COACH­ING A CARE­FUL REN­O­VA­TION

A bas­ket­ball bench boss turns his fo­cus to the fam­ily home

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - KATHY RENWALD Renwald

The mes­sage on the black­board has a clear-cut goal: “Eat ice cream ev­ery­day.”

No doubt Amos Con­nolly has writ­ten dozens of black­board goals and mes­sages of in­spi­ra­tion in his ca­reer. He was coach of the McMaster Univer­sity men’s bas­ket­ball team for seven years. This spring he stepped down to spend more time with his kids and ex­plore a new ca­reer path.

In his charm­ing home in the Kirk­endall South neigh­bour­hood, there is ev­i­dence ev­ery­where that backs up his de­ci­sion.

“I’ve en­joyed the process of tak­ing this house and making it my own; that was pretty or­ganic for me. But all of this, all of the things I’ve made, stay­ing in this house, the de­sign prin­ci­ples, things I’ve done, all have my kids in mind.”

When we meet, Con­nolly’s nineyear-old son Thomas is away on a trip, so dad and daugh­ter Caitlin, 7, have filled the black­board with fun things to do. Fun things that in­clude Caitlin pick­ing up a drill and help­ing her dad with a project.

There have been many projects since the Con­nollys moved into their 1907 house; ev­ery room has been re­worked, start­ing with the en­trance. Ini­tially it was dark and cramped, but af­ter Con­nolly re­moved a low ceil­ing, opened up the stair­way and added a win­dow above the door, light sud­denly spilled deep into the in­te­rior. Black and white tile, laid on the di­ag­o­nal, gives the hall­way a clas­sic and fresh look.

“I’ve al­ways liked the com­bi­na­tion of black, white and wood,” Con­nolly says.

Lit­tle re­mains of the orig­i­nal liv­ing room. Con­nolly did keep the place­ment of the orig­i­nal fire­place but changed it to nat­u­ral gas, and built book­cases and cab­i­nets around it for dis­play and stor­age space. Above the man­tel, a framed col­lec­tion of an­tique mal­lets and ham­mers takes on a sculp­tural qual­ity.

By ex­pand­ing the en­trance from the liv­ing room to the kitchen, light from a big front win­dow reaches the re­cently ren­o­vated space. The kitchen got new light­ing, a tin ceil­ing, back­splash, and glass faced up­per cab­i­nets. A mar­ble topped island is ac­tion cen­tral for Con­nolly and his kids. “They’re re­ally into kids’ cook­ing shows, it sort of in­spires them.”

Across the hall, Con­nolly re­moved lath and plas­ter to ex­pose a brick wall in the din­ing room.

“That was a big job, but it’s amaz­ing: I’ve never felt a draft in here be­cause it’s dou­ble brick.”

The cus­tom din­ing room ta­ble is bar height so that the chairs can also be used at the kitchen island. “Ev-

ery night we have din­ner here; I want this room to be used.”

A few steps away is Con­nolly’s of­fice where posters, signs and skate­boards are a whim­si­cal di­ver­sion from pa­per­work.

For a real di­ver­sion or escape, the new deck over­look­ing the back gar­den is a favourite land­ing spot. The view down into the yard is re­lax­ing, and a new modernist shed freshly built by Con­nolly looks as much like a writer’s stu­dio as a place to store tools.

Much thought went into the ren­o­va­tion of the house, a cre­ative process that Con­nolly loves and hopes to turn into a ca­reer.

“Ev­ery house I’ve lived in I’ve trans­formed. If I can do it on a broader scale and make a ca­reer out of it, then that’s what I’d like to do.”

By the front door a sign says “You are here.” It’s from his un­cle’s cot­tage. Con­nolly’s dad and his un­cle, both ma­jor in­flu­ences in his life, died young. That’s an­other rea­son he stepped down from head coach and took on an as­sis­tant coach­ing job.

“It’s hard to be the coach you want and the par­ent you want to be when your kids are this age. Be­ing a par­ent is the most im­por­tant job in my life.”

And it’s why he’s com­mit­ted to making his home an an­chor for the fam­ily, where an in­struc­tion to eat ice cream “ev­ery­day” is right there on the chalk­board, sim­ple as black and white.

Amos Con­nolly on the front steps of his west Hamil­ton home. “I’ve en­joyed the process of tak­ing this house and making it my own; that was pretty or­ganic for me," he says. "But all of this, all of the things I’ve made, stay­ing in this house, the de­sign prin­ci­ples, things I’ve done, all have my kids in mind.”

BARRY GRAY PHO­TOS, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

The cus­tom din­ing room ta­ble is bar height so that the chairs can also be used at the kitchen island.

Ini­tially the en­trance was dark and cramped, but af­ter Con­nolly re­moved a low ceil­ing, opened up the stair­way and added a win­dow above the door, light sud­denly spilled deep into the in­te­rior. Black and white tile, laid on the di­ag­o­nal, gives the hall­way a clas­sic and fresh look.

For a real di­ver­sion or escape, the new deck over­look­ing the back gar­den is a favourite land­ing spot. The view down into the yard is re­lax­ing, and a new modernist shed freshly built by Con­nolly looks as much like a writer’s stu­dio as a place to store tools.

BARRY GRAY PHO­TOS, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

The kitchen got new light­ing, a tin ceil­ing, back­splash, and glass faced up­per cab­i­nets. A mar­ble topped island is ac­tion cen­tral for Con­nolly and his kids.

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