Saturday, 28 April 2012

Phase I: Master Bedroom.a.

Master Bedroom:
Located on the E wall (contrary to the little compass that I can not figure out how to change... grumble) of the 2nd floor. Originally two bedrooms, by removing a wall they will be combined into the Master Bedroom (the second bedroom will also be partially used to expand the Family Bath).
Changes have already evolved from this floorplan (created before deconstruction in January): we are omitting the built-in closet in the Master Bedroom, and opting for a wardrobe instead. We are so

Sunporch. We moved in and immediately began to seal the windows & doors for energy efficiency, so as of yet, I have not stepped foot into this sweet-little-cherry-ontop of a Sunporch. All good things...

Removing the lathe & plaster walls between the two bedrooms was messy: 10,000 bucketloads of refuse were carried down a flight & 1/2 of stairs (thanks, teenager!).  

Upon changing the load bearing wall, we discovered that sistering the ceiling joists would be a capital idea. Much more plaster & lathe travelled down the stairs. Yay?

Next Up:
Moving the Bath wall & laying/repairing sub-floor. Electrical, drywall, paint and flooring. We are laying in wait to complete Phase I of this project before advancing... oh time/money!

In the meanwhile... I'm dreaming Zen bubbles of a Sunporch morning meditation (le sigh)!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Phase I: Dining Room.a.

Dining Room:
Situated off the Kitchen, Living Room, Library, and hallway to the main floor Bath & Bedroom, the Dining Room was more like a hallway (says wear in hardwood floor).

Original hardwood floors, mouldings, and baseboards, North facing window (view to neighbours), sparkly chandelier (the man loves it's internal geometry, but I'm not in love with it's kitch...).

Natural lighting is limited: so doorway from Kitchen will be reconfigured to become across from S facing Kitchen window, doubling the natural light in the space.

Access to and from the Dining Room was rearranged & traffic flow has been altered, creating a more purposeful space as a Dining Room alone, with access to the Library.

Ducts were re-routed to create the double doorway from Kitchen: structural had to be engineered (this is the supporting wall of the house).

The Dining Room opened up immediately once we removed the wall to the Kitchen... natural light! Huzzah! Reconfiguration of the many awkward doorways was a huge project for Mark, but well worth the effort. The Dining Room is now a Dining Room! Imagine that.

Next Up:
Walls, French doors, baseboards and trims, chair rail will provide the base for the custom wainscoting, and a thicker more decorative crown moulding added... then paint!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Phase I: Library.a.

Situated off the Dining Room through doorway smack-dab in the centre of the E wall; perfect for a secluded "adult" space in the house & full of morning light.

Wowie this carpet is grody! And not in a steam-clean-&-fix kinda gross, but synthetic and 1980's and stained with (gag) many stains i don't want to think about. So... needless to say it comes OUT! So very satisfying.

Light fixture in the centre of the ceiling will also be re-located, to suit a more sophisticated space. As well, some wall on the North end replaced (from past water damage).

A relatively small space, with simple renovations.

In place of the hideous carpet, we've sourced some Bamboo hardwood (I know.. I know... a different flooring again? I'm crazy? noooooooooo! well, yes, but... you don't get to judge me) and it goes in lickity split. I will justify the flooring choice by it being a. the same tone as the hardwood throughout the Main floor, and b. that a door will break the space apart from the rest of the house.

Elements of Design:
Retrofitting the off-the-shelf bookcases that came with the house will be a several-week-long project to become built-ins. Plus, we must have a place to house the babies (vintage record player, reel-to-reel, vinyl collection). I'm envisioning glossy teal bookcases... yowza! We want to create something vibe-ing on the subtly alluring, artistically moody, and play to the "adult" space of the room.

Sightline is direct from the Dining Room, so decor will evolve simultaneously. The Dining Room is proving my design nemesis... darn you Dining Room!

The ceiling is a gong-show (different levels, slope), but we hope to remedy that with some keen design & furniture placement. We could coffer or place false-beams in the ceiling to transition the eye... but I'm totally not feeling it.

Mmmmmmmmm... this space will be studiously delicious!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Phase I: Main floor Bath.b.

We're a fun, light, happy family... 
In addition to the fun, light, happy vibes of my dream powder rooms... 3 out of 4 have flowers. There will be a place for flowers in this Bath... oh yes, yes there will be.

