Tag Archives: kitchen renovation


Designer Touch: Cooking With Character

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Designer Touch: Cooking With Character

By Rebecca Hay • Photography By Stephani Buchman

A blend of traditional, contemporary and vintage touches, create a personality-packed kitchen

Nothing beats a good kitchen renovation. Especially one that transforms the way you use your home. This personality packed kitchen makes a statement and yet provides much needed functionality for a young family.

When we were approached to renovate and design the main floor of this Riverdale family home in Toronto’s East end, the couple was pregnant with their second child. This resulted in a tight timeline to make a major transformation. The family had lived in the home for three years before they decided to make some big changes, and knew exactly what they wanted as a result. A growing young family, with no plans to move in the near future, they needed an updated space and an open-concept kitchen for cooking and entertaining.


The home is a semi-detached Victorian with great historic features and good bones. Its ’90s-style kitchen had crumbling maple cabinets, terracota floors and oodles of wasted space. It even featured a terracotta-tiled countertop! The busy couple wanted a more functional, open-concept kitchen, suitable for raising their children and entertaining friends. Space planning was key to creating a functional layout. By tearing down the wall between the kitchen and dining area, we were able to create the large open space that the family desired. After assessing all our layout options, we decided on a peninsula versus an island. This created a U-shaped kitchen where the cook of the family (in this case, the husband) could slave away without interference by dinner guests… or little feet!


The current pantry was previously a lonely, empty wall with nothing but a small table leaning up against it and a pile of shoes. During construction we discovered there was space between the exterior wall and interior framing, so we moved some ductwork and gained almost a foot of extra space. This allowed us to make the kitchen bigger and provided space for the custom pantry with lots of storage. The full-height cabinets house a broom closet, pull-out shelves, cupboards for small appliances, and a nook for coats and shoes. Since the family has laneway parking and generally enters the house through the back door, the mini-mudroom was a must.


In addition to being extremely functional, we wanted the space to make a statement, while still being consistent with the character of the home. We chose a mix of traditional and contemporary elements, vintage touches and pops of colour to create an inviting and unique space. The rich blue cabinetry adds colour and depth, while the mosaic marble backsplash adds luxurious texture and interest. It also hides any water splatters or mess. The marble ties in seamlessly with the sleek white quartz countertops and Silgranit white sink. Hits of yellow and brass establish the fun and polished esthetic.

Vintage details help this new kitchen blend effortlessly into its surroundings. The school housestyle pendants and handmade wood shelves add an old-world feel. While the detailing on the walnut stools also has a trendy yet timeless appeal. The shelves and bench were handmade by the homeowner’s mother, and are a perfect personal touch.


Pops of yellow make a bold statement against the blue cabinets. The Roman shade adds colour and texture, and complements the custom yellow leather stools. A lot of time was spent searching for the perfect counter stools. The original design had wooden stools that we ordered and ended up returning because they didn’t make the right statement. Sometimes you have to be fluid with design and recognize when something just isn’t quite right. When we couldn’t find the perfect stool, I decided to design a custom one. They ended up being the showstoppers and the proverbial icing on the cake. The stools tie all the design elements together.

The end result is a personality-packed kitchen full of all the modern amenities and conveniences of modern family life.


DESIGN, Rebecca Hay Designs, rebeccahaydesigns.com CONTRACTING, TriMatrix Construction WALL PAINT Benjamin Moore 2125-60 Marilyn’s Dress CABINETRY PAINT, HC-155 Newburyport Blue & CC-40 Cloud White COUNTERTOPS, Caesarstone Canada BACKSPLASH TILES, Marble Granite Depot REFRIGERATOR, Oven, Range, Jenn-Air DISHWASHER, Whirlpool FAUCET, Delta STOOL FABRIC, Designer Fabrics CUSTOM STOOLS, Rebecca Hay Designs ROMAN SHADE, Tonic Living PENDANT LIGHTS, The Door Store CABINETRY HARDWARE, Upper Canada Specialty Hardware

Designer Rebecca Hay, Principal Designer of Rebecca Hay Designs Inc., is a Toronto-based boutique design firm offering complete design & renovation services for residential, commercial and vacation properties for over a decade. Known and celebrated for her design work and appearances on various acclaimed HGTV shows, Rebecca and her team design classic, livable spaces that reflect the homeowner’s personality. Servicing clientele throughout Toronto, the GTA and Canada. rebeccahaydesigns.com


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Kitchen Planner

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Kitchen Planner

The faucet and sink are the focal point in the hardest working room in any home

The kitchen is the hub of any home, and the sink and faucet are probably the hardest working components in any kitchen. By focusing on those two interrelated components you can generate a lot of business working with clients ranging from budget-conscious, small-space dwellers, to affluent homeowners looking to create the luxurious kitchen of their dreams.

