When a cou­ple plans to start a fam­ily, they of­ten de­cide to buy a house with more space to ac­com­mo­date chil­dren rather than con­tin­u­ing to rent.

That was cer­tainly the case with Julie and Peter Dalfen, the par­ents of El­lie, a tod­dler, and Leo, who was born just over a year ago. The cou­ple also have two stan­dard poo­dles, which are con­sid­ered part of the fam­ily.

Julie runs her own per­sonal concierge and life­style man­age­ment com­pany and works from home. Peter is em­ployed in the e-com­merce sec­tor. His of­fice is down­town and he trav­els ex­ten­sively for his job.

Un­til 2016, the Dalfens were liv­ing in a rented prop­erty in West­mount and, while they wanted to stay in the area, they knew it was time to buy.

Ac­cord­ing to Julie, they em­ployed an agent and looked at a “bunch of places,” but none were to their lik­ing. She fi­nally found a place her­self, on­line, but the only photo on the web­site was of the out­side of the build­ing, some­thing that led her to be­lieve the place was “prob­a­bly a wreck” in­side. Her hunch turned out to be right, but the price was right and the house — a charm­ing two-storey build­ing built in 1895 and squeezed be­side a mod­ern of­fice block — had “tons of char­ac­ter.”

It has four bed­rooms, two full bath­rooms (plus a pow­der room), an open kitchen and din­ing room lead­ing to a liv­ing room with a fire­place, and an un­fin­ished base­ment. More than enough space to ac­com­mo­date a grow­ing fam­ily.

Q When you saw the state of the in­te­rior, did that not de­ter you from buy­ing the place? Julie When we walked in, it was some­thing of a dis­as­ter zone and we could see there was a lot to do, but we could vi­su­al­ize its po­ten­tial. Also, nei­ther of us were afraid of a reno. Although I, my­self, hadn’t done one be­fore, my par­ents did a lot of ren­o­va­tions when I was grow­ing up, so I kind of knew what was in­volved.

Q You said sev­eral other peo­ple wanted the build­ing. Did the seller take a shine to you? Julie The lady who sold us the house had re­cently lost her hus­band. She’d lived there for 40 years and I think she was happy that we weren’t go­ing to ‘flip’ the build­ing for a quick profit. She liked the fact we had a young fam­ily and fig­ured we were the kind of peo­ple who would ap­pre­ci­ate her home.

Q Did you have to ren­o­vate the house be­fore mov­ing in? Julie Oh yes. We had to stay with my mom. We bought the house in Oc­to­ber 2016 and I was preg­nant with Leo. The big push was to have ev­ery­thing ready by Christ­mas, so time was of the essence. We got in by Dec. 20.

Q How did you find a con­trac­tor who was able to com­plete the job on time?

Peter We got the usual quotes from var­i­ous com­pa­nies, but, in the end, we went with a group called ProBroCo that we found through the hus­band of our dog walker. They did a fan­tas­tic job.

Q How did you de­cide what needed to be done?

Peter Julie worked out the spac­ing for all the rooms and de­signed a plan, run­ning it by the con­trac­tor along the way. Julie Up­stairs, they in­stalled an en suite bath­room by “steal­ing” a bit of space from a closet in the bed­room next door to the mas­ter bed­room, but the big­gest job was the kitchen. They took down walls and opened it up. The kitchen units are from Ikea, but they were cus­tom fit­ted. Peter We’ve got quite a lot of Ikea stuff, like the cow skin rug in the liv­ing room. Our fur­ni­ture is re­ally a bit of a hodge­podge — a mix of new and sec­ond-hand. The couches in the liv­ing room, for in­stance, came from Julie’s mother. The ar­moire with the di­a­mond de­sign on the doors came from my own mother, as did the sil­ver serv­ing dishes on the side­board in the din­ing room.

Q What about that large oil paint­ing of flowers with the gilded frame, which is hang­ing above the fire­place?

Peter That came from my mom as well. When my par­ents down­sized, we in­her­ited a num­ber of things.

Q Does your fire­place work? Julie Not any­more. It was al­ready blocked off when we came here, but we in­stalled the tiling around it.

Q What was one of the big­gest chal­lenges dur­ing the ren­o­va­tions?

Peter The wood floor­ing. The up­stairs was car­peted, so we just pulled that up and painted the boards. The down­stairs was more dif­fi­cult. We wanted to keep the orig­i­nal floor boards, but sand­ing them with a ma­chine would have de­stroyed them. They had worn very thin, but we were able to sand them by hand. It was a painstak­ing process but it was worth it. We re­ally love the look of them.


In­her­ited art and sil­ver pieces from par­ents who were down­siz­ing, in­clud­ing this ser­vice on the side­board, con­trib­uted to the decor.

The liv­ing room and play­room area of­fers plenty of room for a grow­ing fam­ily to spend quality time to­gether.

Il­lu­mi­nated shelves brighten the kitchen area, which also fea­tures a wall-mounted video screen.

Ren­o­va­tions were ex­ten­sive, but floors and some orig­i­nal doors and fix­tures were kept. The work was com­pleted in time for the fam­ily to move in just be­fore Christ­mas.

Tiling was added around the fire­place. Floors were so del­i­cate, they had to be sanded by hand.


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