Victorian Row House

Victorian Row House: A Designer Reno on A DIY Budget - Part 6






Kitchen & Family Room - Before & After

*Edit February 2015*
I've recently learned this former house of mine is currently for sale on MLS and also has been popping up on some other Toronto websites with links back to my blog posts here, citing that this is still my house and that i still live there.  Just to clarify - I no longer own or live in this house, I sold this house in December 2008.  I want to also mention that because of my blog posts here about my house renovation, that two years after selling it the new owners, (he was fresh out of law school) filed a claim against myself and the Home Inspector for mis-representing the property (after an earlier failed attempt at trying to get money from each of the Broker firms ).   After moving in to their very first home the young new lawyer and his  new wife were not happy with the lack of sound privacy the row house offerred and claimed the real estate listing failed to disclose what the sound levels were. (??).     To make  a two year long small claims court story short,,,,,in a settlement hearing a Judge basically said they didn't have a chance, not a chance of winning any type of settlement in court over this,  it wasn't a new build, it was a 100yr old+  row house and their expectations about what they were entitled to were completely unrealistic.  Caveat emptor.  It took two years of lawyers time to settle that.
*end of edit*



















Below are some before pics showing the old 1980's kitchen.  Half of the ceiling was badly damaged from a leak in the old roof, there was no dishwasher or exhaust fan and the cabinetry was rotted and falling apart.  The first photo shows the extent of cabinetry, lowers and uppers along the window wall and a small cabinet over the bulkhead for the basement stairs.  A table and chairs sat next to a freestanding fridge and in front of a long baseboard heater.   We ripped it all out......including the window.  In its place would be a new ceiling, new flooring, new window, new lighting, new appliances and new Ikea kitchen cabinets.


Before - View from Kitchen to DR and LR


Before - View from LR and DR to Kitchen and FR beyond.




It was definitely a challenge coming up with a layout for this kitchen.  It was elevated from the Dining and Living rooms and also had an adjoining family room with a walkout to the deck and access to the garage.  The kitchen spanned the width of the house so the main path of traffic flowed thru the kitchen, thru the family room and out to the only parking spot - in the garage.  What I found most awkward about the kitchen was that the opposite walls were too far apart to make for an efficient work space but it was too narrow for an island or peninsula layout without removing the walls between the kitchen and Family Room - not an option for us.  I wanted to utilize the long wall opposite the sink for full height cabinetry and add an island, even if it would be a small one.  The walls between the kitchen and family room had to stay so I redesigned the layout within the existing footprint.   One of the key elements was removing the baseboard heater and replacing it with a toe-kick heater that fits under the cabinetry on the one wall.  This allowed us to utilized the entire wall for new full height cabinetry.



After - View of Pantry in kitchen looking thru to back door in Family Room.  Toe kick heater under cabinetry.

The view to the back of the house from the LR and DR was directly down the middle of the kitchen and at eye level (because of the elevated floor level) so I wanted an island that was more of a table style, something that was visually light and airy looking and moveable.   Because I had limited time and even a more limited budget, I designed an island that we could make ourselves from stock goods - so the kitchen island became a DIY project.  I purchased a ready made stainless steel top from Ikea (or you could use butcher block) some unfinished solid wood butcher block style legs from Lowes, and a bit of stock lumber.  I planned out the apron size and blocking required and had the lumber store cut all the boards to the exact sizes I needed.  Next I purchased all the fasteners and brought all the pieces home, ready to assemble.  I supplied my 'other half' with the design drawing and instructions and within an hour he had put the entire thing together for me.  To finish it off, all it needed was primer and 2 coats of finish paint.  Super easy and quick!! The entire thing cost less than $300 and I absolutely LOVE the results.  There are so many variations you could do by following the same simple steps.  In an upcoming post I'll provide the design plan, the instructions and list of materials needed.










A new double hung window was installed, taller than the old window and I added a frosted vinyl film to block the unappealing view of the neighbour's house but still allows the light in.  I opted for solid cararra marble counter and wrapped it up the wall 28" for a clean contemporary look. I had planned on adding a long wall mounted shelf with traditional corbel style brackets on the wall to the right of the window but since I had decided to sell the house, I left this open for the new owners to chose if they wanted to do this or not.   To me this would be the perfect finishing touch - a great spot for displaying pretty bowls, plates and artwork but for those who like to cook, its great access to your dishes.




