December marks the start of winter as well as the holiday season. As we head into these cooler months and the holiday festivities commence, most of us will be gathering inside our homes with loved ones. Use this time of year to redecorate, and make your home more cozy and magical for the winter ahead. If you celebrate the holidays, feel free to experiment and dress up your home into a miniature festival of joy.
The temperature outside may have dropped, but you can still bring some warmth into your home with these simple tips:
1. Deck the Halls
Your entrance and hallways are very important in your home and should not be overlooked. Not only are these spaces the first things you will see when returning home from a long day, but it is also the first thing visitors will see after knocking on your door. These underestimated spaces set the mood for the rest of your home, so go ahead and make your home more festive for the holidays by dressing it up with seasonal décor. Light up your home with a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Embellish your banister with Christmas garland, or hang a mistletoe in the hallway for a decorative flair.
2. Fire up the Fireplace
Whether you will be hanging stockings or not, the fireplace is a beautiful centerpiece in every living room. Rearrange the furniture in your home to face the fireplace to create a cozy gathering space, so you and your family can escape the cold outside and appreciate the glow and ambiance a fire provides. If you do not have a fireplace in your home, lighting candles around the room works well to create a cozy atmosphere.
3. Bring Nature Inside
Since you won’t be outside as often during these cold winter months, incorporate natural elements inside the home. Big baskets of wooden logs, pine cones and smooth pebbles will integrate nature into you living room. If you are putting up a Christmas tree, try a natural one. The feel, look and smell of an evergreen tree will add a magical touch to your home. It’s all in the details!
4. Spice up Your Kitchen
The winter months are a great time to gather with friends and family to enjoy a bottle of wine, bake delicious treats, and catch up over a fancy dinner. The kitchen gets a whole lot of use during the holidays, so make sure that it is ready to take on guests and food! Whether you have a separate or open-concept kitchen, there are ways to decorate the space to create a functional, comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere for you and your guests.
5. Add a Splash of Colour
A touch of colour can instantly warm up a room and give it a cozy feel. Avoid the winter blues and lift your mood by adding bright colours to your home. Fire-hued tones such as golds and reds are great for that warm, inviting feeling. Experiment with colour by adding fun pillows and throws that will enhance your room, and keep you and your guests warm.
6. Warm up your Floors
Your hardwood, stone or tile floors are great to keep you cool during the summer months, but can be uninviting and chilly in winter. Having floor coverings helps to keep your feet warm during the winter months, and make your room feel cozier. Invest in rugs with fun textures and patterns to dress up your floors and set the tone for your room.
7. Dress up your Windows
Curtains are important for insulating against the cold, and keeping your home warm. With so many options available, you can choose window treatments that look great and make your room feel warmer. Choose fabrics that work with the décor, and style of each room. You may also want to consider adding an insulated window treatment to keep the cold away.
8. Create a Sleeping Sanctuary
As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, we tend to sleep in a bit longer. Turn your bedroom into a sleeping haven by creating a comfortable space with lots of ambiance. Changing the paint colour of your bedroom is a quick way to give your room an update. Adding calming colours, warm duvets and soft lighting will have you ready to hit the sack!
As the temperature dips lower, bring your focus inward by renovating your home to feel warm and inviting during the winter months. At Walden, we want to help you turn your home into a cozy refuge from the harsh Canadian winter. Contact us to get started today!
The Question: What Is Your Take On Open Concept Spaces?
Bruce Borden, Walden Homes
I've lived in homes that are more formal with defined living areas, as well as homes that are more open and have a contemporary design. Both designs have elements to them that I like. For example, opening a kitchen to living spaces can get messy. For some homeowners, this is an issue when entertaining. I feel that having some separation between dining and kitchen makes sense.
Our current house has the benefit of a kitchen that opens to the family room and has access to the dining room. Still, I like to maintain some separation - the family room has double pocket doors that can be closed from time to time. The dining room is connected to the kitchen but it is not completely open.
My wife Cathy loves to entertain. Our house is designed to accommodate both large parties as well as more intimate groups.
By comparison, in one of the previous homes that I built for our family, the kitchen and family room were connected and completely open to each other. We stepped down two steps in the family room, so the kitchen overlooked the family room. This worked well at the time, as we had a young child that could be more easily supervised with this layout. The house was also on a narrower lot, so the open space made the house feel much larger than it was.
Growing up in Montreal, my father built a house for my family when I was 10 years old. Back in 1972, it was a modern house but the layout was very traditional. It had a typical center hall plan, all the room sizes were well proportioned, and each room was a room on its own. Everything was very compartmentalized. Looking back on this house, I would say that it functioned very well. My parents entertained often and the house really suited our lifestyle.
So I'm not sure. I can't say that I favour either open concept design or a home designed with more formal separate spaces.
Cindy Van Ryn, Interior Designer and Owner of Snap Design + Contracting
We all have been in a turn of the century home, which is comprised of many small dark rooms. These homes are often comprised of a parlour, a separate dining room, a formal living room, a den or study, and a separate kitchen with doors to close it off and hide the mess from guests.
Many of these older homes don’t even have a powder room on the main floor. Some even have two sets of staircases – one at the entrance and one at the back of the house.
I worked with a client who had a beautiful 150 year old home which had tiny little compartments or rooms in every usable space. This layout was intriguing. There was a powder room under the stairs on the main floor, and a little telephone room under the stairs on the second floor going up to the third floor. Each of the 8 bedrooms had their own sink. The home had 5 fireplaces!
The reasons for these smaller rooms were mostly due to inefficient heating. Many of the rooms were probably not all in use during the winter months. Family dynamics and interaction were also very different in the past than they are today.
We no longer like living in these dark separate spaces and the trend towards large open concept living spaces has been a growing phenomenon for many years now.
Families today encourage communal interaction, and our busy hectic lives require multi-tasking, which is much more possible in an open concept home. My kitchen and family room are open to each other and it helped my family multi-task. My kids sat at the kitchen island and did their homework and I was available to help them or just chat while I prepared dinner. Open concept living encourages easy family interaction.
