Winter can be a magical season. The snow falling, the Christmas lights, hot chocolate by the fire – it all seems very romantic on paper, doesn’t it? In reality, we know winter doesn’t always look the way it’s portrayed onscreen or on our holiday cards. After all, the bitter winds, slush, and snow shovelling does not make for a picturesque holiday card.
Cindy, the Interior Designer at Snap Design & Contracting, knows winter can be tough on all of us, so she thought about things she has done to make winter easier on her and her family. She decided to share her tips for surviving a long, brutal winter so you can find the picturesque part of your winter and enjoy it too!
1. Heat Your Home
Heating your home during the winter may sound like an obvious way to keep warm this winter, but there are different ways to warm up your home! Consider installing a fireplace if you don’t have one. There’s nothing more comforting in the winter than curling up next to the fireplace with a good book or a hot chocolate. If you don’t have the ability to vent your home properly, there are beautiful, modern alternatives to a wood-burning fireplace such as electric, ethanol, etc. You may also consider upgrading to a modern, programmable control for your home, like Nest. The Nest thermostat allows you to set the temperature from anywhere with your phone.
Another way to keep warm is through radiant heated floors. Electric and in-floor hot water options are not expensive to install if you are doing so before tile or during renovations. Besides, nothing feels as nice as heated floors when it’s snowing and blowing outside. These are a great addition in the bathroom to make getting out of a warm shower easier. Another way to get you to stop dreading that moment when you have to leave your warm shower is installing a heated towel bar. This does require a hot water connection and can be taken into consideration when you are renovating the bathroom.
2. Light Up Your Home
It’s not just the cold that chills us in the winter – it’s the lack of light. We all know that lighting affects our mood. Winter is always darker, so we have to make sure we’re lighting our home for maximum effect. Some ways to do that include:
· Candles: Add romance on those dark evenings with candles
· Dimmers: Dimmers create an ambiance to any room – and they’re easy to install!
· String of Lights: A simple string of lights can emphasize a dim space in your home and are available on a battery-operated timer. I use them on floating shelves & love them!
· Landscape Lighting: On those cold nights you don’t want to go out, you can savour the winter from inside with landscape lighting around your property
3. Get Cozy
Once the cold weather sets in, all you want to do is snuggle up and get cozy. Throws add warmth and texture to a room, whether they’re faux fur or low-hair throws, use them to stay warm as well as add colour and interest to the room. Have slippers ready for yourself and guests for the walk between the front door and those throws!
Here’s where you can start to recreate that picturesque portrait of the winter season. Use winter scents to create affection for the season. Play soft tunes to meld with the quiet after a snowfall. Warm up with some mulled drinks, like apple cider or mulled wine, after some time outside.
4. Add Colour
This season may be colourless, but it doesn’t mean your home has to be! You can add some colour to uplift your spirits. Punch up the season with intensity and drama in pictures. Use flowers to add colour, scent, and the reminiscence of spring. Use fruit like pomegranates, cranberries, and apples to add texture and colour to a winter centrepiece. Use throws and accent pillows to add a splash of colour to your space. Even if winter is grey and bleak, remember that your home doesn’t have to be.
Winter may be cold, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. Have guests over for dinner to celebrate winter cheer. Plan outdoor activities – and we don’t mean shovelling snow – with friends. Do something fun like skating or snowshoeing (I just bought snowshoes and can’t wait to break them in)! Once you’ve had enough of the cold, invite everyone back for a warm drink by the fire. You’ll appreciate winter a little more after having some fun.
6. Prepare for Winter Conditions
No matter how hard you wish it away with colour, cozying up, or some fun – winter is here to stay and you should prepare for winter conditions. Don’t overlook doormats. You could still be creative with them! Instead of the regular dark, hefty mat, try one that is made from recycled materials, making it a lighter, colourful, beautiful piece. Organize your winter gear, especially shovels and brooms so they are handy to reach in a snowstorm.