Elements of Design:
We've chosen a classic and inexpensive 18 x 12" highgloss white ceramic tile, drawing from the white fixtures we are keeping. Tile will be laid in a subway pattern.

There is a sightline from the Kitchen to the Main Bath, pulling the clean white lines and dark expresso hardwood from the Kitchen into play. We plan to reuse some dark wicker baskets, and attain a cabinet in a similar dark wood to bring these elements into the space.

For the main walls I'm drawn to something bright, something bold, and something that compliments the transitional elements from the Kitchen, yet it's own distinct room. Yellow for the win! Ideally yellow & white mingling in a geometric pattern for a crisp & structured style. Our dream wallpaper Imperial Trellis by F.Schumacher & Co. would retail at over $1250 for our little Bathroom... which makes me wince and froth... very scary. So... not finding anything comparable (in style or affordability) I do a little digging on ye ole Google... 

...and then this is the part where you find out that I'm a little batshit crazy... because I am going to stencil and paint by hand our own supercool "wallpaper" thankyouverymuchSchumacher&Co. 

15 hours into this project I realize I'd sure better really LOVE this (with a calculated 45 more hours to go). No jokes. Patience is a virtue... and books on tape a blessing.

The tutorial is from jonesdesigncompany, and the overall effect will be what we are looking for... if not a little Moroccan. Yay me? But at $12 total for a brush and very small can of low VOC Yellow Gold, we are pleased to save some serious coin and not sacrifice style.


It is seemingly counterintuitive, to make this move into a bigger house. And you would be correct to assume, and we are guilty. Boo! Yet, our family's commitment to living a reduced-footprint lifestyle is still present, and even boosted by the Erleichda house project. Let me illustrate the paradigm shift.

We walk, bike, and take public transport. By being centrally located to our daily activities (work, school, groceries, leisure) we are able to eliminate the need for a personal vehicle. In our winter climate, this is a harsh decision to make, but we have been inching into this trend for years, and have no qualms about the extra time, effort, and un-comfortability involved with longjohns, feather eskimo jackets, and down mittens. Our day to day transportation needs are met with reduced carbon emissions.

To cart supplies to and fro while we renovate, we purchased a reasonably efficient vehicle, and use it solely for house projects. Our trips are carefully organized to be few and far in between (a mindset learned from living on the Farm as well as our past City experiences being on foot; have stripped away many superfluous needs. For example when you only have two arms & a backpack, the amount that can be carried is limited).

By insulating exterior walls that have older insulation (shredded newspaper and woodchips!) we reduce the useage of energy from the grid. The first renovation we performed was insulating the exterior Basement walls (January), and we can feel the difference as well as see it on our energy bill! By making these changes, we effectively reduce our need for more resources in the future.

Windows and doors, especially the aluminum framed ones this house is sporting, are terrible, and where necessary are either framed, insulated, and boarded up (Basement) to eliminate, or scheduled to replace. As a simpler fix, caulking the frames and jambs of exterior windows and doors has already eliminated drafts. Sealing the windows with an insulating barrier is also great for those inefficient ones.

Closing off vents and keeping the doors closed in rooms that are not in use is another easy activity to reduce energy consumption. Place a draft-stopper (a rolled up towel) at the base of the door to seal the deal.

Replacing the thermostat with a programmable one allows us to decrease the heat at night while we are snuggled under the covers, and set programs that jive with when we are at home and away, further reducing our need for energy. In the hot hot heat of summer, we have an exhaust fan mounted into the Loft which effectively cools the entire house (with a little creative window-opening here & HVAC knowledge there) so that air conditioner is obsolete.

With the luxury of a Sunporch & Bunker, we have eliminated the need for a freezer in the winter months. The indoor location keeps our bounty away from neighbourhood cats, and is more convenient than an out-of-doors location.
We've had an Energy Audit conducted pinpointing the areas of this particular house that can use upgrading to maximize efficiency. It's true, however, that a nearly 100 year old house on the Saskatchewan prairies has unique climate challenges to consider, and not all forms of energy reduction available are applicable to this home. There are plenty of alternatives being invented presently, or becoming available. More on this later...

By taking time & care when deconstructing, we are able to salvage as many materials for reuse/donation as possible, reducing the amount of waste to hit the landfill.