I have worked for many clients who have purchased an older home, and the first agenda of their renovation is to open up the individual rooms into large open living spaces.
There can be a point where this goes too far, especially if the stairs are open concept, as noise management can become an issue. Being sensitive to the need for some private space for individuals in the home, as well as the need for social and family interaction, is harmony for a functional home.
Cary Linden, B.Arch. OneDesignBuild
If you are designing a new home or renovating your existing home you may find yourself struggling to decide between an open concept plan and a more traditional separated space plan.
Well, my answer is that you need both.
I grew up in a typical Toronto box with small rooms all separated by walls. There was no flow of circulation; the rooms were all too small for their purpose, especially the den or family room that would not fit all five of us.
The dining room was cramped and extended family dinners would spill out into the living room. The house was about 2,500 square feet, which if it were designed differently could easily accommodate a modern lifestyle of a family of five.
Eight years ago I had the opportunity to design my own new house. I was determined to create large flowing spaces with high ceilings - essentially the exact opposite of the house I was raised in.
This new house was the same size as my parents’ home - about 2,500 square feet.
I felt I could do without a formal living room and instead designed one large open space of about 20 feet wide by about 40 feet long that incorporated a kitchen, dining area and family area with a large television screen and a fireplace on the opposite side.
I have two young girls ages four and seven. I liked that I could always keep an eye on them when I was cooking or watching television as the space was entirely open.
I loved the floor to ceiling glass walls that gave us a panoramic view of the ravine we backed out onto. I loved that it forced us all to be together in the same room so I could see my beautiful girls grow up in front of me.
However, after eight years of living an open architectural lifestyle, I have to admit I wish I had somewhere to hide occasionally. Upstairs is for sleeping; downstairs is not a great place to be when you are over forty, so where can Mommy or Daddy go for some peace and quiet? I wish I had made a den of about ten feet by ten feet on the main floor. Soon enough the girls will start to play downstairs in the large recreation room when they do not require constant supervision and I suppose this will free up the main floor.
Now 2,500 square feet is not very large and a lot of houses are in the 3,000 to 4,000 square feet range. If I were designing or renovating a house of this size I would opt for an open kitchen and family area and close off the more formal spaces such as the dining room, den and living areas. This would achieve a desirable ratio of open vs. closed space.
When entertaining family or guests, the island in the open kitchen is party central. Having the family room open off the kitchen allows the party to expand. Of course kitchens can get messy, but with a closed off formal dining room no one would have a view of a messy kitchen, at least while they are eating.
If you are trying to decide between an open concept and a separate space concept for your home, the answer is easy - both.
The quandary between the dynamic trends in homes has settled on a design evolution that now incorporates more than one right way to live within the walls of your home.
Throughout my over 20 years as a realtor in central Toronto, I have witnessed vast changes in the preference of defined living spaces versus open and spacious designs. These changes are as much indicative of a changing family as they are about real estate development.
Younger couples gravitate toward smaller more manageable decor that often does not feature large principle rooms and soaring ceilings. However, as families grow and flourish, so does the need for more grand family rooms, kitchens and dining areas.
I draw on our own family as an example I see time and time again.
When our children were younger, we dreamed of a kitchen that flowed into a family room where everyone could be close and accounted for. As the kids became teenagers, these well thought-out rooms emptied and our children spent more time in the basement recreation room or in their own bedrooms studying or on the computer.
Today, we have two children in the workforce and two in university, so although the kitchen, family room, and large dining area remain vacant most of the week, when the kids and their partners are home, we use every inch of the space.
I could not imagine living in a home that did not afford us the luxury to expand beyond the confines of the walls to include our growing family.
I often work with clients who share my sentiments. They feel that what I call the heart of the home should remain a place to invite others to gather and spend time and celebrate life-cycle events.
It is for this reason that I believe that the more open and inclusive the principle rooms are, the stronger the heart of the home beats throughout time, despite whatever the current trend dictates.
The Question: "What Do You Like About Attic Spaces"
Bruce Borden Walden Homes
"I love third floors. Cathy and I have a third floor in our home. When our kids are home from university or we have out of town guests, the two bedrooms and bathroom up on the top floor come in really handy. Our third storey is contained within the roof structure of our house. From the exterior it would be hard to know that we have all this additional square footage.
Needless to say, I am definitely for third floors, provided that the overall roof height does not become exceedingly tall relative to the neighbouring homes. Third floors have to make sense within the overall design and architecture of the home. Adding another level to the top of a house can look really top heavy and detract from the balance and symmetry. Working with a design professional to get the details right is highly recommend."
Cary Linden, B.Arch.OneDesignBuild
"Many of my clients have insisted on having a three-storey house instead of a two-storey house.
Often the third storey becomes the master suite exclusively. It offers privacy and a great opportunity for a terrace.
Having the master suite on the third floor allows for four bedrooms and a laundry room on second floor. This is the model that I endorse. Occasionally, the third floor is used as a home office or even a gym.
When I built my house, I originally designed it to have three stories with the third floor reserved for the master suite. Due to budget constraints I ended up with a two-storey house, but because I had such a generous zoning height (11m) and I wanted make use of this, I opted for very high ceilings. Turns out that two floors of very high ceilings (14 feet on main and 11 feet on the second) cost the same as three floors with moderate ceiling heights (9 feet).
I like houses that have a variety of ceiling heights. If you had a three-storey house you could cut back the second floor at the back so you could have a double height family room and kitchen similar to a lot of 'loft' condo designs.
If you want a three-storey house I would definitely recommend installing an elevator.
Just remember to check the zoning on your property first to ensure you are allowed three stories and that you have enough allowable height to achieve three stories with reasonable ceiling heights."
Cindy van Ryn, Interior DesignerSnap Design + Contracting
"I would evaluate a third floor addition on a property considering the following conditions: the neighbourhood, managing the stairs, the view, and the family dynamics.
When considering a third floor you would have to take into consideration the neighbourhood and surrounding homes as you wouldn't want to stand out or tower above all the rest. Tasteful harmony with the neighbours is always the best.
I would also consider the individuals in the home and their capability or desire to manage the stairs on a daily basis. This would not only determine whether or not to add a third floor, but also how to use the space.
