Friday, November 27, 2009

Golden Oldies

If I had a set of antique dining chairs kicking around my basement.......... I'd be painting those babies gold this weekend!

I LOVE this mix, its sophisticated and glam and set in a contemporary or modern interior - its simply perfection.

Photo by:  Carol Reed
Chairs:  Elte

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Victorian Row House: A Designer Reno on A DIY Budget - Part 4

The Second Floor - Before & After

One of the best features about this house was that it had 3 bedrooms plus 2 bathrooms on the second floor, with one of those being an ensuite bathroom.  For a house of this size in the city, this is a rare and valuable feature.  The second floor was split level with the main bath and back bedroom/ensuite elevated up another 2 steps from the main hallway.  The modifications for the second floor included enlarging the existing tiny ensuite bath and creating larger closets.  What you can't see on the proposed plan view was that I also added a small linen closet beside the 2 stairs leading to the back bedroom.  Linen closets are also rare in these century old city homes.  The one we added was small but made great use of the bit of dead space at the top of the stairs.  The finished closet measured about 15"deep and was perfect for towels, sheeting and toiletries.  I can't find any photos that show it except for the photo at the top of this post, you can see it on the right hand side, thru the railings!

The original plan was to install hardwood throughout the second floor hallway and middle bedroom, but we discovered the subfloor and the upper stairs would have required extensive repair work in order to properly install hardwood so I chose to go with carpet to keep us on schedule and on budget.  I selected a warm neutral grey broadloom that had a high recycled content and went the highest grade of underpad for maximum wear and comfort.

I had to source and select a lot of light fixtures for the interior of the house, over 17 in total.  Each of the bedrooms had ceiling fixtures as well as the dining room and family room and then there were hallways and bathrooms.  I had a very small budget for light fixtures, with the need for so many, it adds up quickly.  But lighting is one area where you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a lot of style.  Most of the ceiling fixtures I purchase were $120ea or less, and all wall mounted fixtures were less than $55 ea.  So with a combination of great finds and one or two splurges, I think lighting is an easy way to add a lot of style and character to a house.

After - View of hallway looking towards the front bedroom and middle bedroom (on left).

I selected this contemporary pendant fixture, from Morba for over the staircase for a couple of reasons.  It was ovesized and dramatic, it was fairly inexpensive and what I loved most was the patterned shadows it cast all over the tall stairwell wall at night time.  At the end of the hall,,was the front bedroom......

After - Photo of the front bedroom

Before - Photo of Front bedroom after demo and primer.

While the after photo may not look like such a dramatic change, this room really underwent a total transformation. We skimmed the ceilings smooth, replaced all the carpeting, baseboard, trim, doors, and installed new double hung windows and full double width sliding closet doors. I loved the fact the room had two tall windows framing a view of the huge tree out front of the house. I wish I had captured photos of this view when the tree was in full bloom with its enormous pink flowers - it was really spectacular and smelled heavenly......

This is my brother Six and another brother, we call him Two, installing the new closet doors.

I felt it was important that both the front and back bedrooms have large closets, in proportion to their room sizes and in this room I was able to doube the size of the closet by eliminating the small closet in the middle bedroom.  I didn't want swing doors on the closet because they would impede the placement of night tables on either side of the bed, so sliding bypass doors were the answer.  I'm not a fan of mirrored sliding doors, or those sliding door kits made up of thin panels, instead I prefer to use a sliding door track system by K.N. Crowder.  With these track systems you can mount various size doors of your choice as they can ccommodate different thicknesses and weights, the tracks can be either ceiling or wall mounted and are really simple to install.  What I really like about these systems is that you don't have to have those unsightly tracks installed in the floor and even with really heavy or really tall doors, these track and hanger systems make the doors glide effortlessly across the track at the touch of a finger.  Once you install the doors on the hangers, you can easily level them by a simple adjustment and you can install floor guides at two points in the floor to keep the doors in position.  Of course the other reason I use these tracks all the time is because they're reasonably priced, this track and hangers was about $100.  I buy standard size (or special order a size) plain, hollow-core slab doors from Home Depot and then add a painted mdf valance to conceal the track.  (If you want a wood look you can order slab doors in an unfinished wood veneer too.) For a modern or more industrial look,,,,,I often leave the track exposed, or you can order the aluminum valance from Crowder.  Check out this website for specs K.N. Crowder sliding track hardware, I purchase this product from Upper Canada Specialty Hardware in Toronto but you can purchase this from practically any retailer who sells door hardware products.

