05 October 2010

A New Love is Born

Have you ever had an experience that changes your life, either in whole or in part, forever?  Yes, certainly there are life events such as marriage, children, first homes, divorce and death (to name just a few) which irrevocably alter your trajectory and change the landscape in which you exist.  Huge milestones such as that are undeniable.

What I am thinking of, though, is much more subtle: the reading of a book that alters your perception of the world; a song that opens you to a new emotion, or brings greater understanding to emotions you're already experiencing; allowing the perfect sky on a perfect day to clarify your purpose on the planet for that minute/ hour/ day.  It's on this level that I was introduced to a little something special called
Farrow & Ball wallpaper, and my life will never be the same.

Now I know what you're thinking: Seriously?  Isn't this a little over the top for

Ordinarily, I would say yes.  Yes it is.  But what needs to be realized, accepted and wholeheartedly embraced here is that Farrow & Ball papers are no ordinary papers.  If I could adequately describe their timeless beauty, their gorgeous color and detail or their fine craftsmanship, I most certainly would.  I only wish I was poetic enough to do it justice.

What I can tell you, though, is that not only has my recent introduction to their collection struck an emotional chord and converted me to a rabid F&B advocate, it has also completely turned all my plans for our master bedroom project upside down and on their head.  Once again my Multiple Design Personality (MDP) has
reared its ugly head and is mucking around with my best laid plans, but is it reasonable - or advisable - to change the design plan of an entire room all on account of a single strip of wallpaper?

On Thursday of last week I along with my friend and colleague Alison was privileged to attend a premiere presentation of the new Farrow & Ball Baroque collection.  It was an intimate gathering of 15-odd folks ~ attendees ranged from independent design consultants to long-standing, loyal clients.  We were treated to glasses of chilled sparkling wine and fresh, crisp canapes and while doing so, were introduced to the traditional methods of paper creation that Farrow & Ball employs.  All of their papers are hand-dyed to create bases in nearly 100 shades.  Each order is entirely 
bespoke and is created at the Farrow & Ball head office in the UK.  Designs are applied to the paper bases by roller or by press, depending on the size of the overall pattern, and the application of the paint to the paper base creates a stippled effect called "sea weeding".  It's this sea weeding that creates unique patterns within the larger design, and makes each and every inch of paper unique.  You and four of your friends might have the same pattern, but no two Farrow & Ball papers are entirely alike.

In my case, I fell in love with the Orangerie design in the new Baroque collection, and I fell hard.  In the existing plan, our master bedroom is supposed to be slate gray: walls, ceiling, trim.  The idea is to create the look and feel of gray flannel, to create a cocoon.  In the centre of the room we have purchased a huge crystal chandelier with a black organza shade, for a touch of glamour in an otherwise very spare room.  Our bed is low to the floor, with two round, mismatched bedside tables and arced floor lamps on each side which act as reading lamps.  There is an over-sized mirror already in place leaning against one wall, and assorted books and artwork placed casually on the floor to create what we hope is a comfortable, bohemian sort of feel. 
With my new love of the Orangerie wallpaper, I've realized, my entire vision is in jeopardy, but does it change my life?

The answer is a resounding yes.  The knowledge that altered my universe a little bit on its axis on Thursday (that "rocked my world", if you will) is a matter of solidification and clarity: quality makes a difference, and exceptional quality makes an exceptional difference.  Even now with only the slimmest understanding of the intricacies and complexities of traditional paper-making, it's clear to me that products created with this type of care and excellence make a difference in how we perceive our spaces, our homes and ourselves.  The paper itself is a product among millions - billions? - of others, but sometimes it
IS a product that defines who we are and, more importantly, who we aspire to be.  Exceptional quality demands a level of appreciation and respect that is reflected on those who appreciate and respect it, and while I am most definitely not an advocate for blatant consumerism and don't believe in buying things simply for the sake of having things, it is an undeniable fact that some things, like nearly all people, are special.  What I realized on Thursday is that if our homes are a reflection of ourselves, sometimes feeling special means first surrounding yourself with products that are special.

