Category Archives: renovations

kitchen subway tile backsplash

kitchen subway tile backsplash: a classic

27th April 2015

Between the etsy shop, prepping for spring craft fairs, my contract work, chipping away at the house, getting our apartment rented, and you know, regular life, finding time to take photos and write up blog posts about our renovation and latest DIYs has become a challenge. Sometimes I feel like I’m not keeping you guys up to date enough! Forgive me? Let’s get back to the kitchen today, k? I never gave the scoop on our backsplash tile.

how to choose the right subway tile backsplash for your kitchen - via the sweetest digs

As our kitchen was coming together, I really hadn’t settled on a backsplash. My dream backsplash is one large slab of marble (like this, and this). I love the strong veining and the impact it has on a room. The cost of that option though, was totally out of the budget.

In the earlier stages of kitchen planning, I kept flip flopping between either going with a marble tile backsplash (more affordable than one big slab) and plain countertop, or a countertop with veining and a more plain backsplash. I didn’t want pattern + pattern – too busy for me. Kind of like how you don’t want to wear a skimpy top with short shorts- you need to pick where you’re going to show off the goods, you know?

Once we found our marble lookalike quartz countertop, I brought home a zillion samples for backsplash. Some grey, some white, some large, some small. I really didn’t have a clear vision of what I wanted. I laid them all out along the countertop and just lived with them for a while.


Some of the white ones got knocked out quickly because they really didn’t match the white of the cabinets (making them appear more yellow). Some of the grey ones clashed with the grey of the lower cabinetry and so got veto’d. Grey is sort of like white in that there are so many tones behind the colour and if you get two that aren’t in the same “family”, they can look awful. The marble tiles also got nixed as the veining was too strong next to the veining in the countertop. I also realized that I didn’t like anything too small as I didn’t want to see too many grout lines.


As much as I wanted something other than subway tile (I felt like that was too predictable), I ended up down to two choices: an elongated white subway tile and a grey subway tile. What can I say? Clearly the reason why so many people like subway tile is that it is just a classic choice. I liked the simplicity and that it wouldn’t steal the show from the other elements going on in the kitchen.

Ultimately I chose some of the longer white tiles – the “Manhattan” 4×12 tiles in white by FAP (I purchased them through Euro Tile & Stone here in Ottawa). I liked the longer look, and they have a cool glazed texture that was different from the usual uniform look on subway tiles. The white won out, as I felt like the kitchen might come off as TOO grey if the whole backsplash was grey, along with the lower cabinetry and stainless steel appliances.


We had our tile guy put these up, all the way to the ceiling with a plain white edging and medium grey grout. The white of these tiles almost perfectly matches our white IKEA cabinets and look great next to the countertop. I really like how they extend to the ceiling, helping to bring the eye up and make it look like a really polished space.

grey and white kitchen with white subway tile


DSC_1494Left on the kitchen to-do list?

-Installing our range hood and custom box to cover up the exposed duct work above the stove.

-Spray paint the white vent cover below the sink cabinet grey. Sticks out like a sore thumb, huh?

-The white trim around the window is waaaaaay too white now compared to the backsplash. Rather than painting it a more subdued white, I was actually thinking of potentially going grey (similar to the cabinet colour). I have very crudely photo-shopped it in in the photo below. What do you think? I’m pretty sold on the idea. (I also photo-shopped out the white vent cover below the sink in this photo – so much better).

kitchen - photoshopped grey trim

Other than that though, I think we’re just about there with the kitchen. Feels really good to have one space in the house that is so close to the finish line.

In case you’re looking for them, here are the other kitchen posts on designing our IKEA kitchen, installing the cabinetry, choosing our marble-lookalike quartz countertop, and installing slim gold hardware.

What do you guys have as backsplash in your kitchen? Do you love it? Are you bored of seeing subway tile all over the place (I thought I was… and then of course I put it all over our house.. ha!)? 

tips on choosing hardwood floors - via the sweetest digs

choosing hardwood floors: our experience

12th February 2015

Building or renovating a home is just an endless lesson in decision-making. There are so many decisions to make – pretty much on a daily basis. Some bigger, and more expensive, than others. One of the larger decisions we had to make in terms of interior finishing were the floors.

tips on choosing hardwood floors - via the sweetest digs

We knew from the very beginning that we wanted a continuous look throughout the house. Sure the bathrooms would be tiled, but everywhere else would have the same floors – a hardwood. We love the warmth of  hardwood floors. They are a classic choice, don’t go out of style, are good for re-sale, and suit just about every kind of look you might be going for in a room. I’ll admit that we did think about a laminate or tile for a brief period – the kind that mimic the look of hardwood – because the price of those options was just so appealing. Ultimately though, we knew it was wise to spend the extra money now and not regret our decision later on. Floors aren’t really something that are easy to change down the line.

