North end reno

How a 180-year-old house in­spired the Roberts fam­ily to de­clut­ter, down­size and dive into a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion.

The Coast - Homes Halifax - - Contents - BY AL­LI­SON SAUN­DERS

If prac­tice makes per­fect, it’s no won­der Monique and Kent Roberts found their lit­tle piece of heaven on Bauer Street. They’ve been mas­ter­ing the art of pack­ing up and start­ing over for their en­tire mar­riage, get­ting truck­loads of prac­tice via six (or was it seven?) moves across the coun­try. This time was dif­fer­ent though: The dis­tance was much shorter—they moved them­selves and their two chil­dren from west end to north end Hal­i­fax—and the house much smaller.

“We just said, ‘It’s time.’ It was time to do a down­size,” says Monique. “We’d just moved so much—and we’d al­ways moved a lot of clut­ter.”

Af­ter about a year of care­fully look- ing, she and Kent took one step into their now home—a nearly 200-yearold Vic­to­rian row house—and were sold. Ad­mit­tedly, it wasn’t ex­actly what they were look­ing for, with its min­i­mal stor­age, no drive­way and need of TLC, but its charm­ing aes­thetic out­weighed their doubts and in late sum­mer 2014 it was theirs.

“We both like old houses, and this one was a mix of old and new,” says Kent of the house, which had al­ready un­der­gone a pretty se­ri­ous ren­o­va­tion in 1996. “We’d al­ways moved into new houses, or houses that didn’t need any­thing. This one ob­vi­ously needed some­thing. It needed work and we wanted to have some­one who knows how to look at a house and see things we wouldn’t have seen.”

What they did see was se­ri­ous po­ten­tial, in the rich textures—ex­posed brick, orig­i­nal plank floor­ing—the bright, big win­dows and the home’s rich his­tory. A bonus base­ment apart­ment that would be per­fect for their univer­sity-aged son didn’t hurt ei­ther. But the po­ten­tial came with the sacri­fice of square footage and stor­age. The two-bed­room house would re­quire the fam­ily to max­i­mize space and min­i­mize stuff. “I was on a first name ba­sis with both the dump and Value Vil­lage,” says Kent, laugh­ing.

On the ad­vice of their re­al­tor, the Roberts hired the cre­ative brains of

Colin Blan­chard and Ken­neth Mcrob­bie (the de­sign­ers be­hind 31 West­gate and the up­com­ing Work­shop & Co) who helped them give the space an up­date that both spruced it up, and gave a nod to the build­ing’s past life. “They al­ways said that if you took a house, turned it up­side down and shook every­thing out of it, its bones should marry the age of the house,” says Monique of the de­sign­ers’ phi­los­o­phy. “So, a 180-year-old house, a lot of it should look like it’s orig­i­nal.”

The cen­tre­piece of the ren­o­va­tion was the kitchen, which was orig­i­nally in a small, claustrophobic cor­ner of the first floor, dis­con­nected from the rest of the space. On Blan­chard and Mcrob­bie’s sug­ges­tion, it was swung into a neigh­bour­ing room—a back­yard­fac­ing, open two-storey space—and com­pletely re­built to in­clude a mas­sive is­land and cop­per sink, cus­tom cab­i­netry, hand-crafted mill­work and stun­ning back­splash tiling.

Other no­table fixes in­cluded putting in a brand new bath­room in a pre­vi­ously un­used of­fice on the sec­ond floor, re­mov­ing a shelv­ing unit from the land­ing that over­looks the kitchen to make room for a workspace and giv­ing every inch of the house a fresh paint job. Pops of sub­tle colour, light­ing fix­tures that dou­ble as art, rus­tic wood and nat­u­ral light from all an­gles give the home a sunny and stylish warmth. It’s el­e­gant, but homey, too.

“Here we feel like we’re liv­ing in twice the space as our old house, and re­ally it’s like half the square footage,” says Monique. “But we’re liv­ing in more.

“All the things you worry about— how’s our daugh­ter go­ing to do? How will we do in a smaller bed­room? Where are go­ing to put the cars? Where will we put all of our stuff? It all works it­self out,” says Monique af­ter nine months in the north end home. “That wish list didn’t mat­ter at all, it was as­tound­ing. It was im­me­di­ate. As soon as we walked in we were like— this is it. And we just all knew this was the spot for us.”

AF­TER IN PROGRESS

AF­TER AF­TER

BE­FORE The game-changer of this reno was mov­ing the kitchen—it used to be here

BE­FORE

This ex­posed brick wall was one of the ma­jor sell­ing fea­tures for Monique and Kent AF­TER

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