House & Home
It may be the most modest of all houses, but look who’s laughing now.
WWe’veall passed by (or possibly lived in) a humble mid-century bungalow, home to an enviable lawn but also sad little windows, drab brick and a boxy silhouette. In Mississauga, Ont.’s Clarkson neighbourhood, a threebedroom bungalow owned by Carlee Keeler and Will Mulqueeney fit the stereotype, and yet it had been their home for the past 11 years. They loved their lakeside community, the park across the street where their two daughters played every day, and even the size of their house. They just wished it was an open, airy space, with lots of storage and a cool, contemporary feel. Not much to ask, right?
For many homeowners, that ask means either moving — not a great option in a crazy real-estate market — renovating or razing their bungalow to the ground in favour of a new-build. But Brian McCourt of HGTV Canada’s Backyard Builds had other ideas. Will and Carlee knew they didn’t need more space, just a better use of it — and more built-in storage. “We wanted an airy feel without the expensive foundational work,” says Carlee. Brian and his firm’s designer, Michayla Caughlin, laid out a dramatic plan to bring light, space and style to the dated house — without the added expense of bumping up the footprint.
Brian’s first inspired move fixes a common bungalow shortcoming: eight-foot ceilings. He opened up the attic to vault the ceilings over the kitchen and installed two skylights to bring in natural light. “Unused attic space is a huge missed opportunity,” he says. “Even if you raise the ceiling six inches, it can feel like a totally different space. The cool part is that we changed the architecture without changing the exterior.”
For a contemporary spin, budget-friendly vinyl windows are designed to mimic ironwork. “We had the manufacturer integrate vinyl grilles between the panes of glass,” says Brian. “They look convincing because the window frames are white and the sash and grilles are black. We also used a thinner profile instead of a super-bulky black vinyl frame. It was our inexpensive way to get a high-end look.”
And when the walls dividing the dining and living rooms came down, it changed how the family uses the space. “We let go of needing a formal dining room,” says Will of the new, smaller table and bench seating in the kitchen. “We can accommodate six adults at the table and four kids at the peninsula — it’s a more casual, modern way of entertaining.”
Brian admits that when he first walked in to this bungalow, it felt so small he wasn’t sure how he could improve it without enlarging the footprint. “Vaulting the ceiling and taking out walls made a massive difference,” he says. “I’m so happy we didn’t do an extension.” The homeowners agree. “We have light coming in from all angles and it just floods our house,” says Carlee. “Now the kids and Will are baking all the time; we all have a chopping space and they love eating at the bar. It’s just a different life.” And a whole new bungalow.