On the flip side a third floor can sometimes provide a spectacular view from the higher level; whether its viewing the tree tops or the pulse of the downtown core, it can provide a whole new dimension in a home. If this is the case I would recommend it for a master bedroom and a lovely addition would be a deck to the outside, on top of a second floor roof for example. This can also create a private space both inside, as usually the third floor windows do not look into neighbours windows, as well as outside since a deck can be a very private outdoor space.
Another consideration when thinking of a third floor is a family with many children. It can create a great place for children to have their own space, be it a bedroom or a playroom, and can contain the noise from the rest of the house.
All these considerations become important elements when planning a third floor; it might go against the grain of the existing neighbourhood and cause difficulty in everyday function, or it could be a wonderful addition to a home and provide a private space with a beautiful vista."
Judy Sanz Solé, Architect Sanz Solé Architect
"Third floor additions or homes in the city? Absolutely! City living by nature means density. A home with a sprawling footprint takes up limited outdoor space. Instead of going out, it makes a lot of sense to go up.
There are of course some things to consider:
Structure: Can your foundations support another floor? Have a structural engineer review the existing structure and prepare a report.
Heat: It can get pretty hot on the third floor. Consider an a/c unit dedicated to this floor; make sure the thermostat for the unit is also on the third floor.
Use: The third floor is far enough away that it is perfect for some uses: home office, master bedroom, guest room and library. I would hesitate to put a nursery or small children’s play area on the third floor, unless you’re looking for a regular stair workout. I would also avoid using the third floor as a recreational or TV room where late night noise will be disruptive to bedrooms below. Be sure to include a washroom in the design, and a deck if possible. This helps keep the space flexible and self-contained."
The first addition that Walden built back in 1990 was a main floor family room addition to a house on Castlefield Avenue in the Allenby area of Toronto. That was 24 years ago. Nowadays, a family room is sought after for many reasons, especially since it provides a space for casual living because formal living rooms are no longer used in their intended way.
Common uses for family rooms include: watching your favorite TV shows, relaxing, reading, entertaining, playing games, or watching sports. They’re also great for young kids or older children.
Most notably, they are a great way to add value to your home as a family room is one of the most sought after features for prospective homebuyers.
Rooms sizes can vary based on your needs, the size of the lot, and the amount of required additional space. Smaller rooms are 10' x 12', but can go up to 20' x 20'.
Your options aren’t limited to size alone. You can choose to make your addition an open concept space connected to your kitchen. In the homes that I have built for myself, we have had a completely open design and this has worked really well.
You can also choose to separate your family room from the kitchen and treat is as a quiet space with pocket doors. Our current home has a combined kitchen family room that can be closed with two pocket doors.
It’s also nice to have access to the backyard from the family room, with large doors to a patio or deck if possible. Flexible seating is best - family rooms should have lots of light, ideally seating for six to ten people. Whether the TV is a centerpiece of the room or not is a personal choice. Although a fireplace is an optional feature, most homeowners do opt for one.
Built-in shelves for displaying books, artwork, and other decorative elements are also quite popular. Some people like to incorporate a small desk for a computer. There is no single way to approach the design of your main floor family room, the design has to complement the way you live and how you want to spend your time.
The main floor family room is the most valuable option for many reasons. If it is not possible due to space limitations then basement family rooms, second or third floor family rooms are also excellent choices.
Family rooms come in different sizes and shapes, but main floor families are a great idea to consider.
Black window interiors are a very versatile design detail. It can be found in homes that are modern, traditional, transitional – you name it! Black window interiors work beautifully in all homes. You can see examples of how versatile this design detail can be with the above images. Image two is very modern, three is transition, four is classic traditional.
How it’s used within the home is also very versatile. It works very well with both windows and doors. Image three and five both exemplify how to incorporate doors into the wall of windows. Windows and doors become a central element of the interior design. They really pop, which is also why it is important to make sure that the quality, design proportions and overall scale work within the space.
The window casing that surrounds the windows and doors can be painted white or a light colour to blend in with the surrounding wall.
If you are planning to paint operational windows that open, have screens, and hardware you can order hardware and oil rubbed finish that works really nicely with the black. The standard white or bronze hardware will not work as well with black windows. Instead, the window interiors have to be wood or fiberglass as painting windows black does not work well in vinyl or aluminum windows. You can order frameless steel windows which are easier to paint black.
Renovating in Toronto means understanding how to design and build on narrow properties. These narrow properties bring with them many new considerations. Those involved have to consider that side yard setbacks are tight or that many homes share mutual driveways. Sometimes, access to the rear of the property to excavate for an addition can be challenging, especially with added machinery and equipment.
Narrow lots make our job as contractors much more complicated. Whether we are excavating for an addition, installing new footings and foundations on a rear addition, or moving materials, narrow lots take more time and can cost more. Don’t get nervous if you’re planning a renovation on a narrow lot though! Experienced trades, well thought-out planning, and cooperation from everyone involved make it work!
Structural and Zoning Difficulties
If you do happen to live on a narrow lot, here are some things you should ask your contractor about before starting a renovation, as they may complicate the process.
Trees can often be an issue. Tree protection and tree protection zones on a property make moving and storing materials a challenge. This applies to both private and city trees, trees at the front and rear of a property, and trees on neighbouring properties.
Some of the challenges of working in the downtown Toronto neighbourhoods is the close proximity to a neighbour’s home. This proximity can pose structural considerations that we have to contend with. Some issues that we may come to face with a neighbouring property include:
Structural shoring to protect the neighbour’s property
Making sure that the footings are not being undermined
Installing scaffolding in order to install exterior cladding like brick, stucco, stone, or siding. Scaffolding becomes an issue when it does not fit between the home we are working on and the adjoining home.
Building code requires fire protection if an addition or new home is built within 4 feet of a neighbour’s property. Our team of architects and engineers work closely with you to select the most suitable materials. Non-combustible and fire rated elements are required according to the building code, which may limit your options, so speaking to our team will help you find the best matched replacement.
