Starting Over With The House

We’re finally getting around to renovating our house.

We were extremely lucky to find our house when we did. We had given up on house hunting as we had lost out on three bids on previous houses (one under dubious circumstances). We happened upon this house somewhat by accident, and decided to buy it based on the fact that that it was in a great location and school district, was a fully detached house, and had a big footprint, so any renovations would not require any additions.

However, the house needs a lot of work. The couple who owned it previously were older and without kids. They didn’t eat in, so the kitchen was not designed to cook in, and the last renovation seems to have been done in the 80s. We were lucky that we could see past the decor, but it still means that we have to do the renovations to get the house to where we want it to be. We’ve also made three large decisions. The first is that we’d live in the house for a year to get a sense of what really needs to change about the design of the house. The second is that we’d have a master plan for the renovation, even if we can’t afford to do the entire renovation in one go. In our previous house, we’d do a room at a time, with not as much thought as to how the pieces fit together. And third, we decided to consider how “green” our decisions will be as we renovate the house. We’re big fans of the reno blog 360 Winnett and their Flickr photo stream, and we hope we can bring that level of thinking to our renovation.

So far, we’ve managed item #1. We’ve been in the house a year, and we’re pretty sure what needs to be done. For items #2 and #3, we’ve been lucky to find a great architect to help us start out. In our previous house, we had our kitchen designed by our friend Yoko, but we were unsure if she’d be up to designing our entire house this time around. Before we even asked her about it, she told us she had gotten her dream job working for architect Paul Dowsett.

Paul is a LEED-certified eco-conscientious architect who also happens to be a great guy. You can see some of his work in this straw-bale house, and the Globe and Mail review of the “eco/echo of deco” reimagining of a famed Art Deco mansion in Forest Hill. Paul’s ratings on are off the charts. Plus he already employees Yoko, and his engineer of choice Ken Davies already has done an initial review of our house, so it seems that it’s “all in the family” to start.

Paul came over for an initial consult and spent a few hours with us. It was time well spent; he already has made two major recommendations for the kitchen and our master suite, and seems to know how the house will be laid out. His team has been by to make detailed measurements of the house as a starting point for the design.

We’ve also had a survey done of the property by Land Survey Group. I would recommend them heartily. They did the entire survey without me having to be on the property, which is excellent for me not having to take time off.

The next steps are an initial energy efficiency review of the house (our efficiency can only go up from here!) and then a review of the ideas that Paul comes up with. We’re really excited about going forward with this project!