Planning and finishing basements are part of the work that we do in renovating or building new homes.
Besides the living, storage and functional space that a basement provides, most of the important house systems can be found in the basement.
What we mean by "systems" are things like waterproofing, sanitary drains, a back-flow preventer, the electrical panel, the water shut off, a sump pump, a furnace or boiler, the hot water tank, the foundations, window wells, the radiant heating manifold, an HRV, humidification, air cleaner, the alarm control panel and others. Then there are bulkheads, bench footings, floor drains and other components to think about.
Planning your new home renovation or new custom home requires an understanding of these systems and how they impact the house in general, as well as the basement specifically.
As project managers, we work with architects, designers, engineering and various specialty contractors to make sure that all the components work together cohesively. Getting the systems right and positioned out of the way allows you to enjoy the comfort of a well-designed basement.
Benita and Vincent are both busy professionals raising a young family.
They lived in their bungalow for five years before deciding to renovate. When they finally made that choice, they came to Walden Homes to look after the complete design build for their bungalow. We developed a 3D graphic for the design of their home, a home which we are now in the process of developing.
They wanted their home to reflect a transitional style, with more space and an exciting exterior design.
The exterior was very important to them.
We came up with a roofline with open gables and simple, common forms. These forms contrasted with the horizontal elements seen in many contemporary designs. The wooden screen at the front entry also added some privacy with a modern twist.
The bungalow occupied a fairly large footprint and did not require a main floor addition. This Willowdale home was a good size. Only a small bump at the front was extended for a squared off bay window.
The large footprint of the home allows for a large open concept kitchen and family room in the rear of the house, equipped with a huge island. There is a mudroom accessible off the driveway, and an open concept dining/living space at the front of the house.
The second floor adds tons of storage throughout the house as well as 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a laundry room.
The original garage had some structural issues, so it was rebuilt to provide a solid base for the second floor addition. The main house was built well and because of its large footing and good overall structure, this house lent itself to a top up.
With all the extra space created in his home, the basement will be left unfinished and revisited at a later time.
Benita and Vincent stop in regularly to see the progress of their bungalow. With their home nearing completion, they are excited about the changes they are seeing.
For 27 years, Glenn drove up to a two-storey red brick house onto a beige interlocking driveway in front of his blue garage door.
He pulled into the driveway after work, walked up the front steps, entered through the double doors, and knew he was home.
It’s been ten months and Glenn still has a difficult time recognizing his own house.
His eyesight has not changed.
He’s lived in the same house with his wife Carol since 1987. Driving by his home on his daily commute from work has become a regular occurrence. It still feels strange to Glenn.
Did the recent renovation to his home cause Glenn to lose his memory?
Since the renovation, the visual is completely different. The home that used to blend into the Bayview-York Mills neighbourhood now stands out. Neighbours stop by or slow down to admire the changes.
It’s not surprising that it’s taken some time for Glenn to get used to it – the house was completely rebuilt from the interior out.
The exterior of the house was redesigned and rebuilt. The main roof was left intact, but windows were added that extended up and through the roofline. This contemporary detail changed the roofline.
The old roof above the garage was removed and a new flat roof was installed.
The exterior experienced an entire transformation.
The red brick was replaced with a natural stone, dark stucco, and mahogany wood siding. The windows were replaced and architecturally designed to suit the new exterior. The window fixtures were even painted midnight blue to match the tone of the rest of the house.
The facelift of the home’s exterior alongside extensive landscaping in the front and rear yard gave the home an entirely different atmosphere.
Inside, no additions were needed.
The home had ample space, but it was not used very well. The front entry, for example, was an awkward space. It was tall, narrow, and completely out of proportion.
The interior was gutted and completely reorganized to make the most of their space. The kitchen was enlarged and connected to an open concept family room, while the formal living room was made smaller. The home was gutted top-to-bottom.
