Open Sesame

One of the add-ons that we did was to open the doorway between the kitchen and dining room.

Originally I had wanted to keep the french door that separated these rooms.  I felt that it would make the living room with the fireplace more cozy and warm. But the french door did not go with the look of the rest of the house. Everything is a bit more modern with Continue reading

Let’s Check in…

I was feeling a bit nostalgic today with all the big changes I saw at the condo this week. I went back to my original post and looked at my “must have” list. Wow, things have changed. Let’s take a look.

Our Must Haves:

  1. Open concept kitchen with an island √
  2. Replace the hardwood floors throughout √
  3. Expand to two full bathrooms √
  4. Have a great play area for the kids
  5. Update the design to suit us  √

We are slowly but surely ticking things off our list. We haven’t decided completely about the kids play area yet, but we are looking into a few storage options. Stay tuned for a post about their bedroom and playroom. The girls are very excited about it.

But what else has spiralled out of adding a bathroom and tearing out the kitchen?

Our new additions:

  1. Open the stairwell to let in light
  2. Change the glass to a floating glass system throughout the stairwell
  3. Change the glass on the loft balcony to match the stairwell
  4. Add new lighting throughout the house/add recessed lighting ceilings
  5. Add heated floors
  6. Add a workstation for homework and crafts and adult work at home days
  7. Add organizational systems to the closets downstairs
  8. Open up/widen the doorway between the kitchen and living room
  9. Add AV and electrical to make it a “smart home” since the walls are already open
  10. Paint everything!

I always heard that a reno is more like a living organism than a static project but now that I reflect on it, it is really clear.

Demolition day!

The day we have been waiting for!

I can’t believe how much pre-work has to go into planning a renovation on your own home. First finding the right people (that part was easy – Amber and Billy are second to none). Then applying for strata approval. In our case we had to apply to a residential and a commercial strata – fun times. Then after the strata gives approval, the city application is due.  So many steps. Luckily, my team did all the work in writing and securing the applications and proposed plans. That was a welcome surprise. I thought I would be dealing with the approval process.

Then just when you have conditional approval from all parties, you need to wait for the city inspector to come. That was actually the longest part for us.  The city was amazing in getting us the building plans within 24 hours, then getting the application approved within a week – big shout out to Vancouver City Hall!  Things were moving along at a good clip. Then we were told the inspector would come in the next week. I was flabbergasted. Where were all the horror stories of delays and crotchety people who won’t even look up from their papers? Then we waited for the call for the confirmed time for inspection and… it never came.  We waited and waited and called and waited and tried to be polite, and then after 2.5 weeks, the inspector came and gave his stamp of approval.  Yeah!! We can start tearing this place apart!

It feels so good to know we can do the reno we want to do. I did have a lot of worries that either the strata or the city would say no.  It is a big deal to core into the cement floor and the ceiling of the business downstairs, but everyone said yes. Someone is looking out for us for sure 🙂

Positive thinking

Positive thinking

So Billy got the good news on a Friday night and got his crew ready over the weekend and was ready to rock and roll on Monday. They didn’t waste a minute and had the place wiped clean in just 2 days. It was time consuming and needed a lot of planning during the days to get it done right and within the regulations. There is a yoga studio below us and apparently jack hammering interferes with savasana and ujjayi etc… Who knew Yoga. So Billy was only allowed to jackhammer for 15 min every hour. Not disruptive at all.

But with the crew’s hard work and determination. It was done.  We were cleared to come look at it now that all safety concerns were out-of-the-way. And here it is. I can’t honestly say that my first thought when I walked into the space wasn’t “OMG, what have we done!” But after the first few seconds of panic, we were so excited to see the clean slate and get ready for the next step.  Bring it on!