After - View of the front bedroom showing the finished closet doors.

After - Front Bedroom view part-way during the furnishing phase, window coverings and mirror yet to be installed.

After - View of Front Bedroom empty of furnishings.  I installed a vintage looking black and crystal chandelier - that was a great find at Canadian Tire.  Another vintage touch was the white ceramic knobs on the contemprory black glass doors, I chose these instead of going with a contemporary lever style, and I loved the look.

After - View of Middle bedroom.

I chose to eliminate the existing small closet in the middle bedroom to gain a large double closet in the front bedroom.  I decided that an armoire or a wardrobe unit would be sufficient and provide equal or more storage than the old closet without sacrificing much space.   It was a small room and would ideally be suitable for a home office, a guest bedroom or a child's room, in any case, not a room that justified the need for a large closet.  I installed this contemporary chrome and chrystal chandelier which was a great find at Home Depot, again i think its suitable for a home office or nursery.....

Before - View of the upper hallway looking toward the back of the house.  Stippled ceilings, intense gold paint, stained carpet and lots of 80's golden oak.

Before - View of hallway facing front bedroom, after demo.  Ceilings skimmed and primer applied on walls and railing.

Before - View of upper hallway from back bedroom looking toward front of the house.  Main bathroom door is seen on the left.

After - View of upper hallway from inside back bedroom looking towards front of house.

I used the same sliding door track system for the back bedroom closet and both bathroom doors too. You can see in the above photo the sliding door of the main bathroom on the left hand side. In this case it was wall mounted and we left the aluminum track exposed (no valance). Sliding doors are something I use often on small bathrooms, while it doesn't add any s.f. to the space, it does eliminate the space taken up by the door swing and frees up more wall space, and does visually expand the room.

After - View of the main bathroom, Toto Acquia toilet, ming green marble mosaic floor.

Working with a small budget, I wanted to keep the bathroom clean lined and timeless.  I splurged on a ming green marble mosiac floor.  For a contemporary look, I prefer the impact of using just one mosaic without a border or mixing it with other tiles.  Here it added texture, colour and a feeling of quality because it was solid marble.  Because the s.f. was small, it was an affordable splurge.  I saved by pairing the mosaic floor tiles with simple white subway tiles on the wall.  The tub is one of my favorites, its a great buy for a contemporary looking soaker tub with its simple rectangular profile, this one is made by Crane and is available at Tubs for less than $500, which is at least $200 less than similar tubs by other mfg's.  We added a flat panel detail to the front for a classic look.  And with a budget so small, installing hooks instead of a towel bar is a substantial savings, besides, kids and men don't use towel bars so hooks are much more practical.  In the shower I opted for a just a handheld shower head on a bracket, this is great for bathing kids and for cleaning - and its a less expensive than installing a fixed shower head and a hand held.

Afer - Ikea customized vanity with Caesarstone counter.

We maximized the storage in this small bathroom by installing a vanity that has 2 drawers.  I always avoid using cabinets with doors (cupboards) as they just don't provide usable, accessible storage.  Because Ikea doesn't have many bathroom vanity options, I took their Akurum kitchen cabinets and customized it to make a vanity.  Because the kitchen cabinets are 24"deep, we took about 2.5" off the back of the cabinet which still allowed for the drawer glides and drawer boxes to fit without any alternations to them.  I ordered (1) regular full depth, tall drawer (used on the bottom) and (1) 12" deep tall drawer for the middle, this allowed clearance at the back for the plumbing, the top drawer is a fixed drawer front only, no dawer box.  Finally we added a full gable on the end and voila - a beautiful vanity with TWO big, self-closing drawers.  It worked beautifully and was a super easy project.  I topped the vanity with Blizzard colour quartz by Caesarstone , an undermount sink by Kohler and a beautiful set of contemporary chrome cross style faucets.  The entire vanity assembly was about $1,000.  This is the only photo I had the captured the light fixture, it was a tubular chrome and glass style, $49 from Home Depot.  The pivot mirror was another Home Depot buy, I like to use these in family baths because the tilting feature allows you to aim it lower for the little ones.

