First of all, I’d like to apologize for the ridiculous amount of time it’s taken me to write a new post. I really think about this writing business a lot, I take it very seriously, and don’t like to half-ass anything. I’ve been sitting on the idea for this post for a long time but have been so busy with IT all, that I was worried about doing the project and the post justice. Finally, today, after getting my clients blessing to spill the beans, I thought it was high time I wrote about the behind the scenes of this great and exciting home renovation I have been working on. So here it is: Part 1!
In late fall, my friends A+S contacted me for a consult at their Mile End home. It was originally a duplex and was converted into a single family home before they purchased it. This is a warm and cozy home. Although the space was comfortable, it was quite tricky space-wise for a family of four. You walk in to a tiny vestibule then into an open space and immediately to the left is a closed play room/library. After that is a closet, also on the left. Then, a large bathroom/laundry room – again on the left of the house – followed by a den. The left side of the house is basically a series of closed off spaces. On the right of the house is a dining area right at the front, an open living area, a massive staircase going to the second floor and, behind the stair wall, is the little kitchen. Below is my super rough-eyeballing-the-dimensions-sketch of the existing space and some pictures of the ground floor care of my contractor, Terry.
When they approached me it was to ask my opinion on whether they should build an addition at the back or open it up in some way. Now, I love me an addition! When done properly they can look so very cool. But you resort to the expense of an addition when your home has a tiny footprint, when you have no choice but to grow out or up. In this case, the house is a good size but you wouldn’t know it because of all of these closed rooms. And as parents to two young kids, how frustrating would it be to be in the kitchen while your kids are at the opposite end of the house in the playroom and your partner is in the living room? This is a family of four that due to the awkward geography of their ground floor were being split up constantly. So my advice? OPEN IT UP! Not everything exactly, but get it to a place where you can be in the living room and you can see the kids playing and you can see your spouse in the kitchen.
I do love an open plan space but realistically you need storage, and you still need a laundry room, and you still need a bathroom, and you still need a designated kids area. Here are the boxes that needed ticking to make this design work for my clients.
The mandate: Remake the ground floor of the home into a bright, open, practical space
The Entrance: The vestibule is teensy and they need to walk into the house and a good ten feet before they hit a closet. This means that strollers stay outside, rain, snow, whatever. It means that boots are everywhere when you walk in. It means that the bench after the second door into the house is a pile of coats and mitts and hats. Basically, it is chaos. They need a larger entrance, storage, a mudroom of sorts and a closet that can be closed off.
The Bathroom: They are blessed with a large bathroom for a ground floor, but that’s because it does double duty as a laundry room too. So your guest goes to the bathroom and gets to see your piles of dirty or clean laundry. Not the end of the world but it means that when you have company, you need to make sure all laundry is done and tucked away. And one disadvantage to the large bathroom is that it ends up storing many non-bathroom things. They need a powder room and a separate laundry room.
The Dining Room: It can not be in the entrance! The kitchen is so far away! Your baby spills food all over and you have to run to the other end of the house to get a cloth. You drag the peas and carrots all over the house with you. Your guests are tucked into a corner by the door. They need a dedicated eating space, preferably next to the kitchen.
The Kitchen: The husband in this couple is a real gourmet – a food lover and great cook. They both enjoy hosting and having people over for dinner. Their kitchen has minimal counter space, decent but older appliances, and poor storage – especially when you want to fit in all the small appliances that a home chef would want to have. Right now, all of those appliances are tucked under the stairs in a closet along with cleaning supplies, pots and pans and wrapping paper. They need a larger, more modern, more practical dream kitchen.
The layout: Knock most of it down!
Working with Michel, our 3D plan guy, we came up with a new layout for the space, one that would solve many of the problems with the existing space.
Our first round of layout sketches (the layout plan is more in line w/ the design than the 3D sketch on the right)
My first thought was to blow out the left-hand vestibule wall, take over part of what is now the playroom and turn this new space into an entry/mudroom. This way, not only can the clients walk into a heated floor, tiled entrance but they have ample storage with a closet at the far end and a wall of hooks and benches and storage. Also there will be room to wheel in the stroller or hang the sled or the kiddie bike up too. Something like this:
The other half of the playroom would now become a powder room, accessible from the living space. On the other side of that would be a new laundry room, accessible from where the new kitchen will be. This way, the ground floor bathroom takes up less potential living space then before and can be solely a powder room. And the dirty laundry never ever needs to be seen, unless the hosts want you to see it. The new laundry room becomes a utility room as well, where the brooms and vacuum can live. Following is some of the design inspirations for both spaces.
Small bathrooms with punches of colour & smart storage solutions
Cute & functional laundry rooms
The sink wall of the powder room becomes the last wall of the front of the house. After that point it is all kitchen! We are giving the man who loves to cook and entertain over 25 feet of kitchen. Everything will be in one long line against the Southern wall of the house, with a large island in the center of the space. We are changing the rotation of the staircase as well so that we can open up the entire underside of the stairwell. This means that you won’t be coming down the stairs and hitting the island, you’ll be coming down into the living room. We are also opening up the back wall of the house and where there is a window in the current den, there will be a huge patio door in the new kitchen.
Some kitchens that inspired me along the way.
Finally, where the kitchen now stands will be the new dining room. We will turn the door going out back into a giant window, same width as the kitchen patio door but not to the ground. With a built-in banquette and maybe some wall storage, this room will be bright and functional. You’ll also be able to see the dining room right from the front door because we are opening up the stairs and removing the visual barrier they were creating.
So there you have it! I am loving working with these clients/friends. They are super into the design. They care about the way things will look. They have good taste. And most importantly: THEY TRUST ME! I can’t describe the joy of a respectful and honest back and forth. You will never always agree with everyone or have everyone agree with you, but feeling confident and having my clients total confidence is downright awesome!
So please stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll give you a sneak peak at the approved kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room designs. I promise it won’t be weeks from now. Pinky swear.