Century-old Home Gets a Lot of Love

Three years ago my husband and I bought the perfect little blue house - baby blue with white trimmings. Just like a Tiffany & Co. box! 


Though the interior needed some serious TLC, the exterior and its white picket fence sold us within minutes. Before we could blink, we were proud owners of a 104 year-old house with wallpaper that would make a designer's skin crawl.

We closed on the property and then the renovations began. I should rephrase: the madness began. For those who have been through a renovation I'm sure you can empathize. In less than a week we were $20,000 over budget! Ahhhhh! I believe it was exactly at that point when my stomach started to burn and did not let up until all was completed. 

A bit of an eccentric crew was hired, and not by choice. It just turned out that way. Why not? Add a little craziness to the craziness.

Our painter had the appearance of a madman and once he was attached to the house there was no turning back. We tried to "let him go" several times but he continued to just show up—"I have a job to finish!" At one point he even asked if he could move in with his pet Rottweiler in tow in exchange for paint work. After picking up my jaw from the floor, I said "Ah, nope!"

Our project manager had a little attitude with our century-old home and didn't understand the difference between what was "character" and what was "junk." Within days he was frustrated with the surprises behind the walls and started to get a little grumpy. My advice to him was, "love the house and it will love you back!"

At one point during demolition he was about to toss the old window trim but thought he had better ask: "is this junk or character?" I snapped, "character!"

What I loved so much about this house was the 10 foot ceilings. The original crown mouldings on the main floor and the original ceiling medallion in the dining room were spectacular—it was love at first sight.

It was amazing that you could actually see these features past the floral wallpaper. And yes, the ceiling was papered too. "Really?" I blurted out when seeing the ceiling for the first time.

It didn't take long for my precious dining room to turn into a junk yard!

After the ceiling paper was removed—a surprisingly difficult job—we noticed that the ceiling would move and crack when someone walked on the second level. We were immediately informed it was necessary to replace the ceiling—another item not in the budget!

My heart sank. I knew replacing the ceiling meant the medallion had to come down. A plaster specialist was brought in, scaffolding was built up, a large tire was used and held up underneath the medallion so they could cut around it and gently lay the medallion on to the tire which they then slowly brought down and placed on the floor— only to have the crazy crew step on it!

This is precisely when the stress tears started to flow and when our project manager decided it was time to "love the house." After a bit of a meltdown all was resolved and the finished product was well worth the tears.

We found our table base, an old cow trough from China, in a small town outside of Toronto. Our chairs came from Stacaro.

The mirror was made by a frame-maker down the street. When finished, he grabbed a few friends to help and literally walked it over.

The paint is my favourite white— Benjamin Moore's Chantilly Lace. In fact, the entire house is painted in Chantilly Lace, thanks to my dear friend Craig, who also swears by the colour and suggested it.    

The living room and foyer were relatively easy. An opening was cut in the front hallway to allow more light into the living room as well as the foyer.

I have spent many hours, probably too many, on our Montauk sofa. It was worth every penny! The pictures above are of trips my husband and I have been on framed in Pottery Barn frames. The extremely soft fluffy pillows are also from Pottery Barn and the light from Union Lighting.

The table is an antique I purchased from a friend and the pictures are mine which were taken in the gardens at the Palais Royal in Paris. The light is from Restoration Hardware.

The steps were also an easy fix involving white risers and refinished wooden treads.

When we bought the house it had four bedrooms and one teeny tiny bathroom. Realizing we needed a second bathroom, especially since my husband spends more time getting ready than I do, we decided to turn the bedroom beside the master bedroom into an ensuite. However, we would convert the teeny bathroom into something a little more eye pleasing.

The little bathroom was completely gutted! 

Add a little marble and subway tiles, and voilà! The chandelier was a wedding gift from my sister and the pedestal came from Gingers in Toronto.

We left the piping in the corner exposed and painted it white, which I feel is now the main feature. Unfortunately I have to credit my friend Craig for this one again, even though I enjoy telling everyone it was my idea.

I loved the length of the hallway and the space to the right before you enter the master bedroom. It is an interesting space that had lots of potential.

I'm an avid reader who owns hundreds of books and not one book case! I know! I have been searching for years and have yet to find the perfect book case. So, I decided to turn the area into book storage.

The next meltdown was when the project manager called me at work to say that while removing the old closet from the master bedroom two dead birds fell out of the wall and we "have no choice but to replace all the walls in the bedroom." It hurts when you receive information like this. All I saw were dollar signs. This was another piece that was not supposed to be a part of the puzzle!

Down came the walls. Ugh. Stomach hurt.

The size of the master bedroom is perfect. It's long and narrow. At one end sits our bed, made by my father, and at the other end, our wonderfully efficient Ikea closet system.

Another piece of furniture I am searching for is bedside tables. I cannot for the life of me find what I want! I have a specific look in mind and the restricted size doesn't help. My designer friend Lynne Knowlton suggested, "Use your books! Geesh, you've got enough of them so use them for something!" So there you have it—bedside book tables.

It didn't take long for the ensuite to materialize. It was exciting watching it come together. The opening was made and the construction of my future haven began.

My bathtub and fixtures came from Amati Bath Centre, the vanity from Restoration Hardware and the beautiful statuario marble from Metric Marble. I don't hear or think of anything while in this little place. It truly is the most peaceful and relaxing room in our house.

So, in a nutshell, that was our renovation: two solid months of crazy. We survived relatively unscathed—broke, but unscathed. Due to the constant surprises which quickly depleted our renovation fund the kitchen was not done. It has now been over three years and we have finally started on the kitchen! I am thrilled and also crossing my fingers for no tears!

Stay tuned…