Instead of purchasing unsustainable or over-processed products for our reconstruction, we source out alternatives. For example, the wood boxes for the Kitchen cabinetry are a greener alternative to over-processed MDF (as well as their quality ensuring a longer life).

As an alternative to purchasing new elements, we have sourced out used or remnants (hardwood flooring in the Kitchen from a Warehouse Outlet that features remnant stock). Kijiji, Garage Sales, Friends and Family... all great sources to find what we wanted (Doors, hardware, tools) not only for less cost than retail, but with option to trade/barter. Redistributing goods has been a load more effort and time than kickin' it over to Home Depot, but well worth the effort in reduced packaging/waste and meeting people in the community too! Our range (aka "Bessy"), Kitchen hardware, bamboo floor in the Library, as well as the man's tools all were sourced from the community at large. It is an amazing attunement that happens when you tap into networks of people to meet your needs, rather than ye ole traditional consumerism!

The way I see it, is it's all just a matter of choice (do we buy the IKEA bedframe? Or source one out through Garage Sales this summer? Or build one ourselves? Or teach ourselves to sleep on bamboo mats on the floor?), and reducing the ignorance that comes with those choices (how far will that IKEA bedframe need to travel to get to us? Do we have the time to look at Garage Sales this summer? Would we be able to build a bedframe that suits our style? How sustainable is Bamboo?).

By making the choice to refurbish an older home instead of building a new one... to take an existing object and transform it into a more efficient home in a consciously sustainable manner... we choose to continue exhibiting our eco-savvy paradigm.

Present and History

Present Kitchen:
Location: Basement
Luxuries: electric stove, mini-fridge, sink
Favourite Quote: "It's like camping with all your stuff..."

According to Revenue Canada we live below the poverty line. Truth is, we live like Kings (save the political debate or economic rant for another blog). This is our present Kitchen, and we grumble about it being a flight of stairs from the Dining Room.

Present Living Room, Dining Room, Library:
Location: Main floor Living Room
Luxuries: all our daily possessions within an arms reach.
Favourite quote: "Well... it's bigger than Pearl..." (Pearl is our '78 VW microbus)

When we moved from our twenty-something 600 sq.ft. bungalow (which Yes, by the way, was always disgustingly tidy) we didn't think we had a lot of stuff. We purged our environment of unnecessary items regularly, confirming intent of our superior minimalist lifestyle. 223 was neat and everything had it's place. Then we took everything out of it's place and put it into this 1900+ sq.ft. 2 1/2 storey with a double garage, and there is no place for the stuff... it's all over the place... a clutter-a-thon (as if the bungalow was a Tardis somehow much bigger on the inside that on the outside)... where did all this stuff come from? Oh hubris!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Phase I: Kitchen.b.

I'm an innate lover of pretty things, and sucker for a functional no-hassle space. I strive for balance in design and quality. As chief Designer of the Erleichda house project I have the charge of making the design calls.

In our previous 20-something house we were restricted by teeny spaces and inexperience, but with this house the pressure is on to create a Kitchen that suits not only our unique needs as a family, but also a practical space for resale. Hooboy fun?
Core elements of this Kitchen's design were decided in the Assessment phase, and we have allowed process to evolve over study and debate while constructing.

Once the Bedroom wall was removed, plumbing & electric roughed in, subfloor laid, NEW patio doors, large sunny nook window, and Kitchen window were installed... we got very embarrassingly giddy with the new space.

Elements of Design:
Intention was to keep & restore as much of the original nearly 100-year old elements possible, including the hardwood floors in the Dining Room, Living Room, and Foyer. Since salvaging the Kitchen hardwood proved impossible once we uncovered it's damaged state, we quested for salvaged (no luck), a width match (stupid expensive),  and finally settled to commit a restoration design no-no: laying contrasting hardwood butted up against the original. I know... I know... but trust me here... we had to pick our battles. Dark expresso stained maple hardwood just happened to be on discount at an outlet warehouse with exactly the amount we needed, it was kismet and we could not deny.

Kitchen (walls are up!)
Hardwood in the Kitchen? Yes. Know thy hardwood. Water/liquid damage can happen. But... for us, it's the bees knees; warming up the space with wood floors maintained the character as well as creating a continuous flow throughout the main floor (the original to be refinished in the same expresso... eventually).