After - Main Bathroom

After - Outside the main bathroom, view of door to the back bedroom.  Floral wall art by Umbra.

After - Floral Wall Art by Umbra.  These little 3D magnetic flowers added some texture and interest to this small hallway area outside the main bathroom also right outside the door to the back bedroom.

After - Back bedroom with dark grey accent wall, I eventually added three birch framed black and white photos on the wall above the bed, same as the ones hown below.  It was the final touch the bed wall needed...

Limited Edition Signed black & white framed photos in birch frames by Ikea.  As much I as often use ready made frames, normally I am dead set against buying mass produced artwork at stores like Ikea, but I have to say I couldn't resist these signed b&w photos when I saw them.  It was the perfect instant solution for this long blank wall in the back bedroom.  Mostly I really like the square shape and the custom look of the extra wide matts, I know I can switch in my own photos later.

After - Back bedroom ensuite.

Before - Back bedroom after demolition.

The greatest change in this ensuite was that we enlarged it, allowing us to fit a good size walk-in shower.  After our successful concrete patching in the basement, we decided to make the shower pan floor ourselves.  After doing some research on google, we followed this detail for the construction of the shower pan floor.  The materials are inexpensive and it was fairly simple to do ourselves.

Cross Section Detail - shower pan floor construction.

Before - This is Six spreading out the first layer of mortar mix (mixed by moi!)  for the sub-slope.

After - Ensuite in the back bedroom with cusomized Ikea vanity and new walk-in shower.

Because this was the ensuite in what could be the master ensuite, I opted for a luxurious walk-in style shower in lieu of a tub/shower combo. Since there was a tub in the main bathroom, I felt a shower was sufficient and often preferred for master ensuites. I designed the shower to have one large frameless piece of glass with no door, which is about half the cost of installing it with a door. In this case the one panel was large enough that without a door, it still provided enough of a guard to prevent the rest of the bathroom from getting wet when the shower was used. I wanted the shower to be luxurious so added a ceiling mounted rain shower head as well as a hand held which is really convenient for cleaning or for those times when you don't want to get your hair wet (ladies!).

Once again I decided to splurge on the floor and the countertop, both bianca cararra marble.  On the floor I used a 1" x 1" honed tumbled cararra and continued it thru the shower floor.  The main reason I used cararra in this washroom was because I knew I would need solid marble jambs for the shower and most building centres carry 6"w cararra marble jambs in stock.   This is a huge savings in time and money, (not having to have them custom made) so, by chosing bianca carara for the floor and counter I knew I could purchase standard instock jambs to match, for a complete custom look.  For the walls, again I went with a simple white subway tile, but this time in a 4" x 8".

Bianca Carrara Marble counter top.

The full-width mirror was custom cut to size but was frameless for a clean modern look. We mounted it on 2" blocking so it appeared to float away from the wall - this is a beautiful detail that cost nothing. The light fixtures were a great find at Union Lighting , displayed as ceiling mounted fixtures in the showroom but I thought they would make perfect wall mounted fixtures for above the mirror, at only $54 ea., they were a steal, the square shape and polished chrome give them a high end look. The toilet and vanity used were identical to those used in the main bathroom, but here the carrara marble countertop was used instead of the caesarstone and I also switched the style of the hardware to a linear lip pull.

(Before I end this post I have to mention to please keep in mind this project was first and foremost a renovation project, not a furnishings and decor project, so even though there are furnishings and accessories in the photos, I literally had only spent 2 days moving furniture in and setting the house up before these photos were taken! yikes..)

For more posts on this project, check out Part 1 , Part 2 , and Part 3 of this Victorian Row House renovation.