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The kitchen

This is my dream. A chef’s kitchen. Not that I am a chef, but I love to cook and entertain. And that is really hard to do in a closed off galley kitchen. It’s one of the reasons we finally decided to stop renting and look for a place to buy.  The kitchen and bathroom were always going to be deal breakers for us. At first, we only wanted to look at places that had a finished kitchen. We looked at some really cool ones too, but they always had a hamartia. The best one we saw had 2 full fridges, 2 dishwashers and infinite storage. The fatal flaw – an itsy-bitsy oven. Not even a small cookie sheet would fit in it. How are we supposed to have our annual Christmas misfits’ turkey dinner with an oven like that? So we decided we needed to find a kitchen that needed updating and we could make our own. Our new condo is just that. Great space, but could use an update. We ran the idea past the previous owners and funny enough, they had wanted to do the same thing but just hadn’t gotten around to it. No one likes to live through a complete kitchen reno it seems.

We have big ideas for our kitchen. We want to flip it on its head. Here are the before pictures:


Side view

Front view

Front view

It’s totally livable, but after cooking in a galley kitchen for 10 years, I really want to open it up.  I want an island, I want to stop bumping into another human every time I open the fridge or the dishwasher and I want my gas stove back.

I also very much dislike track lighting. Always have, always will. I want to smooth out the ceilings and put in recessed lighting. Just small adjustments 🙂

Here is what we are thinking of transforming it into. Click the link immediately below to look at Amber’s rendering from Mak Interiors (she is also an amazing artist it seems).

Kitchen Sketch

Amber’s design has all the cabinets coming flush around the corner of the kitchen (2/3rds of the previous U/C kitchen design).  The peninsula will be gone and a large island will run parallel with the long row of cabinets and extend into the windowed area. This has the advantage of more storage and counter space as well as tying in the space in the corner that we couldn’t figure out what to do with. It’s too small for a banquet with the post there and it’s too big to let it be empty space.  In the end it is going to be a work station for the kids to do homework or us to do work work while the other is cooking or baking. Hopefully this setup will let us spend more time as a family as the kids get older. It also lets us actually entertain our guests while we are getting ready for one of our big meals. This is the thing I am most excited about!

The new lower cabinets will have large drawers and a magic corner (I hate my non-useable corners now). The uppers will have sliding doors (very cool throwback). We are thinking glossy white for the upper cabinets and bright blue for the lowers and the tall cabinets at the end. We are going to use grey granite on all the counters. The tall cabinets closest to the windows will have a bunch of fun features that I hope will be used as much as I expect right now. It will have an appliance hutch with a pullout shelf for our blender and toaster and other small appliances. This keeps them out of site with less clutter but still very accessible as “we use them every day“. The side of the cabinet will also have a space for platters and cookie sheets. Very functional, right now they are all on the bottom of the back of our non-usable cupboard. All of this customizable cabinetry will be done by Billy’s crew. I can’t wait to see it in person.

The appliances are the next step. The owners had just purchased a new fridge and dishwasher. So those we didn’t need. The fridge looks awesome. It has an actual working water tap and ice machine (unlike what was supposed to be in our current rental).  Little joys.

Here is the fridge:


We do need a new range though. Right now there is a full gas slide-in range but the burners are on the blink and I don’t trust gas to cook turkeys and other casseroles or cookies; actually almost anything. So since we are changing the peninsula into an island, we are going to change the range as well. We really struggled over getting a 30″ or 36″ since we get to start the kitchen with a clean slate. I would love to have 6 burners or even 4 burners and a griddle but do we really need that much cooking space. I want a duel fuel range, so our options are pretty limited. We went to the showroom and tested out a bunch of ranges. I really liked the Wolf range, but it may just be for the red buttons – don’t judge me. Actually, I need the red buttons – they match my kitchen plans and… I love red! After much discussion we decided the 36″ range would overpower our kitchen. We would lose much-needed counter space and cupboard space for the sake of 3-4 big family and friends’ cooking adventures per year that would need the 6 burners. I can always buy the big iron griddle to put over two burners if I really need it for Shrove Tuesday or saturday mornings.

Here’s a picture of the range we want. My only nagging thought is that Miele is coming out with a new range in the spring that sounds really fantastic. But timelines always change and I don’t want to move into our new house sans oven.

