Hi, I’m Kim and welcome to my blog. My fiancé George and I bought a cute little house in the Lakeview area of Mississauga Ontario during the midst of the pandemic. The size was perfect for the two of us and our cat Xena, with a great yard, ample parking, and a quiet neighbourhood. While we love the layout, we had to look past a lot of issues with it to see that it had great potential. I’ve decided to start documenting our journey through the restoration and welcome you to follow our adventure. I hope you find inspiration as we transform our little home into our vision of a French cottage.
I mentioned my name is Kim and my fiancé is George. We were introduced by a mutual friend, Pat, in spring 2015. We both play pool but on totally different levels. I like the social aspect of the game and enjoy going out to play with friends so joined a league. He loves to play, and would strongly prefer to play in complete silence for hours on end, but was persuaded by Pat to join our team for a session to get us to a championship. While we didn’t win a spot to the APA championship in Vegas, in fall 2015 George and I went to see the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL Championship Series against Kansas City Royals game 5. What a series that was, with the infamous bat flip, the energy in the crowd was incredible! The rest, as they say, is history. Although #ourstory is my favourite, here I will endeavour to share with you our trials and tribulations as we take a botched renovation and build something together that we love and are proud to call home.
Neither of us are home improvement professionals. George is a Supervisor in drilling and shoring and I’m a Loss Prevention Manager in retail distribution. So what makes us think we’re qualified to do a full scale renovation? Absolutely nothing. My Dad was a Millwright and true craftsman. He could build a home from the foundation up, and the quality of his work was 2nd to none. I grew up watching him closely, and even worked for him briefly as a teenager. Over the years I’ve done several minor home decorating projects in homes I’ve lived in and have a passion for decor and crafting. George is the son of a lumberjack and he did the same in his early years while he was still in Cape Breton, but he’s even more skilled at building with wood than cutting it down. None of this qualifies us and we’re smart enough to know what we can do ourselves and when to hire a professional.
I thought I would document our journey through the renovation because the house is an interesting story. We purchased it in June 2020 recognizing that there were some definite cosmetic issues with a renovation that had been done. There’s so much more we learned as we were trying to close on the sale 2 months later that was definitely not cosmetic and we’re still peeling back layers and learning more. You’re welcome to join us through out the process.
Why #frenchcountry? I’m best described as a Heinz 57, truly Canadian, from a family that’s been here for hundreds of years, but my father’s side is mostly French. George is an east coaster, from Cape Breton, where his roots run deep. I have a strong affinity for the Mediterranean though, especially the south of France and this house seems to have a provincial soul longing to be uncovered. And so we begin.
I wanted antique french doors for the entrance to the den to set the aesthetic of the room. I felt the style would be more inviting than a traditional interior door, plus when propped open, the narrow dimensions of a French Door would ensure the cabinets were not obstructed. Unfortunately as we were still in retail lockdown in Ontario at this time I really couldn’t get out to any of the antique shops to look around and I wasn’t finding what I wanted in the right dimensions online. This got my creative juices flowing and I searched Pinterest for a solution. I learned of a technique for ageing wood using a solution called the Rusty Nail Wood stain.
One distinct feature I wanted the doors to have was the look of mercury glass. I was able to create this look using metallic spray paint, vinegar and water.
I still have to add hardware. Still looking for the perfect solution. Little hard to get out and shop antiques lately but we’ll update the post when we finish this part. Other than that, I absolutely love the way the doors turned out! Let me know what you think in the comments.
If you’re interested in more details on this project including full list of supplies, equipment used and instructions click here.
When I first thought about converting the bedroom to a den I was thinking of opening an entrance in the wall that is next to our entryway. The thought was we would wall over the doorway from the hall. When we talked through the dimensions of the room, and considered where the windows and heat vent was we realized that we wouldn’t be able to achieve the right layout for a tv room. This prompted me to design a built in cabinet on that wall I referred to previously. We could go with ready made but I wanted to maximize the amount of storage we could get and we’d be able to achieve enough distance between the couch and tv on this wall.
There’s an air return column in the corner of this wall so we used the depth of it to set the depth of our built in cabinets. The design inspiration for the cabinet came from bookshelves I saw on Wayfair.
We found wood look wall panel at The Home Depot. I can almost hear the gasps! Wood look wall panel in 2021?! Yes, but this is not your 70’s beaver panel found in many basements and cottages. It’s got the rustic look of reclaimed barn wood, and it’s actually quite authentic looking.
DPI Cabin Creek Wall Panel
I drew the plans for George and he went to work executing construction. There are two tall book shelves on the sides with 6 shelves each, a centre base for the tv and a 6 box set of shelves for above the tv. George built each part separately out of maple veneer plywood then installed them in place.
