Looking for the right home in the right neighbourhood at the right price is a challenge. Combining ownership of your first home with embarking on your first renovation and welcoming your first-born child into the equation all at the same time is like a house hunting triathlon, and it’s exactly what my clients were going through. The goal was to score a family home in an established neighbourhood, and the mandate was to turn an outdated interior into an open concept contemporary home. After they landed on a winning candidate, it was time to cue the demolition crew.
Let it flow
The top priority for many of us with young families is to have a ground floor with an open flow, and good sightlines. Open concept living appeals to our modern sensibilities about how we like to live and entertain in a less formal way, but it also makes the everyday reality of multitasking work. Being able to cook in the kitchen while keeping a watchful eye on little ones is a lot easier when the ground floor is treated as one big open area (even if the area isn’t so big). So the first hurdle that usually needs to be addressed in the fixer upper agenda is how to get from three small rooms to one big one.
Go big or don’t bother
If you know you want an open plan, it’s best to aim big and get the most bang for your demolition buck. If you’re into the game of taking out walls and engaging an engineer, taking out permits, drawing up a new kitchen plan, and generally wreaking havoc on your home, I say you might as well aim high and make a huge change to make it all worth while. The difference between a partial and full wall removal will prove to be negligible when you think about it in the overall context of the costs of your renovation. By installing a beam that runs the maximum length of the space, you’ll afford yourself the greatest variety of options for layout and design. And getting the best layout is really the golden egg in renovations. Knocking down the entire wall dividing the kitchen from the dining room enabled us to install an island that measures more than six feet in length by over four feet in width and completely redefines the way the kitchen functions. This feature alone underscores why any of us endure the mess and the challenge of renovation to arrive at the destination of a new space that is entirely unrecognizable from what was previously there (and that is a good thing!).
Take a lesson from
In North America, we are accustomed to hot water radiant heating that occupies a vast amount of precious floor space under every window (and dictates critical layout options along the way, as you well know if you’ve ever tried to plan a room layout without remembering to account for the not so slender proportions of your HVAC system). Thanks to the space-saving tendencies of the Euro set, we can benefit from more innovative ideas that will keep us cozy in a chill while freeing up the floor plan for a more functional reinterpretation. My clients wanted direct access to the back garden from the kitchen, and by using a Stelrad radiator, we were able to recess a sleek, modern vertical unit adjacent to the new garden door.
Something old, something new
The point of buying an old house and renovating it, in my opinion, is to marry old character and charm with new technologies and conveniences. Stripping the entire space back to the studs and starting fresh is an option, if resources are plentiful, but in most cases, I find tradeoffs need to be made to get to the finish line without breaking the bank. If you liked the charm and character when you bought, try to save money by keeping some details when you modernize. Instead of gutting the dining room after removing the wall, I opted to leave the original wood panelling in place and utilize it as the backdrop for wall mounted storage cabinets and a custom installed dining banquette. The storage cabinets are anchored into the original solid wood panelling and appear to “float” on the wall.
As a mom, I know that no amount of storage can ever be too much, so I try to sneak in additional cabinets wherever possible. Bear with me for a little math. Since the island was actually more than 50 inches wide, we had enough room to accommodate 24-inch base cabinets (dishwasher, sink, storage), the necessary overhang for counter stools, and still had enough leftover space to install a pair of cabinets underneath the overhang to accommodate extra dishes, serving pieces, etc. To make the island present a sleek profile to the dining side of the room, I chose to have the counters fabricated with a waterfall edge that creates a seamless profile from counter to floor.
Go wild without regretting it
I’ve done a lot of kitchen renovations, and I try to make each and every one unique.
If I’m renovating your kitchen, I want to do something new and different, but I’m still pragmatic and I think about the realities of resale and changing trends and preferences. I think people starting a family should decorate in way that is happy, youthful and lighthearted, so a bit of colour and sense of playfulness is a must.
Knowing that kitchens are a costly venture I decided to be bold, and play it safe all at once. Since this kitchen is made from in-stock IKEA cabinets, I installed “no fail, always classic” white for all the base cabinets and any fixed elements that would be difficult to change in the future (such as gables). The white frames create a crisp contemporary look robin’s egg blue door fronts make it fresh and fun, and could be swapped out in the future for about $60 a pair, if desired. I’ll roll the dice in the name of creativity for that amount any day!
Sarah Richardson’s Real Potential can be seen Thursday nights on HGTV.
Dining table, mirrors –CB2 www.cb2.com
Sink & faucet – Blanco Canada www.blancocanada.com
Backsplash tile – Saltillo Imports www.saltillo-tiles.com
Cabinetry, HanStone Quartz countertops, appliances + installation – IKEA www.ikea.ca
Cabinet hardware (chrome cubes) – Lee Valley Tools Ltd. www.leevalley.com
Cabinet hardware (chrome handles) – Gingers www.gingers.com
Pendant lights above island – Alico www.alicoindustries.com
Radiators – Stelrad www.stelrad.com
Engineered hardwood flooring – Lowe’s www.mohawkflooring.com
Window and door supply & install – Fieldstone Windows & Doors Ltd. www.fieldstonewindows.com
Wooden blind – Blinds to Go www.blindstogo.com
Stools & dining chairs – The Elegant Garage Sale www.elegantgaragesale.com
Re-plating stools & chairs – Four Star Plating Industries www.fourstarplating.com
Leather on stools / bench: “Summit Dove” – Perfect Leather Goods Ltd. www.perfectleathergoods.com
Custom pillow fabric: Y + Co. www.studiobontextiles.com
Dining room chandelier – Morba morba.myshopify.com
Art framing & bulletin board – Elgin Picture & Frame Inc. www.elginpictureandframe.com
Vases and bowls – Indigo www.indigo.ca
Yellow cups & green cocktail glasses – Eclectisaurus www.eclectisaurus.com
Accessories – Urban Barn www.urbanbarn.com
Metal paperweight & clock – Umbra www.umbra.com
Large silver bowl, cutting boards & cutlery – Homesense www.homesense.ca
Cabinetry installation – IKEA installation Services www.ikea.ca
Ceiling – White on White 30GY 88/014 Dulux Paint www.dulux.ca All trim – White on White 30GY 88/014
Kitchen walls – Sea Drops 90YY 67/117
Dining room walls – Bay Fog 30GG 72/032