It’s been almost a year since my fiancé and I took possession of our fixer-upper in downtown Toronto and embarked upon renovating it. There has been a lot of dust, dirt, stress and fun along the way (but no tears I’m proud to say)! Our main floor is now complete, save for a few lingering projects like painting the back door and the window jambs, and sewing some linen blinds.
I’ve shown you the newly painted staircase, so here is the front hall from the other direction. Under the original floorboards, we found some old mail (with one cent stamps) addressed to the home’s first owner, which I framed in a shadow box to display above our foyer catchall.
I’m a little hesitant to show you the state of our little retro cocktail room, but here it is with the now-exposed fireplace. We still need new cosy chairs and to construct some bookshelves, but for now it’s a great spot for a game of chess or a glass of wine. The old suitcases belonged to my grandmother, and, yes, we do use the old phone. My sister so kindly sent me the rug after reading in an earlier post that it was on my wish list! The plaid throw was my prized purchase from a trip to London last Christmas.
I showed you one side of our kitchen a few weeks back. This is the opposite side of the room (the shot on the left was taken before the table was in the room and the range hood was up). It took five coats of blackboard paint to perfect the look. We purposely didn’t install a permanent island as we like the freedom to move furniture around… a lot.
We had originally planned to use our antique table in this area as a formal dining space, but found it fit perfectly in the kitchen. Here, you can see the completed slat wall (created from the wood lath that was part of the original plaster wall.) It’s a great place to cuddle up beside the cat and talk to the person doing the cooking.
Now that the construction is over, I am enjoying decorating. Above is a little vignette on the living room window ledge and the pile of artwork I have yet to get up on the walls. It’s surprisingly difficult to put a nail hole in a brand new wall!
Thanks for staying tuned to my extended DIY reno blog. I’m signing off for now, but don’t be surprised if I come back sometime soon with tales from our upstairs bathroom redo!
To follow the reno from my first blog post, complete with before photos, click here.
1-8. Catherine MacIntosh
One of the best parts of my job here at H&H is editing the Artist File pages. My inbox is always full of beautiful exhibition catalogues and images from amazing artists. So, for my second to last Renovator’s Notebook post, I felt it was only right to talk about the artwork I hope to buy for our newly renovated home, and, all of the works that I have had stored away for almost a year.
I was a bit gutted back in the winter when I found out this piece by Stephen Appleby-Barr was sold. It might not be everyone’s choice, but I think it would have been perfect in our new dining area.
Some of the most incredible homes have truly unique, and sometimes downright odd, works of art. I am so inspired by Butch Anthony’s personality-infused home.
After we’ve spent so much money on this renovation, I’ll be cruising the student art sales at colleges and universities — always a great source for affordable works. And for those of you like me who love printmaking, proof sales such as the one at Toronto’s Open Studio each year can also net you some great pieces that will transform any space. At holiday time, many organizations and galleries also hold fundraisers that auction off original works for good prices.
I am thinking of supporting a good cause and buying this abstract piece from New Brunswick’s Matt LeBlanc, who is painting 200 pieces in six months to raise money for cancer. Beautiful!
I’ve also found some stellar limited-edition works and fun posters that I can’t wait to have framed from websites like Etsy.com and Velocityartanddesign.com. And, I’ll need to find some shelf space for some quirky multiples from Artmetropole.com. For small hits of colour, I may hit up a painting-a-day website like Dailypainters.com.
I am lucky enough to have a lot of talented friends, and have collected some of their works over the years. Time to dust them off and hang them! In two weeks, I’ll share with you more photos of the completed house, artwork and all.
For more tips on where to find affordable art, and how to display and hang it, see our Art Advice Guide.
1. Neon Rider, Stephen Appleby-Barr, Narwhal Art Projects
2. The New York Times, photography by Robert Rausch
3. Painting 56 of 200, Matt LeBlanc
4. Untitled #6 from Monoliths series, Joakim Borén, Eyebuyart.com
During our renovation, something we did rather quickly was choose a countertop. We went with a fresh white quartz counter by HanStone (Swan Cotton) that we purchased at Ikea along with our cabinets. A sale that day spurred us on, but we are so pleased with how it looks. We choose the 1-1/4” thick counter and added a waterfall for a bit of drama. As we’re both on the taller side and keen to never hunch over a counter again, we raised our cabinets a few inches higher than the standard height. Goodbye lower back pain!
At first I was a bit unsure of the flecks in the quartz, but I really love it now. Plus, the surface is so nice to work on, and is stain- and heat-resistant to boot. As you can see, we still need to put up a backsplash and some shelves.
These are some of the other options we looked at:
This pretty one is by IceStone, which is made of recycled glass.
And this comparable white quartz counter by CaesarStone takes the thick countertop to new heights.
The lovely solid surface in this kitchen is by PaperStone, and made of, you guessed it, paper. Green and gorgeous.
