Decorating & Design

May 10, 2021

See How A Designer Tackled Her Own Family Home Renovation

Anyone who has undertaken a reno will tell you that careful planning and good timing go a long way. But in June 2019, designer Nyla Free and her husband, Cory, had no way of knowing that a global pandemic was on the horizon when they temporarily moved into the basement of their Calgary home so contractors could upgrade their main living spaces and bedrooms. When the project was finally finished 10 months later, government stay-at-home orders were just coming into effect. With Nyla working from home, 19-year-old daughter Ava taking a gap year and 14-year-old daughter Mya doing schoolwork at the kitchen island, it turned out to be the ultimate test of the new family space.

Nyla had been eager to update her family’s home for what seemed like forever. “I always said, ‘When the dishwasher goes, we’re renovating,’ ” she says. The couple had bought their house in 2006 and thought they’d be there for a year or two, tops. Then life happened: Mya was born, Nyla’s business grew and, before they knew it, they’d been living in their stopgap house for almost 15 years. They liked the neighborhood in Southwest Calgary, just down the street from Fish Creek Provincial Park, and the house offered great light, enough space and years of family memories. “But, it was never a reflection of us,” says Nyla, citing the home’s dated kitchen and bathrooms, dark wood flooring and a mental list of improvements she’d been keeping over the years. The top-to-bottom refit injected a much-needed dose of personality into every corner of the space.

The makeover didn’t require much structural change; Nyla didn’t add to the footprint of the 2,450-square-foot house and kept the existing layout. But, her signature aesthetic — warm white walls, relaxed seating and a mix of nostalgic and modern furniture — is now unmistakable throughout. “It’s a very comfortable space to be in,” she says.

After years of feeling like the house never quite reflected their style, Nyla and Cory are finally happy here, and are planning to stay put for the long haul. “We took the approach that we’re going to have our grandchildren here,” says Nyla. “We made decisions looking into the future, like the big dining room table that we can fill with family and friends.” Or the pantry that’s perfect for weekend baking marathons. Or the living room that’s become the new family hangout and de facto home office. After all, life happens.

Scroll down to see the impressive results!

Author: Peter Saltsman

Phil Crozier


House & Home April 2021


Nyla Free