I had a pretty clear vision of the style I wanted from the very beginning: a wide plank hardwood in a grey-meets-brown colour with a satin finish. I kept coming back to this particular space…

via heather wilson architect

>> see this gorgeous home by Architect, Heather A Wilson here <<

The look felt just right to me – kind of beach-house inspired – with a heavy dose of grey. Not too golden, not too reddish, not too brown, that perfect grey wash kind of look.The practicality of a lighter toned wood was also appealing. I didn’t want to get something that was too dark, where I would be seeing the dust and dirt 10 minutes after it had been cleaned.

Sourcing out the floors became a full time gig there for a while. I visited a zillion hardwood floor places around town, looking for the floor that was going to be just right, but that also wouldn’t break the bank.


My mini helper. How little she was last summer… Her short hair! The legs!

I brought home sample after sample. There was one hardwood that was amaaaaazing and I stupidly brought home a sample piece. Of course it was way over budget, but I was bringing home a piece of it just to “compare others” so that I could “find a match” that was cheaper. Ha, what a dumb move. If you can’t afford it, don’t even look at it. Seriously. Just walk away.

On wide planks: Everyone kept telling me that if I wanted wide planks, then I was much better off to go with an engineered wood product. Solid hardwood (which typically comes in narrower widths like 3 or 4 inches) is more prone to “cupping” and warping with the expansion and contraction that occurs with change of season and moisture levels. At first I was really reticent on the whole idea of engineered wood floors – I thought it was the same as laminate – but was won over when I saw the product from a few of the top line manufacturers. Engineered hardwood is made of layers of wood, bonded together with adhesives. A high quality engineered hardwood will still be able to be sanded/re-finished several times in its lifetime. When you look at the side profile of an engineered floor piece, you can see that the good ones have quite a thick top layer (the wood). The main advantage to engineered hardwood is that it is much more moisture resistant and therefore less likely to cup or warp over time. So with a wide plank where there could be a lot of expansion and contraction in a solid, you are making a safer choice by going with engineered. After hearing this and doing my own reading, I was sold on the idea of engineered so that I could get those wide planks and not worry about warping down the road. BUT… of course, they were more expensive. Why is that always the case?!  [FYI – for more details on solid vs engineered flooring, here is an article with Mike Holmes and one from House & Home].


I went around and around on a few different choices. Some would look promising in the showroom and then look quite different in the light at our house. I also found that looking at a small piece that had lots of variation in the wood grain and tone looked awesome in the sample, but then when you saw it in a large area it was too busy. That was a good lesson to learn, and the only way I realized that was when we saw a hardwood installed in about a 200 square foot area of one of the showrooms. It was one that we had originally liked, but thought it was awful when we saw it on the large scale. So my advice? Get big enough samples and bring them home with you to look at in different zones of your home. Once you’ve done that and narrowed it down, have the store open a box of that hardwood and pull out like 4-5 pieces and lay them down so that you get a good sense of how it looks on a bigger scale (unless they already have this in their showroom).


>> there was a lot of this… <<

The one that we ended up choosing, I originally thought had been too grey in the showroom. I didn’t even pick it up until my third visit there (why the guys at that place hadn’t booted me out of the store by then, I don’t know…so patient!). Once I got it into the house though, I knew it was just the right colour – a perfect mix of brown and grey. The colour is called ‘Cumin’ and it is made by Superior Flooring (a Canadian company with an excellent reputation). It is a Maple and came in both engineered and in solid. The cost of the engineered was more expensive both in materials and labour to install it, so we made a compromise – we went with the engineered for the main floor to get that wide plank look we were after, but transitioned to the solid for the second floor (the wide planks were originally to be 7″ but we ended up with 5″, and the solid is 3 1/2″). In terms of pricing, the solid hardwood ended up being around $5.65/square foot, and the engineered at $7.80/square foot, not including installation.

