The hardwood saga

This has been the toughest part of the reno so far. Brad and I have a very specific vision of what we want to see for our hardwood floors. We want them to be sturdy, durable, not high gloss, sustainable wood and very varied in colour. A long list of requests to start and it seems we want a colour that is not in fashion right now. Everyone wants grey hardwood or at least a very same tone hardwood. ¬†We do like to be different ūüôā


The floors don’t look too bad in the pictures we put up, but when you look at them in person, the heavy traffic areas are just ruined. Also there were drums drilled into the floor. Very cool for the boys that lived there before, not so good for us. Here is the close up picture for memories.

Amber went to her normal suppliers and came back with two samples that met some of our requirements. One was very multicoloured but high gloss, so not so great with the kids and the hopefully lots of parties we will have. The other one was a better finish but was really just two tones. Neither was what we were really looking for. So we asked Amber to check out some other suppliers and Billy said he would ask some people too. Still no luck. We started to think that we were going to have to compromise on our look. The problem is that the floors will hopefully be there for the next 25 years. I don’t want to have to replace them again. ¬†I can compromise on the walls and the cabinets and the tiles, that stuff will likely only last 10 years or so. So when both came back empty-handed again, I have to admit we were both a little devastated. We tried to convince ourselves the walnut high gloss wouldn’t be THAT much work. We could wash it every day to get rid of the fingerprints and dust etc. Hmmm….who are we kidding?

Then one evening we got a cryptic email and picture from Amber. She was at a local Whole Foods. They had just opened a little coffee shop on the second floor. As soon as she walked in there, she saw the floor and had an A-ha moment. Here is the pic she sent. We were over the moon. This is exactly what we want. So many tones. Reclaimed wood. Sustainable. Pretty. Not necessarily in that order. We bundled the kids up after our swimming lesson and went there to check it out ourselves. It was perfect.

Whole Foods Coffee Shop Floor

Whole Foods Coffee Shop Floor

Amber did some super sleuthing. She got the barista to call the manager who figured out the designer firm. Amber had a contact that was able to find out where the floor was sourced. It is a company in Portland, Oregon (Viridian) who specializes in reclaimed floors.

Viridian Look Book¬†– take a look at their products. They are amazing.¬†They even have a reclaimed gym floor for those big sports fans! We were hooked. Then we heard the price. Very expensive for something that is using old wood. Plus it’s from the US and we are in Canada. It’s not that far, but the border would charge duty and taxes and shipping fees, not even to talk about the horrible exchange for the CDN dollar right now. Also it would be a huge delay for shipping, it only comes in solid wood so we would have to put a subfloor down first, and then it has to be finished all site. But we LOVE this floor. If we chose to go with it, we would have to severely cut our budget somewhere else. We could get carpet upstairs, do less in the kitchen downstairs, sell a kidney etc. As well we would have to kiss a May move in date good bye.

Luckily, Amber kept her “Nancy Drew” persona going for just a bit more and spoke to a local hardwood flooring company (Urban Acre Flooring). They had a look at the picture of the¬†floor¬†we liked. They took some time and thought about it and came back to Amber and said they thought they could make it for us. ¬†Amber did try to get the PDX company to sell the local company the wood so it could be made into engineered hardwood and finished off site, but they didn’t want to do that. Not ideal. But luckily, the local company could make the look similar to the one we wanted with their local wood in a pre-finished version for a much cheaper price. Custom but still using leftovers. The best of both worlds.

Here’s the sample they came up with in 48 hours! They sent a whole box of planks so we really got a sense of what the floor would look like. ¬†Excellent customer experience from everyone. We said yes on the spot. After getting to the point of thinking their was no hope for our floor, Amber pulled this one out of her hat. That is why she is the best! She will keep going until her customer is satisfied, no matter what it takes. THANKS Amber! And we get a local BC made wood floor that is truly us.

Flooring sample

Flooring sample

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 ūüôā

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 Powder Room gets a shower

This was one of my must haves. With three girls in the house, we need two full bathrooms. We also want a place that multiple people can shower at the same time when we have visitors. We had a few ideas of how to add a second shower in this condo when we first bought the place (see this post for details). Now that we actually own it and have access every day – what a cool feeling by the way – we have been able to sit in the space and really brainstorm with our team about how to accomplish this.

