We are underway with our upstairs reno and one thing we've already finished is the small guest bathroom.
This is what it looked like a few months ago. I still love the vintage sink that I got at a yard sale over 15 years ago but it was too low and rusted, so I had to get rid of it. Plus the trad shape really didn't work with the mix I have going on in the rest of the house. I wound up giving it to a friend of mine who's in the middle of a Victorian historic restoration so it will be right at home.
The other thing I had to get rid of was the glass-block window — way too '80s for me.
But the highlight for me is the new wallpaper, Ocelot from Farrow & Ball. That and the new sash window instantly transformed the room. I framed the window in 6"-wide lengths of marble for a polished look that tied in with the floor.
Only one thing left to decide and that is whether or not to paint the tub black. I'm on the fence... what do you think?
These are the befores of the kitchen in our new condominium suite in Toronto. At first glance it's not too offensive: white cabinets, tile floors, gleaming stainless steel appliances and in-suite laundry right there too. And yet I found offense. In fact, I liked exactly two things about this space: the fact that it is a galley (the most efficient kitchen layout) and the existing Bosch laundry machines. Everything else had to go.
This is what the space looks like today. A blank (but not so clean) slate. My vision is a sleek white-on-white high-efficiency space. I actually designed and priced out the whole thing before we even submitted our offer so that we had a ballpark idea of how much we'd need to mentally add to the offer price to get it to what we wanted (er, what I wanted). Here's the scoop on some of my plans.
My first source of inspiration for the new design was my own current kitchen in our mid-century bungalow. I love the Ikea Applåd cabinets and knew immediately I would choose the same style again. The flat panel door style is modern and easy to keep clean. I have found in the past that grease and nastiness can gather on raised panel doors so I've sworn off them. I also love the low-sheen finish of the Applåd as opposed to the high-gloss surfaces of many flat-panel doors. I'm so much more a matte girl than a high-gloss girl.
Because our new space has bulkheads, I'm taking inspiration from the kitchen in Suzanne Dimma's basement and opting for horizontal uppers in a neat row. I seriously toyed with the idea of not having uppers at all, but then decided that was pure madness in a kitchen this tiny. It really only works when there's room for a tall pantry cupboard. Suzanne's kitchen also happens to be IKEA Applåd, which she chose after asking me about my kitchen and then the two of us waxing on together about gloss vs matte. Just another day at the H&H office!
When I was researching tiny white kitchens I also fell for this one in Spain. So simple, so sleek and with a dishwasher (left of sink) and fridge (foreground) that disappear behind custom panels. These became musts for me.
And here's my design. This is the umpteenth kitchen I have designed and every time I do it the same old-school way — graph paper and pencil. I do use the Ikea kitchen planning tool on the website — but mostly because I love that it automatically generates a shopping list I can take into the store. Total time-saver! Someday I vow to learn how to do perspective renderings, but for now these flat elevations work just fine.
And here it is, my kitchen (and the dishwasher is in there too) ready to be assembled and installed tomorrow and Friday. My excitement level is off the charts. Partly, of course, because I'm entrusting the job to Ikea installation services. Now, don't get me wrong, you know I love some DIY and I know how to work an Allen key, but the guys who do this stuff everyday — man, they are good! So fast and so good with the finessing of the details. I say this as someone who has actually done kitchen install the DIY way (our first kitchen) and who has entrusted the job to a contractor who was not an Ikea specialist. I've lived, I've learned and I'm not doing either of those things again.
A little while back I crowd-sourced my countertop choice on Instagram. I have HanStone quartz now and love it, so I thought I'd get that same colour, which is called Aurora Snow (seen at bottom left in this photo). But then I grabbed a few more samples and got thinking the choice wasn't quite so easy. I posted this pic knowing the top one was my fave and my husband's fave. It was the winner of the social media survey and even earned a vote from Sarah Richardson. It's not everyday you get free design advice from a world-famous designer, but when you get it, take it!