Everyone here at H&H is busy producing our big October issue, which will be full of great kitchen ideas, but in the meantime, check out our gallery of 8 Kitchen Styles for more inspiration.
My fiancé, Justin, and I scraped, stripped and sanded layers and layers of paint from the old woodwork in our house. Tedious, but rewarding. We tried to save the baseboards where we could, but had to replace some of them. We took a sample to Central Fairbank Lumber and had some milled to match. There was one small miscalculation though, as we forgot that the floor was going in beforehand, which meant that the new boards were all an inch too tall. Sigh…live and learn. So, we (ahem, Justin) cut them all down.
Here they are before…
And here they are now. We are still debating the need for quarter round. What do you think?
Baseboards can really alter the look of a room. The low wainscotting in the space above still allows lots of room to hang art, for example, but is more substantial looking than a traditional baseboard. We might have opted for something like this if we weren’t trying to save the originals.
Even plain baseboards can have a big impact.
Same goes for window trim. In some places our old trim (above) was barely discernable from the wall. (Yes, those are our neighbours’ windows just outside. Ah, city living! Luckily, we like them a lot.)
So, a few weekends ago, we set up a workshop in our now kitchen and Justin reconstructed the window trim that was too damaged to save. I painted the pieces as they came down the line. We envied our cat, Smitty, who just lazed about in the sunny backyard all weekend while we worked.
For this project, we found some great old pieces of wood at a salvage shop for $5 that we used for the sides, and then added some new wood and one thin piece of primed MDF to create the rest. Not bad for a weekend’s work.
Now, on to the blinds!
For more on painted window trim, check out Kimberley Brown’s blog post.
As I sat down at home to type this blog post, I was struck by two things. One, I can’t believe we are finally in the home stretch of this renovation. And two, it is very awkward to type with a large cat sitting across your arms. Anyone else who has a four-legged family member knows that they factor into everything you do — even renovating and decorating. So, how do you accommodate pets in a stylish way?
Smitty, our 13-year-old black cat, has been the de facto supervisor on this whole reno, watching every last project unfold. He has kept many a contractor company, eyeing their every move, and watched us paint, wallpaper and fix almost everything. Here, he is looking unimpressed that I have put his old wicker bed in the Goodwill pile. Looks like I may need to first get him a new one that will not only fit him a bit better, but also look great in our new space.
Alternatively, this Etsy.com find would inject some nice texture into the space.
As would this double-decker from Ikea.
Or we could add some bright colour with a great fabric bed.
Smitty's old bed, like some of our favourite old chairs, will likely stay in the house somewhere out of sight. But after all this dust and hard work, I feel we all could use a new spot to rest.
For more on modern cat accessories, check out Stacey Smithers’ blog post on ModKat’s sleek litter box.
1. From House & Home March 2008 issue, photography by Kim Christie
2. Catherine MacIntosh
3a. Rochelle Sofa, Gus Modern
3b. Like Kittysville, Etsy.com
4. Photogirl95, Etsy.com
5. Bästis Blond Cat Bed, Ikea
6. HoneyPied, Etsy.com
We squeezed in as much work on the house as we could this past weekend, but in reality not much happened between time with friends, family and fireworks.
What we did do is plan out our big furniture move next weekend, when we’ll finally get our stuff out of storage (currently located in my very understanding sister’s basement). On Sunday, I went down there to take a peek at the dining room table. It belonged to my grandma, and my sister Karen has been using it as her laundry folding table for the past few years. It’s quite a pretty piece for socks and skivvies.
In its glory, it looked a lot like this Jacobean-style table, with intricate carvings and bulbous legs. I have great memories of fancy dinners at that table, set with my grandma’s blue and gold china and cut-crystal glasses.
On its own, the table is rather formal. So to take grandma’s dining set from Sunday Dinner to Casual Friday, I plan to break up the table and chairs and mix in some vintage Breuer Cesca chairs. We found four at a salvage shop for a song, and I suspect they might even be originals! I noticed that at Toronto’s Atelier 688, they mixed the same chairs with a more industrial-style table. Pretty.
It’s not a new idea, but mixing up chairs with an old table can really make a statement. Here, the concept is taken to new heights with chairs in different colours and styles.
If we tire of the modern-chair mix, we can switch them out for the matching ones down the line. I love how this table is made a bit more casual due to its proximity to the open kitchen.
In my twenties, I moved my grandma’s table all around Montreal with me and, as you can see, it took quite a beating between U-Hauls and dinner parties.
With a little TLC, we hope to bring it back to life and keep it for many years to come. Looking at these photos again, I realize that we have a lot of work ahead to make this table beautiful once again. Have any of you had success with such a project? I’m all ears.
Whether you're interested in updating a vintage piece or buying new, get inspired with these dining room table photos.