Planning venting for your furnace, hot water tanks and fireplaces are also made much more challenging as considerations for fire safety of your home and your neighbour’s home must be considered.
Do you have more questions about structural considerations when building on a narrow lot? We have answers to your questions here!
Work With Your Neighbours, Not Against Them!
Working with neighbours to inform them and assure them that their property will be respected is very important. Give them advance notice that work is going to be taking place. Your neighbours want to know that their driveway may be blocked for an hour while the bin is getting loaded. Letting people know in advance can ease the relations and keep everyone happy.
It’s also important to remember how close your neighbours are to your home. Making sure debris is cleaned and walkways are not interfered is very important in maintaining a friendly relationship!
Accessing a narrow property is difficult. Moving equipment, storing materials, deliveries, even parking for the trades can be a challenge. The Ministry of Labour has requirements on job sites and one of them is to provide a site toilet for the workers. Making space for these is always an issue - and narrow lots make this more difficult.
The limited space complicates finishing the side walls of a home. Workers need 18 inches to install stucco, brick or siding.
Just like designing narrow homes takes somewhat of a different approach to designing larger more grand scale homes, building new additions and renovating narrow homes on narrow lots also requires a very skilled hand.
Let’s take a look at the features of these 5 modern fireplace designs to help inspire your next remodel.
1: This design is characterized by a raised fireplace insert that is lifted off the floor, its linear shape. It’s set into a large slab of marble, simple and elegant. The open bookshelves on one side and open wall for painting on the other provide a bit of asymmetry. This effect highlights the fireplace as the focal point of the room.
2: This fireplace is all about symmetry. The rectangular fireplace insert is raised off floor, but set lower to the ground so as not to be in direct line of sight. The top of the fireplace is set to line up with top of the lower cabinets. It is set into thinly stacked dark stone tiles in three columns. Book shelves on either side, open shelves with closed cabinets on the bottom. Matching clearstory windows.
3: This fireplace has three simple features to note. The first is the square fireplace insert; the second is the thin-stacked linear stone, which reads as one larger textured monolithic element; and the third is the lightly stained wood panelling.
4: Accentuating the width with linear and horizontal elements; the fireplace insert is a strong rectangular shape. The lightly polished marble stone is installed as large tiles in three columns. The horizontal grain in the stone book is matched to create a definitive horizontal element. The surrounding cabinetry’s wood grain also horizontal pattern. The open shelving proportions are wider so that all elements creating an overall sense of width.
5: We included an outdoor fireplace because this is such a big trend now. The outdoor living room is really popular and a fire element is a great item to include. This is the only fireplace featured with an open flame. The other examples are all closed front, high efficiency direct venting units.
There is no place like home sweet home. Your home is your sanctuary, and a testament to your taste. Over the years, as your own personal style evolves, changes, and possibly develops into something entirely new, so too must your home. While your traditional taste may sustain, you want to make sure your house isn’t dated. A great way to bring your house up to snuff is to infuse it with a modern touch.
Modern architecture and design is minimalist, clean, and open. Often featuring lots of natural light and a noticeable absence of ornament, there are many ways to achieve a modern look and feel to your home.
From minor changes to major renovations, there are a few options that can give your home the modern update it needs.
Here are some tips for modernizing your home:
The way you light a room can change the entire look of your space. Modern homes feature a lot of large windows, and natural light. Floor to ceiling windows, oversized glass doors, and full glass walls, also seen in contemporary design elements, allow for a bright, open, and airy living space.
For most, oversized windows are the best, and most accessible, option to bring a modern feel to a previously darker room. If an update like replacing windows, or an entire wall, with larger panes of glass isn’t an option, you can always update the lighting fixtures and placement in your room. Warm, overhead lights with a minimalist design, even hidden like pot lights, can create the illusion of more natural light, enhancing the natural light you already do have.
As mentioned, modern aesthetic is often reflected in a minimalist design, including clean lines, and less ornamental decorations. In modernizing your home, less is definitely more. One example of a classically modern detail that can change the entire look of your space, is to change the traditional look of baseboards to be flush with the wall above. This style, also called ‘The Reveal’ requires a bit more work, and an extra layer of drywall in most cases; however, the outcome is a sleek and simple base trim that updates this typically traditional detail. The Reveal can also be used to accentuate windows and doorframes.
Another more versatile design detail that can accentuate and complement your space is black window interiors. Since modern design is minimal in ornamental accents, a black interior window trim can be a great way to incorporate your oversized windows, or even full glass wall, as a main focal point in your design scheme. By painting interior window trims black, attention is drawn to them, and subsequently to the natural light they bring. Bonus: this is a much easier project than replacing all your base trims for that modern design update!
Open Concept Space
The best way to achieve that overall modern aesthetic is to create an open concept floor plan for your home. This refers to design that allows traditionally separated rooms, the kitchen, dining room, and living rooms, for example, to flow easily and seamlessly into one space. Distinguished by the design of each room, or the furniture found in each area of the spaces, open concepts are a great way to maximize larger windows, natural light, and a minimalist design.
Explore Sustainable Options
Another element of modernizing your home that has less to do with aesthetic or design, is how to create a sustainable home with the technology now available, that wasn’t previously an option. One example of this is the option to power your home, either partially or in full, with solar power. The accessibility of these panels can heat your pool, your water, or power your entire home, depending on a few factors including sun availability. Harnessing technology like solar power is definitely a modern update worth exploring if you are looking to create a more sustainable, modern home.
Renovating With Walden Homes
We have the experience, expertise and knowledge to make your dream home come true. Whether you want to take your traditional space and add modern details, or overhaul your home for a complete modern redesign, we can help you achieve all your home goals and updates.
Use interior design in your favour! Pictured above is an example of home design being used to widen the appearance of a narrow room. Using this design, let’s take a look at the elements that help accomplish this goal.
This type of seating is ideal in a narrow home. The dining table pulled up against the banquets makes the room function as though it were 3 feet wider. A chair would never be pushed up right against the wall because it would look jammed in. Chairs are usually positioned 3 feet from a wall, but with the banquet seating this does not need to be accounted for.
