My country home – new front door!

So, while there was nothing wrong with the front door and side lites in my new country home, I found the entry a little dark and I had really loved the front door that I had in my old home that brought in tons of light and had lovely leaded glass. The other small problem was that I couldn’t see who was at the door in my new house if someone knocked, and I missed that. I also loved coming home to see my old dog waiting for me through the glass, and while I don’t have a dog right now, I will again someday. 

I had bought the door I loved in my old home from Canadian Comfort and I contacted them to find out if they could do something to fit in this space. Unfortunately, that required them ordering a custom transom because the manufacturer doesn’t make them.

They contacted the manufacturer to get an AutoCad drawing for me, and based on the drawing, I was happy to go ahead with the order. The pandemic delayed things, of course, but it finally arrived a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, it was the coldest day of the year and having a huge hole at the front of your house for several hours wasn’t the best, but they arrived at 9:00 AM and by 2 PM, I had a brand new door. 

And I’m thrilled!  Here’s the old front door, which had the Mission style design in keeping with the overall style of the house.

And here’s the new one. I love the way the rich black colour grounds the space and draws in the eye. 

Here’s a close up so you can see some of the lovely detail (no way to take this picture without my reflection being in it, sorry!)

Here’s the inside view of the old door. (One thing I did do to keep costs down was had Canadian Comfort re-use the existing custom moulding and trim.)

Here’s a shot of Mike from Canadian Comfort installing the new door.

And here’s the new door with installation completed, as seen from the inside.

You can see the difference in the view I get now from the living room, before and after (note that the black “pillow” on the couch is actually the cat, sleeping):

Tons of light, incredible curb appeal — this really is one of the prettiest front entries and front doors imaginable. Now this kind of thing is not for the faint of heart — unlike most of my bargain purchases, this is a big ticket item. But this is my forever home, and I was prepared to splurge. Huge thanks to John, Charles, Chelsea, Mike and Trevor at Canadian Comfort for making it happen! This is the third door I’ve bought from these folks and they have fantastic customer service. Happy to recommend! 

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Very proud of this one!

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My new country home – transforming living space!

When I bought my new home, the basement contained a children’s playroom. The lovely thing about the room was that it had huge windows allowing a gorgeous view of the trees and lots of light. I decided immediately that rather than using a den on the second floor as a home office, I’d transform this space.

I didn’t have to do anything: the lighting was great, the vinyl plank flooring was terrific,  the wall colour was perfect. All I had to do was figure out where to put my furniture to make this a home office/TV room/library.

Here’s the before:

And here’s the after:

 

All of this is to remind you that while each room in your home should have a clearly defined purpose, that purpose can be quite different from buyer to buyer. For a young family, a playroom was much needed. But for someone who works from home and doesn’t have young children, the same room can easily be re-purposed as a home office, den or TV room, and in my case all three.

I did sit down with some graph paper before the move, and after measuring square footage and the size of the furniture, I marked off where I thought the furniture should go.  But I ended up making last minute decisions that were different when I saw how things looked as the movers came in, so while that was a guide, it wasn’t definitive.

I love working in this room: the light is amazing, and I don’t feel like I’m in a basement at all. (And right next door I have a home gym with a punching bag when I need it!)

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My new country home – bedrooms!

I had promised to post up pics of the bedrooms in my new home. Now, the previous owner had lovely taste, so this is just really to show how different people can interpret and decorate the same spaces so they end up being very distinct.

The master bedroom in this home is exquisite. It’s spacious with large windows overlooking the woods. The previous owner picked out a beautiful light fixture and upgraded this custom home to have a wall of beautiful wood panelling. As soon as I saw it, with my old bed falling apart, I knew I would put in bed with a tufted headboard — the room has 9′ ceilings so it can handle the height. I’m all about bedding and mixing it up. I also love to use lots of pillows and neck rolls/shams. 