tips on choosing hardwood floors - via the sweetest digs

The lucky part to this story? We had placed the order for our hardwood and then received a call a little while later that apparently the supplier was not able to get their hands on any engineered maple in the particular grade we had selected (we had gone with the higher grade to ensure a more uniform colouring/look). They had, however, been able to locate some birdseye maple. Birdseye is extremely uncommon, and therefore, super expensive. If you haven’t heard of it before (I hadn’t), the unique feature is a bunch of tiny knots in the maple — resembling birds eyes. It is apparently a prized wood for artisans and fine furniture makers. So because we had already placed the order, they were going to upgrade us to the birdseye at no additional cost (it would have been double or triple what we paid!). I went in to check out the sample pieces, and at first the birdseye looked busy to me, but when I saw several pieces of it all laid out next to each other, I loved it.

The week the floor went in was amazing. Sort of like the drywall stage, it really felt like we were getting closer to that finish line.

A relatively clean job site…IMG_20141113_152648

To disaster (once again)…

tips on choosing hardwood floors - via the sweetest digs

But then… progress! We paid a bit extra to have the main floor glued down with a special glue, as we were advised that this would help with soundproofing. Since we rent out the basement and wanted to do whatever we could to minimize the noise between the two units, we figured it was a smart on choosing hardwood floors - via the sweetest digs

I don’t have any beautifully styled “after” photos for you yet (hello, renovation zone!), but you can get a good sense of the look in these shots. These are both on the main floor, so where we went with the wide plank engineered (ignore how high up the dining room light fixture is – we had it raised so that no one would bonk their head when we were moving in furniture).

tips on choosing hardwood floors - via the sweetest digs

We really appreciated how the boards are all generally pretty long. Nothing short and stubby, and you don’t see too many seams.
tips on choosing hardwood floors - via the sweetest digsAnd then on the second floor (this is Maya’s room), where we have the narrower solid hardwood in the same colour.

tips on choosing hardwood floors - via the sweetest digs

It took about a week for it all to get installed. We had the same company who we bought the floor from install it (Barwood Flooring here in Ottawa, for you local folks). That way if there were any defects or errors with the order, it was on them to fix it. They were great, the install went smoothly, and the end result is fabulous. It was definitely a bit of a splurge, but we feel confident that we got an excellent product that will stand the test of time, and a really expert installation.

After all of those deliberations and many, many trips around town, I feel huge relief that we love the floors as much as we do. It would have been a seriously expensive decision to have any regret about…!

Have you guys chosen flooring for your pad before? Or re-finished any hardwood? Got any tips or advice to share? 


house progress: exterior finishes

3rd October 2014

Things have been moving and grooving over at the house lately. Well, maybe the grooving is mostly on my part – I can’t help but break out into a happy dance every time something gets checked off the list.  The latest? Framing is done, house wrapping done, roof done, most windows in, concrete poured for garage floor, electrical pretty well done, HVAC and plumbing half-way done. With all of that going on, we have been making various decisions pretty much daily. As much as I’m wanting to dream about kitchen and bathroom finishes and paint colours, my head has been occupied with exterior finishes, door choices, where outlets should go, and bath tubs. Today let’s chat exterior finishes: James Hardie, stone, and Azek decking.


(Photo snapped two days ago at the house)

For the siding of the house, we knew we wanted to go with James Hardie Board, which is a fiber cement siding. It has the same look as wood siding, but is extremely durable and long lasting. No maintenance a few years down the line after some rough winters – this stuff will really last. They have a nice line of colours to choose from and you can choose different placements (like vertical, horizontal, shake style, etc).

We could have gone a variety of ways in terms of colour, but I am regularly drawn to darker homes with a lot of white accent. There are a few houses in our neighbourhood that I’m obsessed with (sorry – phone pics so not great quality):

house inspiration 2 IMG_20130309_161836 IMG_20140831_194456

I also remembered something Sarah Richardson said on one of her shows ages ago that stuck with me – when you live in a climate with lots of snow, why go with a light coloured house that will not stand out for half the year? Why not go with something that offers a lot of contrast to that white blanket we live under from Nov-March? So, with that in mind, I narrowed in on ‘Iron Gray’ from the James Hardie line. Here are a few examples of houses in that colour – both from the James Hardie Facebook page.

james hardie iron gray1 james hardie iron gray2

We are going to have the Hardie Board installed horizontally on the whole house. I would have loved to do some shakes up in the gables at the front of the house, but the cost to do that was just too high. Gotta stay on budget!