I had recently learned about chalk paint and initially thought I would use it for the black. While researching colour I came across a product that had a colour I really wanted to see on the cabinet. And so begins my new love affair with Fusion Mineral Paint. For those who’ve never heard of it, FMP is 100% acrylic, low VOC, environmentally friendly, durable paint that comes in more than 50 colours. The bonus, it’s Canadian, developed by the Homestead House Paint Co. To learn more click the link: https://fusionmineralpaint.com/about-us/. I chose Ash and did two coats, topping it with Fusion Mineral Paint finishing Oil in Natural. In order to achieve the distressed look I wanted, before painting I applied some of FMP’s Beeswax on the trim.
We added baseboard, casing and doors to the front of the cabinet to finish off the look. The casing we purchased from the Home Depot, but George made the doors. I added wood decals I found at The Home Depot, and painted them with a mixture of DecoArt Metallic paints in Spun Gold and Vintage Brass. They are a perfect complement to the antique brass door hinges and lion head door pulls!
This entire project was completed during lockdown so all materials including paints and stains had to be ordered online for curb side pickup. I can’t remember how many hours I spent pouring over photos online to compare colours but it was a lot! We’re going to add the step by step on this project to our project page soon.
Our front room is an open concept living and dining room and flows right into the kitchen. It’s not a large space, and I have to work extra hard through our furniture layout to create and maintain a sense of definition in each area. The space is great for entertaining, allowing for a sense of togetherness and I enjoy that I can be in the kitchen while still part of what’s going on in the living space or at the dining table. One thing I’m not a big fan of is having a tv in the living room because of the temptation to turn it on and detract from dinner conversation and family time. Since it’s just two of us and a cat we decided to convert one of the three bedrooms to a den for our tv watching needs. We have a pull out couch so if we need the extra space for guests, the room can still flex.
We wanted to design and build our own built in cabinets for the den to maximize the space but before we could tackle that we needed to fix up the walls, ceiling, window casings and incorporate the closet into the living space. The house had mostly been taken right down to the studs in a renovation by the previous owner but the taping and mudding wasn’t well done in some places. The closets in this end of the house were original and in rough shape so we ripped everything out and started over.
The room has two windows, one on the east wall, one on the north. The closet is in the west wall and had your typical mirrored doors and Rubbermaid wire closet system. We removed the doors and closet system then ripped out the walls and ceiling. Well, most of the ceiling. Note in the picture below some of the ceiling is missing. This was probably done by the previous owner to prove to the building inspector there was enough insulation in the attic as we know that had come up during the permit inspections.
George installed the new drywall and I got the thrilling appointment of taping and mudding specialist. We used:
While I worked on the closet and ceiling, George pulled off all the interior window casing and trim. I mentioned in a previous post that the windows were new. They were a little larger than original, and it seems the installer did not cut back the brick for framing fully in a couple places, as well as cut some other corners in measurements for their framing. The window jams and casing weren’t square, level or properly fit for the windows and it affected how the trim fit as well as caused a constant draft so we knew we were losing heat. We even found a bird’s nest hiding in the wall! Oh, and we also learned at this point that our home was cinder block constructed which is kind of neat.
For the walls, we used Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee and on the trim Benjamin Moore White Dove. To George, they’re both white, but to me the Swiss Coffee is warm, creamy, with virtually no yellow undertones so it makes a great neutral base colour. It really blends well with earthy tones which was important because our couch is a brown leather and we had plans to go dark for the cabinets. The room is also small at just over 100 sq. ft. so it was equally important that we use a colour with a high LRV to make the room look bright and welcoming. The White Dove is the perfect colour for trim as it works well with hundreds of other colours. It’s also known for being a soft white; warm, without taking on a yellow tinge in most spaces. We plan to carry this colour through the whole house on all trim and most interior doors.
For trim, we chose Alexandria Moulding 7 3/8 in. baseboards. They’re really high but we chose them for a practical reason. The ceiling height is 8 ft 3in. which is taller than your average ceiling by a few inches and leaves a bit of a gap along the bottom of the wall so it’s kind of necessary to go with a higher board. Window and door trim we’re carrying through the house is Alexandria Moulding Colonial casing.
For window coverings I ordered wood blinds with a 2” slat from Blinds to Go. The great part about the blinds besides custom sizes is they come in White Dove which made them a perfect match for the room.
Lastly, we changed out the light fixture. I’m pretty sure the one in the room was once hanging in the original owner’s gazebo. The base also didn’t cover the ceiling hole properly so I made sure I ordered one that the base would be big enough. I should mention that we did the entire project with retail still locked down so I found a great fixture through Wayfair. The Bennington 3 light semi flush mount has a quatrefoil shape and two tone finish of dark metal and pine which is a perfect complement to the cabinet we’re about to build. That story for another day though! Thanks for stopping by!