Stay tuned for Part 5, the Main Floor Living Room, Entry and Dining Room......

All Photos:   Carol Reed

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Victorian Row House: A Designer Reno on A DIY Budget - Part 3

Basement - Before & After

The basement of this old house was completed finished space when we purchased it, except for the crawl space area at the front of basement which only had a drywalled ceiling.  Despite the fact it was finished it was in nasty shape due to years of neglect, water penetration from a poorly situated down spout and an unusually large gapping hole in a window well.   The best part about the basement was the clear high celings in the main areas.  Below are the before and after plan views.

Basement After - bottom of stairs, new powder room door on right.

For some reason, I didn't have any before pictures of the main area of the basement, but it was drywalled and painted burnt orange and yellow like the upstairs (see previous posts for Part 1 and Part 2 ) and had wall to wall carpet that was moldy and urine stained among other things.   I made the landing area at the bottom of the stairs a little larger and planned for this area to serve as a coat and shoe zone since the front entry upstairs didn't have a closet.  I relocated a pair of existing french doors (originally from the kitchen) with leaded glass for the entry to the main room - this room could potentially serve many purposes, it could be a bedroom, a home office, a home gym, a play room or a media room.  The doors gave the space character and made the basement level feel larger by creating this 'view' thru glass doors to a room beyond.  With the addition of drapery panels or frosted film, the doors could also allow some sound and visual privacy from the upstairs and the laundry area.

The entire landing area and back into the laundry room was finished in beadboard panelling.  Even though the interior of the house was going to be mainly contemporary I wanted to mix in a bit of nostalgic victorian era charm.  So the all white walls were given the beadboard treatment, door hardware was oil rubbed bronze and I chose shoolhouse fixtures for the ceiling and an industrial lantern style for the laundry room walls.  Originally I had planned on carpeting the basement but later decided to tile it so that if there was any water penetration in the future, it would be visible and noticeable.  I went with a classic natural slate 12 x 24 tile in an offset brick pattern with plans for a large plush area carpet for the rec room.

Below are some before pictures of the basement bathroom and laundry room.  The bathroom wasn't functioning, the toilet and sink both drained onto the floor and the ceiling height was only 6'.  The laundry room also only had 6' high ceilings and was small and dark.  The design plan was to relocate the powder room to where the large closet area was located at the bottom of the stairs which had full 8' high ceilings and would in turn gain us a larger laundry room.

Before Powder Room, you can see the black water line on the vanity.

Before Laundry Room, awkwardly placed sink and no counter space.

After demo'ing these rooms we ended up taking down all the drywall on the walls in this area because it was in such bad shape it wasn't worth the time or effort to patch and repair it.  In order to relocate the toilet we had to dig up a small section of the concrete floor to run the new drain and the removal of the old quary tile left the concrete subfloor in pretty rough shape too.  We ended up with about 35 sf of new concrete floor to pour and patch after the new plumbing work was complete.   Thanks to a contractor friend of mine who suggested we could 'easily' do this ourselves,,,,,,,,I convinced my brother that we should give it a try (perhaps it was the beer?).  So with my friend's instructions and a list of materials my brother and I eagerly headed off to Home Depot to get our supplies.  Needless to say before we even finished trying to load 15 bags of Sakrete onto our cart at home depot........we began to have second thoughts.

If you ever tried to lift a bag of Sakrete, you'll understand why i suddenly began to curse my so called friend.  I instantly felt bad for getting my brother into this because while I'm sure 2 men could 'easily' handle this task,,,,,,,,one strong handyman and his petite designer sister,,,,,,um, not so easy.  I'm pretty strong for my size, but with all my strength I couldn't even budge one of these bags let alone lift one.  And its a good thing we had a truck with heavy duty suspension because any normal vehicle would bottom out with this load.  15 Bags of sakrete mix, is just over half a ton.

