The sister duo behind Mansouri Living grew up in a development family and have been learning the art of real estate since they were kids. They began working on their father’s team early on — Nargues was still attending school when she got her start.
Now they’re handling every single details of one of Toronto’s most sought after new luxury condo projects, The Perry. We speak with Nargues and Maryam about their complementary skills, what they hope to achieve with The Perry and why you should eat at Rose and Sons in Toronto right now.
BuzzBuzzHome: What age did you know that you wanted to be involved in the development industry?
Nargues Mansouri: I don’t know if it was necessarily a specific age, but when we were younger we would always drive around to sites and look at different properties with our Dad. Real estate was in the back of whatever we were doing. Whether we were coming home from dinner or on our way to dinner, or on our way to somebody’s house it was always “Oh there’s a property we have to go see.”
With our dad, it was always about construction and development and this piece of property and that piece of property. It just felt natural to go into it. If I have to point to an age, I was probably 17. I told my Dad that I wanted to come work with him. That’s when my summers started at the office. At the office I filed paperwork and learned about purchase orders and construction — all that stuff.
Maryam Mansouri: It’s funny as I was listening to Nargues speak, I thought about my childhood days playing with Lego. I was tiny, but I just became obsessed with building with Lego. I think it starts at that age, when there’s a little seed that’s planted and you just love seeing something come to life. Maybe that’s when it started, if I were to point at an age. I don’t know if it’s necessarily wanting to pursue a career in real estate development, but more liking the idea of building started at a very young age.
BBH: You both come from different academic backgrounds — architecture, and business. Where did you both go to school and how do the different skill sets like that you learned there complement each other when you’re working together?
NM: We always joke that Maryam gives birth to the baby and then I take care of it. The baby being the development, of course. She went to the University of Waterloo for Architecture. Maryam is involved in the process of taking the property and the zoning and goes through getting approvals through the city. Then we come up with a concept together, so it’s more conglomerate for concepts and Maryam then goes into the design details. I went to Ryerson for Business so I work on the legal, business, financing and sales side. We come together for the marketing of the project.
BBH: How long have you been working together?
MM: It’s been about eight years since we’ve been full-time together.
BBH: What are some unique features that the The Perry bring to this neighbourhood in Toronto?
MM: I think what makes The Perry unique is in the scale of the building. It’s really geared toward people who want to feel like they are walking into their home from the second they step foot into the lobby. It’s not just about your suite and your home; we were trying to create a sense of community and quality throughout the entire building. And it’s an intimate building, only 11 storeys and 45 suites. I think in the Toronto marketplace that’s rare and I think purchasers really appreciate that sense of home that we have established in the entire development.
NM: We do have Poliform standard throughout in terms of kitchens, vanities, and wardrobes, so every closet inside the units are Poliform which is pretty amazing given that the standards in the marketplace are a metal rod with a plank. We have Gaggenau appliance standards throughout every suite. We also have one-year Quintessentially memberships that come with every suite. Those are three really unique features for The Perry and for the Canadian in general.
MM: Every suite we’ve really paid attention to outdoor space and considered how we’d want to live in the city. Every suite comes with a balcony or terrace. On the south side of the building they are five feet deep, on the north side every single balcony is minimum of six feet. This is pretty rare in Toronto.
BBH: What type of impression do you want to make in Toronto with The Perry? Is this about establishing yourselves in Yorkville or in Toronto as builders of this type of project?
MM: I think we’re trying to establish timelessness and consciousness of the long term impact of your decisions as a developer. We’ve selected every component from the relationship of the site to the neighbourhood all the way through to the finished details to create the essence of timelessness. We want people to look at the building in twenty years and still feel like it belongs to that time. I think this is really crucial to us.
BBH: What are some other projects that you’re working on right now?
NM: We want to establish ourselves as a lifestyle brand. We’re working on some concepts that we can’t really go into discuss right now, but they add to lifestyles. We can’t say much more than that but we have exciting things on the horizon for sure.
BBH: Any idea when they’ll see the light of day?
MM: Next year we’ll be launching it.
BBH: How do you two find working together? Is this a chemistry that works really well or is it much different than working with another highly-skilled person?
NM: Oh it’s totally different. You can be completely honest with one another and trust each other unconditionally, fully. You also get days where there’s a lot on your plate and you’re like the retreat for one another. I can say whatever I want to Maryam and then five minutes later it’s fine. Working with your family is amazing.
MM: I also think that we’re actually very complementary to each other in a strange way.
NM: We’re so different, but we’re so similar.
MM: We really fit these different roles in the company I rely on Nargues for business advice and to put together the framework to these crazy creative ideas. At the same time, I think Nargues relies on me for design aspects and details. We bridge that gap of those two separate worlds inside the business that we’re in.
BBH: So what are your impressions of the Toronto condo market? What does the rest of the year hold? What does 2014 hold?
NM: I think there’s definitely going to be a stabilizer in the marketplace. I think that we built a lot of condos very quickly and it’s only natural with supply and demand that that is going to stabilize. Prices are going to stabilize, and depending on the pockets where these condos are located, I think those neighbourhoods are going to stabilize.
In terms of the 2014 market, I hope that it keeps going up. I think Toronto has great potential and we are nowhere near what we can reach in terms of pricing and real estate values. We are the least expensive city to live in, in terms of comparison to New York and Chicago. I think we have a lot of potential and I don’t know that it will happen right in 2014, but I think we will get there in the next four or five years. That’s my prediction.
MM: I also think Toronto as a city has this very interesting physiology because the fabric of the city is not bound by any kind of restriction, the city can keep kind of extending. What’s important for Toronto as a city is to keep up in terms of the infrastructure. My hopes are the government supports the opportunities Toronto has as a city, in terms of public transportation, and ensures the city can still flow inside this room that we have in terms of development and new buildings, both residential and commercial.
BBH: What’s your favourite restaurant in Toronto?
NM: That’s a tough one because I really do love food. *laughs* I love eating! For me, I’m more of a relaxed person so I don’t really love going to fine dining establishments. I find it too stuffy and it’s just not enjoyable for me. My favourite places are more casual. I love Rose and Sons which is on Dupont in The Annex. It’s delicious and their Caesar makes me salivate. I go to Grand Electric more than I like to admit too.
MM: Tough question, I have a few that I love. I think on special occasions Soto Soto is just a classic and they have the most amazing fish and pasta dishes. It’s kind of got this dingy, cool atmosphere. It’s all candlelit and it’s very comfortable, romantic, and relaxing. The other night I had this amazing dinner at Rose and Sons Big Crow which is this outdoor barbecue space. It was one of the best meals I’ve had in Toronto in a while.
Thanks for buzzing with us Maryam and Nargues!