It’s a brand new home, that is, without the price tag of a new home.
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.
At Walden Homes, we value transparency. It is an integral part of our renovation process. To build your dream home, you must be able to trust strangers with your home and vision. You have to be confident that they will make the best and most informed decisions based on your plan and your individual needs.
How is our process transparent?
We allow homeowners to have control and flexibility in their project. Our method is simple: you can make changes, decisions, or simply monitor the process right from your iPad.
Don’t have an iPad? Well, we provide you with a complimentary one with our PlanSmart software already installed. The app lets you monitor your projects from anywhere you are, that way you aren’t tied to your house while your renovation is taking place. Escape to the cottage, run your errands, visit your friends – you can check back in anytime from anywhere.
How transparent are we?
Unlike in this video, don’t expect an iPad you can see through, but we do provide you with as much transparency as possible in the process of renovating your home, from sending comments, asking questions, checking the budget, exploring choices for countertops and looking at photos, every day, at anytime and anywhere. And this, we find to make a true difference in our client’s satisfaction.
If you would like to arrange a demo of our PlanSmart app or have any questions, please contact Bruce or Danny at Walden Homes.
Bruce Borden: "I wanted to complete our series of articles on third floor additions with a different point of view. We have talked about the considerations, uses, and benefits of the third floor addition. We have asked the experts. The next question to tackle is, what does the homeowner think of the third floor?
I asked my wife, Catherine Himelfarb Borden, Managing Partner the Yorkville branch of Forest Hill Real Estate Inc. for her thoughts about third floors. Cathy's has over 20 years of experience in the luxury real estate market in Toronto."
This is what Cathy had to say about third floors:
Cathy Himelfarb Borden: "Our clients really appreciate well-conceived third floor spaces when searching for their dream home. Working within the confines of the walls allows one to create extra and necessary rooms while maintaining the property’s original integrity.
Many older properties boast high and grand attics that are under-utilized. By finishing these properties properly, homeowners may be able to build much needed extra bedrooms, home offices, guest rooms or entertainment rooms. For our clientele with teenage children, third floors are often converted to luxurious master suites and serve as a retreat for the adults in the family.
On the flip side, families with young children often would like everyone to have bedrooms on the same floor. In these situations, the third floor additions may be postponed until the day when the space is needed for a growing family, or be used as home offices or guest rooms for out of town visitors.
As for new construction, the necessity of a third floor really depends on the individual needs of the home owner. Whenever we deal with buyers considering building a new home, we recommend that they consult with a builder during their search so that they purchase the right lot for them. These perimeters are the key elements used to narrow and distinguish which properties best meet their needs.
In short, third floor additions are a fabulous way to add space to a home and add value to a property by making it more appealing to buyers due to the possibilities for their use."
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.
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.
Kitchen seating requirements are central to main floor design when renovating, building new, or designing an addition. Cindy is a partner with Snap Design + Contracting.
Bruce and Cindy discuss the importance of kitchen design and seating.
An interview with Cindy VanRyn, interior designer for CVR Designs. Cindy is a partner with Walden Homes in Snap Design & Contracting. Snap makes kitchen, bathroom and interior renovations easy.
Cindy has worked with Bruce Borden and Walden Homes for seventeen years. Bruce has been renovating and building new homes with his company Walden Homes, for twenty five years.
The following is an edited transcription of the interview
Hi Cindy! How's your day going?
Things are terrific. Very excited about the new projects we're working on together!
Yeah, things are really good. Snap Design & Contacting is getting going, so I'm pretty excited about that. We've got a bunch of interesting client projects underway. So all in all, things are really good.
Why don't we get started with our interview? I want to discuss kitchen layout with you. Specifically how kitchen seating requirements are central to main floor design when renovating, doing an addition or building new.
Sounds good to me.
