Wildwood reno gets glowing endorsement
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.