The other day I also posted the three tiles that made the short list for our backsplash. On the left is an Applåd drawer front, and the small square is the winning counter sample, HanStone in Royale Blanc. On the right from top:
3" ceramic hex tiles in a random mix of matte and glossy finishes from CeraGres; 3" Calacatta marble hex in polished finish from Saltillo; 2" x 4" Calacatta marble brick tile in honed finish from Saltillo.
We're going with the Calacatta hex to add a fun, slightly retro shape to the space. Also, the bathroom shower has hex tile so now the two rooms will relate.
Our basement makeover is finally complete and has resulted in a home office/den that is neat, clean (somewhat), water resilient, all for under $4,000. Here are some things I learned after my husband and I revamped our basement.
Lesson 1: A basement is a great place to experiment with a new look.
Suzanne Dimma pointed out in a recent blog that it's far more exciting when the individual rooms in a house are approached with their own unique decorating personality: not every room requires the exact same materials and palette. This Belgian-farmhouse look is a bit austere for a heavily used room, but it's practical in a basement. I took a chance with the floor and it's turned out to be my favourite thing. I was worried about the frank fakeness — it's vinyl — but this can stand up to future flooding and looks real (it is cold though, so a rug was a necessity.)
A giant bookcase lines one side of the room (not surprising for two journalism grads). I loved Morgan Michener's April 2014 DIY which involved backing bookshelves in fabric. So I combined that with something I had seen in an earlier version of House & Home: Colette van den Thillart's dining room from the December 2012 issue.
Colette's laser-printed, photo-realism quartz wallpaper on velvet turned her Toronto dining room into an exotic grotto, and I was completely slayed. I thought why not use a combo of Morgan and Colette's ideas for the back of bookshelf?
I found this geo-stone look wallpaper that was in a neutral colourway and pasted it to a sample board. The results? It makes everything in front of it look epic. Too bad it made the maple bookcases look anemic.
Lesson 2: Test a trend.
I am not a grey person. I wasn't sure whether I loved the grey paint I chose for the bookshelves, or just the fact that it's a big trend colour and I had been seeing it in the magazine (Rona Collection's Taupe, an almost exact match, was called out as one of our trend colours in the January 2014 issue). To find out whether I could live with it, a sample board was crucial so I could see the shade against the floors, wainscotting and stone of the fireplace. The warm neutral added the right amount of richness, and the glossy finish looks freshly painted, I love that.
Of course I keep an exhaustive library of back issues of House & Home (doesn't everybody?). It's the original source of inspiration, long before Pinterest popped up.
Lesson 3: Don't let a room become a dumping ground for memorabilia.
Take the time to reevaluate what's on your bookshelves — not everything stands the test of time, while some items are still a joy to behold (I didn't even know we owned a rare 1936 issue of Alice in Wonderland, look how pretty it is).
Lesson 4: No one wants to spend time in a neglected room.
In addition to my home office, there was an antique desk that could be used for some (bad) sewing projects, and even a spot to do yoga, but I didn't want to spend time in an outdated space filled with odds and ends doing those activities. The busy woodwork and clutter just wasn't conducive to concentrating, but here's how the honey-pine corner of my office was transformed with paint.
The linen sheep-print fabric adds some life to the neutral scheme and makes a home office a bit fun, while concealing glass doors to a workshop behind. I just wish my desk always looked like this...
A textured basket for, ahem, fitness equipment that doesn't see the light of day, and an earthy pouf add a warm, handmade touch that's inviting.
I've decided that flood was the best thing that could have happened to this room. It made me take a hard look at the things I was saving, and created a soothing space to unwind... or work, or maybe even, work out.
See a gallery of editors' basement renos here.
We have almost completed our Belgian-Inspired Budget Basement reno that followed the flood this winter. I just wanted to put up a quick post about something that's made the most dramatic change for our basement. I know painting out wood trim is a popular – and controversial – question from our readers. Lynda and Suzanne get asked about it all the time; painting wood is relatively easy but if you have regrets, stripping and refinishing is a nasty job (Suzanne weighs in on this topic in this video).