Oak Hardwood Flooring
The hardwood flooring is installed running from the front of the house to the back. The long planks accentuate the length of the house. Hardwood flooring is also a great choice because it is versatile, practical, and affordable. This site is finished with a 4 inch wide, ¾ inch thick red oak floor. At $8.00 per square foot, including installation and finishing, oak hardwood is a cost effective purchase. It will last for years and can be refinished or buffed every ten years at minimal cost.
Windows for Natural Light
The main floor of this house is flooded with natural light. The three large windows positioned along the side wall add to the light brought in by the large doors and windows on the back wall of the house. It is not always possible to incorporate windows along the side wall of a home.
When planning a renovation or new home, there are restrictions within the building code that must be considered. Proximity to the lot line is one of those considerations. Sometimes, we will purposely set a wall back by an additional foot or two if it makes side wall windows possible. Those windows make a narrow room feel much wider.
One element of many modern/contemporary home designs is the window corners. We often find a common feature where the windows will meet in the space. These corner windows create large windows within the room that allow for nice views.
With these nice views, comes the building challenge of insulating the corner windows well. If not insulated properly, homeowners could find that they become colder corners in the given space. There is a structural element to the corner; steel or wood columns fill the corner and provide limited space for insulation.
One of Walden’s experts, Rob Sidenberg explains how we've gone about solving this possible issue in this video.
It’s important to make sure that cold transfer is limited and that moisture will not be an issue. The structural steel column that supports the corner of the house and is sandwiched into the corner can get very cold, ultimately transferring to the interior. Our team must create a thermal break so that warm air inside does not meet the cold steel, which will create condensation and moisture problems on the interior on really cold winter days.
Small details are an important element that will go unnoticed once everything is completed, but will make for a much more comfortable home for our clients and perform better for many years to come.
Paying attention to these details during the installation process is such an important element that can oftentimes be overlooked. Paying attention to the small stuff, especially the things that get covered over and are unseen require a keen eye. Taking the time to get it right during installation takes longer and may cost more initially, but will always pay off.
Main floor living in a Toronto house traditionally consisted of a living room, dining room and kitchen. These were designed to function as formal spaces and divided rooms, which were designed and built for a much different lifestyle than many currently have.
Starting in the 1980s homes were renovated with an addition that added a fourth room, but still functioned as four separate, independent rooms.
In the 1990s kitchens and family rooms started to be unified into one space used for casual living. Houses still typically had a separate dining room and formal living room.
Gradually, lifestyles are getting less formal. The trend to less formal dining took hold and houses now are renovated or built new to include more open space, i.e. the increasingly popular open concept design.
This has evolved back to the three room concept, but rather than three separate, confined living spaces, we now have three open and connected areas that are well suited for casual, flexible living. Formal living rooms are no longer needed, which is why the trend has moved towards a much better version of the three living spaces.
This flexible living concept typically consist of a dining space for small groups of four to six, with the ability to accommodate 12 or more when needed; kitchens that offer space for new larger/oversized appliances; tons of storage and a vast amount of counter space. The beauty of a three living space lifestyle is that you’re living in what feels like a large home, but do not have to incur the cost to build, maintain, and heat/cool a large space. We can work with existing space and add only small additions versus, years ago when we would be adding 15 feet to the back of a house.
The 3D image above is the design of a new project we are currently working on for one of our clients located in Leslieville.
This project is a large-scale renovation with the family room being one of the key elements as the clients are a young family looking to stay in this home long-term.
The family room is a large room connected to an open kitchen that runs across the back wall of the house. It also consists of large windows and doors that bring in a lot of nice natural light. The overall room (kitchen and family room) is 40 feet long across the back wall of the house and just under 30 feet of this wall is all glass.
Below are the key design features we have included in this project:
Built-in niche with shelving to the left of fireplace
Built-in niche to the right of the fireplace for pictures and artwork
Lighting installed within the shelving to add a decorative element
Horizontal gas fireplace built on a raised hearth that will be clad in a natural stone
Our clients have two very young children so we have been working with our fireplace installer to create a custom screen that can be installed to prevent anyone from touching the glass
Flatscreen TV positioned above the fireplace that can be comfortably viewed throughout the large family room
Left wall of the room consists of wall panelling that is stained in walnut
The flooring is dark stained and wide plank (10 inch)
We really love the fresh contemporary look of this design; let us know what you think!
Many of Toronto's condos and lofts feature a wall of glass such as the photo above. In the past few years, contemporary design in new custom homes and renovation has grown increasingly popular. We are now finding large glass components, such as oversized glass doors, floor to ceiling windows and complete glass walls to be in many clients must-have list. These large spreads of glass are great for creating an open feeling; make for visual connection to the exterior and flooding the house with natural light.
Regrettably, there are challenges that come with implementing this trend. Engineering a home to allow for these features requires the use of more structural steel. Heating and cooling is also much more challenging. For both heat loss (during the winter) and heat gain (during the summer) these homes and building must be properly engineered to perform properly.
Our project team includes structural and mechanic engineers along with architects and designers that are experienced in working with these conditions. Performance and comfort are critical and making this work in residential application is a challenge. If you are interested in large walls of glass as part of your home renovation or new home design, we'd love to meet with you to talk about the possibilities.
We love adding interesting elements to every room in a house. The element is usually something that grabs attention and makes the room special. In this space, we are looking at the use of the fireplace as a dividing element between 2 spaces: living/family space and dining space. Note the flexibility of the open space. The clear views through the main floor allow for much desired natural light.
What we really like about this is the strong central element which is clad in a white ceasarstone, giving a stong, subtle, clean, modern effect. It is both light and not overpowering and the white surface on its own brightens the room. It takes up physical space but serves a real purpose.
This also works very nicely in a smaller home renovation or new custom home. The fireplace is see-through (double sided) and the warmth can be enjoyed throughout the house. Imagine using this year round, this winter especially with the cold weather. However cooler nights in the spring and fall are also great.
Gas fireplaces are convenient, easy to use and safe. Some of our clients with young children are concerned about the heat and should know that a gas fireplace, like any gas appliance needs to be well monitored. There are many options to explore when you are planning your renovation. Natural gas and other alternatives that do not require any venting.