Cindy, we can draw from both our own personal experiences as well as our clients’. Let's look at the options and the benefits of the different ways that kitchen and eating areas are designed. Let’s get this started by talking about your own home. What setup do you have at your house? How it works, or doesn't. Let’s start there.
Sure. In my house, I have a kitchen and dining room that are open to each other. They are set up as two separate rooms, but they’re all within one larger space. They’re open to each other. I don’t have an island with stools. We sit at the table. So even without the island, when I'm in the kitchen preparing meals, discussions and conversations can continue while people are still sitting or standing around the table.
I think the big advantage to that is that you’re using more of the overall space for kitchen by having it open to a dining area. Having this flexible dining space, gives you a bigger combined space than you would have individually. Imagine that you had a closed-off kitchen and then a closed-off dining room, you'd wind up with a much small kitchen as well as a smaller dining area. At least they would feel much smaller.
Right, now, as it is, I have a bigger kitchen than I would otherwise and a bigger dining space. We're getting more flexibility by give up a bit of separation between the two areas.
But I think that’s a good trade-off, isn’t it?
It is. I mean, the kitchen’s the hub of the home. No one wants to be isolated while they’re preparing a meal or in the kitchen. So, whether the kids are doing their homework or grabbing a snack or actually eating a meal, family members tend to congregate there and it’s really nice this way.
When we look at kitchen design with a client, and seating specifically, the functionality is one of the considerations that we focus in on. The other is the amount of space - what do we have to work with? In a smaller home, having one, two or even three seating areas is not uncommon – three seating areas would be a formal dining space, a small breakfast nook or a small bump-out at the back of some houses.
I mean, there are probably some people who still want that, but certainly today, we see that this type of redundancy is as a waste. Instead of multiple tables and seating areas, many homeowners prefer to have an island with four or five stools that are used day-to-day and an open dining space that can seat eight or ten. It is much more casual. You get bigger spaces.
Yes, definitely. I mean, homes are much more open-concept than they used to be, which makes larger, more interactive rooms than they were years ago.
Yes I agree. I know that in my own house, I have an unusually shaped kitchen. Our kitchen is a square. Kitchens are usually rectangular. So, I’ve got a big oversized nearly square island that is 8' x 10' with seating for eight people. So, four on one side and four on the other. Cathy and I use the island day-to-day. The kitchen has a large open entry to an open dining area that is somewhat more formal. Our dining table will seat anywhere from eight to 16 people, depending on how much we extend the table. In our case, we gave up the separate breakfast area for a bigger island.
I think that we see that a lot with a lot of our clients. They don’t really need the three seating spaces. Two seems to work really well.
Photo Credit: Ownby Design
Cathy and I have four grown children who don’t live at home, they come and go. Most of the time it’s just Cathy and I. There are times where we’ll have one or two of the kids or sometimes they’re there with friends. We use our island all the time. The best part is that it doesn’t feel empty when it’s just the two of us. We can easily accommodate eight or ten around it, which is nice. The flexibility is great. Then, when we are entertaining, we wind up using the dining space. So, that’s pretty handy.
Another option that we’ve seen with clients, and which I don’t discount, are separate breakfast areas. A seating space with a smaller table for four or six, at the back of the kitchen. It could be set into a bay window. Or incorporate a banquette. You know, those are also nice. Cindy, would you agree that overall, things are definitely more casual than they were when we started doing this 20 plus years ago?
Yes, they definitely are. I mean, I have a client who has a formal dining room and I was looking for a buffet for her. I was having a really difficult time finding a formal buffet, because the majority of new homes and renovations with more interactive kitchens don’t have formal dining rooms. They’re either eating at a breakfast table or on their islands and foregoing the formality and having a large great room, instead of a separate traditional dining room. So, even finding furniture for a formal dining room is difficult these days.