So now only these very concrete questions remain:  How do I reconcile such a complex, rich and detailed pattern into our simple design plan?  How do I align the purchases we've already made - the chandelier, the side tables, the reading lamps and the bed - with a new design direction that represents the complete opposite of our aesthetic aim?  And if I do throw our master bedroom design train into reverse, will I be run over by my own enthusiasm in the process ... ??


27 September 2010

Home is Where the Heart Is

Ten years plus a few days ago, I stood in a minister's living room surrounded by friends, wearing pajama pants and a sweatshirt with my hair in a ponytail, and married my very best friend in the world.  We celebrated afterwards with a breakfast-to-go from Great Canadian Bagel, and later that night we "did it up right" by hosting a second ceremony in suits and dresses, and throwing what we still think was a fabulous party.  It wasn't what most people would envision when they think of a great wedding, but for us it was amazing and perfect.

In the days leading up to our anniversary, my husband and I have been reminiscing about our lives back then: living together with our small son in a tight basement apartment; relying on the support, goodwill and often, let's face it, charity of our families to get by; struggling to plan our dream wedding on a budget the size of an afternoon nap.  I remember very vividly being curled up on the loveseat - our only piece of soft furniture in the "living room" and one on which the baby had thrown up several times, much to our dismay - and flipping through endless bridal magazines by the light of a single lamp.  It wasn't glamorous by any stretch of the imagination, and I remember wishing at the time that we could be living anywhere other than where we were.

Taking such a long walk down memory lane set me to thinking: if home is where the heart is, and my heart is my husband and family, why wasn't I satisfied with that small, dark basement apartment?  What drives us to keep searching for the perfect home, and how do we instinctively know when we find it?

In our ten years of marriage and five years together before that, my husband and I lived in a variety of places:

  • two dorm rooms in university: one in a co-ed residence, and the other in an all-male dorm (except for me!)
  • hubby's basement bedroom in his mum's rental house in uptown Toronto
  • a basement apartment in another of his mum's rental houses, in another area of uptown Toronto
  • the basement apartment in his dad's house in midtown, where we became engaged, planned our wedding and were married
  • our first house on the Danforth: a rundown semi-detached in need of lots of TLC, and finally
  • our little bungalow in the suburbs and current recipient of bathroom masterpiece make-overs.
All of them in their own way were special, for the simple reason that special things happened in each of them.  I will forever be indebted to the room I first fell in love in: messy like all boys rooms are, stiflingly hot in winter, crowded and overlooking the quad so that everything we did was generally on full display to the university, and smelling like sweat, grease and men’s deodorant, it was a hot, messy, crowded safe haven that cocooned us from the world and just let me “be”.  The dorm room in which we conceived our son was similar to the first, except that noisy, rambunctious boys ran up and down the corridors and shouted at all hours of the day and night.  It boasted a field view (more privacy!) and its own private bathroom, which was an incredible luxury for a girl living on an all-guys floor.

That same baby conceived in a dorm room was brought home by his bumbling, first-time parents to a light-filled apartment in the basement of my mother-in-law’s semi-detached rental house in north
Toronto.  We lived there only a few months, but everything that happened there was momentous: baby’s first bath in the sink; baby’s first bath in the tub (what an adventure!); the first night baby slept through the night, and all the nights in between that he didn’t.  The apartment was spacious and light and filled with borrowed and university furniture, until baby’s things started taking over.  Soon we were inundated with swaddling blankets, soothers, bouncy chairs and diapers, with barely any room for us!

When baby was nearing 9 months old, we moved again to the basement apartment of my husband’s dad.  This apartment was dark, damp and very loud (the house is situated directly above the Yonge subway line and every 5 minutes – 3 during rush hour – we’d listen to the train come rumblin’ through), but it was in that apartment – all 400 square feet of it – that we truly became a family.  It was there that my husband proposed, that we planned our wedding, and that our son learned to walk.  We cooked family dinners, entertained friends (though usually just one at a time!) and formed the foundation on which our entire marriage is built.  We fought, we cried, we laughed and we loved.  We were very young, and we did all of these things 
a lot.  But we also grew up considerably and when we purchased our very first home together in a tree-lined Danforth neighborhood, we were as prepared as we could be for marriage and homeownership.