For those of you who agonize over painting, I humbly offer this evidence. The left half of the room is painted out in Benjamin Moore's Edgecomb Gray, and the other side is the original knotty pine wainscotting I am guessing dates back to when Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears wore matching acid-wash denim.
In this case, the inexpensive pine panelling looked cheap, busy and dated. H&H design editors have always firmly fall into the camp of painting wood, unless it is special or exotic (ie. mahogany, rosewood).
As soon as we painted the trim, the wainscotting immediately looked crisper, more substantial and distinctive.
I never liked the flimsy louvered doors, but now they almost seem to disappear, and all it took was an afternoon of spray painting and a new pull from Anthropologie.
Can't wait to show you the final reveal, stay tuned!
The flood last summer knocked out our power for four days but we were lucky; while some friends were knee-deep in brackish water, we had minimal leakage in our basement. Until the latest round of thawing snow did us in. It was obvious our basement carpet couldn't survive another soaking, so my husband tore it up only to reveal this:
Horrified? So were we.
The only thing more disturbing than the satanic red-and-black linoleum tile is the possibility that the builder thought it was a great idea to install the same tile in a number of houses in our post-war neighbourhood (our neighbour has it in his bathroom).
With the carpet gone it was time to take a good look at the honey-brown pine wainscotting, trim and mantel that I felt zero love for.
Inspired by a new gallery of our design editors' own basement renos, I gathered the meaningful finds that I wanted to keep in the basement as a source for the palette. These included my grandmother's skating trophy.
A vintage photo of my hometown.
And a chair I found in an antique mall while visiting a friend in Ohio. (She's a frequent visitor to the Maumee Antique Mall, a great source of quilts and vintage fabrics.)
The elements seemed to have a bit of Belgian farmhouse aesthetic so I looked for a greyed, weathered (water-resistant!) barn-style vinyl plank floor and a greige to paint out the wainscotting and trim.
After lots of close calls that were too green or cold, I found the perfect warm putty from Benjamin Moore: Edgecomb Grey.
This colour works with the tones in the stone fireplace, and has a hit of black for the right amount of gravitas.
Belgian farmhouses typically have lots of linen, but I wanted something a less dour than a tone-on-tone solid. I had this pastoral linen print made into pinch-pleat, lined drapes by Tonic Living (the price was really good, they turned the sewing around quickly and the drapes were well made).
The terracotta tiles on the hearth didn't work with the colour scheme, or the custom-made English firescreen that served as a headboard for several years.
But these 18" x 18" grey marble slabs for the hearth from Lowe's are appropriately rustic, and wallet-friendly.
For a bit of colour and graphic impact, this rug from HomeSense fit the bill for under $150.
We hope to get this room whipped into shape fairly quickly so stay tuned for the final reveal of what I call our budget Belgian basement blitz.
See budget basement decorating tips in this gallery.
Our kitchen is finally done! It has been a long road through the biggest renovation of our lives. It wasn’t easy — especially at dinnertime — but the final product is well worth all of the work. In fact, our new kitchen is even better than we could have dreamed of, thanks to AyA Kitchens and Baths.
See below for photos of the new space. Plus, tour our kitchen in an episode of H&H Online TV.
We are thrilled with how open our kitchen is now. Our son has been running laps around the island and is enjoying all of the freedom this new space provides. (And I like being able to keep an eye on him while I’m making dinner.)
The cabinets are what really pulls this whole space together. The dark grey colour is exactly what we were looking for, and I love how they stand out against the white walls and accessories.
Remember how cluttered our old kitchen was? (Read about it here.)
We now have tons of storage space, including a few lift-up features to hide some of our smaller appliances.
Above is the first appliance lift-up cabinetry that hides the microwave. A few years down the road, if we no longer need our microwave, we can still utilize this space for additional storage.