All of the trim – so around each window, along each seam, etc will be in white. This, along with a white garage door, will bring some lightness to the house.

To add a bit of contrast to the exterior, we are also doing some stone along the “skirt” of the house (ie. the bottom 1/4 of the front of the house). This is a nice way to add a bit of stone, without it costing an arm and a leg. We need less than 200 square feet, so it’s not really a huge expense. We chose Traditional Grey by Arriscraft, which is a light grey stone that looks a lot like limestone to me.


As for the porch, I want to use some tapered white columns and white railing and posts. Again, keeping it light and bright. For the actual steps and porch floor, we are thinking of going with a engineered decking material. Probably the ‘Azek’ decking – which my parents used it at their cottage and it seems like a great product. We like the idea that it won’t require maintenance and is super durable (scratch and stain resistant). I’m still going back and forth on the colour a bit, but I’m thinking maybe the Acacia, which is a deep warm brown. Might be a nice contrast against all the cool tones of the house?


Oh, and did I mention our front door and sidelights came in? I’m super happy with it. I feel like it’s a classic choice that has a craftsman vibe to it.


Anyway, that’s where we are! We are only about 2 weeks away from drywall, which is ridiculously exciting for me. Drywall is when it all becomes a house that you can envision living in again, you know?

Have a great weekend, guys! Getting out and enjoying the Fall weather maybe? We are off to a local Fair (the Metcalfe Fair), which all of Dan’s family comes into town for. Always a fun weekend! Poutine and mini-doughnuts, you’re calling my name. 

bunkie makeover - the sweetest digs

a nautical bunkie makeover reveal!

11th September 2014

Finally! I can do a reveal of the cottage bunkie. It’s been a long time coming. I first posted about making it over last summer, and then baby and life took over, and so my parents and I finished it up this season. Well, we can happily put a fork in it. This nautical bunkie makeover is done-zo.

bunkie makeover - the sweetest digs

Remember when it looked like this, as my Dad’s former workshop?

bunkie exterior 5bunkie exterior 2

Well it was re-worked to double as tool storage at the back, and bunkie with deck at the front.


The deck and glass railing really help to show off the lake view. The plan is to put a chair up there so you can grab your cup of tea and sit and relax with a book.DSC_0624 DSC_0629

From the inside, it had been jammed with tools and other junk, and there were only the two small windows.


And now it is this light, fresh, and beautiful space.


Seriously, who wouldn’t want to sleep out in this cute bunk house? My mum has been sleeping in there on the regular since it was finished. Likes it better than her own room!

DSC_0560 DSC_0569

The black frames were from Target and I put in some vintage nautical prints – anchors, shells, sailboats, that kind of thing. I’ll have them up for sale in my shop shortly.


The blue and white striped bedding was from Target. We bought it at the end of the season last summer, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be in their stock anymore. I did see some really similar bedding over at HomeSense recently though , and this collection at Target is pretty similar.DSC_0588 The dresser was a thrift store find that was made over with navy blue paint and new hardware from Lee Valley Tools. The mirror above came from HomeSense (the Canadian version of HomeGoods). I love the injection of brass into the room – it adds a lot of character and warmth.DSC_0554I had thought that I was going to search out fabric and make the drapes, but when I came across these pre-made ones at HomeSense, I was sold. They had some interest with the grey wavy pattern, but weren’t overly bold. Paired with a black curtain rod, they add a certain crispness to the space.DSC_0601 I was really happy with our decision to keep the walls white and paint the ceiling in a light grey. It definitely adds more dimension to the room.