This, it turned out, was not prepared enough.  What a difference renting to owning makes in your life!  Suddenly, that tree root growing into your exterior pipes is no longer your landlords problem, it’s your own.  When your back porch rots away to sawdust and needs urgent replacing, it is you who gets out there with a smattering of hand-me-down tools to cobble together another structure (no less rickety, mind you, but at least not disintegrating in any slight breeze).  A new homeowner must learn not only how to slap on paint semi-evenly and without ruining the floors, s/he must also become an amateur plumber, electrician, carpenter, seamstress, landscaper, gardener, roofer, janitor and general contractor: quite a lot of hats to wear for two kids who were already newly minted parents and newlyweds.

Much time was spent in that house – our first – fumbling around trying to find the right fit.  I was never happy with the paint colors or the furniture layout or how the space functioned.  It was always in the back of my mind that the kitchen wasn’t right (it needed to be ripped out and replaced), the basement was dingy and damp, the bedrooms were small and unmanageable, and the living room so miniscule that fitting in our huge second-hand furniture in any way that made remote sense was impossible.  During our relationship with that house, we welcomed a new daughter and a rescue dog and completed our family.  Yet despite the good tidings and happy events that came our way while we lived there, I still couldn’t find any satisfaction with the space.  Like a sweater that’s too small or too short in the sleeves or too itchy, I could never get comfortable in that house’s skin.

As ridiculous as it sounds now, I think the house knew it.  More than six years ago, we decided to move to my hometown and purchase my grandparent’s house on a quiet court street.  I was for all intents and purposes born and raised in that house, and moving back was very much coming home for me.  In trying to sell our
Toronto house, we tarted her up a bit with new paint and new carpet in the basement, and rearranged the furniture.  We took care of all the little things that had been driving me crazy while we lived there, but it wasn’t until the For Sale sign went into the lawn that I think we both – the house and I – breathed a sigh of relief.  Just as living in an environment that you find dissatisfactory is wearing, so too is living with someone who finds you dissatisfactory.  I have seen the house since her new owners took over and her transformation is amazing.  They clearly love her inside and out, and their affection shows: she fairly beams with pride.  It was never that it was a bad house, it was only just not the right house for us.

Fast forward six years and we have finally taken the bull by the horns on our forever home.  Moving in to so much established history and so many memories presented its own challenges, but not ones we shied away from.  For a long time we lagged about, wishing and dreaming of changes we wanted (and fully intended) to make.  I planned and re-planned and changed my mind a dozen times before the impetus struck us to just
start; to just meet the challenges of our space head-on and start making it our own.

This is not to say that our home is not still a work-in-progress: it very much is.  My husband complains quite routinely that he is tired of living in a messy, chaotic construction zone, and is deadly disappointed when I remind him we will live like this for many more months, maybe years, to come.  The amount of work is overwhelming and challenging and beyond any scope we ever anticipated taking on, but truthfully I think this has made all the difference.

It comes down to this: I believe that to find the house that’s truly yours, you need a little experience under your belt, confidence in yourself and most importantly, the will to mould something old into something new.  You must be daring, outrageous, courageous and whole-heartedly engaged.  The difference between this home and my others is that despite its many challenges, I consciously decided to love it for better or worse.  Every day I make the decision to remain committed to it and in houses, as in marriage, that commitment will make our relationship will go the distance.

Happy anniversary, babe.

06 September 2010

An Assortment of Photos: Main Floor Bath

Our beautiful retrofitted vanity (excluding drawers).  This is a shining star in our bathroom: totally unique, one-of-a-kind and absolutely perfect.  Best thing of all?  All told, with purchase price, professional refinishing andretrofit + installation, it was less expensive than a standard name-brand vanity from a box store.  How can you beat form, function AND good for your pocketbook?  You can't!
The toilet.  Flat-out essential and always functional, but not always pretty.  In this case?  Sooo pretty.
The corner of the tub and the magazine holder and toilet paper dispenser that I am thoroughly in love with.  You can see why!
Against the solid marble tub apron, I've laid the two fabrics which will eventually become our custom shower curtains: gray for fall/winter, blue for spring/summer.
Our ceiling light slash fan: pretty and functional!
Our polished chrome, octagonally-shaped vent cover which perfectly references our floor tile.  It is a special touch that is my shiniest moment of attention to detail in the room.