Tight spaces and tight budgets

Many homeowners are looking for a low-budget spruce up, either to refresh a dated but otherwise functional look, or to maximize resale value when putting their home on the market. A new sink and faucet is an affordable upgrade that doesn’t require any structural changes.


The reality for many is that condos have become the de facto “starter home.” Condo-sized kitchens required condo-sized thinking. The Prolific sink was designed with small spaces specifically in mind. The 33” x 17¾” basin comes with five accessories, including a bamboo cutting board and a dishwasher-safe colander, all of which you can store right in the sink basin when not in use.

Expansive upgrades

If space isn’t an issue, clients will appreciate a large double-basin sink that makes washing and rinsing easy. Kohler’s Whitehaven under-mount sink has a classic farmhouse style apron front that overlaps existing cabinetry. The 24”- to 36”-wide sinks have large- and medium-sized basins, separated by a low divider. Each is available in 16 different colours, from white to “Black Black,” and the durable enamelled cast-iron finish will last the lifetime of the kitchen.


Other upgrades clients might want to consider include a counter- or wall-mounted pot-filler faucet by the stove, a filtered-water faucet for drinking, and built-in soap dispensers that match the look of the faucet they’ve chosen.

Regardless of kitchen size, homeowners have a plethora of options to choose from. Sinks are available in enamelled cast-iron, stainless steel, and even composite materials, such as the Cairn, made of Kohler Neoroc. For faucets and other fixtures, the range of options expands to include brushed nickel and bronze.

Logistical planning

Large or small, you’ll want to plan the kitchen to maximize space while minimizing wasted effort. Designers often refer to the “work triangle” layout when planning kitchens, with the refrigerator, cooktop, and sink at the three points of the triangle. There are a few “rules” that come with this concept, including that no object – such as a cabinet – should block movement between the three points, household traffic should not flow through the triangle, and no point should be more than nine feet from any other.


With open-concept designs, owners often picture having their sink – or a secondary one – built into an island. This typically means running additional water and drainage lines. Before committing to a particular design, you’ll want to make sure there’s space to run the lines through the joists, and that you have sufficient slope to the stack to ensure proper drainage.

Visual cues

Even with 3D animations, many clients often find it difficult to visualize how all the components of a project will come together in their renovated space. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but actually being able to see and touch the fixtures before installation can save a lifetime of disappointment with an errant purchase.

Earlier this year, the first Canadian KOHLER Signature Store opened in Vancouver. The 5,000-sq.ft. space features dozens of different kitchen and bath displays and a wall-mounted display of faucets, with many of the fixtures fully functioning. It’s open to the public seven days a week, so you can send your clients to see their options firsthand, at their convenience, prior to making their final decision. (For more information on the KOHLER Signature Store, see the June/July 2017 issue of Renovation Contractor.) Elsewhere, the company has also partnered with dozens of specialty retailers across the country that have Kohler-focussed displays.

If you can’t make it to a Kohler showroom display, contractors and clients alike will appreciate the online Kitchen Planner. Start by perusing one of the many ready made designs, ranging from traditional to eclectic, then create your own custom space by choosing from various sink, faucet, countertop, cabinetry, and wall colour options.

Big budget or small, Kohler’s range of kitchen sinks and fixtures can help you fulfill any client’s needs.


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9 Storage Ideas For Your Kitchen

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9 Storage Ideas For Your Kitchen

To keep your kitchen well-organized and clean, you need to think outside the box when it comes to storage. From pull-out drawers to open shelves and pantry-style cabinets there are endless storage options. We’ll give you some great ideas we’ve applied in the numerous kitchen renovations carried out to help you store your kitchen accessories, food cans, boxes and all those items that can easily fill up the countertops and make the place a big mess.

