and overlooking Lake Ontario

Photography by May Truong