Here’s the before of the MBR (with its lovely view of the woods outside):

And here’s the after:

I also added a very large armoire as this room has a fairly small walk-in closet and there is no linen closet on the main level. It holds sweaters and towels. (It’s an 1880 Lanark County cupboard I bought at a collector’s auction in Kingston back in the day when I had my antique store — beautiful piece in original condition: I love it.)

More pics of this room and a better shot of that lovely light fixture:

Upstairs, there are two other bedrooms that I’ve set up as guestrooms. Again, there was nothing wrong with these rooms – all I changed upstairs was lighting. In the case of the smaller bedroom, I swapped the light fixture from a flush mount to a semi-flush mount to account for the sloping ceiling.

I used one of my favourite lights: it’s called the Medusa and has multiple arms and crystals. (These lights have been discontinued. I had bought one at Living Lighting six years ago but they couldn’t get one,  so I had to search around. I couldn’t find any on-line except in NYC at an exorbitant cost,  but I happened to be wandering around the Electric Plumbing and Lighting Store in Bell’s Corners and they had one on display so I nabbed it!)

I also decided to put the metal (double-sized) bed against the far wall to provide a little more headspace. I have lived in a house with eaves before and always knocked my head on the ceiling when getting out bed!

Here’s the small bedroom, before:

And here is the small bedroom after:

The larger bedroom, also on the second level (the MBR is on the main level) is the one my daughter and her partner use when they come to visit. I left the light fixture in this room alone, so all I did here was put my own stamp on the furnishings. (This is the only light on this floor that I didn’t change out: I’ll do a blog post on that later).  Here’s the before:

And here’s the after:

All of these rooms have wonderful views of the trees and great light, so I’m loving my new home! Next blog post: transforming the living spaces! 

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Staging a rental unit (mine)!

My lovely tenants of three years decided to move back to New Brunswick and moved out yesterday so I decided to spend the day there today doing touch-ups and staging. The transition strips had become pretty worn and there were a few marks on the hardwood, so I stained those, and painted where needed. Then comes cleaning and the fun part, staging! Here’s a quick before and after of two rooms: the main bathroom (there are two) and the kitchen.

I renovated the main bathroom three years ago and it’s quite lovely in its own right, but doesn’t staging make it look terrific?

Here’s the before:

And here’s the after:

One of my main tips: close the toilet lid!!! I also almost always put a vase of roses in a bathroom — I think it’s a lovely, elegant grace note, and how can you go wrong with flowers? 

I also redid much of the kitchen three years ago: it has some custom cupboards and bookcases/shelving now, new pot lights, tile floors etc. I did clean the grout today and use a grout sealer/renewer to freshen it up, glued down some loose quarter round, touched up the MDF cabinet paint. Again, lovely room with wonderful light – but staging brings it to life! Here’s the before:

 

And here’s the after:

Not shown: some art I hung on the wall, plants in the windows and so on – I’ll post more tomorrow. This is just a very quick post to show you how much staging can do to enhance the good bones your property already has. Thinking of selling? Find out about staging — some realtors (like me) will do light staging for free as part of our service. 

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Bathroom renovation finished!

The upstairs bathroom in my new home had one of those acrylic tub surrounds that I really hated. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that renovating this one was a chore – we had to move venting pipes and redo shower valves twice. But it’s done and I think it looks great! Here’s the before –

And here’s the after!

I’ve posted a couple of shots below so you can see the details. What you can’t see is how we had to remove the drop ceiling and create new part walls once we took the acrylic liner down.

Those lovely ceramic tiles in the tub surround are from Home Depot – they look like marble but aren’t. $ 6.88/ square foot! I used a darker grout this time (Platinum 27, Mepei) to show off the hexagonal shape. We ended up having to repaint the room because of all the drywall work we had to do: I chose Moonshine by Benjamin Moore in a pearl finish as I had it in my old house and found it worked with everything.

I added a second  towel bar and a proper shower rod that screws into the tiles (the first one  Alex installed was crooked so he had to come back to re-hang it, and then one of the little tiles broke, so it became a bit of a production to get that done, with multiple trips — luckily I still had a lockbox up and he finished yesterday).