1. Custom Kitchen Pantry

Today’s kitchens are built with a neatly organized custom pantry. The pantry provides adequate space to store almost any item. It can be designed with different types of shelves and drawers for better organization and easy access. The main advantage of a custom pantry is that it can be used to store everything in one place. What’s more? When you store your items in one place, you’ll avoid buying items you already have. However, pantries are mostly ideal in spacious kitchens.



2. Corner Drawer With Organizer

Having a corner cupboard drawer with an organizer is an ingenious way to turn those awkward corners in your space into functional storage. Corner drawers are actually deeper than the usual drawers so you can store more items in them. Avoid the hassle of having to crawl on your hands to reach items in a corner cabinet by getting fully accessible corner drawers. Though angled, corner drawers can create additional storage space which pull out to reveal well organized drawers especially when installed at the bottom of the sink.



3. Utensil drawer

Want to keep your cutlery in close reach for the shorter members of your family? Consider installing a utensil drawer. These deep drawers can hold those plates and cups, well organized and safely just below the countertop. Utensil drawers are also great for keeping your tools and accessories neatly organized and accessible. You can use the drawers to keep your silverware and serve ware conveniently in the kitchen. They are an ideal space saver in many small kitchens.


4. Slide-Our Trash Cans

Are unattractive bins and trash cans taking away the kitchen’s beauty? Keep them out of sight with a pullout trash can drawer. This kind of drawer will also free up some floor space, help you to maintain good hygiene and keep the nasty smell at bay.


5. Baking Sheet Drawers (Cookie Sheet Drawers)

It’s easy for those baking sheets to pile in your space. What if you had a specially dedicated drawer for your muffin tins, broiler pans and cooking sheets? A baking sheet drawer is all you need to keep all these items nicely organized in your space. If you don’t have any additional space for a new cabinet, choose one existing drawer and just add some metal or wood dividers to neatly keep away your baking sheets.


6. Spices Drawers

Your spice collection shouldn’t result in clutter on the countertop. You need a special pull-out spice rack to ensure these items are nicely stored and easily accessible. Pull-out spice racks are very ideal on the upper cabinets. The drawer can be customized to suit your unique needs. If you are someone who cooks often, you can dedicate a single cabinet for the spice pullout rack. It can even be partitioned nicely using metal dividers.


7. Built-In Appliances

You can have uniquely designed kitchen cabinets to fit specific items in your kitchen. Whether it’s the dishwasher, fridge or any other appliance that you’d like to fit in a kitchen, you may request a contractor to design a unique space for it. Built in appliance can help you to save on floor space.


8. Open Shelves

One kitchen storage design that will never go out of style is the open shelves. Open shelves are perfect even for smaller spaces because they help to make the room airy and open up the space. You can use the open shelves to store your antique utensils, decorative accessories or even dishes that are used daily. They are cost-effective to install and maintain too. Just make sure you choose a design that goes well with your cabinets and drawers.


9. Pullout Shelves

Pullout shelves can be used to store anything and everything in the kitchen space. From the frequently used pots and pans to kitchen accessories, kitchenware and food items, pullout shelves are very functional. They are very ideal if you have deep kitchen cabinets and you’d like to make it easy to reach items at the back corners. The shelves can have trays that slide in different directions to allow you to access different items at a time.

To narrow down the kitchen storage options that would work for you, first consider the storage challenges that you need to resolve. Whether you need to reorganize your pantry or add more drawers, shelves and cabinets, the ideas above should give you some inspiration.


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Reno Expert: Senior-Friendly Kitchen Design

Reno Expert: Senior-Friendly Kitchen Design

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Reno Expert: Senior-Friendly Kitchen Design

by Jim Caruk

Kitchen updates that will prove beneficial into the golden years

There’s been a lot of talk in the renovation business recently about the “aging in place” movement. The idea behind it is a simple one. As people get older, increasingly they’re hoping to continue to live in the house they raised their families in, rather than getting shunted off to a seniors’ home.

In order for us (or our parents) to function on our own, we need to be able to feed ourselves. In this column I look at some of the key features to consider when renovating a kitchen to make it senior-friendly. I also cover exterior projects geared to the aging-in-place movement that will ensure safety for this age group.


