All of my projects are personal, because when you're designing someone's home you're invested in how the space will feel and function for the client and their family; how they'll play and learn and relax and dream within those (freshly painted) walls. This particular project however was extra personal because it was my own home, and our first major renovation. The first home my then boyfriend (now husband) and I bought. We were in our late 20s and tried really hard to stay in the city (Toronto) but the city just didn't want our first-time-homeowner budget. We put in 11 offers (this was in 2019), got outbid (by a mile) on each one and begrudgingly moved our search to the burbs...and thank goodness we did! By some luck of the draw we happened upon an estate sale the hour it got listed, and talked our way into seeing it without our realtor who wasn't available that day. The house was in a typical Mattamy townhouse complex from the late 90's, so not the kind of historic character we were longing for, but the price was right, the bones were great, and the street was tree-lined and quiet. But it was really the backyard that sold us the second we saw it. The house backs on to a stunning woodlot so that what feels like a suburban subdivision near a busy intersection from the front, suddenly feels like you've escaped to the cottage once inside. The problem - you couldn't actually see it when you walked in the front door.
We knew that wall separating us from the view was the first thing that had to go. The first rule of thumb to creating a functional design is flow, and understanding 'traffic' patterns of the people inside - which this house was seriously lacking. The second is - if you've got a view, flaunt it! Designing around a view creates not only natural focal points and free art, but also an abundance of natural light - which in a townhouse is crucial.
We also knew that we were going to put in a new kitchen, so taking down half of it with the wall was a bonus. We did the demo ourselves, because its super cathartic (and we needed to save every penny for the new stuff), but the second we opened up the wall it already felt like a brand new house. We had a sneaking suspicion that the wall was load-bearing based on it's location, which our contractor confirmed, so we needed to make some adjustments to our budget to factor in the cost of the steel beam that needed to go in so we could fully remove the wall and keep the ceiling flush. Our floors were in amazing shape, and the 2.25" oak plank added character to an otherwise builder-grade construction, so we definitely wanted to keep them.
For the new kitchen design, we knew we wanted big, bright, tons of storage, and a gas stove because we both love to cook. Luckily, we already had a gas line from the fireplace that we could tap into, so it was a minimal expense to get it extended to the kitchen. The original kitchen was a small L-shape with a peninsula and a breakfast nook next to it. Since the dining room and kitchen are mere steps apart, the breakfast nook was a tad redundant, so we instead ran the kitchen the entire length of both walls toward the back patio door, more than doubling the size.
It turned out even bigger than we expected when the cabinets got installed! Since the kitchen was now essentially the largest space on the main floor, we didn't go with white because we didn't want it to scream 'kitchen'. We wanted it to blend seamlessly with the dining room and living room as an extended living space, so we opted for a timeless shaker cabinet in a warm grey, champagne bronze hardware (knobs, pulls), and subtle veining in the off-white quartz countertops. We did however pick a glossy white textured backsplash tile to add some depth and dimension, and to reflect light. The forested backyard made for amazing ambience, but it also prevented some of the natural light when the trees were in full bloom.
One of the other major changes we made in the kitchen was closing up this pass-through window into the family room. It truly served no purpose, other than perhaps for light flow - but the family room has 3 big windows, so it felt unnecessary and limited the layout options for both the kitchen and the family room. So away she went! This allowed us to add 9 feet of kitchen space - including a pantry, 33" fridge, and my personal favourite - a coffee station. We opted for glass fronts in the coffee nook for some contrast and also to display our 'fancy' glassware that gets used never but at least looks pretty on the shelves.
Since the contractors were already in the space every day and the house was dusty (I sound like my eastern European mom who decides to make 3 meals and 4 desserts at any given time because 'the oven is already on'), we decided to tack on a few more small changes that didn't require much additional budget, but made a huge impact. One was our fireplace surround in the family room which now looked extra dated next to the shiny new kitchen, so we actually ended up using remnants of our quartz countertops to replace the surround and hearth. We had also ordered reclaimed wood shelving for above the peninsula, so we just added an extra piece to our order for the new mantle. It tied the two spaces together in such a seamless way.
The last pieces of part one of the renovation on the main floor were scraping the popcorn ceilings, adding recessed lighting, new paint (walls: BM Grey Owl, ceiling & trim: BM Chantilly Lace), and new fixtures. Stay tuned for part two where we tackled the exterior and backyard!