Renovation Design Tip: Try and find a focal point or something special in every room. In this quick video, Bruce takes us into a master ensuite to look at the tiled "feature" wall.
You’ve always wanted a larger home, but you’re not ready to move. Your current home has so many memories attached to it that it’s hard to let them go. Instead, you have considered building a home addition, which seems like a great alternative to upgrading your home instead of moving. It is, but here are some considerations you should think about before starting work on that addition.
While you may be concerned about the cost of building an addition, you should remember that it’s less expensive than purchasing a new house. It’s also an option that provides extra value to your home if you ever do decide to sell.
This is a chance to create a space that is entirely yours. This can be exciting to some and overwhelming to other homeowners. The opportunity to create a space from scratch is exciting, and if you fall into the camp of overwhelmed homeowners you have nothing to fear! At Walden Homes, we can help you design your dream space and manage the choices we make every step of the way with our BuildSmart software.
Remember that building an addition requires additional research. Depending on where you live, you may need a building permit. If not, it’s always a good idea to inform your neighbours about your intention to build.
The Rest of Your Home
You need to consider how your addition will flow with the rest of your home. Are you building a main floor addition or adding a floor to your home? Keep in mind that main floor additions will result in lost yard space.
Another question to ask yourself is whether you will be living in your home for the duration of your renovation. Think about which rooms will be affected by the building of an addition and how this will disrupt your day-to-day. Will living in your home during the addition extend the renovation time?
Renovations truly come in all shapes and sizes. From the smaller renovations solely for cosmetic purposes, such as updating hardware, tile work and cabinetry in a kitchen, to much larger projects, such as creating a more open concept floor plan; each renovation project is completely unique, and up to the taste and style of the homeowners.
Many renovations are born out of necessity, while others just offer an update to a space, which once was a good fit, but is no longer able to meet your needs. What if, for example, the bungalow you once loved for its cozy feel is now just feeling cramped? Rather than move, why not head upstairs, and explore the idea of transitioning your bungalow or back split into a two-storey home.
A second storey renovation is a popular option for single storey homes which families may have outgrown, but would rather stay put and renovate rather than move. Though definitely a larger-scale home renovation, second storey additions can be one of the most rewarding and long-lasting renovations a home undergoes.
Building Up vs. Building Out
When looking to expand the size of one’s home, an addition to the existing home is often explored by adding a room to the front, side, or back of the home. By adding a room or two onto your existing floor plan, it may be able to suit your needs for that extra office, bedroom, or dining room. To drastically increase the size of your home, your best bet is to build up.
Ideal for bungalows and split-level homes, a second-storey addition essentially doubles the amount of living space available to you and your family. It would take quite a lot of surrounding property to double your living space by additions to existing floor plans otherwise. Plus, building out into your property decreases your opportunities for further renovations down the road, such as the addition of a pool!
Using Your Property Footprint
One huge benefit of building up into a second-storey is that you don’t need the extra surrounding property to increase the size of your home. Many of us enjoy our surrounding yard, or the privacy created by having a bit more room between our house and our neighbours. On the other hand, you may not have anywhere else to build, but up! Using the existing structure of the house, after structural inspections, gives you a clear starting point to where your second-storey renovation can grow from.
There are a lot of factors you must consider with a second storey addition. You will want your second-storey to look as though it was always intended to be part of your home, so taking the time to find the right design and floor plan is necessary. While there is already a large-scale renovation occurring at your home, you may also choose to take advantage of this construction site, and renovate the main floor of your home at the same time.
Structural requirements are essential during this renovation, and while the foundation and main floor walls are being taken into consideration for supporting the weight of your new addition, the time is now to speak up about getting the open concept main floor you have always wanted.
Building up can also mean a change to the design and purpose of your home as well. With a second-storey addition, bedrooms and private spaces can be moved upstairs, leaving the entire main floor accessible for family and friends. A partial second storey build can also create that second-storey balcony or patio space you have always wanted!
Building Up With Walden Homes
Adding a second storey can be like moving into a brand new home, without losing the neighbourhood and the home you still love! Very few other home renovations have the ability to essentially double the living space available for your family.
Unlike smaller renovations for design purposes, adding a second story requires extensive structural and architectural planning, not to mention properly equipping your new addition with electrical, plumbing, and insulation to create a seamless home experience for you and your family. A second-storey addition can seem like an overwhelming renovation with all that is involved.
If a second-storey addition is your dream, we can make it come true. We are experts in creating functional second storey spaces, and organizing large-scale renovations is our forte. With our proprietary BuildSmart technology, you have a seamless and transparent connection to your whole construction project, from start to finish. It’s just like a project manager, available on your mobile, tablet or desktop at any time.
We want you to love where you live. To see how we can get your second-storey renovation off the ground, contact us for a no-charge, no-commitment consultation.
Picking up from our last blog post, we are looking at a multi-use space that combines living, dining and kitchen. Open concept or flexible spaces combine functional spaces and allow for better use, while also aligning well with casual living.
The traditional layout in most homes in Toronto were originally built with formal dining and living spaces and closed off kitchens. These houses are being renovated to create more connectivity.
Today we are renovating and building new homes with a more casual lifestyle in mind.
So what if you don't want a modern house? Designing a flexible floor plan does not necessarily mean that your home has to be contemporary or modern. Traditional or transitional design detailing is often incorporated nicely. For example, like to home pictured here, your selection of materials can add warmth and texture.
Wide plank hardwood flooring
Dark wood stained kitchen island
Windows positioned just below the ceiling flood the room with natural light
One of our favorite topics to blog about is making smaller spaces live and feel bigger. The trick is to make the space you have become flexible and functional.
Looking at the room pictured here, the dining area connects to the kitchen and family room. The dining room table as shown can be increased in length when entertaining larger parties easily, so a table for 8 can become a table for 12. In a traditional dining room with fixed walls, this option is not really available.
There is space for the family room. Day to day seating for 5 or 6 is more than enough. But with guests, additional seating can be brought into the space and now you have seating for 10 or 12. This is only possible with flexible space.