I’ve written before about the three different kinds of lighting: ambient, task, and accent. Ambient lighting illuminates the whole room, task lighting focuses on a specific area, and accent lighting is used to highlight a particular feature, such as a piece of art. When designing a kitchen for people who have some degree of impaired vision, ambient and task lighting are extremely important.

Contrasting colours are also an important way to help those with failing eyesight. Those all-white walls may be trendy for the younger folks, but white light switches and electrical outlets stand out against darker colours.


If you don’t have the space on your lot to build a code-compliant entrance ramp, an exterior platform lift is a good alternative.

Photography courtesy of Cambridge Elevating



Getting access to countertop work surfaces and upper cabinets can often be an issue for the elderly, particularly for those using a wheelchair. If you’ve got the budget for it, there are mechanical systems that raise and lower cabinets and countertops with the push of a button. You can also install the counters at 30″— rather than the standard 36″—for wheelchair access, and leave openings below the counter wide enough for the chair to slide into. Even if you don’t need to use a wheelchair, it’s a good idea to consider having at least one work surface installed at a height you can work from while seated.

Again, keep contrasting colours in mind to help avoid accidents. If the cabinets are white, a dark coloured counter will stand out, and vice versa.


Kitchen faucets with dual knobs to control the hot and cold water can be hard to use for people with arthritis. Replace those with lever handles that are much easier to operate. Better yet, many manufacturers now have stylish, reasonably priced motion-sensitive faucets for use in the home.

Rather than installing the faucet at the back of the sink, where it can be hard to reach—and inaccessible for someone in a wheelchair—consider mounting it at the side.

Finally rather than small knobs you have to clasp to open cabinets and drawers, use wide loop-style handles that someone can slip their whole hand into.

Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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Reno Expert: Kitchen Mistakes

Reno Expert: Common Kitchen Planning Mistakes

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Reno Expert: Common Kitchen Planning Mistakes

by Jim Caruk

Avoid these errors to create an efficient workspace

Everyone knows the kitchen is the most important room in the house. We start our day there making coffee and breakfast, it’s where we spend time preparing our meals and cleaning up afterwards and, inevitably, it’s the spot everyone congregates at during a party. In my years of building and renovating kitchens I’ve seen a lot of mistakes that negatively impact functionality. Here’s my list of the most common mistakes people make when planning a kitchen.


There are three kinds of lighting: ambient, task, and accent. Ambient lighting is how the whole room is illuminated, task lighting is focused on a specific area to complete tasks, such as chopping your veggies, and accent lighting is used to highlight a particular feature, say a piece of art. In the kitchen, ambient and task lighting are the most important, particularly for older homeowners who may have impaired vision.

You need to be careful where you place overhead pot lights. If they’re too far back from the counters, your body will cast a shadow over your work area.

Lights mounted under upper cabinets are a great way to add task lighting, and trim can be added to hide the light boxes.


In terms of strategic placement, your sink should be your number one priority. Everything revolves around access to the sink. Once you’ve rinsed something, you don’t want to walk halfway across the kitchen to get it on your stove.

If you have your sink built into an island, try to position your stove directly across from it to minimize walking distance between the two. That said, I’d advise you to put the two together, particularly if you have young children or pets in the house because, Murphy’s Law, the space between the two will become the path everyone else wants to use as a major thoroughfare.

Similarly, your dishwasher should be close to the sink. While modern dishwashers are powerful enough to clean the dirtiest of plates, you’ll still likely find yourself rinsing a few items off before loading them. Over time, a steady stream of water droplets from the sink to the dishwasher will cause the finish on your floor to bubble or scuff.


There’s nothing more annoying than a smoke detector that goes off every time you try to cook something on your stovetop. For one, you don’t want to mount it in the kitchen. It should be placed as far from the stove as possible, while still in a central location on the main floor to ensure it works when needed. But a more likely cause of frequent false alarms is a stove vent that’s undersized and isn’t able to draw enough air.

You’ll also want to ensure you have enough electrical outlets for all the countertop appliances you’ll be using, and for a handy place to charge your phone or a laptop while you’re surfing online for recipes. Any receptacles close to the sink must be GFCI outlets that have a built-in fuse to prevent accidental shocks.


Built-in microwaves are great for freeing up counter space, but make sure it’s mounted at a level that’s comfortable to access. If mom or dad are on the shorter side, you don’t want them reaching too high to remove things and risk burning their hands or spilling hot liquids.