I guess the option would be to go to something custom, which winds up getting more costly. But the market has definitely shifted. I know for a fact that we used to build with these four spaces – formal living, formal dining, kitchen and family room. Now, it’s much more likely to be three spaces, or sometimes even two. As a result you’ve got big spaces that are designed for flexible use and seating. So seating is central part of how everything is planned. It’s something that people need to think about early on, because that will dictate a lot of how things get laid out.
Photo Credit: Brookfield Residential Colorado
I'm currently working on a main floor rebuild renovation where the kitchen is being repositioned along the back wall of the house, which is a bit different. We’re using a nice sized island with stools for four and then an informal or casual dining space that’s within the large kitchen/living space. Now, the beauty of having the kitchen at the back, is that the sink has a 10- or 12-foot window facing the back yard. The whole back yard is visually open to the kitchen, which is really nice.
Do you think that defining the seating scheme and how a client and their family will use and live within the space - whether a breakfast area or an island or a dining room or some combination - is an important starting point?
Yes, that’s true. A bit earlier you mentioned banquettes. I'm still doing a lot of banquettes, because they save space and they’re also very comfortable and interesting in a layout.
A banquette can be used like a casual dining room as well, not just a kitchen.
They’re real space-savers and you get storage in them and that kind of thing. So, they’re an interesting alternative.
Is there anything else about seating or eating areas that you want to talk about?
I would just mention outdoor eating as well. A lot of people have decks and as soon as the weather gets better, they’re eating outside. They’re barbecuing. They’re eating on their decks. We like to include French doors or sliding doors out to the back yard. You know, they really bring outdoors in as part of the interior space.
Well, that’s true. You know we can now call the outdoors eating/seating space the third or the fourth eating area. I guess, in your case, it would be the second. Do you use the outdoor eating area often?
Always in the good weather, yes.
Is it out on an elevated deck or on a patio on grade?
It’s out on a stone deck, a stone patio. We use it all the time. Again, barbecuing, entertaining, you’re playing in the back yard. Everyone can be there together enjoying the weather.
You know, for us, we have a kitchen that walks right out onto grade. We open the doors and walk right out to a patio where we have a table set up. It can't be any more convenient. But we don’t really use the table much for eating. We’re out there a lot and we sit around our pool, but our kitchen opens up with a 12-foot sliding door, but we find that it’s so much easier and more comfortable to eat inside. We always have the doors opened, screens closed. It feels like we’re outdoors.
I guess that best of both It would be to have some coverage so you’ve got a table and all that, with a coverage. So you have a combination of both. That would be nice.
We’re doing, a new home design now that has outdoor eating and seating as a central element. The eating area and the barbecue area are covered, so that the owners will be able to use that with heaters for an extended period of time. They're not as weather-dependent.
Anything else that you can think of that we haven’t talked about?
One thing that relates is the unspoken taboo, the television. Unfortunately, we do sometimes eat in front of the TV, so that, again, can be, for some families, a critical component of the eating area.
Well, that’s true.
Even at breakfast, if you want to watch the news or, you know, television.
That’s a good point. Where and how the TV gets placed is important for some clients.
I know we’ve done an island, that have incorporated, not on the surface, but with an upright panel at the end of the island where the TV gets mounted. That was one of the more unusual ones I could think of. In most other cases, we just want the orientation of the island, for example, facing the TV then, I guess, you can also think of adding a small TV somewhere into the kitchen itself.
You do see that more often, yes.
One last part of seating in the kitchen would be a desk or an organizing area. Oftentimes, there’s a stool or a chair or a seating space incorporated within a kitchen for that function.
Yes. Or for a laptop computer. Again, because the kitchen is such a central part of living. We’re all on our social media and Internet and things that you do need a desk. Your mail and items like that – it’s pretty critical to have that in a kitchen as well.
I agree. And the other thing is – you had mentioned this before – kids and homework. We see clients using kitchen seating areas almost like a desk. The island, or the kitchen table or even in your case, the communal dining area, all of these now become a place for the kids to do homework. Homework is one of the things I know that clients are always thinking about as well.
