The New House-Reno Part 1

Saturday, January 23, 2016


If you've manged to stick around after my months and month of plans about the new house (I was annoying even to myself), I salute you! You'll be happy to know we got possession of the house on November 30th, which is already last year (gulp!) and started immediately to tear it apart. I suppose tear it apart is too strong a word. It wasn't like our last house where we demolished any walls but we did rip up a lot of carpet, remove a hell of a lot of popcorn ceilings and paint every last surface.

For those of you who have scraped a popcorn ceiling you're saying to yourself right now "um mm, yeah dummy it's a huge and messy job that leaves piles of heavy, wet plaster everywhere". If you were me before this started you where saying to yourself "this needs to be done at whatever cost to Chad and his father" because I am a rational person who realizes that popcorn ceilings are a crime against humanity.

Making our kitchen look like a scene from Dexter

Chad and I took a week off work and both our dads came over to help (Chad's amazing dad even flew in all the way from Alberta to help!). We were two teams ready to tackle the 80s back into its rightful place. Camp Zentner (Chad and his dad) were in charge of wetting and scraping every single ceiling in the house, removing all the carpet upstairs, removing all the floor staples and installing the new plywood floors. Camp Brown (my dad and I) were in charge of supervision and stupid questions.

I'm kidding (not really, we Browns do ask a lot of questions and are not super handy). We were in charge of taping all the goddamn plastic up over every goddamn surface in the entire house. 3000 square feet of plastic later, we ensured none of the wet plaster ruined any surfaces. 

While the ceiling popcorn came off fairly easily it really did get everywhere. After it dried it left dust EVERYWHERE. The ceilings are also not perfect. After sanding and patching they are pretty good but I think to make them perfect you'd have to skim coat them or something.  Halfway through the popcorn removal was when I swore it would never end and that the whole house would have wonky ceilings and be plaster and dust covered forever. 

Side note: there is always that moment in the renovation when you swear you made a huge mistake and have taken a perfectly good house and ruined it...usually you do some yelling and then push through with the help of alcohol and it works out!

Team Brown were also the sanders and then the painters. Okay so maybe my dad ended up painting most of our house (thanks dad, you're the best!) but painting every single ceiling was no joke. I swore my neck would be stuck looking up forever. 

You can see below the ceiling in the Master bedroom freshly scraped and painted, just waiting for the carpet to be removed. This was the only neutral carpet upstairs but it was certainly showing some wear and had a few strange stains. I also hate carpet, not as much as popcorn ceilings but they still had to go. We left the carpets in while scraping the ceiling allowing them to act like a huge towel-one less room to give the "Dexter" treatment to.

And then the carpets were gone...but not that ugly wall colour! 

A view in the second bedroom (below) gives you a sense of the beauty of those carpets. Not sure what the thinking was here-yes, let's do red in the bedrooms for a fun pop of colour and to hide all the blood stains... but let's show some restraint and do a nice neutral grey in the hall and then just to change it up-a beige in the master! Design dreams, people. 

Below is the upstairs hallway with the last of the carpets gone but before the beige walls said goodbye.

Here is Chad deep in thought about the plywood floors. We knew we wouldn't have the money to replace the carpet with the same hardwood that runs throughout the house. At approximately $4-$5 a square foot for materials alone, it was going to add up fast. I'd kept Jenny Komenda's "DIY Wide Plank Floors (from Plywood)" tutorial in the back of my mind for a while just waiting to find a time to use it. Chad liked the fact that it ended up being about 80 cents a square foot. 

Here's Chad to tell you a bit about how the process went:

Ok - so this is easy, but tedious and time consuming. Good thing it's cheap! What you do is buy a bunch of cheap-o 3/8" plywood. Then rent a hardwood floor sander and use 20 and 40 grit paper and go to town on each board. We did this in the garage. Once each board is sanded, you will need to rip each board into 8" strips on a table saw. Each strip will then have to have the edges knocked down a little bit with a hand sander. Then it's just a matter of cutting and installing with a nail gun. (Sarah insists that I mention that we made the gaps between planks uniform by using my square as a spacer before nailing). Once the floor is installed, we did a DIY whitewash which is just a 2:1 mixture of water to white paint. Once the whitewash was dry, we protected it with 3 coats of polyurethane. Like I said, tedious but cheap.

Above the master floor completed but not whitewashed. Below, floors done and the beginnings of removing the colour Chad liked to refer to as baby shit. 

The hallway complete before we painted the stairs white.

The other huge project for Chad was removing the ceiling fan from our very high vaulted ceiling, scraping away the dreaded popcorn and creating a very large DIY light fixture. I'll save the details of how he made it for a special Chad post a.k.a. a post full of swearing.

Renting scaffolding was actually not as expensive or scary as I thought. The delivery was the most expensive part and a nice guy came and set it all up. It ended up being around $168 to rent, have delivered and set up for two weeks and then picked up and taken away.

Chad had to install the light fixture in sections, removing a level of scaffolding as he went. 

Yeah! Pretty light fixture for a fraction of the cost I would have shelled out! 