All of the cabinetry was from Ikea, and I chose the simple white Applad door style for a clean contemporary look.  I customized it by adding full height thick gables between each of the cabinets, (which gives the cabinets more of a furniture look) and gave the entire kitchen a high end style by splurging on marble counters and backsplash, an oversized custom stainless sink, great appliances and a unique custom designed island.  The slide in range reinforces the clean lines and the contemporary rectangular hood was a great find at Lowes for only $699.





The light fixture in the family room was by Jonathan Adler but I customized it to have a 6" drop, I loved the black metal detail on the shade and how it ties in to the other touches of black on the window frames and door hardware.



The family room was adjacent to the kitchen, with its walkout to the deck it was a really bright, sunfilled and comfy space with room for a sofa and two lounge chairs and a TV.  I purchased an inexpensive but practical slipcovered sofa from Ikea, hung a small grouping of my own b&w photos, and brought an ottoman and 2 antique apple crates from home to furnish the space for resale.  The pin-up lamps were a STEAL at only $19.99 ea from a building surplus warehouse, they have a fabric drum shade, a swing arm and 3 way dimmer switch.  I've been back several times since to buy more and I'm sorry to say, they are completely sold out now!  The new owners of the house purchased the sofa and the lamps too.

I'm proud to say that this entire kitchen, including all materials, appliances, labour (electrical, plumbing, drywall, cabinetry install, flooring install, fabrication) and all taxes came in at $17,700.  The only work my handyman and I did ourselves in this part of the reno was the demolition, the painting, and hook-up of the kitchen faucet and dishwasher...and of course the design planning.  All in all,,,,I think the quality and value of the end product is much greater than its modest budget and demonstrates that its not how much you spend,,its how you spend it!

Stay tuned for a future post with instructions for a DIY kitchen island.

For Parts 1 thru 5 of this Victorian Row House Reno:


All Photos:  Carol Reed



Victorian Row House: A Designer Reno on A DIY Budget - Part 5





The Living and Dining Rm - Before & After

*Edit February 2015*
I've recently learned this former house of mine is currently for sale on MLS and also has been popping up on some other Toronto websites with links back to my blog posts here, citing that this is still my house and that i still live there.  Just to clarify - I no longer own or live in this house, I sold this house in December 2008.  I want to also mention that because of my blog posts here about my house renovation, that two years after selling it the new owners, (he was fresh out of law school) filed a claim against myself and the Home Inspector for mis-representing the property (after an earlier failed attempt at trying to get money from each of the Broker firms ).   After moving in to their very first home the young new lawyer and his  new wife were not happy with the lack of sound privacy the row house offerred and claimed the real estate listing failed to disclose what the sound levels were. (??).     To make  a two year long small claims court story short,,,,,in a settlement hearing a Judge basically said they didn't have a chance, not a chance of winning any type of settlement in court over this,  it wasn't a new build, it was a 100yr old+  row house and their expectations about what they were entitled to were completely unrealistic.  Caveat emptor.  It took two years of lawyers time to settle that.
*end of edit*



I should start this post by stating that we began this renovation in the spring and as September rolled around I was feeling more and more uneasy about the possibility of moving out of my rental and into this newly renovated home. With the stock market crash and the collapse of major wall street firms, I was left feeling really uncertain and confused about holding on to this piece of real estate. Knowing that if I moved in it was going to be short term anyways, we decided it would be best to sell after completing the renovation, but we would need to do it sooner rather than later. Sooooo,,,, with the plan now to sell,,,,we debated whether to furnish the house or not. And the vote was yes. We spent 2 days moving furniture in from my own home and purchasing some small items to fill in the holes. I was happy with the end result as it was certainly a step above the average 'staged' home,,,,yet, it doesn't reflect how I would have loved to have furnished the home had I planned on living there.














Now here's a few of the before's a bit about some of the material's and details we used.