Kitchen (painted)
We wanted quality, so researched our options and discovered only one cabinet maker in the City makes the boxes, drawers, and fronts with wood. Most companies use processed chip-board for the boxes and overprocessed MDF for the faces. AJ became our cabinet-maker by default, but we are pleased with his craftsmanship and service (as well as witty banter).

Timelessness design aesthetics led us to a semi-gloss bright white shaker-style face with turn-of-the century cup-pull handles for a creative mix of old & new.

I was over the moon with the look of open shelving instead of upper cabinetry. Bringing the old-world charm back into balance with modern aesthetics. Otherwise I would have chosen glass-front uppers...

Marble is ingrained into my Dream-kitchen heart since our copious gastronomical bliss in Italy and Spain... but the upkeep was not going to be practical with teenager and man being a little on the sloppy-side. Then... serendipitously finding a marble-look granite that was a 10 on the gorgeousness scale: perfect and under budget. Lucky us! (Quartz was also an option, but after research revealed that the epoxies used to bind the quartz emit toxins continually, like paint or carpet glue, it was eliminated.)

Stainless steel has not lost it's value in an appliance choice. We chose stainless, as we are creating a stylish and simple family dwelling. Eco options, a must. So, refrigerator is a bottom-freezer one-door on top style: the best eco savvy option in design by effectively utilize the properties of physics (those lovely french-double-door styles are inefficient because of the seal being doubled, and you can forget about glass doors... they bleed energy, not to mention having to keep a tidy fridge).

We chose and sourced a handmade ceramic apron sink: wickedcool traditional aesthetic and reduced material/processing.

Work triangle is extended, but works... embrace the character!

This brings the blog up to date on the Kitchen, and we are anxiously awaiting in the near future! I've never wanted to bake cookies and make empinadas so much... and hope the inspiration lasts once I can!

Next up:
Cabinet boxes in, then the man will install the hardwood. Once the flooring is in place, we will be able to move out of the Living Room (the present Dining, Library, everything), and the countertop will arrive. Only 4 more weeks (fingers crossed!)

Phase I: Main floor Bath.a.

Main floor Bathroom:
Access from a doorway off the Dining Room into a small hallway (also leading to the Bedroom annihilated by our Kitchen renovation), and a teeny tiny pocket-door.

The Bathroom, Bedroom, and Library were additions to the original home in the '40's, and the doorway off the Dining Room would have been an exterior door.

Previous owners had done a lo-end update including vinyl floor tiles (industrial grade), new pedestal sink and lo-flo toilet, as well as tub & surround. We will be salvaging the sink, tub & surround to relieve our budget, and replacing the toilet with a dual flush.

Functioning window (awning opens at top) inside the shower is kinda cool. The lower portion is frosted for privacy. Before use we stripped the old & applied new caulk creating a fresh seal to prevent any leaks into the wall.

The pocket-door wall was removed along with the hallway carpet.

Doorway off the Dining Room has been filled-in and creating a new door accessible from the new Kitchen. Walls & ceiling primed/painted flat white.

It is amazing how large this Bathroom feels now! We did not expect the difference to be so vast, and expected a small bathroom still, but the space feels open and spacious!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Phase I: Kitchen.a.

Kitchen (before)
The heart of our home.

We moved late in  November, and had our Winter Holidays in this Kitchen. For the first time ever, we had family (my Dad) to our home for a decadent dinner, and despite burning the heirloom ginger cookies and not being able to find the lobster crackers, we were happy with our temporary heart.

It was discovered that Dad had grown up kitty-corner from this house. Over wine, we learned a small bit about the twice-removed former residents (one of whom is an award-winning Canadian writer!). My Mom (who was in the hospital with knee surgery at the time) found some old photographs of my Dad and Aunt as children with this house in the background (weird!), as well as a photo of the neighbourhood way-back-when. Although the sense of history was undeniable through just experiencing the creaking & sighing of floors, quirky features, and pokey layout on a day-to-day basis, having a personal connection to this house through my Dad's family was even more a positive affirmation we had leaped into this project at the "right" time. We knew we were home.

South facing window with excellent southern exposure.

Original Material:
Cupboards are... yuk all over (not original, not even functioning), countertop is ceramic tile (a personal pet peeve), flooring is laminate on top of... 800 layers of vinyl, on top of original hardwood.
Walls are lathe & plaster, with panelboard. Loads of wallpaper and vinyl underneath backsplash. Deconstruction was messy... ugly... and scandalously revealing.