As we headed into our first fall a couple months after we moved in we realized that the eaves through was installed incorrectly and the water wasn’t flowing to the downspouts. Instead it was building up in the gutter, except where the seams were not sealed and it was leaking.
In several places there were gaps in the soffit and fascia giving home to the local starlings and sparrows. We had a couple inspections done by trusted vendors and learned we would need to rip everything out and start fresh. This was especially aggravating since it was all supposed to be brand new having been installed by the previous owner after the 2nd floor had been completed. Not sure if I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. You get what you pay for. The material that was used was a good quality but the cuts were frequently incorrect, installation was careless, and as you can see in the pictures the job was not complete.
We hired a company that came highly recommended by our neighbours and we’re so grateful to have been able to get them out quickly to complete the work because of their personal connection. Most contractors were booked well out due to the amount of people doing home renovation during the pandemic. The work was done quickly and to the highest standard, and we’re pleased with the results. We also had them add gutter guards which will save us (George) a lot of extra maintenance work for years to come.
They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. I say the door of a house is a gateway to refuge and repose while it’s windows are portals that should bring light and energy but still contribute to a feeling of shelter and security. Unfortunately, while our windows were new, there were some outstanding issues that needed to be addressed and our front door was a bit of a disaster that we needed to remedy quickly.
One of the things we did immediately upon taking possession was change the locks on the front, back and garage doors. My brother JP had come to help us with the move and took care of installing the new hardware. I had chosen a Weiser Hawthorne Handleset in brushed nickel for the front door. If there’s a curse word JP didn’t use installing it, I’d be surprised. Turns out, the door and frame it sat in were a big part of the issue.
The front door wasn’t hung correctly in the door frame so the latch was not aligned properly to the strike plate. Locking and unlocking the door took special instructions. The back door was not much better. It looked like it had been kicked in at some point, and had a gap at the bottom of about a 1/4 of an inch. I was truly astonished that we didn’t have mice running in and out.
We contacted a friend at Clera Windows and Doors and got started on the process of selecting new front and rear doors.
Our rear door enters from the backyard to our stairway that connects the main floor kitchen to the basement. For the rear door I wanted to be able to let in a lot of natural light and fresh air in the summer so I inquired about putting in a screen door. Rod showed us an alternative to putting in a combination of doors that would help us achieve what we were looking for in one door, year round. The door he suggested would have a full sized screened window that would give natural light to the entryway year round. Xena absolutely loves it as she can sit and watch her squirrel friends from the safety of the house.
For the front door we chose a steel Victoria Shaker door with a stained glass Liano window in the top and a dentil shelf. I chose Sherwin Williams Rainstorm for the colour as Clera will do any colour and this one reminded me of the Mediterranean Sea-calm and relaxing, yet bold and sophisticated.
As mentioned in our previous post about closing, the windows needed to be caulked and flashed. Our friend Rod arranged for the person installing the doors to do this for us also. What a difference this small detail being finished made in the look of our home.
I want to close out by mentioning that we’re quite satisfied with the windows that were installed on the house. They’re actually pretty good quality and we’ve had no issues with how they function. Only problem was in the slapdash installation job someone did when they put them in and that the previous owner never did finish the job before we closed. As we move throughout the interior renovation you’ll see how we had to address the interior framing and trim on every window room by room. For now we’ll fermé la Porte on windows and doors.
We made the offer on the house in late May 2020 aware that the owner had an open building permit from the renovation they were still in progress on. We knew she would need to complete all work listed on the permit to close it before the sale would go through. We had a few conditions listed on our offer also, most which were accepted by the owner. The next couple months as we waited for closing would be interesting to say the least.
Prior to an offer we did have a home inspection done which was fairly useless only because the person called out less things than our realtor Tara Neal McNally and a close friend of ours had during a pre-offer walk through with us. The conditions agreed to were financing and to sell George’s condo, which we were able to do within a few weeks of the offer. While we were signing off on the sale we were contacted by the seller of our new home to ask for a later closing date. As it aligned close to the date our buyers wanted to close on, we accepted the change. The other conditions that were agreed to by the seller:
◦ Close any open building permit and Electrical Safety Authority permit
◦ Connect the air conditioner to the electrical panel
◦ Install flashing and caulking on the dormers and chimney
◦ Install the two basement support posts
◦ Fix a leak in the main floor bathroom
◦ Complete the installation of the laundry sink and remedy the plumbing flowing into the same drainage pipe that currently results in back-flow of water onto the basement floor, including installation of the p-trap and venting
◦ All exterior windows will be properly finished, including flashing and caulking
Provide missing cover plates for the fridge
Five days before closing it was starting to be apparent that it would be difficult to close on time as most of the things on this list were not complete, including the permits still being open. I did some research and found out that inspections by the city and ESA had failed and there were remediations that had been ordered to get sign off.