The beauty of flexible design is that you do not need to have a huge house to have large functional rooms. Rather than building additional square footage, think about the option of flexible space. Your home many not need to be as big as you think.
Living room renovations are exciting because of the prevalence of open spaces. Living rooms often spill into kitchens and dining rooms so their styles should complement one another, rather than clash. Learn more about living room renovation and design here!
Do you want to spruce up your living room? Take a look at these homes to inspire your next living room renovation.
1. This contemporary living room keeps it simple, while still exuding class and style.
3. This collection of living spaces do the same thing well – they transition between living, dining, and kitchen spaces with ease. The rooms fit so well into one another that the switch between rooms is barely noticeable.
In neighbourhoods all around Toronto, we see dark colours on the exterior of new and renovated homes. Windows are finished in black or another dark tone. The windows that we installed in this home we renovated are a dark midnight blue.
The stucco we installed is a deep, very bold grey. The front door is frosted glass and very modern. What was once a very nondescript 1980's home is now a contemporary twist with some classical architectural elements [click here see before image].
Look around your neighbourhood and look for the dark exteriors. They are popping up more and more.
Taking advantage of dead spaces in your home is like finding gold. Yes, there is money in those dead spaces. With costs to build additions in Toronto running at $200 to $300 per square foot, you really want to make the most out of the space you already have.
This walk-in glass shower and storage niche got carved out of what was an unusable roof attic space. The shower which is part of the bathroom renovation is 3' deep and 4' wide. The storage cabinet sitting next to the shower will be used for towel storage.
Older homes in Toronto offer all kinds of opportunities for improving flow and overall use of space. Rather than just adding more square footage, lets make sure to maximize what space you already have.
Contact Walden to discuss how we can help you make the most out of your home.
Every family with 3 young kids needs somewhere to gather at various times of the day. The owners of this home that Walden Homes renovated in the Yonge & Lawrence area in Toronto opted for a large center island as the central hub for many activities. To keep schedules and other kid's activities organized, they included a large magnetic chaulk board.
Other features of this home that we love are the dark oak stained floors, wainscoting, French pocket doors to the dining room, paneled built-in fridge, main floor family room and fully underpinned basement.
Image caption: Yonge & Lawerence area kitchen renovation with large island, with seating for 5, includes a Ceacarstone countertop, 3 pendant light fixtures, oversized kitchen sink.
All stairs are designed to connect two different spaces. One floor of a house to another floor, or from the outside, a house made to the inside. Stairs are there to make a connection. Stairs should be comfortable, easy to climb. They should feel safe and solid and of course, they should look great. They should also connect in another way.
The materials used should link with other elements of their surrounding. In this renovated Leslievillle neighbourhood home, we used a solid white oak tread and riser. The floor is a beautifully polished concrete. The stairs lead us to large glass doors doors that open to a stone patio. The natural elements of the white oak set against the polished concrete and stone patio all blend in harmony. The connection has been made.
Here is a close up on the front of a home we renovated. Notice the contemporary home use of natural materials: stone wall facing, mahogany windows, copper on the roof and flashing and sandblasted glass as a rail for security, as well as privacy to the bedroom located at the front of the house. Glass has so many possible applications. The white panels on the lower sections are actually back painted glass. We love the look and functionality of glass as a building material.
When we meet with new clients they often send us photos of what they are looking for when planning for a renovation or new custom home. A client that we are currently working with is planning a large-scale renovation. They sent this picture (shown above) to illustrate what they envisioned when they said they like a simple and clean design for the interior.
Everyone visualizes something different. There is no question that the white-on- white with natural maple floors in this house is simple. The windows, door frames and baseboards are all painted into the walls using white making it very neat.
The railing is a brushed-steel design and finished with very clean lines.The wall sconces that are placed on either side of the staircase are the focal point of this area of the house.
Photo credit: Susan Teare Professional Photographer in Houzz.com
How does a fireplace fit in with a contemporary design? A fireplace is a classically desired feature amongst homeowners, but as newer builds are becoming more modern in design, it has been important to find a way to implement this feature well. We notice that more homeowners are excited about contemporary fireplaces, with the use of larger glass walls, as pictured above.
In these images, you will see a modern take on the family room fireplace. This design and layout is extremely popular and the fireplace fits nicely within the contemporary design
Notice how one of the examples above shows a fireplace positioned within a larger wall of glass. Fireplaces were traditionally placed on the outside wall in the living room. The rooms would be dark, more formal, less inviting, disconnected and not as used. These days, the family room is a more utilized space in the home and homeowners are actually using their fireplaces as opposed to just having them for appearance’s sake.
The combination of glass with a view to exterior and a simple, more modern linear style or contemporary finished fireplace set within the wall of glass allows for a focal point as well as a connection with the exterior.
This is a great set up for more contemporary modern family home, where one room has multiple uses and can accommodate the flexible and more casual lifestyle that homeowners in Toronto looking for.
With the Toronto weather we’ve been having it’s not hard to see why more and more people are finding comfort in the outdoor fireplace craze. Canadians crave summer like a dog craves a bone. We need our fresh air and if the weather won’t co-operate, well, we will find ways to make due!
Outdoor fireplaces are useful both in warmer seasons like the one we are meant to be having right now, and cooler seasons as well. We love the way an outdoor fireplace can enhance our chillier summer evenings.
Work on site can be physically demanding. But if you look closely at each of these images, you see our guys with their heads down, focusing on the work at hand. Often, our strong attention to detail means that we forget about how physically demanding the work on hand actually is. When we get into a project, a great renovator falls into the “zone”!
A design philosophy that we feel holds true: ” The best designs in the world are based on purpose and function. When a design solves a functional problem as simply and elegantly as possible, the resulting form will be honest and timeless.”
We are comparing the above: two different approaches taken in designing a bay window.
What these 2 bay windows have in common is that they are both cantilevered, meaning that they are built structurally in such a way that they do not require foundations for support. They appear to be hanging off the house.
They are also both square shaped. Both are built with a wood cladding for the exterior and will likely require maintenance over time. Both also have relatively large size hung style windows.