One common mistake people make is to undersize the fridge without thinking about the future. A young couple may only need a small fridge but, once two or three kids come along, they’ll find their storage space insufficient. After the cabinets and counters are in place, however, it’s an expensive fix to try to make room for a larger icebox.

The other appliance that’s often poorly placed is the dishwasher. I did say you want it to be close to the sink, but keep the door swing in mind. If you have the dishwasher diagonally across from the sink on an L-shaped counter, you may not be able to stand at the sink with the door open.

Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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6 Ways to Renovate a Kitchen on a Budget

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6 Ways to Renovate a Kitchen on a Budget

I love renovating kitchens- they are probably my favourite room in the house to design because of how much they are enjoyed. Whether it be cooking up a gourmet meal for one, or fast efficient meals for a big family, the kitchen really needs to be functional space to use and entertain in. But what do you do if your budget is limited? How do you maximize style without breaking the bank? Here are my top ways to renovate a kitchen on a budget.

This might not seem like a budget saving tip, but it definitely is one in the long term. Older homes and apartments can sometimes present a bit of a mystery in terms of how they were built. DIY additions and not-so-strict building code of yesteryear might leave your new renovation susceptible to potential damage. So check it out thoroughly to avoid future heartbreak and potential costly errors. In this kitchen, we opened the walls up to find an insufficient amount of insulation (especially since this wall was formerly an exterior wall)! So we fixed the issue by installing Certainteed insulation to ensure the cold stays out and the heat stays in. You can put as many gorgeous interior finishes in a space as your heart desires- but if the space doesn’t have a good foundation you could encounter expensive issues down the road. So before you start to renovate, check for things like proper structural support, correct electrical work, water and mould damage, and proper insulation.

In this kitchen, one way we stretched our budget strategically was to keep the original cabinets, which were still in great condition. But we wanted to give them a modern upgrade, so we changed out the interior cabinet hinges and drawer slides to quiet close hardware by Grass Canada. Now slamming doors and sticky hinges are a thing of the past and the homeowners got a luxurious update at a fraction of the cost of brand new cabinetry. In addition, instead of replacing the drawer and cabinet pulls and knobs, we sprayed them out Oxford Blue by Krylon and then colour matched an interior paint and gave the interior of the glass front cabinets a hit of blue. These simple, yet cost effective changes make a big impact in this kitchen.


We replaced the dated and warped counters with a beautiful grey Belanger laminate counter that was a wallet-friendly investment. The key to using laminate is to use a modern edge profile and keep the colour neutral for the most modern look. We repeated the laminate material in floating shelves. I love this look as it gives the kitchen some architectural detail and a custom element at a wallet friendly price point.

Limiting your colour palette is a really great way to stretch your dollar as you don’t have to invest in lots of different pieces to make a decor scheme work. Taking a cue from the cabinet pulls, we picked up the blue again in a simple paisley window covering and large area rug. Decorative accessories on the floating shelves and breakfast bar from HomeSense continued our colour story in fun patterned mugs and striped table linens. To keep your colour story cohesive, use your desired colour at least three times in a space whether it be in paint, decorative accessories or textiles.

Where possible, appliances and fixtures are where I like to invest my renovation dollars in kitchens as they are the elements that get so heavily used and enjoyed for functional purposes.

For the range I was looking for dependability and ease of use and selected an electric front range by Maytag. With a fast pre-heat option and flat cooktop, cooking and clean-up are really efficient for the many families who use this space. In a similar way, I went with the beautiful Delta Trinsic faucet with an integrated pull down spout that provides great function along with a touch sensor allowing you to just tap the faucet anywhere to turn it on.

While everyone will have their own unique set of values in regards to what is important to them in the hierarchy of design needs, when you are working within a tight budget you really do have to prioritize. I like the approach of saving on light fixtures so you can spend on other areas like faucets and textiles. In this space we used beautifully designed, affordable priced pendants and overhead lighting both from Bouclair.


Lisa Canning runs Lisa Canning Interiors specializing in 2-hour interior design consultations. She lives in Toronto with her husband and 5-small children in a house she is constantly renovating. Read more about how she helps families thrive at home on her website www.lisacanning.ca

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