Devil in the de­tails

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

DE­TAILS make the dif­fer­ence be­tween a first-rate ren­o­va­tion and a dis­as­trous one. Two ob­vi­ous de­tails that speak to the over­all ex­cel­lence of a reno are join­ery and paint. Bevel joints for base­boards and mitre joints for win­dow and door frames should fit tightly with no gaps or tear out, a sign the in­staller was in a hurry or un­con­cerned about his work­man­ship. Sim­i­larly, com­pound an­gle joints on crown mold­ing, (com­monly used to bridge a gap be­tween the top of a kitchen cabi­net and a ceil­ing), should be snug and clean, even if a cor­ner is not ex­actly 45 de­grees. A ren­o­va­tion that fails to meet th­ese re­quire­ments sug­gests be­low par crafts­man­ship, which will man­i­fest through­out all parts of the house. Paint also speaks vol­umes about a ren­o­va­tor’s con­cern for or in­dif­fer­ence to a reno. A care­less painter will quickly roll on a top coat, leav­ing vis­i­ble skips or drools on a wall or ceil­ing. As well, fail­ure to use a drop sheet will re­sult in drips or blobs of paint on floors, car­pets, fur­ni­ture and ap­pli­ances, which are im­pos­si­ble to re­move once the paint has set. Fi­nally, there is the egre­gious sin of paint­ing over wall out­let and switch cov­ers due to lazi­ness, un­con­cern or hur­ried work. If you’re in the mar­ket for a ren­o­va­tor, ex­am­ine his or her pre­vi­ous work with an eye to the de­tails men­tioned above. If they are poorly ex­e­cuted, the rest of the ren­o­va­tion will be equally sloppy. And though you may be quoted a lower price by a con­trac­tor, the money you os­ten­si­bly saved may be lost to fix­ing the er­rors he com­mit­ted. What you want is a ren­o­va­tor with ‘arete’, an an­cient Greek word roughly mean­ing a com­mit­ment to ex­cel­lence or qual­ity. It so hap­pens that the work of a lo­cal reno com­pany ex­hibits the de­vo­tion to crafts­man­ship, ex­per­tise in de­sign and pro­fi­ciency in man­age­ment that meet the high ex­pec­ta­tions de­noted by the Greek word. Zoe Austin, owner and lead designer of Arete De­sign, re­cently showed me through a for­mer bun­ga­low at 270 Niagara St. in River Heights which she and her four-mem­ber crew had ren­o­vated from cel­lar to gable, trans­form­ing it into a two-storey marvel. Austin is some­what of an anom­aly in the reno busi­ness in that her main fo­cus is on re­vi­tal­iz­ing older homes in River Heights, Tuxedo and Charleswood. To this end, she pur­chases houses that have fallen into dis­re­pair yet re­main struc­turally sound, giv­ing them a sub­lime makeover in the process. “I bought the Niagara house last De­cem­ber, my con­struc­tion team had it ren­o­vated and on the mar­ket within five months,” said the savvy young en­tre­pre­neur, a for­mer well-trav­elled ac­tor with a life-long ap­pre­ci­a­tion of art and ar­chi­tec­ture. Austin does the de­sign work and her youth­ful team of ex­pe­ri­enced car­pen­ters (one is Red Seal qual­i­fied) and a skilled labourer trans­form her con­cept into a three-di­men­sional re­al­ity. Their crafts­man­ship and at­ten­tion to de­tail is im­pec­ca­ble, fea­tur­ing pre­ci­sion cuts and joins on ev­ery­thing from out­door CanEx­cel sid­ing to in­door crown mold­ings—no paint drools, drips or lazy short­cuts to be found here ei­ther. Austin has an en­vi­able abil­ity to blend tra­di­tional and mod­ern styles in such a way that the fi­nal out­come is a house with charis­matic ap­peal to ad­her­ents of both the more is more and the less is more schools of de­sign. “When we com­plete a project, we in­vite neigh­bours to view the reno, a large ma­jor­ity have favourable things to say about the qual­ity of work and how quickly we fin­ish