I usually can’t stand ceiling fans, but the newer sleek modern ones really aren’t so bad. This 3-blade beauty came from Lowe’s, and totally works in the room.DSC_0602

We installed the holder for the fan remote behind the curtain, so you always know where it is, but it’s out of sight and won’t get lost at the back of a drawer or something.DSC_0599DSC_0604

Here is a recap of the blog posts associated with the bunkie makeover (more source info there, if you are looking for it!):
Design Inspiration
Exterior Finishes
Interior Finishes
Dresser makeover: navy + gold
DIY bunk beds

What do you think? Definitely has a cottage vibe going on, right? I just love makeovers like these. I have so much fun shopping around for everything and pulling it all together. Especially when it’s for my parents – easy clients, that’s for sure! 


our latest news: summer, house, life

2nd September 2014

Well, we are back from our 2 weeks away in the adirondacks (upstate NY). It was totally lovely. We were there with all of Dan’s family – 7 cousins all under the age of 5 (!!). The weather, despite a few cool days, was warm and sunny and gorgeous. We spent afternoons by the lake, I tried stand up paddleboarding for the first time (loved it!), ate lots, slept lots, and relaxed. When you are at home by yourself with baby everyday, it definitely felt like such a treat to have Dan there 24/7 for two whole weeks.


Beansie totally loved swimming. Squeals of delight – especially when we let her go in totally naked. So fun!


And guess what happened this morning? We dropped Maya off at daycare for the first time! I was obviously nervous (typical mummy), but she just went right in, left me, and headed off straight to the other kids and toys. I barely got a kiss out of her. Ha! My social little butterfly. Anyway, I’m starting a 3-day a week contract (consulting, so my own hours, which is nice) and continuing to run my other small businesses on the side. I’m planning on keeping Maya at home with me on Fridays, so we are hoping it will be a nice balance for everyone. We’ll see how it goes! Right now, as I sit at my computer solo, it’s feeling totally strange…

Oh, and the house. Here are some photos of how it is looking these days.IMG_20140831_163842

They have got all of the framing done, which is neat because now we can really start to see the new shape come together. It was looking super rectangular there for a while, so to have some rooflines up is great.


As you can see they have started to wrap the house with insulation, and some of the sheeting on the roof is done. This week they should be finishing that, and getting the shingles on. I had to make a quick decision on the shingles while we were away so they could get ordered, so I went with a basic solid black from BP Shingles (the company our contractor uses).  I had originally been thinking a grey, but with the grey siding we are going to use (Hardie Board in Iron Gray), it means that I don’t have to worry about greys matching.

This is the backyard. Those concrete pillars are for our future deck. Yes – A deck! After living with just grass back there for 5+ years, we are seriously pumped about creating a nice outdoor space. Right now the building of the deck is on the list for our contractor, but if money gets too tight, we might put it off and build it ourselves next summer. We’ll see…



As with any project like this, you always have to expect some delays. I won’t get into all of the details, but the permit process back in the spring/early summer got a little crazy. It got lost in sending to a certain section of the City department, so we didn’t get all the feedback right away. Anyway, it took about 2.5 months to get everything approved and sealed – about a month longer than we had anticipated. Then, last week, the truss company made a mistake and didn’t allocate for one of the stairwells. It had to go back and be partly re-built. Another week (or more) delay. Anyway, you expect this kind of stuff, but it’s still a nuisance when it happens. We had hoped to be almost done with the trades (electrical, HVAC, plumbing) around now, but we’re probably about 6 weeks behind where we originally thought we would be. In any case, we better be back in here by Christmastime!

Here’s hoping that we are smooth sailing from here! Cause we’re pretty giddy to move in….!

IMG_20140831_165618Did you guys do any kid dropping off this morning? Daycare? School? This always feels like the “real” start of the year to me. I used to LOVE the first day of school. So excited to bust out my new jeans and school supplies. I still get the feeling like I want to go out and buy a new planner and set of pens and pencils. 



house reno: a progress update

31st July 2014

There has been a flurry of activity over at our house in these last few weeks. My last update – here – was after they had gutted the interior of the house. Well, a lot has happened on our house renovation since then.

First they peeled off all the brick. It filled a whole dumpster worth – which can actually be ground up and used as fill again, so it’s a “clean” dumpster – but not before I grabbed a brick to save as a keepsake. Not sure what I’ll do with that yet. Maybe use it as a bookend?


They were waiting on the excavation, so in the meantime got started with framing the second story. It’s only on the existing bungalow, so it looks rather tall and lopsided at the moment. Once the new garage is there (to the left of the house) with a second story above it, it’ll all make more sense.


Speaking of the garage, the excavators came and tore up our old free-standing one. Apparently there is a video of it coming down on our contractor’s phone. Need to hunt that down!


It has meant that our backyard all of a sudden feels SO much bigger. Sure there are piles of construction material back there, but we are totally starting to envision the potential.