Here is our second lift-up that houses the toaster and blender. Both of these small appliances used to be eyesores on our counter, taking up valuable preparation space. Now they are tucked away and ready for use whenever we need them.
Our AyA designer, Sandra, was so helpful throughout the entire process, especially when it came to space planning and flow. As you can see, we also have a lot more usable counter space. The island alone provides us with more counter space than we ever had before. I love how much built-in storage we have now.
Last, but not least, is the banquette. The handsome drawers below the seat cushions look so sleek — you’d never know that they’re housing small appliances, linens and other kitchen items. And because I love to bake, I now have plenty of specialty pans and tools that are easy to reach.
Our kitchen was once a cluttered space that wasn’t functional for our busy family. Now, we have a beautiful kitchen that we can’t wait to use. We couldn’t be happier!
The day has finally come! A big truck from AyA Kitchens and Baths arrived earlier this week and dropped off dozens of boxes containing the components for our new kitchen. Seeing all those boxes makes me feel like a kid on Christmas morning (except this time, I know exactly what these pretty packages contain: our dream kitchen!). Take a look.
After some major unwrapping, the installation commenced. In renovations past, my husband has always been the one to take on installations — he is incredibly handy and loves DIY projects. But for a renovation of this magnitude, we opted to have AyA’s team of installation professionals do the work. And with all the tasks still ahead — installing every cabinet, fixture, shelf and design detail — it was money well spent.
Pictured above is the wall where our fridge and stove will go. We opted to leave the upper wall completely open, except for any cabinets that are above the counter — those will now go to the ceiling. Although it might not look like it just yet, we are going to have a lot more storage than we did in our old kitchen.
This is my first view of the banquette and it looks amazing so far! It feels so much bigger than what I expected. Plus, all of those boxes beneath the bench contain drawers for even more storage: I plan to keep platters, linens and small appliances I don’t use everyday in here.
While the AyA team tackles the installation, there are still plenty of details for us to sort out, such as ordering countertops, backsplash and hardware, and choosing a few other design details. We chose Caesarstone’s Frosty Carinna for the counterops. It's the shade closest to the marble I had originally loved, and has beautiful grey veining that works well with the dark grey anthracite cabinets. Our designer, Sandra, coordinated this part of the renovation, receiving the quote and organizing the date to have our countertops templated and installed.
Next on my shopping list was the backsplash. Since we have very few cabinets above the counter, I decided that the backsplash would go as far up the wall as possible on the oven and sink walls. As I mentioned in my last post, I love the look of marble, mosaics and solid slabs. The final choice, however, ended up being something I hadn’t even considered: a 2” x 2” milk glass tile that will be installed in a diamond pattern. Here is a shot of what we selected:
I think the white shade will keep the space feeling open, and it's something different than subway tiles, which we already have in our laundry room and bathroom.
As for the hardware, I knew we wanted to go with brass. The only decision to be made was whether to choose something rough and antique looking, or something shiny. Here are the two options we considered. The antique-style is shown above.
And this is the shiny style. We ended up going with the antique-look fixtures (we liked that they didn’t have visible screws) in a polished brass finish, to add a hit of glamour to our kitchen.
To replicate the cosy banquette inspiration shot I had in my initial plans, I had a custom cushion and back made to run the full length of the bench. I am already envisioning the late-night coffees or Sunday brunches we’ll have in this fun space. To make it more visually interesting and comfortable, I also had throw pillows made in complementary colours. We opted for outdoor fabric, since it will be more durable over the long run. (In other words, it will hold up better against grimy kids’ hands and inevitable spills.)
After browsing through hundreds of samples, this grouping stood out as the clear winner for our kitchen. I love the combination of yellow and grey.
Now that our dream AyA kitchen is almost complete, I’m excited to put together all the finishing touches. I can hardly wait to see the big reveal!
1-4,7. Jennifer Mader
Last week was a big week in our kitchen renovation journey. After a few months of gathering inspiration, it was finally time to take action.