There were so many things to consider and we didn’t make this decision lightly. Our first choice was to have two showers upstairs. This would be best for the girls as they become teenagers and for guests staying overnight but we just couldn’t find the space without losing a bedroom. ¬†We couldn’t move the plumbing to the open space and if we put in the laundry room, then we would have cut into the smallest bedroom only leaving enough room for a twin bed. I’m assuming the two girls will want their own rooms at some point and we will need that third bedroom. So that left keeping the shower downstairs. We have the plumbing set up in the powder room, so that is the easiest option to expand. The only thing we need to cut into in this scenario is the hall closet. We have a small closet now, so that didn’t matter that much to us. We keep the girls’ coats in their rooms now so they can have the responsibility to hang them up when they get home. I think we will just keep this going with this.

This will also give the living room an extra wall as well and the chance to smooth out the ceiling overhang that right now is scalloped – (why? I have no idea). So that’s the plan right now.

We are using¬†a plain white subway tile for the shower itself with a cement base. This will tie in with the granite counters in the kitchen and have a smooth finish. We are very excited. I wanted to have a punch of colour in here though as well. We are going to bring this in with a really fun floor. Here is the link to the tiles. They are from Ornamenta. I can’t wait to mix and match the solids and patterns. The colours are gorgeous and zen like.

Bathroom Tile

Bathroom Tile

We also want to have a vintage feel. We are going to use a recycled vintage table as the vanity. It will have granite overtop to protect the wood and bring the shelves out far enough to have storage in front of the pipes. Very excited! The last touch of colour will be the red vintage mirror light.

I had to have red in there somewhere!

Vanity Inspiration

Vanity Inspiration

The Living Room

We are very used to the¬†open concept condo with a lot of windows. We have been spoiled with great light and views even in very small spaces. We wouldn’t actually know what to do in a place with a lot of walls. We definitely don’t have the art collection to place on them. The first few years in Vancouver we lived in a condo that was just 500 square feet. Everything there was really open concept (except the bathroom and even that opened into the living room and literally faced the couch – not that great for guests). While I love the open concept feel, I am really excited that¬†our new condo has one room that is a little more cozy. It is a little away from the kitchen area and actually has three walls! We still have a huge space with lots of seating to be able to hang out with the kids and socialize during cooking and entertaining, yet we now have an oasis that we can actually “retire” to after dinner for drinks or chatting.¬†Our goal for this space is to be comfortable yet stylish. ¬†That is a hard mix to get but I think we can do it.

The first thing that has to go is the fireplace. I know a lot of people like this style (my daughter included), but it’s just not us. Plus by levelling it out we can gain at least a foot of floor space. This will be great for the massive couch we want ūüôā ¬†We want a nice sleek look with a midcentury feel. Amber¬†came up with this great wood slat idea that will frame the fireplace.

Fireplace Inspiration

Fireplace Inspiration

I am a huge fan of interesting ceilings as well. We are going to take the wood slats one step farther and continue them up the wall and over the ceiling. Again the track lighting has to go. This wood drop down ceiling will be able to have recessed pot lights to give the space more functional light but in a pretty way. It’s going to have the same feel as this picture from below:

Ceiling Inspiration

Ceiling Inspiration

We are going to put shelving systems symmetrically on either side of the fireplace keeping with the same wood theme. I’m not sure exactly what I want here yet, but I would like it to be more of an interesting place with a balance of books, art, pictures etc. I’m going to try to not bring in too much clutter. ¬†I will use empty space. I will use empty space. If I keep repeating it, maybe it will come true…

Right now there is a funny area on the wall opposite the fireplace that needs development. It looks like an alcove but has this empty space at the top. It is really tall and deep, but it had an overhang that did not really seem functional. We needed a solution for this space and Billy and Amber came up with a great idea.IMG_7904

We are going to turn this into a bar area. Now we will have beverages in all areas of the main floor! Amber has designed a built-in wine fridge with cabinets and an area to mix drinks above. It will also have wine glass holders so we will always be ready for company. I am so excited. I feel like I could be back in the 60s drinking Gin Gimlets.

Here is a sketch showing what we hope it will look like.

Bar Sketch

Bar Sketch

The next big question was what to do with the TV. This was always going to be a room where TV is actually watched. We have never had a TV in our bedroom and don’t plan on having one now. The kids use iPads so we also didn’t want one in the play area or their bedroom.