So that's where I'm going to leave you for now. Stay tuned for part two so I can show you the house finished and just waiting for our furniture to arrive. Thanks again to our two awesome dads who probably cursed ever agreeing to help out. At least I know my dad was after he found out there is a real ailment called "dad reno knee syndrome".

Plans for the New House-Kitchen/Dining Room

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Are you sick of my countdown yet? 5 days left, just in case you are wondering. 5 days until we start tackling the popcorn ceilings, ripping out the red carpet and re-painting everything. I promise this will the last of my plans, hopefully the next update will be an actual live house tour. The last room I'm planning for is the kitchen. This one is hard because it was the room we spent the most time and money on in our last house and we really ended up loving our kitchen. The kitchen in our new house-not so much. I think I mentioned it before but it seems like this new kitchen was renovated sometime in the late 80s or early 90s and they made some strange choices. Choices that involved splurging on a sub zero fridge but then cheaping out on laminate for HALF the counter-tops. Splurging on a top of the line vent hood and then cheaping out on laminate floors. The cabinets are custom as they are all irregular sizes but sadly they are wrapped in metal edging. Here is a little more detail:
While I'd love to simply gut the kitchen and start over, that is not gonna happen. The cabinets are good quality wood and the appliances are higher end. Looks like at least for now we're going to try and do some updates to bring it out of the 90s and into this decade. I've always loved darker kitchens and since these may not be our cabinets forever it's a bit easier to take a risk and test out painting them a deep shade. I also love a patterned tile so we're going to try and find a budget way to incorporate that-either a back-splash or a linoleum tile cut into a geometric pattern. Apart from how labour intensive it is to cut all the tile (sorry Chad) it mimics an expensive cement or ceramic tile at a fraction of the cost- $300 vs. $5000. A bit of inspiration below:
Via: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Forrest green or olive green kitchens have been popping up everywhere-or maybe it's just since I got it in my head that I wanted one. This is the option I'll go with if we can change the floor. I'm thinking the green cabinets will clash terribly with the beige-y laminate floor. In this option I'd have my green cabinets, a fun geometric floor (my mom says it will make everyone feel dizzy and sick but I still love it), a neutral white back-splash thanks to the trusty cheap white subway tile and then I'd replace the damaged back laminate counter with a wood, probably throw in some brass knobs/pulls for good measure. 

Option 2 is if we decide to keep the floors as is. We're not really sure what material it is. It may be able to be re-finished to match the other floors or to something less yellow. Or... Chad may decide that he is not willing to figure out how to cut a million linoleum tiles exactly the same size. In that case we have option 2- the same floors but black cabinets to pull out the black stripe in the flooring. If budget allowed I'd get my geometric fix with some back-splash tiles, maybe use white concrete counter-tops and throw in some Lucite (acrylic) pulls. 

In the dining room portion of the kitchen/dining room Chad will be building me a very large table. I'm thinking something rustic and farmhouse style to pair with the modern Eiffel chairs we already have. I don't have a picture but the far side of the kitchen has a weird low built-in cabinet that's been spray painted to match the cabinets. That will be removed because it's proportions are all off. In it's place I'm deciding if I want a china cabinet, a buffet, some kind of open shelving, or maybe just a huge gallery wall?


So many possibilities and so much painting and scraping-wish us luck! I think I'll be taking a little break to get everything done and then get settled but don't worry I'll be back with some exciting new developments. Chad's break is definitely over!

Real Estate Room Reno-Update

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Back in June 2014-yikes, a while back now- I posted a real estate room reno for a house that was for sale near my aunt and uncle's house in Ile Bizard that I truly loved. Here is what I said back then:

A few weeks ago I got an email from my aunt that said: "I know you love this house. They are subdividing the property and the price has plummeted to $495,000. Think of all the reno projects you could undertake!!! (Notice I didn`t cc Chad on the message……)."

So instead of actually buying it I did the next best thing I could think of, pretended I owned it and planned a renovation on one room in the house. You can see the full post HERE. I happened to be browsing the real estate listings, as one does when one is closing on a new house in less then 20 days, and saw that "my" house was listed for sale again. It's been completely renovated. It's obvious they didn't follow my plans but it's not too bad for a flip. There is nothing I love more then a little before and after action (except for browsing the real estate listings), so here it is:

Listing and Exterior Before

Unique 1786 4-bedroom ancestral home on large lot on Ile Bizard with no rear neighbours. Thick stone walls and historic architecture create a charming atmosphere. Large yard is surrounded by a cedar hedge, and has many mature trees. Located 30 minutes from downtown Montreal, and close to 3 Golf Clubs and Bois-de-l'Ile-Bizard Nature Park.

Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 1 full/ 2 half
Year Built: 1786
Asking Price: $495,000

Listing and Exterior After

Nested on a private 5000sqm, beautifully landscaped and surrounded by mature trees lot, this exquisite 1786 authentic stone manor was completely renovated in 2014/15. Experience the luxury of today's comfort and modern design combined with the timeless elegance from the past. An architectural 3-story treasure, only 30min. from downtown Montreal!

Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 2 full/ 2 half
Year Built: 1786
Asking Price: $1,150,000 

So that's quite a jump in price! What kind of work did they do to warrant that jump? First exterior, it looks like a new roof, newly painted shutters and some landscaping but let's dig in and see the really good before and afters to find out where all the money went.

Living Room Before

Living Room After

You have to agree that is so much better. While the decor is a bit bland for me, the bones of the room have definitely been returned to its former glory. The popcorn ceilings removed (something I have to look forward to), the wood paneling removed and the floors and beams refinished. It looks like all the trim work and staircase was refinished as well. This is now such a great neutral base to come in and decorate however you'd like. Wouldn't it be lovely to have two seating areas in your living room? 

Dining Room (Porch) Before

Dining Room After

I really like the use of this space. In the original photos I envisioned this as more of a three season porch or conservatory but I love it as a dining room. It looks much less porch-like without the wooden ceilings and fans. 

Master Bedroom Before

Master Bedroom After

I think you probably know if you've read this blog for a while now how much I dislike beige and taupe, regardless I'll still give this bedroom a pass. New floors, new ceiling and beige is still better then red. Oh yeah, and a fireplace in your bedroom- I could handle that too.

Family Room Before

Family Room After

While this one isn't as dramatic, it goes to show the power of new flooring and the removal of weird textured ceilings and walls. I imagined the before room had a wet musty carpet smell while the new room looks perfect for relaxing and not having an allergic attack. I've saved my favourite for last, the kitchen remodel.
Kitchen Before

Kitchen After

What do you think of this kitchen? The before was an obvious gut job. I like how it's still fairly traditional with white shaker, full height cabinets and a beamed ceiling. I think the island is a little strange with the cut away for bar stools and I don't love a small scale glass subway tile but overall I think it looks well done and not too modern for the home. I might have gone a bit more classic with a subway tile and gone with a more traditional soapstone counter. Would I take this kitchen and enjoy it? Yes! 

Overall, this appears to be a high quality renovation with attention to detail and materials. Do you think it's worth over a million dollars? What would you have done differently and who wants to buy this for me?

Plans for the New House-Living Room Moodboard(s)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


The countdown is on people...25 days left until we close on our new house! I've been keeping busy with a few fun side projects but have also set aside time to work on some inspiration, a floorplan and my painting everything black plan for the new place. This time, I've done up a few moodboards to help me decide what direction the living room should go in. To recap, here were some of my inspiration images:
via 1/2/3/4/5/6
Yes, my inspiration seems a bit bi-polar. I have to admit it's always harder for me to design my own place. I love so many different styles and colours that one day I want neutral and another day I want colour everywhere. What does help is that, due to budget constraints, I have to keep the larger furniture pieces and rugs we already have. I'd love to reupholster my vintage tub chairs but as I mentioned in an earlier post-that's not gonna be cheap. 

I ended up creating three moodboards to show three different living room styles- from what I'd have if I used mostly everything I already own, to what I'd do if I could re-do a bunch of things. The elements that stay the same are my inherited vintage white sofa, the overhead light fixture Chad is in the process of making (in addition to the large scale one I've asked him to make for the family room/open hall area) my marble and wood coffee table, and my buffet and metal wall art.  

Here is my tentative floorplan to get an idea of where the living room is. I'm focusing on the new living room (former dining room) for now. 


This first option uses a majority of items we already have (with a few new additions). The vintage white sofa and chair I inherited from my grandparents. The camel chair is a purchase from the Brimfield Antique Show I made us drag all the way home at the same time as the bingo sign. All of this furniture was residing in our basement at the old house because the large black leather sectional couldn't fit down the stairs. I'm excited to have it see the light of day. The rug is my old standby Ikea and the white side table I already have from Target. I figure I can create some similar artwork and then would only be purchasing a few new items like the sconces, side table and pillow. I'm kicking myself that we gave away two mid-century side table before we moved but I'm fairly certain I can find something secondhand. I'm surprised by how much I like this neutral room.


This option was the one I had been leaning towards the most in my head. After seeing the number 6 inspiration photo from Jessica Helgerson, I wanted to recreate the pink on pink room. I think it stops just short of being overly saccharin due to all the black accents. I also obviously love a black accent wall and have always wanted to add wainscoting. Both this option and the one below involve me reupholstering the tub chairs. These were/are my top two colour choices for the chairs-either a pink or blue velvet. I love all the saturated colour in this room and that overdyed rug is a thing of dreams. 


Option three to me feels like a mix of both other options. Still some pops of colour but also calming and neutral. The blue velvet was, or still is, a top re-upholstery choice. This room also includes a beautiful beni ourain rug- which is modern but classic. I also added in the DUO wall paneling I saw at the CHEO dream home.  I love how both the rug and wall add pattern and interest without being too loud. This option also calls for a whole bunch of new throw pillows (sorry Chad!) so it would obviously be a "down the road" option. 

It looks as though some variation of option one will be what I start out with. Which one is your favourite option 1, 2, or 3? Do you ever plan out your decorating in phases?

Brownie All rights reserved © Blog Milk Design - Powered by Blogger