Feb 24, 2011

The Next House?

When I renovate a home in Toronto, I try to channel a little California modern: clean lines, indoor/outdoor living, the right mix of light, open space and natural warmth.
But there's nothing like the original...

Taken in Palm Springs, W Chino Canyon Rd, Feb 24

Feb 20, 2011

Regatta: My First Place

Picture it: Sicily, 1942...

Okay, it wasn't Sicily or south Florida.  In early 2004 I bought my first place in sunny Victoria, BC.  It was a pre-construction wood framed low-rise in Vic-West, a new/trendy area of Victoria.  I believe the property used to serve as an industrial area, which is marginally better than a cemetery.  But it was prime land, right on the water and a 15-minute walk downtown.

Railyards development in lower right, foreground
It was a colourful little development, with Hardie Board siding painted in primary colours, matched with corrugated steel and aluminum roofing.  Quite a departure from the typical Victorian home.

The advantages of buying pre-construction is...well, the price.  And I was late to the game, buying only 6-months before they were complete.  I bought a 700sf one bedroom, one bath, with its own walk-up and little balcony.  When it first came to market it was somewhere around $118,000 (circa early 2003), and a year later I got it (still pre-construction) for $142,000.  Luckily, I sold at the top of the market a year later...reno success.

By the summer of 2004, I got possession and learned my first life lesson:
  • The rule goes like this: in buying from a developer, you don't necessarily get what you were told in the sales centre.  Products and prices change from the time of the sale to completion.  So, as long as the developer gives you something that costs the same or more (however the latter is highly unlikely), they can change finishes on you without your knowledge.

In my case, they were going to polish the concrete floors, at a cost of $2/sf.  But, they found that the skim coat of concrete was cracking, so they carpeted the units...glued down...no underlay...with $2/sf carpet!  Now, envision with me for a second, $2/sf carpet compared to a polished concrete floor.  Needless to say I was pissed.  And there was nothing I could do.

As it turns out, this way the best thing that could have happened.  I was so irritated by the carpet that I ripped it up and installed hardwood, which led to painting, which led to a complete bathroom remodel.  And thus my first reno was born.

Please note the hideous synthetic berber carpet and zen-inspired fireplace mantel

Builder-boring bathroom

New hardwood, which I glued-down myself.  NOT fun...hire someone.

My first wetstyle.ca vanity and sink...it's been a design staple ever since.
I also loved hanging pendants from a shelf above the mirror.  Looking for an excuse to do this again.

I fabric'ed a wall.  I was young...

My new fireplace and trendy/expensive 2004 20" LCD TV.

I was on the second floor, with a walk-up from the sidewalk.
My friend Jeff lived directly above me.  Aside from his heavy walk it was a blast.

Corian Takes the Plunge

I was out shopping for door handles yesterday--which isn't as easy as it seems--and I came across these Corian sinks at Ginger's. They can be set on a vanity or wall hung.

They look cool, are matte white, and are around $400-600. Not bad compared to wetstyle.ca, and something new. My thing is to buy items that other people don't have...so your house becomes hard to value (thus you can make up your own value, come selling day).
Next house, you can bet you'll see one of these bad boys.

Feb 16, 2011

Snowdon: Aitch Vee Eh See

As promised, I'm going to jump into where we're at to-date with Snowdon.  HVAC: it blows.

Who ever told you that running ducts would be easy, lied.  And as humans we tend to repress our bad memories, so I shouldn't be surprised that I'm yet again banging my head against the (ductless) wall.

But the memories are slowly flooding back from previous houses: working so hard to make your space perfect, square, symmetrical...only to have some tin-junkie take the path of least resistance.  HVAC isn't easy, but it is mandatory. 

So here's some things to consider:
  • Get a very good mechanical engineer.  This is the guy who does your heat loss calculations and considers how to best run the ducts through your structure.  Trust me, the extra money you'll spend in creating a good plan, will save you time and money debating with the duct installer.
  • Make sure your mechanical engineer visits your house, so he can see the actual completed structure...as this may differ slightly from your architectural and structural drawings.  Typically it doesn't take long to get your HVAC permit, so make absolutely sure he visits the site before you submit.
  • Duct installers will always take the path of least resistance.  They typically won't consider moving any framing or thinking outside of the literal box.  Good drawings help, but you have to be involved.  Be on-site, ask stupid questions and consult with your framer or GC.
  • It's a good idea to have your plumber around to discuss options with the duct guy.  They'll likely want to share the same cavity.  Eww.  I suggest a mud wrestling pit, if you haven't yet completed your back yard.  My bet is on the plumber.
  • Lastly, it's never as bad a you think.  This is a general piece of advice in any home reno.  There will also be concessions when you're renovating.  When you're really invested and attached to a house, and you've have been envisioning the beauty of unobstructed walls and ceilings...dealing with the cold, hard reality of bulkheads seems like the end of the world.  In reality, when your house is done and you're sitting back in your pj's with your coffee, you'll never notice what gave you night terrors only a few months earlier.  And if my consolation doesn't help, ask your doctor for more happy pills.
The up-side is that we're almost done; despite our duct guy, who decided to take 2 weeks to do a 3-day job.  So we've proceeded to work plumbing and electrical around him.  All in all, we should be done and ready for drywall early next week...once the framer creates bulkheads around all those hideous ducts.

ducts right down the sight lines of a main hallway, there's no
way around creating an obtrusive box.  But it'll be a good place for art...