While we knew the demolition would be a swift process, it still came as a surprise when we came home after work one day to this bare space, below:
Believe it or not, this is my new kitchen. The far wall that housed my fridge, stove and sink is now stripped bare. And remember that wall with the cut-out to the dining room? It’s gone!
The view in the photo above is from the other side of the room. Amazing! It’s not even done and it already feels so open. It was definitely the right choice to take down that dividing wall.
There is no looking back once you are down to the studs. (The photos don’t quite do it justice — we’re literally walking on plywood in here!) Even with all the drastic change, it’s hard to believe this raw space will one day be our dream kitchen.
My husband and I are trying not to let this quick progress fool us, however. It’s overwhelming to think of all the work that stands between us and our brand new AyA kitchen.
There are still so many design decisions to be made. Having already selected our cabinetry, I can now move on to the many other steps in this makeover process. In addition to making some tweaks to our kitchen design, the next round of decisions includes sourcing new flooring, countertops and backsplash tiles.
Here are some examples of floors I love:
I adore a herringbone floor. I am also leaning towards light floors — I think they will add a fantastic contrast to the dark cabinetry and hold up well with the wear and tear of a young family.
I also love the look of wide-plank flooring. The floor shown above is made up of reclaimed wood. Not only does it bring a rustic feel to the room, it’s also an environmentally-friendly option, which my husband and I both love.
When it comes to countertops, I’ve been dreaming of marble. Most of the inspiration shots I have collected are marble, marble, and more marble. However, our AyA designer recently introduced us to quartz. Because quartz is harder and less porous than marble, it’s more resistant to spills over the years. (In other words, it’s the perfect countertop option for a young family like us.)
Here are some of the quartz samples we’re considering:
We really like the natural look of these two samples. Plus, they are similar to the many marble samples I’ve been admiring throughout the planning process.
As for the backsplash, I am having a hard time deciding. (It’s a big commitment!)
Here are some backsplash ideas I’ve collected so far:
Did I mention I love herringbone? If we don’t go with herringbone flooring, I think this tilework (above) would look fantastic going all the way up the walls.
Throughout the process of shopping for all of these finishes, we’re collecting samples wherever possible. By taking home our various options, we can go home and play with each combination and see what they will look like in the true light of our space.
Now that our space has been opened up and we’re well on our way to selecting our finishes, all we need is an actual kitchen. Let the building begin!
Click here to read Jen's previous blog post.
Last week, my husband and I went to AyA Kitchens & Baths for our kitchen consultation. We got to see our professional design layout — after weeks of gathering inspiration to prepare for our kitchen project, it was exciting to see it all come to life at the showroom.
Before our appointment started, I walked around the showroom and was able to get up close to see the kitchens they had on display. It was also great to see exactly which finishes we could consider, and what kind of gadgets we could build in. (I was excited when I saw the Franke apron sink on display, which is exactly like the style I’ve been eying online!)
Like many families, kitchen space is an ongoing issue for us; we loved to see that there were so many space-conscious designs to choose from. Although I love going online for inspiration, nothing compares to seeing something in person.
Here are some pictures I took from our visit:
I love the moss green cabinets and brass hardware in this kitchen. It looks fantastic alongside the rustic tractor stools.
The brass faucet is gorgeous, and definitely something I want to add to my wish list.
This kitchen is more contemporary than I would like, but I want to keep this countertop and ceiling-height marble backsplash in mind for my own design.
This is the Franke sink I have been eyeing for our space. It’s nice and big — perfect for a busy family.
Our design consultation with Sandra at AyA allowed us to review our wish list and go over the photos we brought in. She encouraged us to think about our kitchen even more thoroughly than we had been: Would we like a preparation sink? What about storage beside the banquette to maximize that wall space?
Sandra made it clear to us from the start that there are no stupid questions and no limit to the number of tweaks we can make when it comes to getting our dream kitchen. Best of all, we trust that she’ll steer us in the right direction if we are making a mistake.