The blue/grey/beige white shower curtain is from HomeSense, as I thought the room could use a bit of colour. The white fabric liner is from Bed, Bath and Beyond. The blue/beige woven hamper is from HomeSense as well (a purchase I made years ago) as are the new dusky grey-blue coloured towels that I picked up there yesterday. The painting came from a farmer’s market in Nice, France when I was visiting there several years ago — I met the artist, and watched him paint, so I’ve always loved it.

Next post, I’ll show you the transformed bedrooms and the master bath!

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Renovations continue – new lighting!

I move into my new house this week and there is a lot of frenzied activity underway to try to get these renovations finished. One thing I made a lot of changes to were the lighting in this house.  The previous owner preferred Mission-style fixtures to go with the Craftsman style and while it was lovely, I tend to like funky lighting, probably because I see so many standard fixtures.  I love mid-century modern, but my tastes are quite eclectic.

So, in some cases I removed potlights and replaced them with fixtures, and in others I removed fixtures and replaced them with potlights. My electrician Mark Dods spent two full days on lighting and will come back again in November to tidy up some loose ends, but here’s the progress we made so far:

Lighting over the fireplace. There are only two lights in the living room, and these were above the fireplace. I wanted something with a bit more heft. Here’s the before:

And here’s the after:

Lighting in the MBR ensuite. Before, there was a potlight above the tub. I replaced that with a chandelier:

 

And here’s the after:

Lighting in the kitchen. There was a large pendant light in the kitchen and three smaller ones over the island and sink. I took out all of them and replaced the smaller pendants with pot lights. I love the new mid-century light that will be over the dining room table! Here’s the before:

And here’s the after (pot lights are down so we can paint the ceiling where there were fixtures before, so I can’t show the room with the lights on, but you get the drift):

Lighting in the hallway.  There was a pot light in the hallway outside the MBR: I replaced it with a crystal light with six arms to tie into the MBR lighting. It’s really lovely (will try to get a better picture later, when everything is done).

There are more lighting changes in the bedrooms, but that will be the subject of another post!

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Bathroom Renovation – day 27!

Normally, I can get a bathroom done within a week or two but as usual, we ran into some glitches. I realized when I went out to look at the tub that the plumbers had put the shower valve in the wrong spot — it was 72″ when it should have been a minimum of 78″. I also wanted copper pipes not PEC. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I also wanted a different drain overflow than this standard “tombstone” style.

Like most things, it came down to communications. I can’t say enough good things about Jason at GK Plumbing — he took full responsibility for the shower valve and drain overflow and his guys were great after this at contacting me to get approvals.

I’m pretty hands on, which likely most owners aren’t — anyway, like any new relationship, we’ll get better at working together once we figure things out. Patrick and Thomas came out and everything looked great when they were finished! You’ll see that the shower valve is now at 80″, the pipes are copper and the drain overflow is round, which will match the flanges on the shower curtain rod. Much better! 

All of this slowed things down, however, because we had to get the plumbers back out and it meant Alex couldn’t get started on tiling. Once they were done, he got the greenboard and Kerdi down and started tiling, but couldn’t finish because the drywall around the tub needed to be repaired.

For that, I brought in Cedric Poon, who is one of the best drywallers I know, and he has been working around Alex’s schedule. All of which is to say I hope to have this done by this weekend!

I really do love the hexagonal tile. One small problem there too, though: if you look at the tile at the bottom, above the tub, one 12″ square doesn’t match (I’ve marked it with a piece of red tuck tape).

This particular tile comes in two patterns – the Carrara marble swirl and one with faint stripes. Somehow one of the striped tiles got mixed up with the Carrara and it’s so hard to see the difference that Alex installed it. (I almost bought a box of the wrong tile at Home Depot: it was the salesperson who pointed out there were two different patterns, so that was an easy mistake to make.) He’ll fix that when he comes back. 

