Three cheers for Friday. In celebration of the last day of the week and the rapidly approaching 1st anniversary of house90 - I am sharing some shots of how things went down. HOW LIFE HAS BEEN REDEFINED AROUND HERE. I did a TERRIBLE job of taking photos and documenting things as we went along, but thanks to my scuzzy iPhone - I have more than NOTHING. Which is cool. Before I start - I feel the need to say that I am neither and interior designer or a show-home kind of gal. I'm simple. We chose house90 because we wanted to live in the heart of the city and not a suburb. We live in a neighbourhood that is old and full of towering oak trees. There are bakeries and organic grocery stores within steps. There are cafes and a bookstores. A vegan burger joint. Thrift stores. Incredible churches and firehalls. A handful of mom-and-pop convenience stores. A few elementary schools and a zillion parks. There is no super-freeway. There is no Walmart or gas stations. No Starbucks. There are very few houses younger than the average age of 100 years. Which is what I LOVE. It's not for everyone, I totally get that. It's not fancy and new. It's not full of show homes or big garage doors.
But it makes a nice place for my little family to call home. This is house90's first floor...
When we bought this house it was almost entirely original. Built in 1910 - it was oak floors and trim throughout. It was recently fixed up to sell so the paint was fresh and lots of things were sugar coated. Which wasn't really an issue because if you want to live in this 'hood you take what you can find when you find it. EVERYTHING is a hundred years old. Goodness. I'm 34 years old and can hardly get out of bed somedays so I'd say that the construction around here is pretty great. There aren't many THEN photos because the main floor had 5.5 separate rooms an awkward closet and a winding hallway. It made for shitty photos. It was DARK. It was rich with history and tradition. It was full of design elements that made hanging out as a family almost impossible. WHICH IS TOTALLY HOW WE ROLL. My first opinion was: NO THANKS mainly because the kitchen was 10x10 feet in very back of the house in a small addition. HUGE APPLIANCES and zero space. Three solid oak doors away from the living room. One huge and heavy swinging galley door that nearly claimed Pilot's fingers within the first 3 minutes of getting to know house90. (ELEVEN doors in total were removed from the first floor in the demolition.) Dan could only see the space and the neighbourhood. I could only see being shut away in the back to slave over a lifetime of meals by myself. He wanted to buy it. I did not. UNLESS he agreed to taking the walls out of the first floor and starting fresh.
And he did. So we bought it that week. All of a sudden we were in panic-mode. Sell our old house! Pack! Move! Yikes! Find somewhere to live while we renovated. Find contractors. Engineers. Ideas. Design something. Good grief - we hadn't even thought about what to do. LUCKILY for us - we have a good friend that is an architect and a good friend that is an interior designer. BOTH of those nice people helped me hack out ideas and measure things and bite their tongues where I did not take their advice and made unconventional and sometimes not super good choices. (Thank you Dean and Tammy. )
It was right around waiting for the engineers report that we realized this was not a small renovation. "Taking out the walls" is easy on paper and complicated in real life. In order to change things - we would need to move the main plumbing stack from the center of the house - to somewhere else. ON ALL THREE FLOORS AND IN THE BASEMENT. We needed to accomodate for posts and beams that would be added to support the second and third floor. The basement would be gutted in order to add even more support. It went from easy to HARDER in a hurry and we still had no idea if it would be worth it. We had never even met our neighbours. What if they were cranks?
Somewhere around this point - we learned about Baby3. She was coming. The girls + dogs and I were living here and there - traveling 500 miles back and forth between my parents and house90 because our old house was sold and gone. Our new home, house90, was unlivable. Our stuff was packed in boxes minus the things we could squish into our Honda Pilot. (Yes, I drive a big gas guzzling SUV. Occasionally I feel guilty about that. And then I load in three small people, two dogs, a stroller and away we go on a road trip and I'm okay with it.) We put on a lot of miles of chaos. We missed Dan like crazy. Renovating is a gong show with even the best contractors. After our share of miscommunications and frustrations - it started to feel like a long haul (even though it was a speedy, speedy job taking only 16 weeks from start to finish). I missed my old neighbours friends.
WE did not have a plan. Actually - I KIND OF HAD A PLAN, but since we were designing and changing things as we went (due to the timeline) the plan changed daily depending on what new findings were found. That's how old houses roll. Everyone gushed and how cool it was to have my dream home... only that's just a crock pot full of piss because it's not my dream - it's a combination of the best THEY could do and the best I could think of and the best the history of the house left us. SURPRISES. EVERY. DAY. Hey - the house is 100 years old. Floors were hard to salvage. Things were hard to do. Post had to be in strange places. People didn't always show up when they said they would. Contractors couldn't see my vision - didn't think it was doable. In the thick of it - every decision became ENORMOUS and important and ridiculous at the same time. I admit to shedding tears over cabinet pulls and screaming at poor Dan over tile. SO SILLY. In the end - I taped up this drawing of what I could see in my mind - minus how it would technically unfold (minus the upper cabinets because that is something I do not like to see in a kitchen). We wanted one big space. We wanted a big kitchen that was simple, but inviting. Somewhere that three girls could grow and be a part of meals. And have friends over. And be comfortable. And hopefully I could be in the kitchen, but part of the action, too.
