Sometimes the most interesting encounters happen spontaneously. I had just picked up the Beach Metro Community News and noticed an advertisement for a bed and breakfast in Toronto’s Beach that had a rather unusual name: Accommodating The Soul Bed and Breakfast. For my neighbourhood portrait of the Beach I had wanted to interview a tourism entrepreneur anyway, so I decided to call the number listed.
I talked with one of the owners and got a positive reception. Steven and I arranged that I would drop by Saturday afternoon for a quick interview. So on a snowy day I drove down Waverley Road and stopped just north of Queen Street: I had found my destination. Steven Zarlenga, one of the co-owners, opened the door to Accommodating The Soul B&B and welcomed me. He offered me a pair of slippers, a comfortable accessory on this cold and clammy day. The co-owner Paul Karamat had also been waiting for me and said hello. After offering me a glass of orange juice, Steven took me on a tour of the house.
Steven Zarlenga & Paul Karamat
The historic home has a beautifully decorated living room on the east side, with an adjoining dining room that features a colourful oversize floral painting which Steven and Paul brought back from a trip to Thailand. Upstairs are three tastefully decorated bedrooms, with one gorgeous private bathroom and one shared bathroom. Steven did all the interior decorating, and the entire house has a tranquil elegance to it. Straight down from the entrance is the kitchen, a room they plan to renovate in the near future. Doors from the kitchen and the dining room lead down a few steps to a new addition: a beautiful west-facing garden room with three sets of French doors provides a perfect spot to relax. In the summer you can gaze out over the green sanctuary behind the house. Their backyard is part of the Beaches Garden Tour.
The beautiful backyard
Their garden has even been used as a backdrop for weddings and other special events. The generous garden room with its series of French doors reminded me a bit of a European palais, where doors open up to a beautifully designed oasis of colour and fragrance. Steven commented that the garden is a quiet respite and many B&B guests have remarked how peaceful the garden is. During the Jazz Festival Steven and Paul often sit in the backyard with their guests, enjoying a glass of wine and listening to the music that drifts up from Queen Street.
The living room
Steven and Paul used to live in Richmond Hill, and had been playing with the idea of opening a bed and breakfast for some time, but they always thought that this would be something to do later on in life. At a critical juncture in life they decided to go ahead with their plans anyway and started searching for a suitable property. They looked in different parts of Toronto and were shown various properties all over the city. When they looked around the Beach, they liked the small town feel of this neighbourhood and the restaurant and shopping opportunities close by. Paul commented that when their real estate agent drove them down Waverley Road, they somehow felt guided to this property and bought it right away after the viewing. They became good friends with the former owner who allowed them to put plants in the garden before they even owned the house and fixed up all the holes in the wall before Steven and Paul took over the property.
The dining room