1940s fireplace makeover

I spent my summer doing a massive renovation of a 1940s mid Toronto semi detached home; basement renovation, all new hardwood flooring, new stairs, new lighting, all new baseboards and trim and painting.

Here is the first of a few posts about this project. This one deals with the living room fireplace.

I hated this fireplace from the day I walked in, I found it heavy, tacky and outdated and I new that once the new hardwood flooring was installed, it would look even worse and completely detract from the beauty of the new space.

The clients let me “go to town” and do whatever I felt was needed to bring the fireplace up to date while still giving it a classic look.

We added a new surround, new mantle, new tile, some decorative trim and a fresh coat of paint and the result is stunning (if I do say so myself haha)

Posted in Fireplace Makeovers, Woodworking | Leave a comment

Building custom storage

It seems as though storage is always an issue whether in a condo or a house. This is especially true of older homes built at a time when people had very few possessions and closets were small and scarce.

Older homes are amazing in terms of character and charm but typically don’t meet the storage needs of most people these days.

Recently, we designed and built some custom storage cabinets for some clients I had done work for in the past. They needed storage in a future nursery and storage in their family room for books and toys.

The challenge in designing storage solutions is making use of every available inch which very often means that store bought ready made solutions won’t work and custom built is the only way to make use of all the available space.

In this case, each wall unit design had it’s own challenges to deal with; 2 old radiators (one that was staying requiring a removable rad cover and one that was being removed), a high vaulted ceiling and a window that was off centre.

These wall units were all built pretty much the same way. On site, using IKEA upper kitchen wall cabinets, melamine shelving and lots of trim.

Have a look at the process below:

Posted in Closets and Storage Solutions, Custom Desks and Wall Units, Wallpaper, Woodworking | Leave a comment

Alden Heights

I love building customized cabinetry for people. It’s so satisfying creating something out of nothing.

A few years ago, I built a wall unit for a client:


They loved it so much that when she and her husband moved, she contacted me to build them one in their new home. The challenge was that it was out of town and I only had 3 days to build a wall unit and a small kitchen island. What’s the answer when faced with a tight timeline…..simple…..IKEA HACK!!

IKEA hacking is just the best.

To build this unit, I used their new line of SEKTION kitchen cabinets (their upper wall cabinets are the perfect size for wall unit cabinetry)  and their BILLY bookcases, then did a ton of customization and trim work, even going so far as to cut out the middle of two doors to insert a metal screen enabling use of the TV components with the doors closed. We also added some barn board to the back of the book cases for a unique visual element.

For the kitchen island, it was simply a matter of mounting a cabinet to a base, adding sides and an OAK top and some barn board to the face for a bit of a vintage distressed look.

I love how both of these projects turned out. The white on the island and the wall unit ties them together and provides a nice contrast to the dark kitchen cabinetry. The dark stained island top and dark cabinet top on the wall unit, ties them into the kitchen cabinets, so everything relates and works together.

Lots of additional storage and a practical use of limited space.


Posted in Before and Afters, Custom Desks and Wall Units, Woodworking | Leave a comment

Village on the Grange

When I first went to see this late 70′ condo, I was surprised and excited by the fact that the client owned nothing more than a mattress, an area rug and two lawn chairs.

I love doing places from scratch. Creating something from nothing.  Nothing to draw inspiration from. A completely blank slate.

Places like that present a huge challenge which is always exciting.

The owner had recently done renovations in both the kitchen and bathroom but I was responsible for everything else from paint and wallpaper to furniture, lighting and window treatments.

She needed a bed and headboard, storage solutions, a sleeper sofa, some occasional chairs and stools, tables and a back splash in the kitchen.

The condo needed two things to come alive; a focal point and a feature wall. I recommended wallpaper for the feature wall and once that selection had been made, the colour scheme and everything else fell into place. Our colour scheme became grays and creams.









For a focal point, the owner mentioned that in a previous home she had bought a reclaimed fireplace surround and mounted her TV inside and wondered if that would work here. A fireplace is always a great option for a focal point but the wall we planned on using was covered in HVAC vents, electrical and cable outlets and a thermostat. There was no way of finding something that would fit around all that “stuff” so I decided to custom make one.

The bedroom needed a few things, mainly furniture and storage solutions. I installed a new closet organizer based on her needs and bought a bed frame. We needed a dresser and a headboard. The challenge was that the bed is a 3/4 bed (48″ wide) so finding an “off the shelf” headboard was tricky and the wall where the dresser would go was only 16″ deep and most dressers are 19-24″.

So when you can’t find what you want, make it! I made both a headboards and a dresser.

