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Decking their halls with dazzle

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The Horber family loves Christmas. Their house in Stouffville makes that beautifully, dazzlingly, festively clear.

With baubles and branches, wreaths and reindeer, candles and cushions — not to mention countless Christmas trees in sizes tiny to tall — every room radiates holiday spirit.

Catherine-Lucie Horber, husband Marcus with their children Madeline, 10, and Olivier, 4, in their living room decorated in rose-gold tones for the holidays.
Catherine-Lucie Horber, husband Marcus with their children Madeline, 10, and Olivier, 4, in their living room decorated in rose-gold tones for the holidays.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

“It’s whimsical and fun,” explains Catherine-Lucie Horber, who spent days enhancing her home for the holidays. “It makes things different from the rest of the year.”

Horber, an interior designer, and husband Marcus live in the 11,000-square-foot, contemporary country manor with their children Madeline, 10, and Olivier, almost 5.

Catherine was born in Montreal to French parents and Marcus was born in Belgium to Swiss parents, who now reside in the couple’s attached 2,400-square-foot, in-law suite.

The multicultural family has continued the older generation’s “magical” Christmas traditions “to keep the flame alive with our children and ensure (the spirit) gets passed on,” Catherine says.

One of those rituals is Marcus’s treks to the woods for a tree, which started when he was a child.

“We head to our local, traditional tree farm … equipped with snow pants, toboggan and tree saw to pick it out,” he explains.

THEN: "I'm like Clark Griswold," says Marcus Horber, out hunting for the perfect tree with wife Catherine-Lucie and then-baby Madeline in 2008.
THEN: “I’m like Clark Griswold,” says Marcus Horber, out hunting for the perfect tree with wife Catherine-Lucie and then-baby Madeline in 2008.

“I’m like Clark Griswold,” Marcus jokes, referring to Chevy Chase’s bumbling father figure in the 1989 comedy National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. “The tree has to be the right shape with no holes in it, seven or eight feet tall, and a balsam fir.”

Decking the halls, and adjoining rooms, doesn’t require making a list and checking it twice, according to Catherine.

“I just go with the flow. I have fun with it,” says the avid Michaels shopper who stores her ever-expanding collection of decorations in what young Madeline calls her dad’s “sausage room” — the cold cellar.

Catherine, whose GTA-based firm Royal Interior Design Ltd. does residential and commercial projects, says she usually advises clients to keep the same theme throughout “for flow.” But this year she broke rank with her own advice and opted for a different theme in each room of her home.

Holiday magic hapens ? in tones and shapes that work with the Horbers' existing decor ? on tables, counters and available surfaces.
Holiday magic hapens ? in tones and shapes that work with the Horbers’ existing decor ? on tables, counters and available surfaces.  (Rene Johnston)

The living room, for example, is a “winter wonderland” showcasing a pair of snowy-looking trees and arrangements of shimmering balls in golds, rose golds and white.

In contrast, the kids’ main-floor playroom is toned down in old-world style, incorporating elements of nature in a red-and-green colour scheme.

“I love vignettes,” Catherine says, explaining the how-tos of a tabletop arrangement in one hallway. Created around a trio of different-height trees and lustrous ornaments, the display takes its colour cues from the aqua-and-teal painting above it.

The same hues appear in the family room where an artificial tree laden with oversized adornments erupts in a “whimsical explosion of colours and textures,” says Catherine.

Oversized ornaments and a teal colour scheme are Catherine-Lucie Horber's choices for this year's Christmas tree in the family room.
Oversized ornaments and a teal colour scheme are Catherine-Lucie Horber’s choices for this year’s Christmas tree in the family room.  (Rene Johnston)

This Christmas may be the family’s last in the custom-built residence the couple designed themselves eight years ago. Catherine and Madeline’s passion for horses and riding has triggered the need for a new house with a barn and pasture.

A trio of realtors from Sotheby’s International Realty Canada has been tasked with finding a new family for the Horbers’ current home.

With multiple indoor and outdoor amenities, it’s the “perfect house” for entertaining in style, winter or summer, says Paul Maranger, co-listing agent with Christian Vermast and Maggie Ma.

On Christmas Eve, the family will join Marcus’s parents for a European feast of homemade onion soup, salads, cheeses and charcuterie with Austrian linzer torte for dessert. Christmas Day will see them host a sit-down dinner for 20, starring Marcus’s brined and sausage-stuffed turkey on Catherine’s dressed-to-the-nines dining table. Festivities will include a gift exchange, movies and non-stop classic Christmas music.

Madeline, offering a preview of her frothy, sparkly holiday dress that matches the living room decorations, is excited about the gathering.

Madeline, 10, in the kids' room that features a tree in traditional Christmas colours and shapes.
Madeline, 10, in the kids’ room that features a tree in traditional Christmas colours and shapes.  (Rene Johnston)

“I like it when the whole family comes and eats and celebrates together,” says the youngster who started her holiday events in November when she took part in a craft show and sold handcrafted bath products and T-shirts she makes in her arts and crafts room at home. Part of the proceeds goes toward a gift for a disadvantaged child.