We then, ok he, managed to get the bags of concrete into the truck, out of the truck, in the house and down to the basement where we figured out a game plan.  We built a mixing station out of plywood with 2 x 4's sides and just mixed right there.  I took on the task of doing all the mixing, manually, eventually determining that a 'cookie dough' consistency worked perfectly, and Six did the pouring and trowling, levelling.  Not even half way thru I thought I was going to die, my arms felt like they were going to fall off - but I couldn't stop, once you start there's no turning back, we had to keep going.  It didn't actually take too long, maybe 2 hours and we were done, but it felt like 10hrs!

Here we are, after completing the floor, Six was checking the height of the drain to allow for the thickness of the new floor tile.

Leaving my mark in a freshly poured concrete took 3 or 4 weeks for my arms to recover after this little DIY project.  Never again....

During appliance installation.  New tiled floor and beadboard walls.

I knew I wanted a front loading washer and dryer combo so that I could put them under a long length of countertop.  We planned the room so it would be 8' wide to accommodate an 8' length of ready made countertop.  This is the only counter in the house that was laminate but it didn't make sense to me to go high end here,  I chose to put as much of the laundry room budget into the appliances as I could instead, these front loaders by Amana were the best value I came across for glass front doors on both the washer and dryer.

The decision to clad all the walls in beadboard meant that we didn't have to hire a drywaller to finish the room so this saved us time and money, but ideally I just loved the look.  I first painted it all white then opted to paint the back wall a turquois coloure by Ralph Lauren.  A bold colour choice for me that's for sure, and while I liked it, I know if i was living there now it would be back to white or perhaps a dark charoal colour. : )   Because there was no window in this room, I added a mirror over the sink ($35 from Homesense) which really created the effect of a window and helped relfect more light.  The counter top had a nice thick aluminum edge which worked well with the stainless steel cabinet doors, shelf brackets and trim on the appliances.  The cabinetry, counter, sink, faucet, shelf and baskets were all from Ikea and totalled about $600.

After Laundry Room - this is the same corner of room as shown in the concrete floor photos above .  Because front loading style appliances are higher than the conventional style, your counter will need to be higher than the typical 36"h counter, make sure you use the 6"h feet on your cabinetry to accommodate the extra high appliances.

After Powder Room

The new powder room had nice high ceiling space and comfortably accommodated a vanity and elongated Toto toilet.  I chose a vanity that came with a carrara marble countertop and sink included which was less expensive and faster than buying and installing these elements separately.  I deliberately chose a vanity over a pedestal sink so that there was some storage space. One of my favorite faucet sets is this one by Rubinet which is the best quality wide spread set I've come across in the less than $250 price range.  It has a very classic look to it in its polished chrome with facetted detail.

I chose a tray mirror to add a little sparkle, and because I planned to install wall sonce lighting, the proportions of this mirror were perfect at 22"w x 30"h - it left just enough room for the light fixtures.  But at $220 this mirror was definitely a splurge.

I added a crystal knob to the dark brown freestanding vanity.  You can see a bit of the floor in this photo,  it was a white hexigon with a black border, a touch of classic victorian.

In powder rooms I like to use dark colours or dramatic wallpaper, here I opted for a deep charcoal grey paint.   Its a tiny room and this deep colour created some graphic contrast and made the dark wood and carrara look really elegant, a nice space for guests to use!

It was difficult to photograph this powder room and unfortunately I was using my old point and shoot camera so the photos aren't the greatest quality.  The wall sconces make the room feel very elegant and give off a warm soft, complimentary light.  They were a steal at only $42 each at Union Lighting .  Its always tricky in a renovation to pre-plan for wall sconces when you havn't selected a fixture yet.  When my electricians were on site months earlier, I had them just leave the wire for the lights coiled up in the location I specified.  My drywaller boarded up the room and later when I purchased the sconces and I knew the exact size of my mirror, and where the lights would go,,,we marked it out and used a hole saw to drill exactly where I wanted the sconces.  Once the holes were drilled the wires were easily reachable so we could hook up an old work style j-box to mount the fixtures.

Stayed tuned for Part 4 of this Victorian Row House Renovation where I'll post before and after photos of the 2nd floor bedrooms and bathrooms.