Wolf Range

Amber also found this amazing red faucet to bring in more red accents. It totally goes with our midcentury style and it’s red. How can you not love it. It’s from a great store called Vola. It will be perfect with the under-mounted, oversized sink. The only worry is that by changing the position of the sink that the plumbing must be cored under the concrete floor to get it to the island instead of coming straight out of the wall into the peninsula. This is going to be the tricky part, but I have faith in my team. Go Billy and Amber!

Vola Faucet in Cherry Red!

Vola Faucet in Cherry Red!

Our biggest splurge though is getting a built-in fully plumbed coffee machine. We drink tonnes of coffee and we are always running late to work. This is going to be a God-send.  This Miele machine has something like 20 different personalized drink options that can be ready on a timer in the morning. I am so excited!

Miele Built in Coffee

So hopefully, everything goes as planned. It’s a big transformation and anything can happen when you have to change plumbing.  The next step is to tear up the hardwood and ultrasound the concrete floor to figure out the plumbing changes and get the structural engineer on board. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Furniture Shopping!

It’s now a waiting game for the powers that be to grant their approval to start the actual work of putting our house back together. I’m not one to sit and wait however, so onward to the next task.
Now that the big things are picked:
  • flooring
  • cabinets
  • counters
  • tiles

We can start with the really fun things. Our furniture needs to be almost completely revamped. Which is very exciting for me.  I LOVE to shop. This is a chance to really recreate our vision and get furniture we love. First of all, I am so excited to get rid of our couch.  That may sound a bit harsh. Our couch has served us well for 7 years now. We got it just before our first daughter was born. It has a lovely chaise part that I had always wanted. It was super comfy and became my spot to nurse my little girl. It has many, many memories for me. But as many things do, it has met its end.  The stuffing in the seat is permanently dented, the arm is concave where it once was convex and even with a bit of couch surgery, it can’t be fixed. So we need a new couch. Which then leads to needing new chairs to match the couch… You get the picture.

Amber and I made a date to spend a day shopping for furniture. She made a list of great furniture shops in Vancouver where we could see what’s around for midcentury modern. I want a mix of new and vintage pieces.

Here’s the list of places she suggested – and we actually got to them all in one day with a stop for tapas!

BierCraft (Lunch)
Here are some of the things I really liked.
It’s really hard to pick though. Which item to choose first? Where do we put our focus? What does the whole scene revolve around? I asked Amber for some advice on where to start with our decisions. She gave some sage advice and suggested we start with the sofa. We really need a specific sofa. It has to be deep enough to curl up on, it has to be long enough for multiple people to come sit on and super comfy yet structured so that you can have a conversation or watch a movie. So, we really need to get this piece first. We have a few potentials:
And Amber also has the ability to custom make a couch based on what we like which is really appealing, but the downside is that we also are stuck with what we make. Big decisions. It seems we will have a new couch and likely two vintage chairs to make up our living room. I don’t think it will be too hard to decide on the chairs. We want something that has a lot of character 360 degrees since you will see the back as soon as you come in the door.  A swivel might also be fun for the TV/fireplace double focus point. Hmm, maybe it will be harder than I think. Then comes the fun of getting the rug to match.
The only thing I know will be easy is the credenza that will serve as media console. That is figured out.  There are so many teak vintage ones around. We can be choosy but we don’t need to be. They are all beautiful.  They are usually narrow so we don’t waste square footage, but look great and have lots of function.  Very exciting.
The dining room is also presenting a little challenge now.  Originally I really wanted this table:
but I just saw a completely opposite one at West Elm with a glass top and wood base and thought that might work better in the space. If we go that route though, the chairs won’t match and we have the domino effect again. I need to ponder that one for a bit I think. We may have to stick to our guns and get someone to make a simple wood table for us. I found a few local companies that make custom tables and have something similar to what I want.
So many decisions, but at least they are all fun! With the lead time to get furniture in for a move in date of mid-May, I really need to decide ASAP. I’d love any suggestions or advice!

