When the mother-and-daughter duo behind design firm
By George Collective were looking for a one-of-a-kind design-build project to sink their teeth into in 2020, finding unique properties in Red Deer, Alberta were few and far between. “My mom and I incorporated By George Collective in February of 2020 after a late family member,” says McKenzie Milhousen. “We redevelop homes with a focus on designing for the one or two buyers that can’t live without it, versus designing for the masses.”
When they came across a Tudor Revival corner house surrounded by a bird sanctuary and overlooking Sylvan Lake, they knew they had found the one. The quirky bi-level home had salmon-colored walls and a less-than-ideal layout, but the bones were exactly right. “It had mid-century qualities, curved staircases, arches all over the place, and we leaned into it.” They scooped up the house and got to work providing clever, fresh thinking for common design problems. “We believe luxury is not always defined by square footage but by design-forward details and blurring the lines between historic beauty and modern conveniences.”
Step inside the reimagined Alberta home below!
“When you first walk in the house, it’s a typical bi-level with an entryway and stairs that go up and stairs that go down,” says McKenzie. While the compact home is only 1300-square-feet, the tall ceilings, open-concept layout and flood of natural light create the illusion of more space.
The original ironwork was maintained and preserved during renovations, and now has pride of place in the centre of the home.”To recreate some of those stairs would be an expensive detail, so when we found this house we knew we needed to keep all of these elements,” says McKenzie.
McKenzie and her mom relocated the kitchen from the lower level to the upstairs. “The kitchen truly is the heart of this home,” says Mckenzie, who chose this spot because of its central location in the home, the cathedral ceilings, stone fireplace and flood of natural light. The arched fireplace opening and curved base was original to the home, but McKenzie brought it to present day with stucco and limewash paint.
In place of a formal dining room, they opted for a long island with seating on either side and a curvy breakfast bar with lake views. Every inch of space was optimized to bring function to the home, including the custom kitchen hutch with ribbed glass. “If you put something ugly in there, it’s okay because of the ribbed glass doors,” says McKenzie.
After hours spent searching for the right shade of green for the kitchen cabinets, they landed on Benjamin Moore’s
October Mist. “We chose the paint before green kitchens were popping up everywhere in magazines,” says McKenzie. An arched hood plays up the curves and arches seen throughout the home.
To add more value to the home, they turned a closet in the principal bedroom into a half bathroom. The entry to the room had an existing archway, so they echoed the arches onto the wall with a mirror and white oak flutes.
The bathroom’s moody walls and millwork are an unexpected shift from the light palette seen throughout the rest of the home.
In another bathroom, they elevated a standard vanity with bun feet, which they stained with leftover lacquered paint. “We wanted every room of the home to have a wow moment,” says McKenzie.
The original kitchen was on the lower level, which is now a bar and wine cellar. “It’s perfect for entertaining,” says McKenzie.
The lower level dining niche could serve as a games table, formal dining room or home office.
“This is the tiniest shower you will ever see,” says McKenzie of the lower level bathroom. “We ended up having to do a curtain rod because we could not get any kind of glass in there, but it is a full bathroom and that’s what counts.”
“The downstairs is only half underground, so it doesn’t really feel like a basement,” she says. Industrial sliding doors lead to a cozy flex room that could serve as a third bedroom, office or lounge area.
“It’s such a quirky Tudor-meets-mid-century style home,” says McKenzie in describing the overall look and feel. When it came to selecting lighting, “it was a shot in the dark,” according to Mckenzie, who originally wanted to hang several Nogochi-style lamps from the ceiling. “I wanted to hang 40 of these on fishing rods for a whimsical look but I got voted out. I still think it would have been beautiful.”
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