Surprises included: wiring (described as "upgraded" in the Realtor's flyer) needed a complete overhaul (...oh Hi 10% budget contingency! How nice to use you already!) and new panel cha-ching cha-ching, floor joists to be sistered & new subfloor, and that the load bearing wall was not bearing anything at all... yay?

There is not a whole lot more satisfying than tearing down walls. Immediate destruction is cathartic, and the results of opening up the Kitchen into that Bedroom space was exhilarating. Four more months of camping in the basement slurping soup and chilli was not an unhappy thought for that moment.

Although I shovelled so much debris out of that Kitchen window my arms sore for 300 years... the man & teenager knocked those walls into oblivion like real live Superheroes... my Superheroes.


Taking stock:
With a small budget suited to loving "vintage" & being able bodied, we are committed to refurbishing this neglected home into a suitable family nest and investment. Most projects will be by our hands; we take pride and joy in actively creating our environment.

Our second turn-of-the-century home, we have experience living on-site through a series of major renovations, and hopefully prepared for leaning into un-comfortability.

The facts:
This is a lot of house for our family of three... five if the felines get a say (which, of course, they do). Floor plan below indicates present structure which we will try to preserve in essence of budget, but not compromise style.

Order of business:
Observe. Contrary to what I say to everyone who asks about renovations & my better judgement, we are not going to live in the house for six months before making drastic changes. We have six weeks from move-in before construction begins... I'm on hypervigilant alert to cram the nuances of this dwellings' feng shui and make quick confident decisions.

Fourtunately, we have a kickass Contractor. We obtained 5 quotes on preliminary drawings and onsite visits, and (once again, going against what I say to others about how to decide upon quotes: obtain at least four & choose a mid-range quote) we chose Mark with our gut instinct at the lowest bid. He's quick, but thorough, and trying to build a company for himself; young with apprenticeship and trying to prove himself.

CAD our floorplan. For Phase I of this renovation, we are reconstructing walls in the Kitchen (main floor) and future Master Bedroom on the 2nd floor; three of those walls being load bearing.

Floor Plan: Phase I:
Removing the wall between a bedroom and the Kitchen on the main floor decreases our property by one bedroom (out of 7) but we gain the space for a larger, more attractive kitchen. An intelligent renovation: Kitchens and bathrooms add the most value to a house.

The Main floor bathroom is also getting a mini-makeover. The awkward hallway from the Dining room will be remodelled to have access to the Bathroom from the Kitchen area only (and the doorway off the Dining Room filled-in). This provides a great flow to the whole main floor.

To increase this positive flow of the main floor, two doorways off the Dining Room that lead to the Kitchen (oh weird old character homes!) will be removed and a double doorway in the centre of the wall constructed. This is the load-bearing wall of the house and will require structural mathematics to be configured (good thing the man has Engineer pals).

The 2nd floor will get a makeover as well, by creating a double wide opening in the wall between two bedrooms (losing another of the 7 bedrooms here...), we open up a Master Bedroom... where the people who pay the bills sleep! This will allow room for a closet-area (rare in turn of the century homes) where one of the bedrooms used to be, and by moving the bordering bathroom wall we will create a larger 2nd floor bathroom as well (eventually... this is in Phase II).

Next up:
Create a calendar (or better known as "Project Management"). For Phase I we must co-ordinate with Mark, and do some heavy household thinking, for we must choose which projects take priority in accordance to our budget and available time. This is a "schedule" that will change almost daily... and we are prepared to roll with it. Being tight on time doesn't mix well with tight on money and wanting quality workmanship! So... time is our chosen flexible element.

Open a bottle of wine & get some good sleep!


Purchase: November 2011
Type: Residential
Style: Single Family, 2 1/2 storey
Bedrooms: 7
Bathrooms: 3
Garage: Double detached
Basement: Concrete
Size: 1,923 sq.ft.
Year Built: 1919
Description: Classical character home in prime Nutana location, walking distance to University of Saskatchewan, Broadway shopping district, and river. 4 bedrooms on 2nd storey. Loft on 3rd storey. 3 full Baths. Original hardwood floors. Suite potential.

The summarized dying words of Albert Einstein, spoken in an 8th century Bohemian dialect, was lifted for the title of this house from the fictional work Jitterbug Perfume, a novel by Tom Robbins: Erleichda, loosely translated, is "lighten up".