Definitely, because homework is such a constant with a younger family. In my family, it was usually done while I was preparing a meal, the dinner. So, it needs to be accessible to where meals are being prepared.
That’s another reason that the open concept idea is so popular right now.
All right. Cindy, I think we’ve covered this topic. I am going to end the interview here. But thanks for doing this with me today!
First off, what’s the difference? In a tear down, the existing house on a lot is taken down completely. This means the roof, the walls, the floors, and the foundation are completely removed. There is nothing left of the existing home.
In a gut, the house is stripped to the outside walls. Even the most complete gut retains some element of the existing side walls and the foundation walls are maintained. Often, some percentage of the existing walls are maintained. What stays and what goes depends on the exact nature of the renovation.
Even knowing this information, many homeowners are still unsure which route is best for them. Unfortunately, there is no single right or wrong answer to this question. Reasons to follow one route over the other will depend on each particular situation.
While there is no straightforward way to say one route is better than the other, we can explore some of the thinking that goes into making the decision or needs of the homeowners.
Considering the cost
In most cases, a tear down will cost more than a complete gut. The difference in cost varies depending on how much additional square footage is added to the existing home to make it larger. In the long run, things balance out as tear downs are usually worth more when completed than the gut. You are spending more initially to build a home that will be worth more.
What changes do you want to make?
Tear downs usually allow for more flexibility in the overall architecture. The house can be set on the lot based on your needs. It can be lowered to the ground or elevated to allow for more basement height. It can be moved forward or slightly back to take advantage of the grading or other property aspects.
A new home has benefits in allowing for more changes to the space. A new home’s basement is usually upgraded, allowing for more height and better windows. In addition, including a garage in a new home is usually easier than it would be in a gut.
On the other hand, a gut can sometimes allow for flexibility in a different way. The house can take advantage of existing non-conforming elements. For example, leaving side walls permits a house to be wider in some cases. This is an advantage on narrow properties.
Neighbours often find complete tear downs to be more disruptive than complete guts. Most large scale renovations or re-builds require committee approval. At times, in can be easier to get neighbours on your side when the house is not getting completely torn down. The perception is that building a new home will be more disruptive.
Some homeowners want to maintain the original architecture of a home. They want a house that will fit in within the neighbourhood. In these cases, a gut would be the better route. New homes do tend to stand out amongst a street lined with older homes. If maintaining harmony is important, the gut would be the better option.
Have you made a decision?
These are just some of the considerations that need to be thought through before making a decision. We can help you explore these two options to find the best approach to suit your particular needs.
Tear down or gut renovation? Let us know which you’re leaning toward and we’ll help you make the right decision!
As you enter different stages of your life, you have different needs from your home. Instead of moving and finding a home that suits those needs you can make your home work for you by renovating.
As you have children, you need more space – more bedrooms, more bathrooms, and more storage.
As your kids leave the house, you may consider downsizing or finding the right size for your home. You need less space and the focus of your home changes.
Not Everyone Wants to Move to a Condo
While some homeowners decide to move to a condo once their children have moved out, often homeowners don’t want to give up homeownership and opt for renovating their homes rather than condo living.
The alternative to a condo is redesigning your home to take on a different tone than the traditional idea of renovating to suit family living.
Those in their early life stages are geared toward getting enough space for their bathrooms, their bedrooms, kid’s toys, storage for sports equipment, and friends. Comfort features are a key element.
Condo Alternative Living
Instead of purchasing condos, people are renovating their bungalows for living one floor. The main floor has a large kitchen, entertaining space, bedroom, and ensuite, while the basement is fully furnished with all the comfort features like floor radiant heating, full-height ceilings, home theatres, gyms, and spas.
A typical home on a 25 to 30 foot wide lot in central Toronto will be gutted and 1,800 square feet of space will be used on two floors to suit their needs. They can include customized elements like 2 bedrooms on the second floor, large walk-in closets, an office, or a guest suite with an ensuite bathroom.