Catherine built her own business “from humble beginnings” 10 years ago after spending 11 years in the marketing sector of the corporate world. Now, Royal Interior Design donates full design services every year to a family in need, whether it’s a struggling single parent or new immigrants.

Catherine says she’s teaching her children that “hard work pays off … and when you are blessed you need to give back.”

And what better time to celebrate those values than Christmas, according to Marcus.

“The whole holiday for us is about relaxing and enjoying family — giving thanks.”

Presenting Christmas

OUTSIDE: Reindeer ? including a life-sized twig creature with a collar of stockings ? decorate the Horbers' front step.
OUTSIDE: Reindeer ? including a life-sized twig creature with a collar of stockings ? decorate the Horbers’ front step.  (Rene Johnston)

Designer Catherine-Lucie Horber shares her tips for holiday decorating:

  • Combine similar objects of varying heights in groupings of three.
  • Hang wreaths in windows for quick and easy holiday decor. Or use a wreath to adorn the base of a lamp.
  • Create a centrepiece or accent by filling a bowl, vase, tray or glass jar with Christmas balls or other seasonal items.
  • Dress up a hallway, corner or bathroom by assembling a vignette composed of different sized objects in colours pulled from their environment.

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Victoria real estate agent disciplined for false advertising, encouraging cash deal to avoid taxes

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A Victoria real estate agent is facing $9,000 in fines and a 60-day licence suspension after breaking several professional rules during the sale of her father’s half-million-dollar property, according to a decision by the Real Estate Council of B.C. 

Whitney Garside’s missteps — outlined this week in a disciplinary decision posted on the council’s website — included falsely advertising the property as being almost twice its actual size and advising the buyer they could avoid the property transfer tax if they paid cash directly to the seller.

The property on Burnett Road in Victoria was being sold in 2016 by the real estate agent’s father. That relationship was disclosed and isn’t among the reasons she has been disciplined.

According to the disciplinary consent order, Garside told the buyer — whose name is redacted — that by paying $42,000 cash on the side, the value of the property could be reduced to avoid paying the property transfer tax.

That cash arrangement was not shared with Garside’s brokerage, Re/Max Camosun, a failure that contravened the Real Estate Services Act.

The council also ruled that she “failed to act honestly and with reasonable care and skill” when she advised the buyer the property transfer tax could be avoided by paying cash directly to the seller. 

The council’s discipline committee also found that Garside committed professional misconduct when she failed to recommend the seller and buyer seek independent legal advice, specifically regarding the property transfer tax and the cash agreement.

Another issue the council considered professional misconduct involved the size of the property in question.

The council ruled that Garside published false and misleading advertising and failed to act with reasonable care and skill when the property was advertised as 8,712 square feet, when in fact a portion of the lot belonged to the Ministry of Transportation, and the actual size was just 4,711 square feet.

The discipline committee ordered Garside’s licence be suspended for 60 days, which will be completed Jan. 3, 2021.

She has also been ordered to complete real estate ethics and remedial classes at her own expense.

Garside was also fined $7,500 as a disciplinary penalty and $1,500 in enforcement expenses.

She agreed to waive her right to appeal the council’s discipline committee’s decision in September.

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Frisco apartment community sells to Canadian investor

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A Canada-based investor has purchased a Frisco apartment community as part of a larger Texas deal.

The 330-unit Satori Frisco apartments opened last year on Research Road in Frisco.

BSR Real Estate Investment Trust bought the four-story rental community that was built by Atlanta-based Davis Development.

Satori Frisco was more than 90% leased at the time of sale. The property includes a two-story fitness center, a car care center, a dog park and a resort-style swimming pool.

The Frisco property sold along with Houston’s Vale luxury apartments in a deal valued at $129 million.

“BSR recently exited the smaller Beaumont and Longview, Texas, markets and also sold noncore properties in other markets,” John Bailey, BSR’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We are now using our strong liquidity position to invest in Vale and Satori Frisco, modern communities in core growth markets with the amenities our residents desire.”

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House prices on Prince Edward Island continue steady climb

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Residential real estate prices on Prince Edward Island continue to climb at a rate higher than the national average, according to the latest report from a national organization. 

The Canadian Real Estate Association released monthly figures for November 2020 on Tuesday.

They show that the average price for a resale home on P.E.I. is about 21 per cent higher than it was a year earlier. 

Only Quebec had a bigger year-over-year increase, at about 23 per cent. Overall across Canada, prices were up 13.8 per cent year over year in the ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the fifth straight month, year-over-year sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019,” the report noted.

“Meanwhile, an ongoing shortage of supply of homes available for purchase across most of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces means sellers there hold the upper hand in sales negotiations.”

That lack of houses coming onto the market compared to the demand means that in those provinces, there is “increased competition among buyers for listings and … fertile ground for price gains.”

There have been anecdotal reports for months that Prince Edward Island’s low rate of COVID-19 infection and looser rules around social activities have been encouraging people to buy homes on the Island. 

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