It takes an army.

We are a week away from the move-in… we started this project about 3 years ago with an idea and now it’s almost ‘done’ (it’ll never be really done…). Looking back now at all the work that we have put into it and thinking about all the people that have contributed their time, energy and talents – I wanted to highlight a few (of the many!).
We, my mother and husband and I, have all worked very hard to make this house happen, from layout planning, assembling looks and finishes for the spaces, physical labour of digging out gravel (I think Sandy has moved all the gravel around the house a couple times over…!) but we couldn’t have made this house happen without the army of people that have worked so hard to turn this project from dream to reality. I’ve worked with some of these people for years and others I’ve worked with for the first time but would work with again – either way, I hold all these people and their talents close to my little design heart!

This house would never have gotten up off of its feet without the great crew from NovaMax Contracting – they are a great group of humble, patient and hardworking guys – so hardworking that they don’t even have the time to be on social media!

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Garrit and Graham from Steadfast Contracting – also an amazing part of the team that built this house – with us from day one, digging away… just digging away… !

They’ve stuck through this project since day one, through rain, snow and freezing temperatures and putting up with the three of us asking them so many questions like ‘why are you doing it that way?’… ugh! Garrit and Nick and all of them have been patient and dedicated and have gone the extra mile for the last year (even helping my mother put air in her tire when it died in front of the job site!) – you guys are great !

 

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Garrit from NovaMax Contracting – a little overseeing of a final concrete pour and guarding of our door delivery at the same time !

Kits Construction and Kenny Gemmill have been helping us with this project from the start and have recently joined us on site to complete the interior finishing and power through the HOME stretch (get it?!) and meet the move-in deadline. No strangers to deadlines, I’ve been working with these guys for years on the show and their capacity for detailed work (20 minute conversation about an outside corner detail anyone…??) under pressure is what always gets the job done on time and done well – thank you guys !

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Aidan and Matt from Kits Construction – I may not always agree with their choice of music on the job site, but I’m always impressed by their skills and ability to solve whatever comes their way !

The most hard working tile setter I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with , and, quite possibly, the most skilled: Jacky has been working some late nights…  I love seeing gorgeous product installed with great skill, it just brings the best out of everything ! He eye-balls his 1/16” grout lines and it looks like it was put down with a laser… Jacky, you’re amazing and I hope this job doesn’t kill you!

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Jacky – the tile ninja – he’s not checking Facebook on his phone, he’s doing some fast math – I think !
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Jacky lays out the Cement Tile Shop ‘zebra terrazzo’ tile for the front entry – making sure the pattern lines up with the front door.

Lance the flooring master – works like the devil (he installed 2000sf of floor in 2.5 days!) and does an amazing job. I never thought I’d have such gorgeous stair nosings in my life !

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Chroma Decorating – these must be the happiest painters around – not only are they great at what they do and hard working, but there’s a little Latin flavour that enters the job site with some salsa music…. a few cha cha steps on the scaffolding… can’t get any better than dancing while you’re working !

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And last but not least.. ha ha… At Last Landscaping – you guys poured sweat (lots of sweat), some blood and, well, the tears were mine – into the front and back hardscape for this house. It looks amazing – we never thought we’d have such professionally installed hardscape (as we’ve always cobbled it together ourselves over the years…) and I just can’t stop staring at it all! Looking forward to lunch served on the patio !

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A designer can dream and draw and source but a designer is only as good as the people he or she works with and I have to say, this designer couldn’t have dreamed of a better team to be working with on her home – thank you everyone, you all have a standing invitation to dinnner !

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Designer: design thy self

Designing your own home – as a designer – is a nerve-wracking, stressful and pull-your-hair-out overwhelming experience but, as the project nears to a close, I can see it will be one of the most satisfying things I will ever do.

Designers know too much. We have too much at our fingertips, we eat, sleep and talk design all day long and know too much about what is possible that our palette of choices becomes so broad it can be over-whelming. When I work with a client, we strive to make sure that the house is a reflection of who lives in it and I get to know them and their tastes in order to make this happen but it’s at a fairly immediate level. I generally don’t have a 30-year history with our clients and I don’t know every nook and cranny of their psyche and what makes them tick like I know myself. Therefore, making a choice for myself is far more of an undertaking than making a choice for a client.

On the other hand, I have been thinking about some of the elements of this house for over 3 years now – possibly more considering the years when the idea of this renovation was just a dream – and some decisions have been so easy you could hardly call them a ‘decision’ as there was only one right choice (for us). Other choices were more difficult and I’ve let them percolate for as long as possible until someone had to know what I wanted in order to build it. It’s this percolation that keeps me up at night but once I’ve made the decision, I’ve stuck to it as undoing things cost way too much time and money on a project this size !