Getting to know our new house…

I’m mostly writing this blog for my family and friends who mostly live over 7000km away from me but I’d love to share the experience with anyone else who’s interested. This will hopefully keep them in the loop, but allow me to have some fun and memories of the process. I hear renos can be very tedious with lots of awful decision-making and conflicts/fights between spouses….none of which we will experience I’m sure (insert sarcasm here). But I do think my husband and I have very similar design tastes and are usually pretty reasonable when it comes to making a practical and quick decision.  I guess we are about to be tested. Hopefully it’s a good test 🙂

First I thought it would be a good idea to show you the current configuration of our house. As you will be able to see, it is quite lovely already and I would be happy to move in as it except that I have been waiting for 11 years for this house. So I have had a loooong time to dream up what I want in MY place. I don’t want to feel like I moved into yet another rental that I am now allowed to paint.  I want it to feel like us, and that’s not easy. I will tell you about our design inspirations in a later post, but let’s say that the hubbie and I like things a little different and definitely colourful.

So, here’s the house.

The new living room.

The living room.

The view of the Kitchen looking into the living room

The view of the kitchen looking into the living room

The powder room

The powder room

Our bottom floor is actually on the second floor of the condo building and opens onto the roof of a heritage building (so no chance of ruining our garden or view with a future building – yeah!) The entry opens into a big room with a fireplace. This used to be a dining room, but we are going to switch it up and have the living room here. It also has a powder room that we want to expand into a full bathroom (more on that later – this will be a pressure point). There is a doorway to the left that then leads into the kitchen/dining room/work area open concept room. The whole bottom floor is accessible to the wrap around patio outside and has floor to ceiling windows, so lots of light and plants. This is a real plus for us.  The place we have now has no outdoor space, so having a place to enjoy a coffee outside in the morning is going to be wonderful.

The dining room looking outside

The dining room looking outside


The stairs/landing area

Up the stairs then opens onto the kids’ play area. It is fairly big and with a bit of creative storage, will hopefully keep all the kids gear at bay, or at least not be underfoot when guests are over (anyone who’s stepped on many tiny legos will know what I mean!)

The play area and loft

The play area and loft

Then there are three bedrooms on the upper floor as well as a laundry room. There isn’t an official en suite, but the two bathrooms from the original condo were previously renovated into one large bathroom. I don’t really want to separate it unless we have to (i.e. when we have two teen girls fighting over one vanity – then I may change my tune). It has two doors and plenty of room, so hopefully it will be good for a few years especially with an added shower downstairs for emergencies or when guests stay over.

The Master bedroom

The master bedroom

My/(Our) walk-in closet!

My/(Our) walk-in closet!

The girls new bedroom

The girls new bedroom

The upstairs bathroom

The upstairs bathroom

I’m also quite excited about all the storage in this house.  There is a huge walk-in master closet, multiple other walk-in closets off the living and dining rooms and even a pantry next to the kitchen. It will be weird not having a downstairs storage area, but we should have plenty of storage without needing it elsewhere. I even have a shoe rack in my closet (every girl’s dream I think!).

The patio outside is great. We can see it from anywhere in the kitchen and can see the side part from the living room. It will be great to let the kids just go outside and play on the patio, use chalk, ride their scooters, have a mini pool etc. It’s going to be a godsend this summer.

Looking out onto our patio

Looking out onto our patio

The common area looking onto our trees and patio

The common area looking onto our trees and patio

The girls have also decided they want bunk beds, which means they will share a room. This gives us a real guest room for the first time in our lives.  We already have a lot of visitors (did I mention Vancouver is a great city?) but we would love for them to keep coming and for more people to come stay with us.  We LOVE our visitors! We will probably put a desk in here as well so that it becomes multifunctional for when guests aren’t here.

The guest bedroom

The guest bedroom

Well, that’s it.  A run down of the place so far. We have lots of ideas, but need a tonne of help to make them work and tie everything together. Stay tuned to meet our amazing team – that’s where the magic will happen.