The Home Stretch

An amazing thing happened this past Friday of the long weekend: we entered into the home stretch of our main floor bathroom renovation.  The contractor, with whom we have had months of conflict and mutual frustration, evidently became as eager to wrap up their relationship with us as we were with them, and made it a priority to drive to the finish line by end of day Friday.  While there are still elements outstanding in our design plan, all of these are our own responsibility and the project is finally back in our hands.

When all was said and done and the last of the tools had been removed from the house, what struck me most profoundly was not only how beautiful our new space was (which it is, unequivocally) but rather how quickly everything came together in a 24-hour period of time.  A room that had taken years to dream up, months to negotiate and weeks to build the framework for turned in one day from what felt like an empty shell to beautiful, functional space that is nearly 100% complete.  In a single work day, they installed our vanity, counter top, sink and faucets; the overhead ceiling light and both wall sconces; the mirror, towel rack and toilet paper/magazine holder (which I'm obsessed with); the toilet, the Corian window threshold and the jewel of the whole room: the marble tub apron.  It just goes to show that the old adage is true: one single day
can change your entire life.

So what is left?  Small but important elements that will find their way to completion over the next few weeks.  The vanity we found on
Kijiji (thanks to friend and designer Alison) and retrofitted to our own purposes still needs to have the drawers modified to accommodate the sink and plumbing while still maintaining storage space.  These drawers are intended to act as under-counter storage as well as replace any sort of medicine cabinet so they need to be fully functional in order to fit the assorted gear of a family of four, and as such we need to salvage as much real estate as humanly possible.  Rather than entrust this job to the contractors (who throughout the process have been reluctant to add any time to the project with extensive customization) we will do it ourselves.

Similarly, the bathroom door and door frames are still unprimed, unpainted pine shells.  Deciding what trim and door color best compliments both our white subway tile and custom wall color is next on our to-do list, with the intent to paint next weekend.  Once the door is finished, we can install the cut-glass door knob, which will perfectly compliment the vintage look and feel we've achieved in the rest of the room.  After that, it's purely fun: finding a garbage can that is small and compact with a sealed lid, that also looks "vintage"; sourcing out an exquisite crystal bowl for the counter top that we'll use as a jewelry holder; planning the layout and purchasing the acrylic containers we'll insert into the vanity drawers to keep our stuff and ourselves organized; and finally, purchasing or creating the artwork that will provide the finishing touch to the room.  Our planned day trip next week to the
Christie Classic Antique Show will hopefully reveal a treasure trove of unique items and objets that will be perfect additions to our room.

Being on the far side of the renovation allows me to view the room not only just as a work in progress (which it still is) but also as a beautiful space in-and-of itself.  I pop my head in multiple times a day just to admire it, and each time I fall in love with it a little more deeply.  Though we've been working towards this room for many years, that it's now here and a part of our home is astonishing to me.  It lives here, and I live here.  It's mine!  My design aesthetic and my planning abilities have been validated most profoundly, and my patience (what there was of it) has been soundly rewarded. 
I did this (!), and it's on this success that I will push forward in the continued redesign of our entire home.

I can't wait to get started on the next project! 