All Photos:  Carol Reed

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Poppy Red

We Shall Keep the Faith

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

The other day I came across these images of original paintings of poppies by Canadian artist Suzanne Mclean and I thought how beautiful they captured poppy red.  You can purchase prints and the original paintings and check out more of her work at her Etsy shop the Dream Gallery .

Image 1.  All Their Pretty Faces
Image 2. & 3.  Abstract Poppies 
Image 4.  The Dance
Image 5.  Catching the Last Rays

Friday, November 6, 2009

Victorian Row House: A Designer Reno on A DIY Budget - Part 2

After Photo - partial view of dining room.

Visit here to read Part 1 of this Victorian Row House Renovation and see the plan views and more before pictures

"The Strategy"

Once my brother and I got over the excitement and shock of being the proud (or foolish?) owners of a completely broken, run-down, century old house we had to quickly figure out exactly what the scope of renovation work would be and determine what exactly the project budget would be.  The three things we did know was that EVERYTHING had to go, we had a small timeline and even smaller budget.


The key factor in both our timeline and our budget was that we would do as much of the work ourselves and hire out anything beyond our skill level or areas of expertise.  Essentially, we would be DIY renovators for the next 5 months and share all the responsibilities as a team, I would oversee all the design planning, sourcing, purchasing, hiring of trades, scheduling of trades and obtaining all the building permits, stocking the fridge etc.,,,,and my brother, or "Six" as we call him (no.6, the baby of the family!) would be in charge of, well, doing everything we weren’t going to be hiring trades for and pretty much anything I asked him to do ; ).  Being both a homeowner and a cottage owner himself he was an experienced handyman who owned a large arsenal of power tools and was always looking for an excuse to put them to use (and any reason to buy more of them!)......

Six took this 'artistic' picture of his table saw??  His new best friend for the next 5 months.

Keeping the site clean and organized was a never ending challenge.......among my other duties, I would be constantly sweeping for the next 5 months....


Our goal for the renovation work was to make the most of the structure we had - to do no structural changes and do as little relocating of electrical and plumbing as possible.  The layout of the house was pretty great the way it was so we knew we weren’t going to need to build a lot of new walls and doorways etc., the objective was to improve and enhance the spaces by replacing and upgrading everything.  Install new modern bathrooms and kitchen and increase storage and efficiency wherever possible.  Click here to see the before and proposed plan views of the house.

Before pic of the open plan main floor.  View from the Living room thru the kitchen to the back of the house.  Beyond the kitchen is a family room with walkout to the backyard.

After the demo view from the living room to the kitchen and back of the house.  Primed walls, partially primed railing and skimmed ceilings, at this point the space looks 100x better to me already.  The intense yellow and gold walls were a MAJOR job to repaint needing 2 coats of primer to start and weeks of patching and repairing.


My approach is to get the fundamentals right first, fix the bones before even contemplating new interior finishes or fittings.  This means fix/improve or replace the heating system, water system, insulation, entry doors, roofs and windows.  If these things aren’t in perfect working order then it just doesn’t matter how great you make the the house ‘look’ the house will be wasteful with energy and water, expensive to maintain, prone to water damage and your spaces won’t ever be comfortable from a heating and cooling perspective. 

The Roof & Eaves:

The roof was only 2 years old so we had no plans to do any further roof work.  There was however a downspout terminating at one corner of the house which over the years resulted in lots of water penetration in the basement - we quickly and easily rectified this and the basement began to dry up immediately.  Our home inspector had told us this was the number one cause of wet basements.

Heating & Air Conditioning:

The house was outfitted with electric baseboard heaters and no air conditioning, not even window mounted units.  We planned to keep the baseboard heating system, (replace all the heaters with new) for many reasons.   Because the house was a row house it was long and narrow with few exposed exterior walls and the hydro records showed the bills were not very high.  Baseboard heaters mean you have no bulkheads or dropped ceilings throughout the house or basement, and as a result we loved the high clean ceilings this created.  Electric heat is 100% efficient, meaning all the electricity used is turned into heat, with FAG there can be up to 40% heat loss thru the ducting.  Electric heat is clean, there’s no forced air being blown thru the house which continually circulates dust and particles into the air so its great for those with allergies and respratory problems.  Baseboard heaters also allow you to control the heat on a per heater basis, turning down units in spaces that aren’t used.  If myself or future owners chose to, the electric heat could be effectively supplemented by adding a gas fireplace.  One small size gas fireplace unit could heat the main level of the house. 