After the garage came down, they took down a large tree that was in between us and our neighbour’s place. It was really starting to intrude on their house, and there was no room for our new garage with it there, so it had to come down.

And then a bunch of digging went on. All the way around our existing house to fix the foundation and put in weeping tile and draining systems (all of the old weeping tile had disintegrated), and then also to pour the new foundation for the garage.



On the inside, the new ceiling/floor system for the second floor started to go up, and a few new windows and doorways were cut.


As of this week they have poured the footings for the new foundation and back deck, and are working on the drainage systems around the house. Things are a-moving! I really can’t wait to start to get that garage up and see our vision start to come together.


after the demo debris

26th June 2014

I wanted to share the latest photos with you guys at our renovation site. Everything on the interior has been demo’d as you saw in-action in this post, and now that the debris has been removed (two huge dumpsters worth!) and everything cleared out, we were able to really get an idea of what this new ground floor space is going to feel like.


It’s totally crazy to see it like this. The house already feels completely different. No more bedrooms, or hallways, or blocked off kitchen. It’s just one big, bright and open space. There aren’t going to be big lofty ceilings like you see in these pics because we are putting the second floor on, but still, it feels so much more opened up.
We were able to walk around and plan where we might put a couch, or our dining room table. Imagined walking through the new front door. Cooking in a kitchen that has a stove from this millenium (ha!). It’s a trip.
Remember? Our turquoise door, the front closet, and the kitchen!


The bathroom somehow looks even more teeny tiny now than it did before. That space to the right of it (in the photo below) was Maya’s nursery/our office. Already hard to believe.


Up next? The guys are about to start peeling off the brick from the facade, remove the roof, and tear down the free-standing garage. There is no way we could be doing this part of the work ourselves, and we feel great about the experience and knowledge that our contractor and his team are bringing to the project.

If you happen to be a reader from Australia and have done any building projects, you might have gotten your industrial and building supplies at Gotstock. They are a well-priced online retailer that supply all kinds of things from electrical supplies, to tools, to hardware. They generously sponsored today’s post – so thanks Gotstock! And as usual, thanks to any of you readers who support the brands who support this blog. Love love.

Nothing like a construction site to get you all pumped up. Any of you demo’ing anything lately? It’s way easier to see the vision when everything has been cleared out, I find. Like a fresh slate. 


yep. so we’re renovating.

13th June 2014

Well, shit just got real. This renovation/addition we have been dreaming about since we bought our house in 2009, and planning and drawing for the last year, is legit happening.

Right after we got back from our trip to England mid-May, we packed up our house in lightening speed (thanks to some lovely family members who helped out!), and hired movers to get the majority of our stuff into a rented storage unit. Then we packed up a truck and car worth, and headed on out to my parents’ place in Merrickville – about an hour from Ottawa – where we have temporarily moved in. It’s actually really nice being out here. Dan’s commute now into town for work is a real bummer, but there are a lot of perks – a huge, bright two-bedroom, 1-bath basement to spread out in (the square footage is bigger than our whole house was!), having my parents around during the day to help out with Maya, and being out in this pretty country town over the summer. Once I go back to work, this whole renovation would have been way trickier to figure out (we probably would’ve had to rent an apartment in town), so doing it while I’m still off with Maya makes a lot of sense.

Anyway, back to the house stuff. As expected, everything with the bank and the permits has taken longer than was anticipated. That’s always how it is, isn’t it? I’ll get into more details on that whole process a bit later, but for now I really just wanted to share the photos of where things stand. You guys, it’s happening!

Here are some pics of the house once we had moved out. It looked dusty, and kind of sad, actually. It’s funny how as soon as the people and things you love are out of a house, it can suddenly feel like a bit of a lonely place.








And as of yesterday, it was looking like this (!!!!!).





Eeeeee! The excitement is pretty epic around here.


renovation: the update

24th April 2014

Sorry for the radio silence this last week, guys. Maya had the stomach flu, and then on the day she started to feel better, mama was down for the count! It was a doozy. Thank goodness for Dan’s strong stomach and grandparents nearby. Happily, we seem to be all recovered here for now, so life is getting back to normal.

