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Four fall home projects

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Four fall home projects

One of the best things about Canada is the changing seasons. Behind us are the dog days of summer, and ahead are cool evenings, changing colours, cosier clothing and seasonal scents. The arrival of fall brings a new focus, and it’s rooted in the preparation of shelter for the winter that blows in behind it. Let’s break down the best projects to consider for the new season.

Address your envelope

Windows and doors will soon be closing. Fresh air, however, is a year-round need inside all buildings, including your home. Warmer air is soon to be a need as well. This is the perfect time to schedule a furnace inspection and tune-up, duct cleaning, and open up and clean out your ventilation fans and dryer vent to ensure that things are free-flowing and operating as they should. Don’t wait until you need the heat, as then it might be too late. If your home has an HRV or ERV, now would be a good time to begin rerunning it to ensure fresh air exchange to the benefit of your entire family. With the cooler weather, reflect on how the previous winter was at your home. Perhaps an energy audit by a certified adviser, or a top-up of your attic insulation, may help make things more comfortable this year.

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Regular exterior maintenance

The dry summer months will give way to moisture. Eaves troughs, downspouts, window and door caulking, shingles, positive grade sloping and sump pump/backwater valve checks are a must at this time of year, in preparation for the increased moisture for the following three seasons. Make sure everything is operating freely and avoid having to fix a problem in a flood, or when it’s freezing outside. Watch for those frost events that can come up quickly, to cover sensitive plants and shut off hose bibs to avoid freezing.

Foundations

Fall typically marks the end of installing new foundations for additions or custom homes. It’s the perfect time to get them in the ground, allowing you to build over the winter and get ready to move in when the weather is nicer. If you can’t get going now, this also marks the best time to firm up your foundation plans for spring. With summer’s busy schedule out of the way, the kids are back to school, and our desire to get work done can help us set forth our plans and commitments to improve our homes in the coming year. It all starts with a plan – and now is the best time to convert those ideas and dreams into concrete actions.

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The season extending essentials

Pergolas, portable heaters, fire pits and cosy throw blankets, infrared or wood-fired saunas and hot tubs can all help to keep your core warm, allowing you to still enjoy the outdoors in the fall. It is officially cuddle season, too, so snuggle up and soak in the last few days and nights where it is truly comfortable to sit and relax outside. Last year, patio extending products were in record demand, so move quickly if you don’t want to be left out in the cold.

If you want help to design and build your own perfect space, remember there is real value in working with a professional to design and execute it, and professional associations such as the Ontario Association of Architects and renomark.ca, the home of the professional renovator, are great places to start your search.

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Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Toronto design-build firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the 2020 BILD Renovator of the Year. eurodale.ca, @eurodalehomes, 416.782.5690

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Put on a happy facade

Put on a happy facade

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Put on a happy facade

As the seasons give way to brighter, warmer and longer days, there is an opportunity for all of us to rehabilitate the exterior of our own homes. We owe it to ourselves and our community to put on the happiest facade we can, to inspire ourselves and those around us.

So, how does one effectively do this? We checked in with Toronto architect Richard Librach, a master in simple, yet impactful facade transformations, for tips he uses when helping his clients.

“Accentuation, refinement and highlighting of existing assets are what is required,” he says. “Renovating the curbside view of a home is not dependent on the income of the people that reside inside the home – you don’t have to spend a lot of money to access good ideas.”

Whether traditional, transitional or contemporary, tweaks – rather than demolition – can have the most significant impacts (while preserving your pocketbook). Librach uses a simple questionnaire to help clients visualize and create an inspiring home exterior that reflects their style.

And by working with a professional, you achieve professional results. Librach takes an existing situation and improves it. “I look to accentuate the home’s existing features, all while disguising its less desirable, other features,” he says.

While construction and renovations are considered an essential service and have been able to continue relatively unabated during the pandemic, many people are uncomfortable with trades entering their homes to work. For this reason, now is the perfect time to focus on the exterior of your home, and to inject some excitement and pride into the place you now call work and school, as well as home.

Are you selling your home? A well-planned and executed facade project can yield a significant return on investment; people often buy on emotion, and curb appeal helps attract more buyers – and offers. If you’re buying a home in a hot market, a facade project may allow you to snap up a bit of a fixer-upper – and transform it to reflect your personal tastes.

If you want help designing and building your own home, remember, there is real value in working with a professional to execute your plan. Professional associations such as the Ontario Association of Architects and renomark.ca, the home of the professional renovator, are great places to begin your search.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Toronto design-build firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the 2020 BILD Renovator of the Year.

@eurodalehomes

416.782.5690

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Bathroom pitfalls ... and how to avoid them

Bathroom pitfalls … and how to avoid them

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Bathroom pitfalls … and how to avoid them

If kitchens are the hub of the home, then bathrooms must be the inflated tires around them. They provide a smooth and comfortable ride until something goes wrong – such as worn treads or a bulging sidewall – and they fail to function as designed. Designers and manufacturers of bathroom products have continually been changing trends to keep us chasing that fresh, spa-like bathroom experience. Society ditched the public baths the Roman’s famously built out of fear of spreading disease long ago. While those oversized public baths may seem like a distant mistake of the past – especially amid our modern-day pandemic, there are other design pitfalls to avoid during your own bathroom renovation!