For the dresser, I bought 4 two drawer closet units, anchored them together, wall mounted them and added a top. Done. Custom 8 drawer dresser.









For the headboard, I bought a piece of plywood cut to 36″ X 48″, wrapped it it batting, cut and added a memory foam mattress topper (you can buy foam, but it’s become very expensive and comes in sizes that result in a ton of waste….a twin size topper was cheaper with not too much waste) and then wrapped the whole thing in a beautiful floral fabric that related to the living room wallpaper. I wanted tufting so I bought six buttons and using picture wire fed through 6 pre-drilled holes to secure them, I had a beautiful custom made tufted headboard.

Next came the kitchen backsplash in a traditional subway tile but laid in a stacked pattern for a more contemporary look. I went with a dark gray tile with a band of cream that tied in perfectly with the wallpaper. The tricky part was where to stop the tile and since the owner wanted a backsplash over on the island by the sink, I ended up tiling most of the wall.

For furniture, I found pieces in grays and creams to tie in with the wallpaper and kitchen tile; a nice modern sleeper sofa for occasional overnight guests, a couple of interesting accent tables, a modern coffee table and two accent chairs, one with arms for reading in and another armless one that could be turned and used as a desk chair for the ladder wall unit/desk (mulit-use furniture is critical in a small space).

Wall lamps are a fantastic option as well in space challenged rooms as there often isn’t space for floor lamps and side tables.

New mirrored closet doors, a pair of bedroom doors and simple sunscreen roller blinds with (again) custom made valances (the living room ceiling was two different heights over the windows so I had no choice but to build something) completed the project.

Very happy with how this cold, empty 35 year old condo was transformed into a cozy, warm and inviting space where everything ties in and performs very valuable functions.

Great use of a VERY limited space.

Posted in Before and Afters, Closets and Storage Solutions, Fireplace Makeovers, Wallpaper, Woodworking | Leave a comment

Framing an old bathroom mirror

Years ago I salvaged a large mirror from a bathroom I was working on. One entire wall was mirrored (oh how very 80s) and I was able to get one large piece off the wall without destroying it.

After having it sit for a coupe of years, leaning against a wall, I finally got around to mounting it on our bedroom wall.

Simple mirror hangers is all that is needed to mount a mirror. I then added some 3/4″ trim around the perimeter then some simple window casing, A coat of paint and I ended up with a large beautiful mirror at a fraction of what it would have cost to buy one.

Posted in Art and Mirrors | Leave a comment

Building an IKEA hack wall unit

The biggest challenge condo and apartment dwellers face is storage. There never seems to be enough space for everything and most people are unsure of how to make the best use of what little space they have.

We had our work cut out for us in thei small downtown condo. We had to completely reorganize the closets and kitchen cabinets to have everything fit.

In the den, we had a bigger challenge. It was being used both as a home office and as a spare bedroom. In this small 8′ X 8′ room was a pull out sofa, a computer desk and for some reason a massive 60″ wall mounted TV. The desk was facing the window since it the only place it would fit, which meant that the blinds were always closed creating a cave like atmosphere.

My recommendation was to get rid of the never used TV and use that wall to house a custom built wall unit that would have a desk, space for their printer, a couple of drawers and lots of storage for books. The desk would need to fold out of the way when the sofa was being used as a bed so the room could transform into a guest bedroom.

I started by removing the baseboards so the unit would sit flush against the wall, then built the wall unit in three sections.

The two side sections would consist of a lower cabinet with closed storage and open shelves above for books. For the lower cabinets, I used upper kitchen cabinets from IKEA mounted on a base of 1X5 pine. These cabinets are just the right size for a wall unit. The shelving was built from laminated melamine shelving.

The wider middle section, also built from melamine shelving, houses the fold away desk and computer monitors along with more shelving for books, etc.

Once in place, baseboards were reinstalled and some trim was added to the top. At a depth of only 15″, the wall unit provides a ton of storage and a functional work space wile taking up very little room.


Posted in Closets and Storage Solutions, Custom Desks and Wall Units, Space Saving Furniture, Woodworking | Leave a comment

Beautiful bathroom renovation

When I received the call from the owner of this 1940s bungalow, I learned that they had “gutted” their only bathroom and then realized that they lacked the time and the expertise to put it all back together.

When I arrived, I saw that the only thing remaining was the toilet. The walls, ceiling and floor had been taken down to the studs and joists.

To put this bathroom back together required new drywall on the walls and ceiling, new insulation, a vent, a new window, a new tile floor and all new fixtures. Basically, everything.

Have a look at the transformation of this now soothing, “spa like” bathroom.

Posted in Bathroom Makeovers, Before and Afters | Leave a comment