a project. They also com­ment on the af­fa­bil­ity of our crew mem­bers and men­tion how happy they are to see that our ren­o­vated homes fit in with the char­ac­ter of the neigh­bour­hood,” said Austin, re­fer­ring to a re­cent brouhaha over a “mon­ster” house on nearby Mon­trose Street that took a long time to build, dwarfed neigh­bour­ing homes and was the ob­ject of lo­cal ire. Aside from youth­ful en­thu­si­asm—the av­er­age age of the Arete team is 31—there are many other rea­sons to con­sider pur­chas­ing a ren­o­vated house from the com­pany. Though ex­tra fea­tures can be or­dered, an Arete home comes com­plete with many mod­ern ameni­ties a buyer is un­likely to find in an older house. For ex­am­ple, the knob and tube wiring in the Niagara house was sup­posed to have been com­pletely re­placed by the for­mer owner. On in­spec­tion, Austin dis­cov­ered that only the vis­i­ble wiring had been up­dated, leav­ing the rest of the house with po­ten­tially danger­ous knob and tube cir­cuits. “We rewired the en­tire struc­ture and in­cluded a 200-amp ser­vice, which is not manda­tory but has be­come an in­dus­try stan­dard for new builds and many renos,” said Austin. Along with the wiring, the plumb­ing was com­pletely up­graded to meet code, and a man­i­fold was added to con­trol sep­a­rate wa­ter lines. Other new equip­ment in­cludes an HRV, a high ef­fi­ciency forced-air gas fur­nace, air con­di­tion­ing and a 60-gal­lon wa­ter heater, as well as ma­jor kitchen ap­pli­ances. An ex­tended bath­room was built in the base­ment to ac­com­mo­date a new plate-glass shower stall with white porce­lain tile walls and mar­ble­like floor tiles with grey swirls. All the bath­rooms and the kitchen fea­ture Cae­sar­stone counter tops and un­der mount sinks on cus­tom-built, painted maple van­i­ties. The mas­ter bath­room has in floor heat­ing, a jet­ted tub, a glass en­clo­sure with a rain head, body wand and much more. The open-con­cept kitchen and living room in­clude wal­nut-stained en­gi­neered T&G maple floor­ing, white ceil­ing beams and trims, as well as re­cessed and drop down light­ing and a chan­de­lier in the main en­trance foyer. A clev­erly de­signed bench seat­ing/stor­age unit in­cludes an area above with coat hang­ers and cubicles for hats, mitts, scarves and other items. As a per­son who ap­pre­ci­ates wood, I was drawn to a gas fire­place in the living area cov­ered with re­claimed barn wood and com­ple­mented by a re­cy­cled man­tle beam from the 1800s. In­deed, the home has wood ac­cents in most of the rooms.

The new sec­ond storey con­tains the mas­ter en­suite with a walk­out cedar deck and sep­a­rate bed­rooms with a shared bath­room. Win­dows through­out the house are triple-pane high-ef­fi­ciency units; walls have been in­su­lated in­side and out. In to­tal, the home has four cedar decks to­talling 350 square feet of out­door living area, as well as a Bark­man paver stone pa­tio. An­other unique fea­ture, es­pe­cially for older ar­eas like River Heights, is a fully in­su­lated dou­ble garage with a heated con­crete floor. If that weren’t enough, the en­tire ex­te­rior of the 2000-plus square foot home, (in­clud­ing an ex­tra 850 square feet of base­ment living space), is cov­ered with 25-year war­ranty CanExel Ced’R-Vue gran­ite-tone sid­ing. For ac­cent, cedar shin­gles high­light the lower part of the front el­e­va­tion and three gables. It’s im­pos­si­ble to men­tion all the fine fea­tures of this re­mark­able ren­o­va­tion. The home re­cently sold for $750,000 pre-MLS list­ing. Logic would sug­gest that at­ten­tion to de­tail equals car­ing, com­mit­ment and qual­ity, which sounds like a def­i­ni­tion of arete.

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