Dining Room Layout

Dining Room Layout

This decision was the one where I thought Brad and I would definitely disagree. I was ok with thinking up a new solution besides “over the fireplace” but I wasn’t sure how Brad would feel. ¬†We had Amber draw up three options of where the TV could go and she gave us three different walls (the fourth is a window, so she did all she could). We both looked at the drawings separately and lo and behold, we both picked the same one (and not the one that we thought the other had picked). We both liked the square layout of the furniture with the fireplace and TV on facing walls. It was a huge surprise for me. It really solidified that we both know what we are looking for and we are on the same page. We both thought it worked well with the furniture we want to get. We get to get a nice deep couch to cuddle up on and we can divide our time and focus between the fireplace and the TV. I think it’s the best of both worlds and we don’t have to compromise on our slatted fireplace design (or ruin our TV from overheating). We can use a great reclaimed credenza for the media centre and hopefully two swivel chairs or two strong geometric chairs that look good 360 degrees around. I can’t wait to go furniture shopping. That’s going to be the really fun part!

Now to try to re-find the “great white of couches” we used to own on Gower Street…

The Dining Room

Since we have an open concept layout for the kitchen and dining room, the colour scheme and flow need to work here as well. I could really have included it in the kitchen post, but I think having a dining room that I love is worth a new post. It will also be a little bit larger than it looks in the above picture after demolition. With the peninsula gone, it will be a bit wider than before. It will really become part of the greater space. This has both pros and cons. All the food will stay in one place for easy transfer from kitchen to table, but the guests see all the mess while the cooking is occurring and while eating. I can see now why my mom would put dishes under the sink until it was time to clean up after the guests left. It leaves a much more serene feel while eating.

Other than the peninsula moving, there won’t be any structural changes in the dining room. The changes will be all cosmetic. We will be focusing on the table, lighting and painting.

First the table!¬†It’s going to be great to have a table big enough to comfortably seat my whole family when they come to visit. I need at least 10 chairs to be able to fit (it doesn’t have to always be comfortable for 10). BDF54AE6-BDF1-4D84-9E67-EE64A1508D52I’m hoping to find a table long enough yet not too obtrusive to fit three chairs comfortably on each side. Right now our table only fits two and if you add a third to the corner you have to straddle a wide leg and bump into a sharp glass corner. Besides that though the table is great. It has an indestructible glass top and wide thin drawers underneath that hold our placemats and trivets. I am really going to miss that feature. It’s a table from Ikea and I can’t believe they don’t sell it anymore. ¬†It is so functional. Especially for someone with small kids and a placemat fetish. I do wish it was just a little bigger though, then I might be able to keep it.

Instead, we are on the hunt for the perfect dining room table. I saw this really cool table on Houzz.

We already own the chairs, so I thought this would be easy peasy. The only thing is that it would have to be custom-made. I’m not sure that is realistic with our other splurges at present, but I’m going to use it as a starting point and see what I can find. I really love the mix of the natural wood and the plexiglass base. ¬†Seems very retro yet modern. I may change it up and use a natural wooden base that is very minimal with a clear glass top. They seems to be more accessible. ¬†I like this one at West Elm but I’m not sure it will be big enough. And it means we need to get new chairs.

Jensen Table from West Elm

If anyone has an leads on tables like these I would love to know!

We also want the room to be well-lit for entertaining and dining. While I love shopping, looking for lamps and lighting has never been easy for me. ¬†There is so much out there that is boring or just plain ugly. I find it very time-consuming and disappointing. So when Amber showed me a sketch of a light she had seen at a local artist’s studio, I was thankful and hooked. She is able to work with this artist to make a lighting fixture for over the dining table that is going to look fantastic. It will be exactly the shape, colour, and size that we need. It will fit exactly with our midcentury feel and we are supporting local artists. ¬†It’s a win-win. I can’t wait to see it in person.

Here is a sample photo of what one of these looks like.

Sample Pendant Light Fixture

Single Pendant Light Fixture Inspiration

Thirdly, the painting. Since the kitchen is going to have a lot going on and most of the open concept room is actually floor to ceiling windows, we don’t actually have¬†many walls. There is one wall behind where the dining table will be. We think it would be cool to make this a feature wall since most of the rest of the area will be white. Amber found this cool picture on Flickr to use as inspiration (click the link below to see it). I can’t wait to see what she will come up with for the final paint design.

Mondrian Wall Art Inspiration

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 ūüôā

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!