It was a busy weekend at the house! Thomas Duncan was there, working on an extension to a wall (more on that later) and Mark Dods, my electrician, was installing new lighting for me. He’ll come back this weekend, but here’s a sneak peek of one before and after: the wall sconces above the fireplace. There is no other lighting in the living room, so while these were fine (the owner had lovely taste!), they didn’t provide quite enough light for me.

And I don’t have a TV over the fireplace, but a painting, so I wanted something to complement the art. This is what the sconces looked like when I bought the house — the “before”:

And here’s the “after” ! 

I had a couple of wall sconces I bought about 15 years ago for a condo I’d purchased in Montreal for my daughter while she went to McGill. They are the type that needed to be wired in, so they didn’t work there, but I hung on to them. And I’m glad I did, because they look perfect in this living room!

Ignore all the cards on the mantel and all the items on the bookshelves — I haven’t moved in yet, so I’m   putting stuff wherever I can until my furniture arrives. The crow, the painting and the bowl (which I purchased in Westport) will stay.

I have several book cases coming, so all these items will be curated and put elsewhere. But look at those lights — don’t they look great?

When I have time, I’ll do another blog post on the other lighting changes we’ve made to this house — they are pretty dramatic! And another on the work Thomas has been doing for me — there’s lots going on! 

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Another bathroom reno! This time – MY house!

I’ve bought a country property and love it BUT I didn’t love the acrylic tub liner in the upstairs bathroom. It was framed in and reminded me of a kid’s stage.

Since I haven’t moved in yet, this is an ideal time to get some work done, and I decided that bathroom would be the first thing to tackle. I wanted to open up that space, and put in a real tub and a tiled tub surround and a rain head shower. The rest of the bathroom is perfect, although it could use an extra towel bar.

So Alex Martinez, who I often work with on renos, ripped everything out, only to discover that there was a problem. (Isn’t there always?). He called me and I went out right away to take a look.

There was no framing at all behind the tub/shower liner and the black plastic vent pipes, to the left of the shower curtain, jutted out from the wall several inches. That meant the new tub would have to be off centre. Needless to say, I am sufficiently OCD that that kind of thing would drive me crazy.

Alex had spent about 15 minutes on Facetime with Justin Gauthier, from GK Plumbing, who is doing the plumbing work, tossing around the problem. They decided the black pipes needed to stay where they were. So Alex and I threw  around a few options, none of which made me happy. I wanted to get rid of the dropped ceiling so the ceiling would be flush to the rest of the ceiling. That was do-able. It was the fact that the tub couldn’t be centred that really bugged me. It would make the work look like an afterthought  — after all, any good builder would put a tub in the centre of the space, not several inches off to one side.

I finally decided the best option was to leave the tub off centre and make the wall on the shower head side flush to the rest of the wall on that side of the room. On the other one, where the new drywall had to cover the pipes, we’d put in a built in cubby for shampoo and try to make it look deliberate. Still, I didn’t really like that solution; it kept me tossing and turning all night.

I got hold of Alex the next morning and asked if the black pipes could be moved. He said he and Justin had discussed it and decided it was best to leave them, but agreed there is a huge open space right behind them so there was certainly room to push them back. I called Justin and he said if they could get access from below, they could move them. Of course, there is an additional cost. But that was fine with me!

When you’re doing something to make a space look beautiful  there’s doing something that will distract the eye if you can do it right. So the decision was made to move the vent pipes and centre the tub.

I popped around today to take a look. The vent pipes had been relocated and Alex had done the framing. And GK Plumbing had put the plumbing  in place as well as the tub. It looks great!

The only thing I didn’t love was the drain overflow cover, which was in the shape of a tombstone, so Justin is going to replace that with a circular one for me.

 

The tub is Sapphire from Lowes — I love the clean design and have used it in several renovations now.

And the tile I’ll be using is a hexagonal Carrara marble-look alike. It’s porcelain and way less expensive than marble but just as lovely and will work perfectly in this space, given the Craftsman style of the house.