Here are some of the functional elements she recommended, all of which we decided to add in:
Built-in garbage to free up floor space. This will make a big difference in our small space, both aesthetically and functionally.
This brilliant feature is called a “magic corner.” My husband loved this one. By having the pull-out, we can actually see what is in the back of the cupboard and utilize all of the space.
I didn’t think I would want a built-in dishwasher, but once I saw them in the showroom, it was quickly added to the wish list!
After going over — and adding to — our wish list with us, Sandra walked us through the cabinet styles that best fit our shaker-style vision.
There were so many options to choose from!
Much to our delight, choosing the cabinet colour was easy; we fell in love with a rich grey called Anthracite. Not only do we think it will add handsome character to the room, it also looks like it will hold up against the wear and tear in our busy space.
After looking at cabinet colours, we couldn’t help but jump ahead to countertops as well.
There was a much bigger selection in the showroom than I had anticipated. In fact, they have an entire room dedicated to counter top choices:
They have everything from quartz to granite, and Corian to marble. And so many shades to choose from.
The design recommendations we received from our consultation with AyA Kitchens & Baths has maximized our space more than we ever thought possible. My husband and I have gone through every inch to make sure we have a place for everything. We’ve even made large-scale printouts of the plans and hand-wrote what will go where, cross-checking the design against our notes and list of needs.
The final verdict? We love it! Now, armed with our detailed design plan, we’re ready to move forward with our renovation.
Next stop: demolition time!
Click here to read Jennifer's first renovation blog post.
Photos: Jennifer Mader
When my husband and I bought our very first house, we knew we’d have some renovations ahead of us. Five years later, we’re ready to tackle the most overwhelming project we’ve ever embarked upon: renovating our kitchen.
From day one, we kept track of our kitchen problems, writing things down as they happened. Things like, “can’t find spices at the back of the cupboard,” or, “fighting over counter space while making breakfast.” And everything in between. While making these fix-up notes seemed tedious at first, they are really helping to have now that we’re moving ahead with the renovations. In fact, as we start this daunting process, our wish-list of fixes has actually kept us on track.
Here are some before shots of the space. (Another note on our fix list: Where do we put all of these appliances that are taking up our entire counter?)
For us, lack of storage has always been a problem; we usually end up piling things on top of the cupboards when we can’t find a home for them.
Like many old homes, our kitchen is small and separate from the dining area, making it next to impossible to carry on a conversation while entertaining—even with the cut-out in the wall. (It is also next to impossible to keep track of where our 18 month old son is running to while we’re trying to prepare meals!)
Of course, we also have an aesthetic wish list. While this part is definitely more fun to compile, it’s also overwhelming. There are so many customizable options—like materials, styles, colours, etc.—and countless directions in which you can go. The kitchen in particular feels like such a big commitment, as it really is the heart of our home—and we want to put our personal stamp on it.
For the past few months, I have been gathering ideas and inspiration to figure out the general look I want. The specifics will come later, of course.
Here are some of my favourite kitchen inspiration shots:
I love the idea of a built-in banquette. I feel like this would really help maximize our space.
I really like the combination of light and dark elements in this kitchen. It looks very open and functional.
The pendants, open shelving and tall storage up to the ceiling really stand out in this kitchen. This does not look like a huge space, and yet there is a place for everything. I can only hope to achieve the same with our kitchen!
Now that we’re armed with our lists of fixes and inspiration, our next move is to meet with our designer at AyA Kitchens & Baths to discuss our design. I am excited to sit down with a professional and hash through our wish lists and see what we come up with.
While my husband and I think we have a pretty good sense of what our kitchen needs, we love the security of knowing that a team of professionals will be with us along the way to make sure we end up with the kitchen of our dreams.
Stay tuned for Jen’s next blog post, when she reveals the outcome of the kitchen consultation. Find out which cabinets she chose, plus get a glimpse of the colour scheme and overall design.
1-4: Jennifer Mader
5: Mark Burstyn