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:

Building a Wall Unit

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.

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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.

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Yet Another Customized IKEA Closet

Anyone who lives in a small space will tell you that the biggest challenge they face is storage.

No where is this more true than in a century home. A hundred years ago, people owned very little and storage was never an issue. They had one outfit for Sundays and funerals and a few other assorted items. Homes were built with very small closets, which at the time were more than sufficient. Today, however, people just have a lot more stuff and need places to keep it all.

A few years ago, I did some work in an east end home built in the 1920s. That post is here:

At that time, we discussed what to do with the bedroom closets but budget constraints meant putting that on hold, until recently, when I was called back in to finally deal with their storage issues.

Upstairs, between the two bedrooms, were closets, one for each room, that were about 4 feet wide and a huge almost walk in linen closet on the end that opened into the hallway.

The plan we discussed was to “steal” space from the linen closet and the second bedroom closet to create a much larger closet in the master bedroom. This meant, pulling out some walls, moving a doorway and adding in some new walls to end up with a small yet functional linen closet, a 3 foot closet in the second bedroom (home office) and a large 7 foot closet in the master.

The plan called for two IKEA PAX wardrobes to be built into the wall in the master bedroom and a new closet interior in the home office.

This was not without it’s challenges. Over the past almost 100 years, the upstairs floor had sunk in the middle by about two inches and as such the master bedroom floor was horribly out of level. The wardrobes needed to be level in order for the doors and drawers to function properly. The other challenge was the walls were constructed of “lathe and plaster”, wood strips nailed to the studs, covered in a heavy wire mesh and then layered with plaster.

Anyone who has ever done a renovation in a lathe and plaster home knows that the destructing part of the job is, for lack of a better word, horrible. It is extremely labour intensive and messy beyond your wildest imagination.  The plaster essentially disintegrates into sand and unlike drywall, doesn’t come off in nice big sheets. It comes off in tiny chunks along with piles and plies of sand and dust

Let me just say that I was never so happy to see a job completed as I was with this one. Up and down the stairs a zillion times, 4 trips to the dump and more time spent leveling things than I’ve ever spent on anything.

BUT, the end result is fantastic. IKEA really has storage figured out. We were able to customize the interior of the wardrobes exactly to what the client needed; 4 drawers, 1 jewelry tray, 5 open shelves and two rods to hang both long and short items. This can easilly be changed over time as well, should her storage needs change.

In the home office we installed a custom unit that can also be changed if necessary (i.e.) resale, consisting of 4 drawers, 3 shelves and a small rod for hanging a few things.

In the linen closet, we cut and installed 4 simple shelves.

Have a look at the photos and see the project from start to beautiful finish:

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Old Mill – Beautiful Monochromatic Colour Scheme

I have always been a huge fan of what is known as a Monochromatic Colour Scheme, which is, essentially using various tones of one colour to create a warm and soothing environment. Sometimes, I will add an accent colour to provide “pops” of colour, but not always.

I recently published a blog post about a fireplace makeover that I did in a condo at The Old Mill, in west end Toronto.

In this post, I wanted to focus a bit more on the transformation of the entire unit and how I used varying tones of gray to produce an elegant, yet comfortable home. First, some background:

A couple from the Ottawa area found me on google and contacted me as they’d recently purchased a new condo and needed help decorating and furnishing it, as well as help dealing with the lack of storage (a VERY common problem in condos).

As the unit was not much more than a large white cut up box, the clients were feeling completely overwhelmed  with where to start to create the home they envisioned.

The distance was also a huge challenge for them as this was not going to be their permanent residence but rather a place to stay while visiting family. This meant that they would be travelling back and forth and would have limited time when in Toronto to paint and decorate as well as find furniture, lighting, etc. They clearly needed professional help.

The unit, although completely empty and stark white, did have some nice finishes; a warm medium tone laminate floor, beautiful brown tiles in the kitchen and bathroom and warm cream cabinetry.

I decided to use a monochromatic colour scheme as there is nothing better for creating a calm, warm and soothing environment, exactly what my clients wanted.

For paint, I chose three shades of a gray with a brownish undertone; medium tone in the main living area, lighter in the bathrooms and darker in the bedrooms along with a basic cream. These would bring the colours of the cabinetry, flooring and tiles all together and create flow and a cohesive look.

For furnishings, I went with a basic, plain cream sofa and added accent chairs in two shades of gray with different patterns and nail heads for visual interest. An off white dining table which ties in with the cabinetry was contrasted against dark gray chairs and stools.

Modern light fixtures with lots of sparkle and a bit of a traditional feel and a rug in cream accented with different tones of gray completed the look. Everything relates, everything tie in and the home has a modern feel with a traditional influence.

Have a look at the before and afters and don’t forget to revisit the fireplace makeover by clicking the link above.

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