Essentially, they both have much in common.
Here are some of the differences.
Bay window A is designed in a more traditional style with panel details and crown moulding. Bay window B is more contemporary in style with horizontal wood siding, no trim detailing.
A is ground floor window and B is a 2nd floor window.
We like the B’s position over top of the main floor deck. The underside lights are a nice feature.
A has a nice 3 bracket detail on its underside, and it could also have some lights to illuminate the garage door below.
So which of these two bay windows do you prefer and why?
Mudrooms are great/functional area of any home. As many Toronto homes are narrow and long, the front entry can be tight/restrictive which can become challenging for families with young kids or homeowners with pets.
The side or rear entry mudroom (where possible) can be a big help. It provides space to organize and put storage for winter coats, boots etc. It is also useful for kids with school bags or sports equipment and any other type of gear they have. In addition, mudrooms are a great feature for homeowners with dogs, as they will help reduce the amount of dirt that is brought into the home.
Mudrooms now become the regular access/entry point. So do they have to be boring or non-descript?
We don’t think so. Mudrooms can be modern. The above is a perfect example of a modern mudroom. The flooring is a laminate hardwood, there is a bench for sitting and putting on shoes and boots. There is plenty of storage room below in 2 large pull out drawers. The stained wood paneling (grain running vertically on the cabinetry and horizontally on the wall) also offers a modern feel when combined with the large open windows that flood the space with natural light.
Traditional decor styles can easily be used in conjunction with contemporary styles, as proven in the above example. This washroom has been completed in a very aesthetically pleasing way, yet it is simple for a trained eye to detect the cross between traditional and contemporary.
The window, for example, is a traditional style but contrasts beautifully with the contemporary countertop banjo top and satin chrome finish of the faucet. While the material of the faucet is modern, the style of the faucet itself is more contemporary. The countertop offers plenty of space and is complimented by its nice cut off square edge.
The flat door cabinetry is 35% lacquer sheen, with a high-gloss, contemporary finish. Its dual hardware coordinates well with the faucets.
The pattern on the walls and tub are a horizontal grain, at about 12″ x 24″. They stack up beautifully, offering a modernized aesthetic, which again, contrasts with the traditional window.
The mirror is an inexpensive addition, set into the tile and works well with the backsplash.
How do you feel about transitioning two different aesthetics into one design?
Everyone has their idea of the perfect closet system. Most would have several, if not all, of the following features that can be found in the above example:
-Place for ties, belts, jewellery
-Place to charge electronic device
-Build in a small safe with enough room a centre island
-Lots of light, some natural light if possible is nice (concern about fading). Natural light for is better for seeing true colours
-Full length mirror
-A His side and a Hers side.
Where possible, make design in biggest possible closets – you can measure out the footage of hanging space you use now and determine how much you will need. This is always a really good starting point. Take out a measuring tape and see how much space you have and figure out how much you will need. You can do this for long hanging and double hanging. This is a good starting point that can then be incorporated into the overall design.
Closet costing: depending on the type of materials and systems that you use – cost will range from $55 to $200 per linear foot. So if you have a closet that is 8′ long you can budget $440 and up. A larger walk-in closet with 20′ of closet built-ins can cost $1,100 to $3,000 for more elaborate systems.
What other features would you include in the closet of your dreams?
Some of the most interesting rooms in a house can be found in unexpected places. This 3rd floor washroom was cut into the roof space. You can see how the roof line intersects with the walls, creating a sloped ceiling.
Dark floors work really nicely against that soft palette used for the walls, trim, cabinetry and countertop.
The key elements of this room are the window (skylight) that looks towards the back of the property, and the window set above the tub that looks to the side. These 2 elements allow breathing room in what is a very small space.
This bathroom was well designed to sit quietly into this unusual space. Working in older homes often requires making the most out of the space that you have.
Garage doors can really work to enhance the overall appeal of a home. Take a look at the above, a perfect example on how to keep it simple with coach style doors.
The coach style doors on the garage are painted in a slightly greyish coloured white, just enough to let them stand out from the white siding in the background. The details of the paneling on the garage doors is simple shaker panel. While these are really big doors on a huge garage, the overall feeling is understated.
We particularly like the nice 8″ flat trim around the doors . This, again, is a really nice detail on featuring the doors without over doing it.
The concrete driveway, lighting fixtures, the wood siding … all nicely coordinated and achieve the desired end result. Nice, clean and neat.
Thoughts? Do you prefer simple or more elaborate garage doors?
Houses situated low to the ground, the type when you are walking out of the rear or into the front of the house have some great advantages. Check out the example above.
Notice the direct connection between the interior and outdoor spaces. Here, the family room opens up with huge lift and slide doors, opening onto an easily accessible patio. This is great for families that love to entertain in the warmer months as well as those with dogs.
At Walden, we typically do not install wood decking when the house is so low to the ground. This offers the advantage of privacy as there is no overlook of neighbouring yards. In addition, wood decks require railings, stairs, etc. and are costly to maintain.
Safety advantages include the fact that fewer stairs mean entering and leaving the house is easier and more manageable for young kids and the elderly. There is no need to worry about slippery stairs in the winter.
There are some drawbacks though. The basements of homes like these are sunk deeper into the ground, so larger windows into the basement is difficult (without implementing deep window wells) and a walkout basement is not really an option.
What do you think of living lower to the ground? Yay or nay?
We love this style of design. Simple, clean and modern. However, while the end result may appear to be simple, the effort and attention to detail during the installation takes a very high level of workmanship. Well worth the effort, time and additional cost it takes to build something special.
Note the details that make this a great design:
- White 3″ overlap siding
-Grey windows and door that are aluminum clad – they are maintenance free.
-A minimalist exterior treatment. Windows designed with horizontal dividers (mullions) – consistent element in the windows and door.
-A horizontal flat 14″ band running over top of the main floor doors creates a necessary tie in with the roof detail of the small addition. The band also creates a sense of scale overall.
-Notice that there are no visible seams and joints. The installer took lots of care.
The end-result is a special, unique structure that is worth the extra time and care put into its construction. What do you think?