Also, at least I find I’m this way, I like almost any form of design: traditional, modern, euro-eclectic, Tuscan-country, Santa Fe rustic… all can have pleasing aspects and wanting to do a little bit of everything will only get you into trouble and the result may end up looking like an indecisive jumble of nonsense… however…  pulling from everything you know, selecting pieces and complimenting them in a harmonious, collected and thoughtful design is what we, as designers, do best and what we need to spend time doing for ourselves – which is difficult to do. On the list of things I have for myself every day, the elements I need to decide on for my own project always end up at the bottom of the list and that creates stress, delays and rushed decisions when a painter is standing with brush in hand asking what colour to paint the walls… !

What’s also difficult is to not get swept up in what is ‘hot’ right now. It’s important to find the truth of every design, to have it reflect the client and/or the audience and not simply pick a tile because it’s the ‘it’ tile of the minute but select a tile because it’s the tile you want to live with for the rest of your life… No pressure… !!

The third thing I find difficult as a designer designing my own home is how the finished product (will it ever be finished?!) will showcase my abilities, tastes and talent as a professional. What will people think? Will I be judged on this as a designer – of course I will – and can I stand by every decision I have made?

Yes.

I’m proud of this house, this project and the evolution it has taken. I’ve learned a heck of a lot and I have also applied what I have learned over the years as a designer to make smart choices and – hopefully – produce interesting results! This is a project of the heart, and I am not alone in making it happen: The house will be for my husband and my mother to live in together (Italian style!) and we have all had a part in making every selection. My mother and I have similar tastes and tend to battle it out until we’ve made the right choice and my husband makes sure I can always ground a style decision in practicality which I can appreciate (and have saved the “because it’s pretty” weapon for pillow shopping…!). All in all, we are a good team but it hasn’t been without tears, small fights and head-banging arguments but it’s all because we want the best product for our home.

I would do this all over again in a minute.  I’ve learned so much from taking on such a personal and large project and I look forward to applying things I’ve learned in future projects. I think it’s important to be able to look back at all your choices and be able to stand by them but I also know that this house will evolve and grow over time and continue to take on various design shapes. Knowing that the foundation of the design is solid is, in my mind, is the only way to build a house that you’ll enjoy and grow with for years to come.

[sorry for the lack of pretty pictures with this post, this was more of a diary entry than a progress update – photos to come in next post – and soon !]

 

The Resurrection – breathing new life into our family home.

One of my dearest and most dependable of suppliers coined this renovation of ours as “the resurrection” – and I’m not sure if it was a typo or intentional – but it is a very fitting title to this project: this home that I’ve loved my whole life was on its last legs and we are renovating it (read: pouring our hearts and souls and every penny we have – and don’t have  – into it…!!!) to make sure it continues to be our family home for decades to come.

 

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Photo of our house shortly after my parents bought it in the ’70’s

My partner and my mother and I are renovating the house I grew up in so that we can all live in it together – Italian style ! My parents bought the house in the ’70’s, having met in Edmonton but both originally from Italy (my father was from Florence, my mother is from Sicily) and I’ve never known another house but this one for the last 36 years. We have ‘renovated’ it all our lives, adding front rooms early on, re-tiling, painting, etc. for years but never expanding it much more than the 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom 100-year-old little house on 28th street with the massive garden (our poor, dear and loved garden…)… until now !

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Our garden – 30 years in the making.

In order to make it a home for all of us, and making sure we all have enough space so that we don’t go crazy, we’ve made some substantial changes: underpinned the foundation so as to provide adequate ceiling height for the new ground-level suite (we couldn’t raise the house any higher than it already was off of street level); putting in a tasteful driveway (if that’s possible?!), retained the main floor walls but pushed out into the back yard for added square footage; took the roof off and added a 2nd floor for Sandy and I – I’ve never had stairs in my house and now I’ll be going up and down them 50 times a day ! Yay for in-home work out!

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A little front yard excavation for my birthday !

We are at the framing stage – almost done actually – roughing-in electrical and plumbing, roof is on and the concrete retaining walls are next. We started this process on Christmas day 2014, Sandy and I announced it to my mother as her Christmas present…many happy tears followed… a year of designing the space… countless nights at the dinner table sketching and re-sketching proposed layouts… had an 8-month wait for a permit (!!)... and started asbestos remediation and demolition in mid-August. So we are 8 months in and we are hoping we can move in around July. Scratch that: we better move in around July !

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Planning stages… post dinner layout sketching sessions almost every night.. worth it in spades !
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a room with a view… demolition begins !

I’ve been a designer for Love it or List it Vancouver for over 4 years, head designer for the better part of the last 2 years, and in these years we have renovated over 100 houses, so I’ve seen and experienced first hand many of the “do’s and don’t’s” of renovating, which has helped me immensely with tackling this little ditty of a renovation (it’s practically a new build).  I have also had the pleasure of working alongside some amazingly talented tradespeople and suppliers that I will be counting on to make sure it’s done to my standards … !

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Vinyltek windows are in and Rudy has already claimed his guarding post.