Condo alternative homes are forgoing the typical renovate for resale attitude and redesigning for their particular needs instead. They’re not worried about the resale factor; they’re more concerned about staying for the long term.
We have also seen clients turn their homes into a duplex so they can keep one floor of their home and rent out the others to provide income from the property. This allows for the best of both worlds, where they can have high-end features in their unit paired with an additional income allowing for ownership.
There are also a number of older mansions or churches being converted into condo type units, but forgoing the vertical home lifestyle. They still have the feel of living in a residential home, even if there is more than one family occupying the property.
However you approach the situation, renovation is a lifecycle tool that can be used to create a living environment that makes sense for you. Renovating a home in Toronto as an alternative to living in a condo is becoming more and more common.
Are you in love with this custom kitchen design like we are? Designs like this one always inspire our work and we love to point out key elements so they can help inspire and inform your renovation dreams.
Our team of experts dissect this design from top to bottom:
Waterfall edge on the island.
Countertop and backsplash is a Calcutta Marble.
The cabinetry is stained a rich maple brown that contrasts with the white/light colours of countertop and floor.
The elongated cylindrical fixtures over the island not only provide lighting, but also fill the space without crowding it.
The built-in wall ovens tucked into the corner are well positioned and frame the kitchen. The kitchen has a very quiet, subtle feeling to it.
The drop in counter top gas cooking range is not overpowering and very complementary to the space.
The island is 36 inches wide and 12 inches long and is the central element in the overall design (can’t you just imagine the family and friends gathering and collecting around this space).
Two sinks have been added to this kitchen design. One small sink has been placed on the main cabinet wall for preparing and cutting, with the main sink being centered on the island. This creates two separate work areas in the kitchen and makes the space function even larger.
Concealed kitchen venting hood set included in the cabinetry that is simple and clean looking as well as an exterior mounted blower for the fan that is quiet and powerful.
The island stools are a great feature that would definitely be used and look nice and comfortable.
The built-in seating below the window is a great place to sit, sip your cup of coffee and enjoy the view to the backyard.
Any other elements and/or features jump out at you? Please share your thoughts with us!
We are thrilled with our latest kitchen transformation. Our clients purchased the house because of its many great qualities, but the kitchen, unfortunately, was not one of them.
The existing kitchen had limited and difficult-to-use counter space. The appliances were oddly placed and the cabinetry aesthetics were out of date and did not keep up with the noticeable quality in other areas of the house.
Shortly after our client purchased the home, we began to work with our kitchen designer and cabinet builder to create a with new layout that made much better use of the existing space. The day that our clients closed on the home, our crew was able to begin with the kitchen renovation. We completely gutted the kitchen and the plan unfolded as follows:
The appliances were repositioned and are now easily accessed.
This kitchen transformation was planned & completed on a compressed schedule, allowing our clients to move in without the inconvenience of living through a renovation. For ideas on how you to plan your kitchen transformation, contact us for a free consultation.
With double pocket doors, you get the best of both worlds, the design world's version of having your cake and eating it too. You get an open concept connection between 2 spaces while at the same time providing an option of privacy or seperation.
The double pocket door opening width can range from 5' up to 8'. The doors slide into the wall cavity. The big advantage is that the doors do not take up space within either room.
The door style itself can range to suit any style house or design treatment. The glass french doors pictured above allow for a visual connection even with the doors are closed. They are also useful for sound control when needed from time to time.
Double pocket doors are a great option for when a full open concept does not suit your lifestyle.
Check out this photo of one of our electricians working with an appliance installer on site earlier this week. They are currently in the middle of installing the cooktop and pop up vent into a new kitchen. This type of vent unit will drop down into the countertop and disappear when not in use. It is useful in this application, as it is installed into an open backed section of the kitchen.
Speaking of kitchens, take a look at this great Kitchens of the Future video we love.