We did close, albeit a few days late, with everything pretty much completed except the electrical. (Future posts will provide more insight into the reality of the workmanship that was lacking in the completed items). We had come to an agreement of a holdback and hired our own electrician recommended by our realtor to finish the work. Thankfully our realtor Tara was having a house built at the time and had a good relationship with them so was able to help us get him on no notice.
On the list of things that were completed by Rezi Electric:
I can’t say enough great things about Brian and Vickie Andrade and Rezi Electric. They were professional, thorough, and without them, we would not have been able to close. This was during 2020 when it was very difficult to get pros as so many people were doing upgrades to their homes and everyone was booked solid but they worked with us and 14 months later we’re still very happy with the results.
We’re also ever so grateful for our agent, Tara. She navigated us through a difficult closing like the pro she is and was relentless in ensuring everything was completed. Please reach out if you need either a stellar realtor or electrician in the GTA.
I decided the first project I needed to complete would have to be my closet. It was in rough shape and it needed to be cleaned up before my clothes could be put away, so it was a necessary choice. I also wanted to try my hand at wall paper so a closet was a safe place to start.
The previous owner had already installed a Rubbermaid closet system and since it was in good condition I decided to keep it. The first order of business however was redoing some of the drywall taping and mudding on the ceiling and walls that was not done correctly. This is something we’ll need to do a lot in this house.
I purchased the wallpaper from Home Depot along with all of the supplies. (Lists and links are below). Once I had the walls and ceiling fixed up, and the walls were clean and smooth, I applied 2 coats of size to the walls. I did not use a lining paper first and am happy with the final results so I’d say this would be a decision you’d need to make based on your own preference. It really didn’t seem necessary as the wallpaper I chose was textured and quite thick. I had set up my folding table upstairs in the bedroom to make it easier for measuring and cutting the wallpaper, then let loose!
It’s important to start by picking where on the wall you should hang the first sheet and depending on the pattern on your wallpaper where to start your first cuts. Depending on the pattern, you may need to trim some paper at the top of the roll. Always add 100 mm to each section you cut to allow for final trimming. Getting the measurements right and starting each cut at the right point in the pattern was the hardest part of the process. The Graham and Brown paper is used was not prepasted so I needed to use a brush to apply the adhesive paste to the paper. I actually found working with this a lot easier than I thought it would be. I expected a mess everywhere and that it would be harder to position the paper on the wall and align it but am quite impressed it really wasn’t that difficult!
The most difficult area to work with was the internal corners. the sources I learned from encouraged using off-cuts and overlapping and these techniques definitely work well but it’s still very difficult to get a crisp corner and keep the paper aligned. The final corner I did took a few tries to get it right.
The other challenging area was the hatch to the attic. I measured where the edges of the hatch were. I then papered right over the hatch and measured the wall to find my starting points and used a knife to cut the outline of the hatch.
Overall, I’m really satisfied with my results. It is a slow process for a first timer, but was still complete in a day. One tip I don’t want to miss. Make sure you know how many rolls you will need. It’s important you check the batch numbers when buying your rolls so you get the same colour on every roll. There can be slight variations every time the manufacturer runs a new batch. I would buy an extra roll in the future to ensure I’m not having to run back out and not be able to get the same batch.
For the closet system, I added a drawer, shifted the shoe shelves upwards and reinstalled the hanger rod as it was not properly secured to the wall. I also added top shelves and trim to give the unit a more custom look.
In the pictures you’ll notice a black and white damask board with jewellery hanging. This is a project I had done previously using a cork board and fabric and I used it to organize and display some of my costume jewellery.
I truly love the finished look, but still looking for the right runner for the space and May switch out the mirror for another tower of drawers and shelves in the future. My only complaint about the space is that because it is a closet, the light fixture is not hardwired so I wasn’t able to hang a little chandelier to really make the space glamorous. I also still need to complete George’s!
Tools Needed to Hang Wallpaper
5 Rolls of Wallpaper (56 sq ft per roll)
Dynamic Wall Size
Paste Brush or roller.
Knife or snap off blade.
Sponge & bucket of clean water.
Smoothing brush or plastic smoother.
6-in inch Putty knife or straight edge.
I checked out a lot of resources for this project including several different how to videos but the series I found the most comprehensive and complete was https://youtu.be/drcqCH2wv48