Before - View of Living Room and Front Entry before closing.


After - View of Living room after new windows, smooth ceilings, floor, trim and paint was completed.


The most compliments we received on the finished house was the new floors.   Everyone who walked thru the door, from installers, to friends, to neighbours to the pizza delivery guy,,,,,all commented on how much they loved the floors and wanted to know what they were, where to get them.  Personally, I loved the floors too and I had them selected from day 1.  They're a natural finish, solid 3/4"th x 3-1/4"w prefinished birch in a loft grade.  And they also happen to be the least expensive floors I've ever specified at $1.99 s.f., in stock and on sale!  They're from an Ontario based company called Kultur Flooring who claim to have the most advanced wood flooring mill in North America.  One of the things I really like about their product is they are the first mill in North America to mill the whole tree for wood flooring - this allows them to offer a range of wood grades and produce really long boards.   Also, for a prefinished floor they have the smallest micro-bevel edge I've seen, giving it more of a site-finished look.

I chose the loft grade because of the character - the variation of colour and the visible knots which reminded me of some of the antique floors I've installed (for a LOT more money), and I think they created a loft like look in the space.  They came prefinished in a clear, matt finish.  I prefer my wood floors to be natural, not stained, and I like them to be very low sheen like a waxed finish and this floor offerred both of those.  This gives them a more relaxed look and is more forgiving to scratches and wear and tear.  I think the older they get, the more character they'll develop.  What sets them off even more is the all white walls and the black window frames, again creating a contemporary urban soft-loft like look.


Before - View of Dining room before closing.


Before - Living and Dining room after demolition.  Newly smoothed ceilings and partial primed walls and railing.


Before - Living and Dining Room just prior to new floors being installed.

We installed new casings on all the windows and doors and decided to custom cut our own.   I was looking for a simple profile, something very clean lined and contemporary looking but there's not much available in stock.  So I purchased 1" x 4" select pine and had my handyman run all the boards thru his table saw to create a wide bevelled top edge.  Once the saw was set up the process went pretty quickly and the cost was a lot less than factory milled casings.  After they were cut, a once over with a palm sander and a primer coat to seal the knots, they were ready for paint.  So we ended up with custom casings for about $1.09 linear foot.  The biggesst challenge was trying to find a store that had enough lumber in stock!

Before - the first new baseboard being installed on the new hardwood floors.  Don't worry,,,1 hour later a super powerful pneumatic nail gun made an appearance.

The second most common compliment we received on the house was on the baseboards. Who would've thought something as boring as baseboards would be so appealing to people.  I assume, like myself,,,many people have tried to find simple contemporary style baseboards with no luck and maybe that's why they were so taken with the ones we installed here.   I selected stock boards again, this time a 1" x 6" primed mdf.  These boards were installed everywhere as baseboard and I love the clean simple lines they create.  The best part is its a really inexpensive solution, (about .78cents l.f.) readily available, pre-primed and with no fancy profile, its fairly simple to install because there's no coping required.  This made my handyman, Six, very happy (or was it just the power nailer).


After - View of living room and dining room new windows, ceilings, floors, trim and paint were completed. 


I think painting out the old hand rail and spindles made a huge transformation to the staircase, no more 80's golden oak.  We cut-off the little curly-que end portion of the old handrail and added a large newel post which i think is more in keeping with the original character of the century house.  The hand rail was painted a glossy black but I also think it would have looked just as good with the spindles painted black as well.

The light fixture in the dining room was a great find at Habitat for Humanity, I'd seen it regularly at lighting showrooms selling for $600, I scooped it up for only $125, brand new in the box.  The living room had this oddly placed junction box in the ceiling directly in front of the window, what normally might instead be centred in the middle of the room.  I decided to hang a small, modern looking pendant chandelier there suspended over the sofa, with the 9' ceilings it added some sparkle, made the window area look more special but also created a nice visual from the exterior of the house.  A bit unexpected but I think it worked really well.


After - the Living Room



Stay tuned for the next post on this Victorian Row House reno where I'll post photos and details about the kitchen and family room!


For earlier posts:


All Photos:  Carol Reed