25 August 2010

I'm Dreaming of a White/ Farmhouse/ Mid-Century-Modern Kitchen

When it comes to home improvements, one of the most taxing and substantial projects you can take on outside of a full-on addition is a kitchen renovation.  A kitchen reno poses numerous challenges:
  1. It often tops the list of most expensive projects (particularly for those like me, with champagne tastes on a beer budget)
  2. It's highly inconvenient, if not impossible, to live on-site during the reno process without the basic tools for meal prep (unless you have your local Chinese restaurant on speed dial)
  3. There are a million decisions to make, from the large items (how do you create a functioning work triangle?) to the small (knobs or pulls?) and all points in between, and each one critical to a successful outcome.  And just when you think you've reached your million-question limit, there will be one more
  4. More than any other space in your home, a kitchen reno forces you to think critically about how you currently live and more importantly, how you WANT to live.  Focusing on functionality is detailed and time-consuming work
For those who subscribe to the philosophy that the kitchen is the heart of the home - where not just bellies but relationships are nourished on a daily basis - ripping out and replacing an existing footprint is also challenging on an emotional level.  You might not get worked up to tears over your flooring options in the foyer or whether you should have single- or double-hung windows in your living room, but throwing out bar stools that your son's bum has worn smooth over time, or the counter-top your daughter scarred when helping you make preserves last summer is a loaded experience.

One issue that you rarely hear about, though, is the one I'm struggling with right now: MDP.

MDP, or Multiple Design Personality, is a problem that surfaces when you're looking a huge change straight in the eye, and that change represents a proverbial fork in the road, either of whose options are more than acceptable. 
Here's my situation:

Even though we're not even remotely out of the woods on the bathroom projects yet (yes, project
S), thanks to a carpenter friend of ours I have already started shifting my focus to our next huge reno, the kitchen.  In our preliminary discussions, this friend recommended that I surf through magazines and online to find samples of kitchens that I like, to use as inspiration pieces in our own custom design.  Loving nothing more than spending an evening curled up on the couch with an icy-cold beverage and a stack of shelter mags I've started to do just that, and much to my dismay I've discovered that unlike most people who have one or maybe two kitchen "types", I have no "type" at all!

When I am equally in love with kitchen designs that range from mid-century modern to country farmhouse to bistro chic, how do I determine what I love most?  And more to the point, how do I then make that specific kitchen style work in my house?

As I've mentioned before, our home is a rather small 1950's bungalow that is distinguished more for the architectural interest it
doesn't have rather than any it does.  I won't lie to you, it's bland.  The best we have going for it is a pretty pressed-plaster crown moulding in the office and dining areas (originally the formal living and dining rooms) but even that could be purchased off the shelf nowadays at any big box store.

Our dream is to blow out the wall between existing kitchen and office and create one huge kitchen with centre island, floor-to-ceiling pantry and office workspace.  Doing so will open up the kitchen from it's current dark little nook where it exists in relative obscurity, and expose it to the rest of the house in which each space is decorated (or in the process of being decorated) in different styles.  Ideally our kitchen will become the showpiece of our home but for a room so important, how do I choose a specific style?  If I move one way on the kitchen (say, modern farmhouse, for example) am I then on the hook for redecorating the rest of our spaces to follow suit?

When is a kitchen renovation not just a kitchen renovation, and how does one person consolidate her 19 different design aesthetics into one perfect room?

Is there a cure for MDP?

24 August 2010

There's Always Something

One of the lessons I have learned most thoroughly throughout the renovation process so far is this: there is always "something".  Something difficult, something unexpected, something impossible or something more expensive.  Even in a small project like ours (small on a real estate/floor space scale, not a financial one), we discovered new "somethings" on what felt like a daily basis.  Examples?  Sure, I have a few:

  • Carpenter ants: In hindsight we probably should have known we had them, but who knew that those medium-sized black ants that we would find occasionally sauntering around our kitchen like they owned the place were just the smaller, scrappy carpenter ant scouts?  The exterminator, that's who.  To us they just looked like regular ants, and all the time we thought they were harmless they were eating through our ceiling joists making cosy little nests for themselves.  As a result of their squatting in our walls and attic, we had to replace nearly an entire joist and construction was delayed for slightly less than a week.
  • Asbestos insulation: Yes, asbestos.  From the 1920's through the 1970's, a mineral substance called vermiculite was commonly installed in newly built residential properties as insulation.  Vermiculite was produced in two varieties: one in large, chunky pieces and the other in small granules.  Both were used in conjunction with yellow (or what is now generally pink) fiberglass insulation, and was designed to fill any pockets between the joists and/or framing that the less flexible fiberglass couldn't get into.  Sounds great, right?  Yes, except the smaller of the two varieties - the granular insulation - "decomposes" (for lack of a better term) over time to create dust.  Asbestos dust.  This dust is not an issue or a danger to anyone so long as it's left alone and remains undisturbed, however pulling down the ceiling and yanking out the old insulation does not count as "leaving it alone".  The second our contractor discovered it, work halted for more than a week.  If we wanted our project to move forward AT ALL, EVER, we were now on the hook for an environmental team to tent our property, remove the hazardous materials and completely re-insulate the entire 1100 square foot house to the tune of $10K+.  For a 9x6 foot bathroom.
  • Suppliers: Don't be lulled into thinking that because you're working with a general contractor, you won't have issues with sub-contracted trades or suppliers.  This is not true and knowing/expecting as much may help you maintain perspective and remain calm while putting out similar fires.  It is not a given that your contractor will always see eye-to-eye with his or her tradespeople, and it is not impossible for challenges that develop on other jobs to impact your own.  Our own contractor is currently in the midst of a dispute with his stone supplier.  While it has nothing whatever to do with our job - our slab is still sitting in the stone yard with a sticker on it with our name, waiting for instructions - the dispute has ramifications on our job by preventing us from moving forward.  Until the core dispute is resolved, the stone supplier won't move forward on our work, and this element (and any other elements dependent on this element) of our job is at a complete and utter standstill.

What is especially frustrating about a "something" is that you have very little, if any, control over it.  Had we known about our "somethings", would we have approached the project differently?  Certainly.  More money in the bank, for one, and improved communication with our contractor (who I am sure to this day suspects we deliberately withheld the asbestos information).  That we didn't have a thorough understanding of our house and its potential challenges handicapped us in the long run, but was instrumental in teaching us to take the hits as they come.

I have heard it frequently said that the secret to avoiding disappointment is to keep your expectations low.  The strength of my belief in this sentiment fluctuates on a day-to-day basis but the basic premise is sound advice: hope for the best but prepare for the worst.  Some suggestions to help improve your renovation experience:

  • If you did not have a home inspection done on your property at the time of purchase, do one before starting a major renovation.  This will help identify any major structural issues which may impact your reno.  If you did have an inspection, provide a copy to your contractor in advance
  • Create a photo diary of every area of your house:
    • Climb up into your attic and take digital photos of your insulation and joist-work.  Identify support walls, and where the joists change direction
    • Create a detailed sketch of your floor plan, and mark all support walls, joist directions, venting and/or pipes
    • Shimmy around any crawl spaces or cold cellars you may have.  Take photos of everything, but pay particular attention to water damage or mold
    • Photograph mold in any area(s) of your house and note the color and range (how far it has spread) of each spot
  • If you have insect issues, spend 90 days prior to the start of your reno documenting when you see them, and where.  Try to identify any access points in your home, so that if you do need to call an exterminator throughout the process, you can direct him accordingly.  Small children are especially good at this (not kidding - only a three-year-old has the patience to follow an ant for two hours) so enlist the help of your younger children to source out any insect interlopers
  • Share your photo file with your contractor before the start of your renovation.  Had we been able to provide photos of our insulation before they tore down the ceiling, the removal process could have been managed in a planned, organized fashion versus the frantic evacuation we did experience

Forewarned is forearmed: knowing what to expect before the first hammer flies may not prevent issues from occurring, but will certainly help you manage your response to them.

22 August 2010

Playing Catch-Up

It all started two years ago.  Well, the honest truth is that it started the summer I was fifteen years old, when I had the bright idea that my grandparents should completely remodel their main floor bathroom.  I begged and pleaded, wheedled and whined for them to give me a modest budget, with which I would completely transform their minuscule 9x6 foot bath from slubby and dated to pretty and perfect.

It never happened.  My Nan was completely in love with her bathroom which suited her, and their needs at the time, perfectly.  I was quite frustrated, of course, and more than a little insulted that they felt I couldn't be trusted with a couple of thousand dollars and a can of paint, though with the passing of years I see how ridiculous I must have sounded.  My point in recounting this memory is this: at age fifteen I felt that bathroom was ready for a change and now, seventeen years later, I at last had my chance!