So that’s where things are at so far — I’ll be changing the shower fixtures, adding a new towel bar, and that’s pretty much it for this space. Thinking I may use a dark grey grout this time to show off that lovely tile. I’ll keep you posted!

 

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Moving to the Country (Part 3) – Well, Water treatment and Septic

Now that I am in the process of moving out to the country from the city, I’ve had to learn a lot about wells, water treatment systems, and septic systems because these properties are not hooked up to municipal water or sewer. There’s a plus side to that of course: lower taxes and no water or sewage fees, but the minus side is that you have to do some work to maintain them.

My new house has a well. When I bought the property, I didn’t order a well inspection because it was a multiple offer situation, the house was only five years old, it had been built by a reputable builder, and I was willing to take a risk. This is not something I recommend to buyers, but as a seasoned realtor, I felt that I knew what I was doing.

To get title insurance, however, and financing, your lawyer does need a water treatment report and a well record. I thought getting those would be pretty easy.

You contact Ministry of Environment for the latter and fill out an online form — it’s free; you just need to provide the municipal address and the legal address (concession number etc). Imagine my surprise when no well record could be located and the buyers (who built the house new) said they didn’t have one either.

I talked to my water guy, Moe Rayyes, who we all use for water inspections, and he told me there were two well drillers in that area and that one of them might have the record, so I contacted them, but nope, nothing there. I was starting to freak out a little when the listing agent contacted me and said her sellers had found the record: the well had been a test well for an adjacent subdivision and so it appeared on a different address/legal description. With that information, I was able to get the record from MOE, which was a little more legible than the seller’s copy.

The moral of the story: be sure to ask for a well record if the seller has one, when you put in your offer! Most sellers are cooperative, and mine were terrific, but I can imagine a situation where that isn’t the case.

Now Moe explained to me that if there isn’t any paperwork like a well record for a given well, it doesn’t matter as long as the well is working properly. Setting aside the legal reasons for wanting one, it’s one of those things that’s nice to have but not essential.

One of the ways (and an essential one) to indicate that the well is functioning properly is the water test. You have to get a sample of cold water after running the water for a while, using a special bottle supplied by the township or city. You label it, keep it cold, and then take it to one of the drop off spots that do lab  tests to make sure there is no E. coli or bacteria in the water.

In Ottawa, where there are still some homes on well water even within the city proper as well as in the rural areas, you can pick these up at the City Hall office on Constellation Drive — the box is by security on the main floor and so is the drop off . In Beckwith township, where my new home is, you can pick up the plastic bottles at the township office on Highway 15 and there is a form that indicates the various drop off locations.

In my case the sellers had just done one, so they provided it to me and that satisfied my lawyer’s needs.

In my area, the water has a lot of iron in it and is very hard, so there is a water treatment cannister that needs to be maintained — the seller was kind enough to explain what’s required:

The water softener is easy to maintain- just dump the salts in it when it gets low. It takes a bag or two per month. We’ve tried a few different brands and like the “rust remover” kind the best- when we first moved in it we would get a tiny bit of staining in the toilets in between cleanings, but none since switching to those salts. You can buy them at the BMR in Richmond, any Home Hardware or Lowe’s- Home Depot doesn’t carry them for whatever reason. There is also a small reservoir on the side for a cleaning/maintenance solution called Res Care.

As for the septic, one of the mortgage brokers I work with mentioned that you have to clean the filter every so often: apparently, his daughter bought a house with a septic and didn’t do that and it backed up. I have an old septic tank at my cottage that doesn’t have a filter so I was off to Youtube to find out what I have to do. It looks a little gross, but essentially you screw off the top, pull out the filter and rinse the grunge out of it with a hose, then put it back. Once again, the sellers were super helpful:

The septic tank lids are in the front lawn, a few feet from the porch. They screw off. We can show you how to get the filter, you have to reach down to pull it out, and then just spray it off with a garden hose every year. It’s not as gross as it sounds, it just gets a scale-y type of build up.

So – that’s it for me and country moving tips! Next posts will be about the renos I’m doing to tweak my new house!

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