Wild­wood reno gets glow­ing en­dorse­ment

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - DAVID SQUARE

MOD­ERN ren­o­va­tions share sev­eral char­ac­ter­is­tics: Walls are re­moved to en­large cramped spa­ces, pal­ettes are limited to muted tones, and for the most part, many de­sign fea­tures can be traced to the school of min­i­mal­ism prac­tised most no­tably by Le Cor­bus­ier. Given th­ese three ba­sic tenets with which to work, it re­quires a per­son of tal­ent and in­sight to cre­ate unique ren­o­va­tions that glow, where oth­ers sim­ply shim­mer. I re­cently viewed the home of Lee and John Smythe in Wild­wood Park, one of the last ar­eas in this me­trop­o­lis in which you can walk down a street with­out the risk of be­ing run over.

For golf afi­ciona­dos, it is also close to the Wild­wood links, as well as a long one-iron shot from pri­vate school St. John’s-Raven­scourt — im­por­tant to know if you are a par­ent. The Smythes own a 1953-built house that was re­cently ren­o­vated by Doreen Gau­thier, con­trac­tor, de­signer and owner of Make It Home Ltd. The cou­ple chose Gau­thier be­cause they were smit­ten by pho­tos on her web­site and im­pressed by her pro­fes­sion­al­ism. “Doreen also took us to view some of her pre­vi­ous renos and we were awed by the unique de­signs, qual­ity of work­man­ship and the pos­i­tive com­ments from her clients,” said John, adding Gau­thier was never ag­gres­sive. “We found her very low key and un­der­stated. Ne­go­ti­at­ing the ini­tial plan was laid back and free of ten­sion.” Gau­thier uses a two-stage business model that in­cludes a project-plan­ning fee for the pro­posed ren­o­va­tion, fol­lowed by a full con­tract if clients elect to pro­ceed with the work, and most of them do. Gau­thier’s company pro­duces the draw­ings, which in­clude lay­out de­sign, ar­chi­tec­tural and mill­work, as well as struc­tural and elec­tri­cal de­tails. “Be­fore we signed a fi­nal con­tract, Doreen walked us through the de­sign process sug­gest­ing sup­pli­ers, es­ti­mat­ing labour costs for de­mo­li­tion and fram­ing and pre­sent­ing us with an over­all cost within our per­ceived bud­get,” said John. The con­tract was re­vised 10 times, mostly be­cause of ad­di­tions that he and his wife de­cided upon, such as a built-in fire­place in the liv­ing room and a porce­lain tile wall in the kitchen. “De­spite th­ese ex­trav­a­gances, the fi­nal price of the ren­o­va­tion was rea­son­able and close to Gau­thier’s orig­i­nal es­ti­mate,” he said. Lee said it took about a year from the ini­tial con­tact with Gau­thier to com­plete the project.

She said much of this time was spent liv­ing and cook­ing in their home’s fin­ished base­ment, though they had the lux­ury of sleep­ing in their up­stairs bed­room. John, who is al­ler­gic to fumes of oil­based paint, thought they would have to va­cate their home for a few days while the new red oak floor­ing was fin­ished. This was not re­quired as the var­nish was wa­ter-based and almost odour­less. “This was for­tu­nate be­cause I read re­cently that the three most im­por­tant rec­om­men­da­tions to peo­ple who are hav­ing their homes ren­o­vated are ‘do not leave town, do not leave town and do not leave town,’ ” he said, adding it’s a good idea to rent a stor­age locker for all the pos­ses­sions that will need to re­moved from the home dur­ing a reno. The in­te­rior walls were stripped to re­veal the studs, and an L-shaped wall that sep­a­rated the kitchen from the din­ing and liv­ing ar­eas was de­mol­ished. The load-bear­ing wall was re­placed with a lam­i­nated beam that spanned the length of the liv­ing room. The struc­tural en­gi­neer who cer­ti­fied the beam also stip­u­lated an ex­tra tele­post had to be placed un­der a beam in the base­ment. This seem­ingly in­signif­i­cant task re­quired that a hole be jack-ham­mered through the con­crete base­ment floor to ac­com­mo­date a new pil­ing of suf­fi­cient strength to carry the weight trans­ferred to the ground by the tele­post. Gau­thier sub­con­tracted the job to one of many trades­peo­ple she has worked with in her company’s 20-year his­tory. “We of­fer much more than just a de­sign ser­vice,” she said. “We are a de­sign-build ren­o­va­tion company that pro­vides as­sis­tance with con­cept de­sign, de­sign draw­ing, bud­get prepa­ra­tion and com­plete in­stal­la­tion ser­vices for homes and busi­nesses.” Gau­thier em­ploys a car­pen­ter, who in­stalls ev­ery­thing from trim to doors and per­forms de­tailed work that re­quires a craft­man’s touch. Her cab­i­nets are built to spec­i­fi­ca­tion by Al­tima Cab­i­net Works Ltd., a Win­nipeg company that sup­plies cus­tomers in Canada and the U.S. with first-rate kitchen and bath­room cabi­netry, mill­work, en­ter­tain­ment cen­tres and fur­ni­ture. Gau­thier’s de­sign for John and Lee’s res­i­dence in­cludes ul­tra-white kitchen cab­i­nets with Euro­pean-style brushed­steel han­dles, silent-close draw­ers and frosted glass, up­per cab­i­net doors that open and close at the push of a but­ton. One kitchen wall is cov­ered with white porce­lain that has swirls of grey. The coun­ter­tops, in­clud­ing that of an is­land with a built-in mi­crowave, are of sim­i­lar ma­te­rial. The orig­i­nal red oak liv­ing room floor was ex­tended to cover the kitchen and a din­ing area. All the kitchen ap­pli­ances were re­placed with larger stain­less-steel ones that are built into the cabi­netry. A glass-faced fire­place with a steel frame was built into a porce­lain­cov­ered, floor-to-ceil­ing cab­i­net that houses a stereo and a stor­age area. It has doors made of opaque glass and darkly stained wood ones that reach the ceil­ing. The white ceil­ing in­cludes pot lights, built-in speak­ers for the stereo, bright lights over the is­land and a round chan­de­lier that lights the oak din­ing ta­ble. The liv­ing room fur­ni­ture con­sists of a taupe leather sofa and match­ing easy chair that are orig­i­nal to the home and a clean-lined cof­fee ta­ble that graces the mid­dle of the room. A ren­o­vated bath­room con­ve­niently lo­cated near to the open-con­cept liv­ing area con­tains the same coun­ter­top ma­te­rial and stained wood as the kitchen is­land. What makes Gau­thier’s lat­est ren­o­va­tion unique from other de­signs is the lack of colour, leav­ing the im­pres­sion of a clean, well-lit home in which hap­pi­ness glows, spit­ing the short, gloomy days of win­ter.

The kitchen and liv­ing room dur­ing re­cent ren­o­va­tion.

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