The decision not to add an air conditioning was an easy one. With one end of the house facing east and one end facing west, outside each end of the house were huge mature trees that shed their leaves in the fall, this was optimal for cooling in summer and letting sunlight in during the winter months.  But mainly, I considered the fact that the house was over 100 years old and no one to date had added air conditioning,,,why should I assume it would be a problem when I hadn’t even lived in the house yet.  So I chose to leave this out of the scope of work.  Considering the house had no ducting, the air conditioning would need to be a wall mounted unit or portable, something I think myself or any future owner could add if they chose.

View of the backyard showing the deck, large tree and the detached garage.  The tree was huge spanning the full width of the backyard and taller than the house.  (photo was taken during a freak summer hail storm!)


Aside from a poorly placed powder room in the basement, and the fact that most of the existing fixtures weren’t in working order, the plumbing system itself was in good shape and we would only need to do some minor reworking.  The drains and stacks had all been replaced in the 80’s with a.b.s. and the water tank was fairly new.

Windows & Doors:

We chose to allocate a huge part of our budget for new windows and exterior doors.  I felt this was well worth the investment, not only would it improve the appearance (the character) of the house both inside and out, but it would increase the energy efficiency, reduce the street noise and improve the air flow by selecting a window style with larger screen area.

Before view of the old Living Room window at front of house and existing front storm door.  I'm not a fan of storm doors on fronts of houses so I couldnt wait to see this one go.  The old kneewall was being framed out here to make a new full height wall which would create more of a visual and weather barrier from the front door.

Six installing the new insulated front door, I went with a classic six panel door which I painted in a high gloss black paint.  I felt this suited the traditional victorian facade of the house and neighboring houses.

After front exterior, new double hung windows were installed and the exterior trim work was painted black.  The new windows were solid wood paint grade on the interior with aluminum clad exteriors in black.  For me, with an original brick victorian facade, vinyl windows just weren't an option.


In addtion to new windows and entry doors, all new baseboards, casings and interior doors were a must.  This is a simple and inexpensive way to dramatically upgrade the appearance and quality of the interior and make it look current and custom. Something many homeowners can do (and learn how to do) themselves.

Six cutting new window and door casing.


Nothing make a house look better and more inviting than natural daylight and great views.  Our new windows would frame our treed views and I knew from the start we would eliminate all the stippled popcorn ceilings throughout the house.  Next to the windows this was one of our biggest budget items but I think it was worth every penny.  Smoothing all the ceilings instantly brings the house into a custom level quality, smooth, non-textured ceilings reflect more light and also make ceilings feel and look higher.  The look is clean and quality.

After demo, view of upper hallway with primed walls and newly skimmed ceilings.


Goodbye neglected, rundown rooming house with the 1980’s builders reno.  This house was going to be transformed into a clean lined, stylish, contemporary urban space with a little touch of victorian charm.  Quality materials and fittings were a must, solid woods, stone, steel and glass, - no faux, no fake, no laminates, no standard builder grade,,,my goal was to achieve a high end look on a budget and set the ground work for further enhancement over the years to come.


Our pre-closing budget of $60k was soon modified after getting possession of the house when we decided to splurge for new windows and entry doors as well as relocating the basement washroom.  We began the demo/reno with a budget of $72-75k for materials, supplies and hired trades.


Our timeline would be 4 to 5 months to complete the work and make it move-in ready which I knew was a reasonable amount of time for the work to be done properly and professionally.

More to come......check back for Part 3 of this Victorian Row House Renovation where I'll post the BEFORE's and AFTER's of the basement transformation.

Sneak Peek - basement powder room 'after'.

Sneak Peek - laundry room 'after'.

All Photos:   Carol Reed