We crossed our fingers.
Things didn't always work out. It took a little longer than we agreed upon. Some plumbing blew. Some choices blew. Some tradespeople blew. Some things still don't work right. The FLOOR was a big headache for me. I gave a little. The contractors gave a little. I kept as much of the original character as I could and then added some. You will notice that we painted the original oak trim. YUP. I wanted things light and clean and as much as I appreciate the beautiy of wood - we had a different vision. (Plus it was poorly refinished.) It's not for everyone. Some people would prefer to live in spaces that are authentically 1910, but I am not those people... I wanted to show my respect for the life the house has had sine 1910... but to make it 2011 savvy where we could congregate with family and friends and enjoy every inch we have. There's another hundred years left in this old house. That's at LOT of birthday parties!
This is a bit of a hacked together photo - but this is what house90 looks like at this point. Yesterday, in fact. I didn't really want to share it because the furniture is not what I'm after and the chandelier is being replaced with something amazing (when I can figure out how to get it shipped to Canada). The floors needed to be swept. Etc. Etc. Etc. BUT THIS IS NOW. This is where we are SO FAR. Every day life. Crap on the counter. Clothes all over the place. Not-quite-right furniture. We're missing a range hood. Blah, blah, blah, blah. BLAH.
But, this is NOW + real.
It's coming along. Please excuse the girls in their new raincoats sitting on the floor watching TV in the top shot. That's how we roll. In the bottom left shot - that big beautiful door is a double-wide pocket door that is original to house90. It weighs almost 250lbs. We put it up on barndoor hardware and it slides back and forth to be the door to Dan's office (man den) or the cover to the front closet. It was a happy accident that the measurements worked out so perfectly for that. SO happy. It's my favourite part of the first floor and it's my silent tribute (except it's REALLY noisy!) to 1910 and all this old house has been through to get to us.
The reason-for-the-reno kitchen. The kitchen was originally in the back addition. It was squashed into a small room with no transition to the outside... The backdoor opened up INTO the fridge and the floor space was barely 5x5. With an oak door. It's now a mudroom (in progress) where the dogs eat and hangout when they're muddy (see the babygate - that's for Norman!). It's full of junk at the moment, but I'm hoping to get some counterspace and cabinets worked out so the recycling has a nice home out of sight (that's what the blue box is) and our shoes can find homes away from the front door.
Above: The dining room is now the hub of the first floor, but instead of being dark and dreary it's light and awesome. The moose painting was done specifically for this spot under the high windows. (So it's is NOT for sale.)
One of the harder decisions to make was to CREATE a wall to run along side the stairs. Originally house90 had an intricate and very pretty bannister (left photo is looking OUT from the dining room to the hallway and stairs). We took the bannister down and created a wall there to help create a kitchen space that was more efficient. BUT EVEN MORE IMPORTANT TO ME was the BEST advice I've ever read in a design magazine. It said to DESIGN FOR HOW YOU LIVE - don't try to fit into some crazy design. I get a lot of people coming to the house to pick up artwork or prints and I HATE having our mess and life exposed like that. This way - when you come in the front door you are slightly closed off from the kitchen. I love that. I never have to worry about making sure the dishes are done or the chocolate bars I am snacking on are put away. ;) The right bottom photo is another look at the barn door hardware and the double wide pocket door. Originally I wanted to use the double wide door as a headboard for our bed. BUT - it wouldn't fit up the stairs so I needed a new plan. I'm so GLAD. (You can also see my XXL min bus roll - it's block mounted and hung with 3M velcro - PERFECT!)
The 'Weird Eating Area' was this really awkward L shaped space where house90's kitchen would have been originally built. Somewhere along the line - someone felt it was a good idea to move it into the addition on the back leaving an awkward L shaped room that was GOOD FOR NOTHING but slipping and falling on the peach coloured marble tile they laid down. Blech. The left and right photos are the exact same space the THEN and the NOW. I LOVE the black and grey stripes.
SO. Even though I didn't know what I was doing - it worked out. There were bumps and bruises. There will be lots of changes to come. It's not perfect. It's not exactly what I was after.... but it might just be better. The girls LOVE the kitchen and there is plenty of room (and stools) for them to be in the thick of things. (Pilot is Canada's new Top Chef a one handed egg cracker to boot... no joke - she's a wizard with an egg!)
Penn is my Toast Girl. She's just turned two, but we toast it up there with the best of them. ;) (The Underground sign is a piece I designed for my local sign maker to make for me. It's a replica of the New York subway signs and it points to the hidden stairs to our lowest level. The Underground. (That's a whole different post.)
Poet is still finding her spot in house90's spaces. Although she just got here - she has really been a big part of the renovating process. I was pregnant with her for ALL OF IT. And she was awesome. (In the background of this shot - notice the moose painting, the tabouret stools and Pilot sitting at the dining room table naked. Toddlers are SO WEIRD.)
The two hounds have been real troopers, too. Living all over the map and getting their routines shook up and missing walks here and there. Hopefully, 2011 will be about ALL of us getting settled and back into a new NOW.
That's THEN + NOW.
Today: I'm going to hit it out of the park this morning and then go get my hair spruced up. Spring is here!