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Silver bells — and hot pink reindeer — mix it up this Christmas

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Lorenzo DeCurtis’s home decor this Christmas is a departure: no tinsel, no red-and-green.

“I wanted the place to be like Superman’s palace,” he says of the superhero’s ice-crystal Fortress of Solitude. “I’m a fan of the old Superman movies and they inspired me. White, black and silver are everywhere.”

The tradition of holiday decorating, that began hundreds of years ago in Germany and northern Europe with simply decorated Christmas trees, is now internationally celebrated with a wide range of colours, lights and baubles. A 1,000-person survey done this past fall by a U.S. financial consultancy website found consumers prepared to spend about $70 on Christmas adornments.

And what holiday decor would be complete without Christmas penguins? Wait … penguins? Well, yes — a party of penguins features prominently among DeCurtis’s decorations; white with gold beaks. “I saw them in the store and they were all looking up at me,” DeCurtis says. “They look so happy and cheerful.”

DeCurtis, a designer, is a fan of multiples. That’s why, on the main floor of his home in North Toronto, there are 29 trees. But they’re not your everyday trees.

One is a basalt, black granite sculpture by artist Fred Hummel that stands about six feet tall. “It’s called Sentinel,” DeCurtis says. Another is a Fortuny lamp, modelled on a vintage item from a movie set from the 1920s, its professional, oversized bulb and black shade forming the treetop and its seasonal star.

“I took both the sculpture and the lamp and turned them into trees,” DeCurtis says.

“And there are triangles filled with balls that form trees, too. I had fun buying them. As I designer I like to joke that I make my living shopping.”

The townhome Lorenzo DeCurtis shares with his husband, artist and corporate art consultant Ross Marks was renovated and rebuilt two years ago and now covers a spacious 2,500 square feet. With all that room, the couple’s Christmas decor has evolved — and expanded — over the years. “Before we lived here, our Christmas decor was very tacky and very traditional. There was tinsel everywhere. Ross hated it and wanted something simpler.”

One small memento of that era survives, though: a tiny, fake green tree, with baubles of hand-painted glass. “Those things are precious to Ross and I,” DeCurtis says.

“But my favourite ornaments this year are my new friends the penguins. I also love the snowballs made from feathers on our staircase,” he says of the whimsical decorations illuminated by strands of little white lights. “I wanted some wow factor in our house this year.”

A glass sculpture the couple purchased at a gallery in Stratford, Ont., this past summer has become part of the couple’s unusual and modern Christmas decor, with the addition of a few tree ornaments. “It reminds me of waves of water — and it works with the rest of the things I’ve used this Christmas,’ DeCurtis says.

In Kim Alke’s 850-square-foot loft in Toronto’s Old Town neighbourhood, “unconventional” is the holiday decor theme.

Ornaments are hung from the ceiling. Mounds of lights sit on the floor. A driftwood Christmas tree proudly stands near a living chandelier Alke made using eucalyptus, Italian ruscus, and other greens.

“We’re doing bright pinks, jewel tones, and a collection of items that make the space fun and festive — but very non-traditional,” she said.

“My favourite for 2019 is the pink flocked reindeer, what else?” she says.

“We like to change it up every year, but definitely non-traditional,” says Alke of the items in her home that she also sells in her home goods store, Spruce Toronto, on Parliament St., that she operates with partner Faust Faubert.

“Pinks, blacks, purples, teals have all made appearances over the years. We keep things simple but fun and sometimes a little wild — this year we have the three-foot, hot pink, flocked deer. Two years ago was a vintage black-and-white TV playing Rudolph on loop,” she says.

In the beginning, the fun of Christmas decor was overridden with her quest for design perfection, says Alke. “I used to be quite serious about making sure everything was colour-coordinated — white lights only, and as perfect as I could make it.

“But since opening the store five years ago I’ve definitely learned to lighten things up — not take it too seriously and just have fun. It’s a time of year you can go wild, so why not? Faust is an experienced designer and talked me out of my white-lights habit and we’ve just kept going from there.

“Having some festive yet easy-to-care-for decor just works best for us,” she adds.

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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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