Okay so I know I haven’t given you guys a renovation/addition update lately and thought it was definitely about time. If you’ve been reading along here for a while, you’ll know that adding to our current pad has been in our dreams for a while now. We love love love our neighbourhood and neighbours and want to stay put… but the 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom main floor of living space that we occupy is starting to feel pretty tight with Maya cruising around (reminder: we rent out the basement of our bungalow to tenants). I totally admire families who make it work in small spaces – you have to be so smart about storage and organization. I have to admit, I am having a hard time with it, lately. It seems like there is always clutter somewhere – even though I am constantly tidying up. How does this happen? I dream about having a big closet or even a room (!!) where I can shove things and close the door until I have time to deal with them. Even our recycling is constantly piling up and spilling out onto the floor in our kitchen. Anyway, enough with the moaning – I do realize how ridiculously lucky we are to own a home, and that it is huge when you consider home sizes around the world.

house in winter- edited

Our house – the first winter we lived in it

So over the winter we have been working with an architectural draftsman to draw the plans for our future house. Our hope is to keep the basement as untouched as possible (we renovated it in 2010), but pretty much re-do everything else, and add a whole second floor of square footage above our existing house and new garage.

Main floor – We’d like to put in support beams and take down all of the walls in our main floor to open it up. No more bedrooms on this floor – just an open kitchen, dining, and living space, with an office for Dan tucked in at the back. We also plan on removing the freestanding garage that currently sits on our property and building a new, attached one to the side of the house. This will mean that we can park our car and then come in through a side door, and our tenants would come through a door and hallway in the garage, and then down to their apartment. The bathroom on our main floor is just about the only thing that will remain. Although the kitchen footprint will stay basically the same, everything will have to be gutted and redone. Oh and we will be adding doors from the back of the house out to the backyard.

I drew up some seriously rough floor plans to give you a general idea. These are by no means to scale and don’t show windows, doors, closets, etc but they give you a sense of the potential space.

new house1


Second floor – Ahhh! A second floor! This is ridiculously exciting for us. We plan on having our bedroom + ensuite at the back of the house, and then 2 bedrooms for kids up at the front. We will also have a guest bedroom, but plan on using it more as a second living space/play room – kind of like what I imagine we would use our basement living room for if we didn’t rent it out. Oh and there will be a small area for laundry on this floor, a linen closet, plus a bathroom for the kids/guests.

new house2


And third floor? We aren’t sure if this will be a reality, but we are hoping to have a loft space in the third floor to act as a studio/office for me, plus as additional storage. We have been able to draw this into the plans and it doesn’t seem to have added a ridiculous amount to the budget/quote, so we are hopeful that we might be able to make it happen. Dreamy, I tell ya.

Exterior – The exterior will look pretty different. I don’t think you’ll be able to even recognize the bungalow that was once here (which isn’t a bad thing – I don’t want it to look like an addition, you know?). Since we are attaching the garage, and since our brick is currently in really terrible shape, we are going to do a mix of new stone and siding over the whole house. We are still making those choices, but I have a dark gray siding + lighter gray stone vision, with thick white trim around the windows and tapered white columns on the porch.

Here is a sneak peak at our drawings…


As for where we stand now, a few weeks ago we submitted all of the plans and drawings to the City department that handles permits. We are still waiting to hear back, but expect that there will be some back-and-forth until we have permitted drawings ready to go. We are anxious to get their feedback and see what we might have to change.

We are also still in the process of getting everything in line with the bank, so are hoping that the financing all works out the way we anticipate it will.

So those two things are what we are anxiously awaiting. We have chosen a contractor, who was recommended to us by a personal friend. He has a big crew, has done lots of large jobs like this, and his references were stellar. He is more or less ready to go when we are.

We are kind of in this weird limbo place, just sort of holding our breath. Will the permits be approved? How long will that take? Will all the financing work out as we have been told it will? If everything is indeed a go, we will be booking movers, a storage unit, and getting our butts out of here as fast as we can. But if things don’t work out? Will we have to wait another year? Maybe. We will of course be a bit disappointed and have to cross that bridge when we get to it, but it’s definitely at the back of our minds. We are trying to be cautious, but optimistic. We’ll see.

I will of course keep you posted every step of the way. In the meantime, since I haven’t wanted to do much around our place, I have been helping out a friend with her nursery, gearing up to help my parents’ with their bunkie at our cottage, and have a few small DIYs up my sleeve. I have been dyyyying to decorate a room lately, so I am super pumped to get going on these projects.