So the beginning of the present project, if not the idea itself, was two years ago.  We had been living in the house for four years and had done very little to change the space to reflect us as a family, besides painting and moving our furniture around on a quarterly basis.  I had been lusting for a significant change somewhere - anywhere - in the house, but Daryn had sidelined his career to stay home with our youngest and we were not flush enough to take on a major renovation.  Couple that with raising two young children and a dog, managing the house in general and commuting to/from work in the city, and home improvements landed, quite frankly, at the bottom of our list of priorities.  My shelter magazines, which I collected religiously and which grew in piles like weeds all over the house, teased me with what "could be" but essentially just gathered dust once I'd read them through.

Then fate stepped in, if you believe in that sort of thing (which I do), in the form of a roof leak.  Shingles and flashing gave way to rain water which streamed into our main floor bathroom.  Already we had been having difficulties with that room: a previous leak had cracked the plaster, which my grandparents cleverly disguised by wallpapering over it.  They only used that bathroom for tub baths - showers were strictly a downstairs bathroom activity - so steam in a vent-less room wasn't an issue for them.  Not so for us.  We showered on the main floor like, we thought, "regular people", and as a result the crack swelled, the plaster crumbled and the wallpaper started peeling off the wall like snake skin.  The roof leak was the nail in the proverbial coffin: we needed to renovate.

So how did we go from a leak in 2008 to a renovation in 2010?  What took so long?  The answer is this: many, many things.  Though we created detailed plans and made many false starts in the manner of hardware purchases, which are now collecting dust in our basement (does anyone need a clear glass vessel sink?  a box of wall tiles imported from Italy?  wall sconces from Restoration Hardware?), other issues surfaced during those two years that bumped the bathroom steadily down the priority list.  Specifically, since 2008 we have:

  • purchased a new car when our old one bit the dust unexpectedly
  • replaced the roof
  • installed a new furnace, and new A/C
  • installed new windows in our sun room, kitchen and half of our basement rec room
These things take a toll on the bank book, I'm sure you'll agree.

However, in January everything came together for us, and 43 days ago the first sledgehammer hit the wall and got this whole ball rolling.  The next few posts will be story of how one tired, dilapidated bathroom (pictured below) got its groove back.

So I had this idea ....

Sitting on the sofa one afternoon and surveying our mid-renovation disaster area (ie. the house), I thought to myself: What if I stopped posting hundreds of photos and lengthy descriptions of our home reno/decorating adventures on Facebook, and just started my own blog?

Impossible, right?  Turns out, not so!  Thanks to the helpful guidance of friend-of-a-friend and seasoned blogger Lindsay at Being Suzy Homemaker
, I was off to the races in less than a day!  Several hours of work later (yes, hours ... I am "tech-challenged") and here we are: my very first post.

I should probably introduce myself, and let you know why you should keep reading and perhaps visit often:

My name is April and I live with my perfectly nuclear family (husband D., son J. and daughter A.) in a relatively small (though on-the-grow) suburb town outside of Toronto in a 1956 bungalow on a quiet court street.  Our house is exactly like all the other houses on our street: single level, orange brick with small rooms, few windows and a myriad of decorating and design challenges.  We love its history: I was raised in this house.  My grandparents purchased it on spec in 1955, moved in in '56, and brought up four kids and a stable of dogs, cats, drop-in friends and grandchildren in it.  They lived here until 2004, when we purchased it and moved in.  We love its location and we also love its potential.  How, then, to take a home with so much history and make it ours?

Over the next two years we have committed to transforming our space into a comfortable, beautiful, functional family home: renovating and beautifying our nest, one twig at a time.  We are like many other people we know: long on dreams and often short on cash.  Some projects - like our current bathroom renovations - are small money pits that require every last cent we have (and some donations!).  Other rooms will be designed and transformed on a shoestring budget.

I am totally confident that I can achieve beauty and function without spending the earth and while we already have a good start on the make-over process (catch-up posts to come!), I am excited to share our experiences past, present and future.  Welcome to Money Pit Love ... I hope you'll stay with me as we navigate the process of making this house a real home!