We have a great group of people helping us through this – I’ve worked with Kenny Gemmill and Jillian Harris for over 4 years and count on them for guidance, inspiration, and general support. Kenny and I have worked together through some of the most stressful and demanding of projects – have fought and yelled at each other…  but we have always had each others’ back and we hold each other up to a high standard and respect each other for that. I – we – couldn’t do this project without his assistance and shear bull-headedness to keep us trucking along!!! In addition to helping us out on this project, he is also renovating a home for his family in Southlands – not a small task !

Jillian Harris and I have been working together since my starting on Love it or List it Vancouver and, more recently, have been working even closer (midnight emails and Sunday morning text marathons??!) on her home renovation in Kelowna – yes, Kenny, Jillian and I are all renovating at the same time and helping each other out all around ! It’s very ‘design heavy’ these days but I wouldn’t have it any other way… ! Both of our renovations are featured as part of Jillian’s Renovation Series on her blog – our can be seen here and Kenny’s here.

I’ll try to keep posting more as this project moves along, we’re narrowing down on the design elements… green kitchen… barrel-vaulted hallway and wainscoting…. vaulted bedroom – it won’t be a ‘typical’ house – our contractor pointed out to us the other day that we have one bedroom and one bathroom per floor of a 3-floor home in Vancouver… “…yes. Yes we do”. I said and smiled. “That’s just how we like it”.

More to come… thank you for reading.

– Fresca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bathroom reno: the 80’s called, they want their tile back.

Kits Construction and I teamed up to take a couple bathrooms out of the 80’s and transform them with both style and function for a lovely home in Vancouver. The ensuite was the only “working” bathroom on the top floor for a family of 4. The other bathroom – complete with bidet and jet-powered jacuzzi – was just too scary for the kids to use…. See before photos – eek!

The state of the "scary bathroom" prior to our intervention.
The state of the “scary bathroom” prior to our intervention.

And the ensuite wasn’t in any better shape – cramped for 2 people to use, it was a disaster for 4 to get ready in the mornings. Dad dreamed of a steam shower and mom of some well-deserved space…

The ensuite - tiny shower and single vanity made for angry mornings!
The ensuite – tiny shower and single vanity made for angry mornings!

We enlarged the ensuite only slightly into the bedroom in order to get the toilet around the corner and create the steam shower of their dreams. Custom vanity from Merit Kitchens, stylish tile from Olympia Tile and NuHeat in the floor – you can’t help but smile and feel relaxed walking into this space.

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Olympia Tile has a great selection of product – from modern to traditional, there’s always something there that will fit the bill. We selected this mosaic chevron – much to the irritation of our tile installer (sorry Jacky!) – to give the steam shower some edge and elegance.

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The floor tile is all warm and cozy thanks to the NuHeat mats beneath. Great all year round, these heat pads warm the floor up evenly and keep the whole space toasty.

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Plumbing fixtures are all Riobel, supplied through EMCO and the great Franco Lucia – speedy service with precision and style – what more can you ask for from a plumbing rep?!

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An end-of season magnolia branch clipped from the front yard and we have ourselves a finished ensuite – keep out boys, you’ve got your own bathroom!

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The bathroom “for the boys” (for the homeowners’ two sons), was also completed within the same time frame: 6 weeks from start to finish (inc. the main floor reno – soon to be seen on Love it or List it Vancouver). We gutted the dated fixtures and dark paneling (when was paneling ever a good idea?!) and did all new fixtures, tile and cabinetry in soft “haze grey” tones that will stay fresh and current as the sons grow.

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The vanity – again from Merit Kitchens – will house all their storage needs, and if it doesn’t, this great linen cabinet and laundry storage will! No excuses now for not getting the towels off the floor – the open laundry hampers couldn’t be more accessible…

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Exit jacuzzi, enter deep acrylic tub suitable for bath time. The grey bands of elongated subway tiles tie into the vanity colour and the little Silestone ledge gets the soaps out of the way.

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The NuHeat in this bathroom will also help dry those towels that do end up on the floor…

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A couple of updated bathrooms for a young modern family – still in character with their 100-year old home but fresh and new and suited to their lifestyle.

LIOLI Reno: New Life to an Old Charmer

This Love it or List it Vancouver renovation brings an old charmer of a home back to life with an open-concept kitchen/dining space and a family room actually suited to a modern family. Check out the Jillian Harris blog to see what she and the Love it Team  got up to on this one!

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Samantha Pynn: Is accessorizing a home ‘a bit of a crock’ ?

Great little article about room-changing touches that are easily obtained and skillfully collected !

National Post

Dear Sam,

When will designers realize accessories and pillows can’t change a house. I’ve been reading about this in every magazine lately like it’s a new story. I heard you say it on TV too. Feels to me like old news and bit of a crock. The homes in photo spreads are frankly unattainable and cost upward of a million dollars.

Jean

Dear Jean,

Thanks for your honesty. No one needs to alert the media about the power of pillows and accessories story. Yep, we’ve heard and read it a million times before in decorating magazines and on TV. Of course, if your walls are crumbling or painted a horrid shade, well then, no, there is not much that a pillow can do for you. And, if your home is a mess, jammed to the rafters with junk, a great looking vase isn’t going to do a thing. (No judgment…

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