North­ern touch

How sib­ling of the year and in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tor Alicia Macdonald helped her sis­ter tear apart and re-imag­ine her first house.

The Coast - Homes Halifax - - Real Renos - PHO­TOS NICOLE LAPIERRE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Sis­ters share clothes, se­crets and some­times bed­rooms. They help each other get ready for things, from birth­day par­ties to bri­dal par­ties. They pool re­sources, life ex­pe­ri­ence and ac­ces­sories. But, in the case of Brianna Strat­ton and Alicia Macdonald, it’s more than just swapped gos­sip and bor­rowed out­fits. They shared a vi­sion—and a tool belt—to cre­ate the ul­ti­mate north end dream home, com­plete with a mod­ern fire­place and sunny front porch.

When Strat­ton and her hus­band, Drew, were ready to leave condo liv­ing be­hind, a pre-hal­i­fax Ex­plo­sion home on Union Street caught their eye. It wasn’t so much the home’s wall-to-wall beige car­pet­ing and dated cup­boards that con­vinced them to drop a down pay­ment, though: It was its lo­ca­tion.

“When we went into this house, we loved the neigh­bour­hood. It backed onto Need­ham Park. It’s a com­mu­nity that we love,” Strat­ton ex­plains.

She knew that once the house and yard were mod­ern­ized, its ugly duck­ling sta­tus would quickly be re­voked. But first, they had to put in the work.

Macdonald (who owns Orr In­te­ri­ors) sits next to her sis­ter, wear­ing a flow­ing grey cardigan that matches her man­i­cure with laser-like ac­cu­racy. She’s quick to add that while the house’s po­ten­tial was there, it took a lot of dig­ging to get to it. “The house was al­most fall­ing down,” she says. Strat­ton adds, “And the back­yard was like The Se­cret Gar­den but, like, worse.”

“There were trees go­ing into the foun­da­tion,” Macdonald fin­ishes, flip­ping through pho­tos of the ren­o­va­tion on her phone.

The home was com­pletely gut­ted down to the frame. Walls and car­pets were ripped out mer­ci­lessly. The back­yard was lev­elled and man­i­cured as sharply as Macdonald’s nails.

“Alicia would come over to our old spot and lay out all the tiles of the house, all of the paint colours, and ev­ery­thing went to­gether—even the shin­gles out­side,” Strat­ton says, ex­plain­ing her sis­ter had a vi­sion of the en­tire home’s palette be­fore they be­gan.

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