November 30, 2011


I'm hoping we'll get the building permits in the next couple of weeks (although I've been told the Ravine Protection permits take longer) so I've been thinking of ideas for some of the bigger items we'll have to decide on.  First up, windows!  This has been a bit of a problem for me since I was hoping to keep a more traditional look at the front of the house and make it modern in the back.  Transitioning is difficult.  I'm thinking the best approach is to use the same materials front and back but in a different way.  The windows, though, will have to be pretty uniform throughout. 
I have a thing for black and dark grey exterior windows.  Or maybe it's really a thing against stark white windows, I'm not sure.  I also love the look of wide open panes of glass with no break, but this makes so many of them too big to open.  Hmmm.  Here's a few that I just love....

Steven Gambrel via Canadian House and Home - love, love, love the black factory-style window but not sure about breaking up the view. 

.     love the big windows.     .                          
Examples of open, black framed windows.  Love the clear view!

myths my home sherman prospect heights home front
Aside from the bars on the windows (yikes! Imagine living like that.) here are some black windows with a traditional red brick facade.  Love it!
My fav colour combo here - black, white, grey and natural wood.

wood doors. white windows, exposed beam
Portal Design Inc.
And then again, here's another look I love -- natural wood doors with (gasp!) white windows.  But they're really good looking white windows aren't they?  I'm not keen on wood exterior windows for us (although they are super gorgeous!) because of the upkeep and cost, but the more I look at this, the more I think it's the way we should go.  Very simple with the wood doors as the stand-out feature.

Coates Design Architects
Here is a charcoal grey exterior window with a natural wood interior-- perfect!

November 20, 2011

waiting on the permits

We have unfortunately had to let our contractor move on to another job.  The planning and permit process is taking much longer than anticipated.  We want to dig out an area in the backyard to allow for a basement walkout and this has opened a whole can of worms.  First of all we now have to get a separate permit from the ravine by-law department because we want to change a portion of the grading.  This has been a big job since they require a site plan, a grading plan, an arborist report, and a geotechnical report!  And secondly, the digging out would expose a whole section of the back foundation wall which has to be 4 feet under ground.  So, how do we deal with that?  Well, after much deliberation and weighing of our options, we have decided to underpin the back of the house.  Might as well do it right!  We do plan to live in this house for a long time.  So after almost 3 months of planning (and finding the right people to help us out with it) we should be ready to submit our plans this week.  I hope!

October 27, 2011

some demo pics

living room

2nd floor

So this is what the house looks like these days.  The kids think it looks haunted, but I only see open space and so much possibility.  I will hopefully be able to share my floor plans sometime soon. 
Because we are on a protected ravine, we have to get a separate permit from the city for any changes to grade or removal of trees.  We love the trees and wouldn't want to harm any of them, but we would like to change the grade on the top portion of the backyard to allow for a basement walkout.  This week-end we are preparing the grade plan for our permit application.  Gigi is bringing over his theodolite and will do most of it for us.  I'm sure if we paid someone to do this, it would be done in no time with GPS, but we are trying to save money every step of the way here and so we'll do it old school style!

October 23, 2011

Demo done! Mostly

We are done the non-structural demo of the house. There are now no walls, ceilings or floors left. Makes you look at things differently. 
With all the walls open, we really are starting from scratch. I've been thinking of Eco friendly options for the house and I'm currently looking into geothermal heating and cooling. I know 2 families in our neighbourhood that have installed geothermal systems and have to discuss it further with them. It currently seems like a good option for us since we have a large front yard for digging and have to replace the furnace anyway. The rebates, I'm told, are pretty substantial which makes the whole idea more attractive.

October 11, 2011

Pre-permit demo almost complete

The non-structural demo is almost complete now. This is the beginning of the stage I love. You can really see what the place is going to look like. There is also no turning back now! We found a couple of treasures in the wall last week. Photo negatives, a little carved boat, a booklet, an old toffee container, a signed menu from Child's Restaurant, lots of newspaper from 1920-1921, and (to my 9 year old's sheer delight!) a little hidden staircase. It's all so much fun to imagine the life this house had before us.

September 21, 2011

planning takes so long

I feel like we are moving so slowly on this reno, but so many people I've talked to seem to think the opposite. One friend who has just recently completed a year long reno said that it took her about a year to do all the planning -- before they even lifted a hammer! Anyway, we have done quite a bit of surface demo on the first floor and basement.  Without the permit, that is all we can really do but we wanted to move things along and Gigi wanted to see what was behind the walls and ceilings.  After a few discussions with architects and with two architectural technicians, we have decided to go with the latter since I have already done the space design myself and have a good idea of what I want.  The fee difference is about $30-40,000 compared to $3-4,000.  This is the main reason for our decision!  The designer we are going with is also a structural engineer and he will design the beams and supports for us as well as do all the permit drawings.  We're all pretty happy with this direction now.

September 02, 2011

still waiting... but started some demo!

While we were still trying to decide on an architect (or if we could do this without one), I thought we would order a bin and do a bit of demo.  But before we did, we had to let the kids have a bit of fun! So we let them loose, along with a few neighbourhood friends, to grafitti the walls with some markers and paint. What a ball! I'm pretty sure we'll all remember that afternoon for a long time to come.
We're starting the demo in the basement so that we can see the foundation walls. It looks like both the kitchen and sunroom were additions put on at some point in the house's lifetime. Gigi (my dad) has suggested that in order to open up the rooms above these additions (that he thinks were done separately) we might be better off to tear down and rebuild the additions. Yikes! That sounds expensive!

August 30, 2011

This is going to take awhile!

I can't seem to get much done while I have the kids at home. I am usually the type to be as sad to see the end of summer as the kids are, but this year I'm happy for the free afternoons I'll have. My dad has been busy working on the scaled floor plans for the house while I've still been working on the yard and organizing the surveys and architect. I can't wait until he gets those plans done so that I can start fiddling around with them. I've got so many ideas already but really need to test their workability on a scaled plan. To try and stretch our budget, I'm hoping to work with much of the existing floor plan. I think this is easier to do with the 2nd and 3rd floors, but need to totally rework the main floor. I also have big ideas for the basement, but will have to see where the eventual supports end up.

August 28, 2011

Can't believe we did it!

After 8 years of admiring one of the houses in our neighbourhood and dreaming of ways to fix it up, we somehow managed to buy it! The former owner was a 95 year old woman who had been very active in the community, but she unfortunately just couldn't stay in her beloved childhood home any longer. When I heard that the family might be selling the house, I decided to make an out of character bold move and send them a note. I wrote about how much I admired the house and the area, and that we would love to buy it from them. To my delight, they responded saying that they would consider it. Although there was some uncertainty about it all for a little while, and we saw so many people going through the house, in the end it all worked out. We managed to buy (and close!) the house in a very crazy 3 days!
So now the work begins. We have a pretty healthy budget for the renos, but we also have some pretty grand ideas for the place! And after speaking with 2 architects, we were told we'd have to double our budget to get what we wanted. A little discouraging, but I know we'll work it out.