Month: January 2018

Measure Twice, Cut Once: Monthly Musings of a Home Renovator

I am the sometimes proud, sometimes disheartened owner of two small homes that have one thing in common: they both need a lot of work. When my husband and I were married sixteen years ago, we moved into a fixer-upper on his family farm. Over the years, we’ve removed walls, replaced floors, gutted the bathroom, changed the kitchen cupboards and countertops, added built-in storage, painted the exterior, painted the interior (twice), and added a verandah. Our ramshackle cottage is gradually becoming a home.

A few year’s ago, we bought another two-bedroom house in town (an hour’s drive from the farm). Like our first home, it has a bit of charm and a lot of potential; and so the tools have resurfaced. We are now in the process of adding a third bedroom, second bathroom, back deck, and if there’s money left over (unlikely), a new and overpriced kitchen window.

The word renovate does not, surprisingly, come from the latin root for headache or chaos. Renovate means to make new again. One of the things that I’ve learned during our journey in home improvements is that there is great pleasure in making an old room look new. Whether it’s aesthetic (like a fresh coat of paint), or functional (like a new wardrobe), there is nothing like a renovation to re-inspire a love-affair between you and your house.

For me, one of the advantages of renovating over buying a new house is purely emotional. I love that our home has a history. I enjoy noting the transformations that our house has gone through over the years, and knowing that these changes reflect the growth of my family. I am comforted by the idea that despite new colour schemes and reconfigured rooms, I still live in the house that welcomed my infant children.

Before having two kids (and a cat), I had a very different notion of home renovation. I thought (silly me) that renovations had a beginning and an ending. What I’ve discovered is that owning a home (now two!) involves an ongoing process of maintenance and upgrades. But instead of feeling dissatisfied that the end will never be in sight, I’ve learned that with the right planning, home improvements can be highly rewarding and even fun. I invite you to join me on my monthly musings as I embark on yet another mission of madness.

Measure Twice, Cut Once: Monthly Musings of a Home Renovator

When it comes to choosing colours, some people have it and some people donʼt. When I look at a palette of colours, I am confronted with an impossible decision. I see thirty shades of I have no clue. Pablo Picasso asked the question, “Why do two colours, put one next to the other, sing?” I am not really concerned about why two colours “sing”. I just want to know that Iʼm choosing colours that match in the first place.

My mother has a knack for putting together the right shades of colour. She can make a room look beguiling simply by choosing the right combinations. Her spare room is decorated in creams and greyish blues. The colours blend together to create an inviting and soporific space. I tried to recreate the same “feel” in my own bedroom. I was only off by a few shades, but instead of the tranquil sanctuary that I was aiming for, I ended up with a bedroom that looks more like a clinic. Choosing the right colour is important.

For anyone who, like me, is not a master of colour, here are some tips from the not so colour blind:

Remember your colour wheel from art class? The primary colours are red, yellow and blue. Secondary colours are orange, green and purple. When the colours are arranged in
a wheel, the opposite colours are considered to be complimentary. Pairing complementary colours can be helpful in planning decorative schemes.

Complementary colours:

  • red and green
  • yellow and purple
  • blue and orange

You donʼt have to paint your walls in complementary colours, but accessorising with the right colour can help transform a space. For instance, if your walls are yellow, decorate with a violet vase or other violet trimmings. Not sure which colours you fancy? Colours can have great emotional power, so pay attention to how different colours make you feel. Look at the world around you for inspiration. Gardens, public spaces, magazines, billboards… Colour schemes abound.

Find which ones appeal to you most. For more inspiration, revisit the artworks of true masters of colour such as Vincent van Gogh or Henri Matisse.

And if youʼve chosen the wrong colour scheme, donʼt worry! The best thing about renovating with colour is that paints and fabrics are among the easiest and least expensive ways to change a room.

Kitchens: The Great Migration

When buying or renovating a home, the design of your kitchen is probably the most important one to consider. Once upon a time, kitchens were relegated to the back of the house. They were the small, utilitarian spaces that served to produce food for the family. Before fire alarms and modern innovations in fireproofing, it made sense to isolate the kitchen from the rest of the house.

The kitchen was meant for mom, grandma, or in more affluent families, hired kitchen hands. It was a place to don aprons and peel potatoes. Kitchens often had poor lighting, an inadequate number of electrical sockets and virtually no storage. They were too hot in summer and uncomfortable in general.

In the last few decades, the entire family has migrated to the kitchen. Modern kitchens have become the heart of the home. With the shift to double income families, meal-time has become a shared responsibility. The kitchen has become a place where families both cook and eat together.

Today, kitchens are often combined with the dining area to create the hub of the home. Range hoods have allowed kitchens to be centrally located. It is the space wherein children can do their homework, where guests congregate, where families might watch television (including cooking shows), and where people often use their laptops or tablets. Of course, kitchens are most importantly a place where the finest meals can be prepared, but also in which take-out can be enjoyed.

The ideal kitchen has cleverly designed storage space, proper ventilation, and a good mix of natural and artificial lighting. Even the most basic appliances can make cooking and storing food much simpler than in years gone by. For the gourmet, every conceivable gadget is available to help turn a basic meal into a culinary masterpiece. For the novice, there is the microwave.

Regardless of your level of cooking expertise, when planning a kitchen, it is important to think beyond meal time. For instance, should your kitchen have a computer workstation? Comfortable seating? A butler’s pantry? For me, I would love a coffee bar and a wine fridge.