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

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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

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

Our Contractor

Originally we wanted to move into a brand new condo. We had no experience with renos and didn’t really want to live through them with our first place. ¬†We don’t even have a lot of background knowledge of how to fix everyday items, let alone reno a house. We were worried about being taken advantage of,¬†if the work would be done well and on time. So when we looked at listings, we wouldn’t look at any places that needed a lot of work, or if we did, we immediately turned it down.

The problem with looking for ready to move in places was that for what we wanted (open concept new chef’s kitchen, 3 bedrooms, and either a great view or a big patio), we were way out of our price range for downtown Vancouver.¬†We had our realtor drove crazy! But he stayed with us through 1.5 years of viewings before he brought us around to thinking a place with renos wouldn’t be so bad. We are renting currently and he convinced us we could keep renting while the renos were ongoing and move in when everything was ready. Not so bad after all. ¬†Sanjay found us our amazing place soon after that and we scooped it up quickly. We made sure we left the option open to back out though if the inspection didn’t work out. We knew a few things would have to change to make it our dream place and we needed to make sure that they would be doable before signing the deal.

It was at this point, that we were lucky to have a great friend who put us in contact with Boyes Brothers Contracting.

Our Contractor Extraordinaire!

Adam and Billy Boyes

We spoke to Billy Boyes (the owner) on the phone first and got a good sense of his management style. ¬†He was super quick to respond to emails and phone calls and he even texted. This was huge for me. ¬†I HATE having to call people and leave messages and wait for a phone call back. I’m busy, you’re busy. Let’s ask and answer these small questions in between work meetings etc. ¬†I much prefer to text to get things started and then have a conversation via phone to get more depth. Billy said it sounded like what we wanted to do was doable (add a bathroom and convert the peninsula kitchen into an island kitchen) but he would be happy to come by to assess with his plumber to make sure. ¬†Our big roadblock was getting a second bathroom somewhere in the condo. ¬†Our options as I could see them was:

  1. Enlarge the powder room downstairs
  2. Make a combo laundry/bathroom upstairs
  3. Split the large bathroom upstairs back into two bathrooms (this is our last choice)

Billy and his plumber assessed the condo within the week. The then current owners were gracious to let us come in multiple times to look at the space and make sure our dreams of kitchen and bathrooms could potentially turn into reality. Very cool owners. I can see why their place was always a hub of activity for their friends. The plumber confirmed that our wants could likely be done, but at the very least, we could return the upstairs bathroom back to 2 smaller ones. Not our first choice, but they were pretty certain we could add a shower downstairs.

This was great news because we really loved the place. From the minute I saw the listing I just knew this was supposed to be our spot. We ended up buying the place and hiring Boyes Brothers Contracting at the same time. Billy and his crew started pulling together ideas for our specific place and needs. He gave me a few tips on how to get the building plans from city hall without tears and how to successfully work with stratas.

Boyes Brothers contracting company is well versed in the downtown scene which is essential to getting things done in a timely manner when stratas are involved it seems. Billy has this air about him that makes it impossible not to like him. ¬†This helps immensely¬†with every business interaction as well.¬†Billy is honest and direct, laid back but completely on top of things. We were so worried that we would have to spend a few months trying to figure out how to wade through forms for city hall and setting up meetings with two strata boards, that we were dreading getting starting. When we finally did ask Billy what we needed to do to set up a meeting with the strata board, he said no need, everything was already in motion. ¬†He had met with the downstairs commercial¬†manager who got him in contact with the¬†residential strata manager and they gave him all the forms to complete for the renos. This was music to our ears. We knew that we were in professional and competent hands. We like to be hands off except in important decision-making, so this worked really well for us. Now if only the city hall application and approval could be as¬†easy…

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 ūüôā

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 Рyeah!) 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 Рthis 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

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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.

Our First House!

Finally. It took 11 years of renting, 3 apartments, 2 babies and untold realtor listing viewings but we found our home.  Thank you Sanjay! It is perfect for our family. Well it will be with a few renovations.

It’s located in the middle of Yaletown in downtown Vancouver, BC. We have resisted the urge to move to the suburbs once the kids came along and it has paid off. I think we found a place that gets us all the perks of a suburb home (albeit on an itty bitty scale) with the joys of having a walk score of 98%.

It’s a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom 2 story condo. It’s almost 2000 square feet, so the footprint is much larger than what we have been living in, but still smallish in comparison to most¬†houses out of the city. It has an amazing outside space – a huge patio, towering trees and a common area with tonnes of grass for the kids. We finally get to BBQ! ¬†So even though it is technically a condo, it feels like we have a house in the middle of the city.

We love the space but thought it needed¬†a bit of a facelift after 20 years (who doesn’t right?).

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

Nothing to it right?