Have you guys done any architectural drawings before? Or dealt with City permits? When we did our basement, Dan was such a star with getting everything in order with the City department. We were pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy it was, and how friendly the inspectors were. Let’s hope for the same experience this time around.

tales of a DIYer: living through a reno

16th May 2012

Remember that bathroom we just gutted and re-did?

Well, in case you didn’t know, that’s the only bathroom in our little pad. Yes, there is technically a second bathroom downstairs, but it’s in the basement apartment that we rent out to a tenant… so although it’s “ours”, it’s not really ours. Luckily it’s just the hubs and I – no kids, roommates, or other family/friends living with us, but still, being a one-bathroom household has it’s challenges. Case in point? When you want to renovate it.

I had a few people ask me how we coped with this during our reno, so thought I would give you a bit of an idea of some of our strategies, in case you are planning something similar in your pad.

So first off was to do some really careful planning. We timed the beginning of our reno – the demolition and removal of the bathtub when our tenant was going to be away for a weekend. This meant that we could turn the water off, make a lot of really loud noise, and (thanks to having a REALLY great tenant), use her shower at the end of the day when we were covered in dust and debris. We also planned to have our plumbing slash handyman extroadinaire friend give us a hand that weekend. The boys worked long, long hours to get the plumbing done and the new tub in. So come Sunday night, we had a demo’d room and a tub installed, but not much else.

The week that followed, we would come home from work around 4pm or 5pm, have a very quick bite to eat, and then go to work on the bathroom until 10pm or so. For those first couple of days, I showered at the gym and Dan went over and used some friends’ showers in the evening (not just because he was sweaty, but because usually he was covered in tile-cutter dust/water). We did this for a few days, but it got old. Fast. So we went and got some heavy duty plastic (it comes in a roll) from Home Depot. It’s probably usually used for painting, like a heavy drop-sheet, but we stapled it up to the drywall around the tub. Our tub was in and the plumbing was working, but we hadn’t finished the tiling around the tub. Yay – showers! They were sort of grimey showers, but showers nonetheless. We plowed through the tiling and got the bathtub all finished at the end of that second weekend. Once it was done we threw up our old shower curtain liner until we were finished the room.

The other particularly tricky bit was the floor tile. Tiling the floor meant removing the toilet. Removing the toilet meant we would have to pop a squat out in the backyard. No thanks. So again, this had to be really well timed. We chose a weekend day when we could go out and stay at my parents’ place for the night. We got all the floor tile ready and everything prepped, used the toilet for one last time, removed the toilet, and laid the floor tile. Then that night when we were finished, we booted it on out of our pad. The next day when we came back, we did the grouting right away (the tile had set by that time), and then plunked the toilet back down.

Other than those two big things that required some careful planning and timing, the rest was just more annoying than actually a problem. There were tools, tile, garbage, and various project things everywhere. There was dust on every single thing in our little house. Frankly, I’m still dusting. We tried to keep brooms on hand so that we could easily give things a quick sweep every night when it was time to call it quits, and an easily-accessible garbage bin.

Our other strategy was to try to keep all of the bathroom stuff in particular zones. We used the area to the right of our front entryway as a spot for supplies, and we used the office/guest bedroom as a spot for all of the bathroom furniture/parts and toiletries with no home. That meant we could hang out in our living room or go to sleep in our bedroom and not be surrounded by the clutter.

Our other strategy was to keep a laundry basket at our bedroom door for “reno clothes”. We usually just have a wicker laundry basket, but since we were going through so much clothing (it would get wet, really dirty, full of paint, etc), it was easier to just be able to dump it in this basket.

And that was about it. We made sure not to have any social plans for those few weeks and just basically plowed through it. On the one hand, it’s great to have only one bathroom because it forces you to move quickly. But on the other hand, it’s a pain and kinda stressful. Anyway, it’s over and we have a nice sparkling bathroom to show for it. Totally worth it!

What about you guys? Done any reno’s lately? Have any strategies about living in a reno zone? Do you try to continually clean up like we do, or do you just do one big clean at the end? I think my nightly clean doesn’t actually make much of a difference to anything but my sanity. 

On a different note, it’s the LAST day for votes for the EQ3 Blogpodium contest that I’m a part of. I’m still trailing in second place by a few votes, and would LOVE any support! If you have Pinterest, please-oh-please leave a comment on my moodboard here. Every comment helps! Thanks guys.