Here’s a quick cheat sheet …

  • Custom shower pans – we recommend custom fibreglass over the rubber membrane with a dry-pack method to avoid leaks below the shower. If you go with the conventional, do the dry-pack before the drywall work to avoid risk to tears which result in leaks.
  • Check fixture flowrates – and total them relative to your hot water tank or tankless hot water heater/boiler. Some tub fillers have rates of nine gallons per minute, which can knock out a combination boiler or steal an entire tank of hot water in seconds, leaving the rest of the house on ice!
  • Insulate the floor and wall under the tub – to avoid losing the heat from your bathwater in a hurry! Tubs are installed before the drywall, and sometimes these cavities are forgotten, until the first dip in the bath!
  • Add a floor drain beside the toilet. Toilets back up – virtually every toilet has a failure at some point in their lifespan, and this drain can save a lot of mess and associated costs in an overflow or a seal failure.
  • Membrane the walls – green board, fibreglass board and cement board are not perfectly waterproof. Add a membrane, glue on, paint on, no matter the type; it will help ensure you avoid the long-term effects of water creeping behind the tile or slabs on the walls.
  • Cover your fixtures during the work stage – especially the shower floor and the tub. Tools fall, materials grind and finishes are delicate and often expensive. Preserve the new stuff until the job is complete with liquid membranes, insulation and hard surface coverings, so you don’t prematurely dull the shine or marry the finish.
  • Not all mixing valves are created equal – Splurge for a shower valve with controllable temperatures inside the valve, especially if you have a tankless water heater or combination-boiler. Otherwise, you might be left with a lukewarm rinse until you decide to renovate again.
  • Recirculatation lines to the vanity faucet and shower and tub fixtures – will ensure you are not running water long to obtain the hot water you are after – especially for on-demand tankless and boiler systems. Saves wasting time and water – a win-win! Insulate those lines to avoid wasting energy for the winning hat trick.
  • Pick and then plumb – true of all fixtures, but especially for showers, toilets and vanities, as wall-hung units can create different plumbing rough-ins and avoid costly re-run at finish installation time.
  • Potlights – best kept for inside the shower or water closet only, not at the vanity as they create long and dark facial shadows that can make you look old and tired at any time of day. No thanks!

If you want to design, build or renovate your perfect bathroom, remember these pitfalls, and know there is real value in working with a professional to design and create the space. Visit renomark.ca, the home of the professional renovator, to start your search when looking to start your project!

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Toronto design-build firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the 2020 BILD Renovator of the Year.

@eurodalehomes

416.782.5690


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Wanted - Worst house, best street

Wanted – Worst house, best street

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Wanted – Worst house, best street

Toronto, and the GTA as a whole, is on fire. Not everywhere, but there are pockets of raging infernos in the real estate market, unlike ever before in recent history. An October Altus Group study advises that while the first quarter of 2020 was the weakest in 25 years, the pent-up demand for homes created the highest number of transactions in the third quarter – of all time. Prices of single-family homes are climbing at a staggering rate. With prices up 14.4 per cent year-over-year, Royal LePage forecasts that GTA housing prices are poised to rise another 8.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020 alone. The single-family lowrise home, the historic Canadian staple, is one of the hottest commodities in every major centre from coast to coast.

Where does that leave you? Think about the old real estate adage, location, location, location – but this time with a more targeted focus. Look for the best, then seek out the worst. The worst house in the best area is where you still have a chance to wedge yourself into this marketplace, where other buyers are afraid to venture.

AFTER
AFTER

BEFORE
BEFORE

“The key to success in this area,” says Chantel Crisp, broker with Royal LePage Signature Realty, “is to come in prepared, with the right team of your own third-party realtor, home inspector or, even better, your own professional design-build firm consultant. This can ensure you have experts looking out for your best interest and helping you see what might be good and bad (read – costly) in a listing.”

Bad can also mean good for you, in that it not only provides you with better odds of a successful offer, but also means you can renovate the home to suit your tastes. You also stand to have a good return on your investment, as there is more opportunity for capital appreciation when it eventually comes time for you to sell the home.

“Be cautious,” Crisp forewarns, “as offers without conditions may be more attractive to the vendor, but also strip the purchaser of any means out if the deal is accepted. Remember, too, an offer without conditions can be lower than an offer with conditions, as vendors will often leave money on the table for a sure thing, versus risk associated with tying up a property with an offer that may ultimately fail, even if a higher number,” she adds.

Crisp speaks from personal experience. She retained Eurodale to design and renovate her new family home, complete with an in-law suite to provide additional income support and help pay down the mortgage. The original home, at time of purchase, was in need of a complete gut, a large two-storey addition and underpinning of the foundation, to work for the needs of her growing family. All new systems and finishes were both needed and welcomed. This approach allowed them to move into the community they wanted to live in, but otherwise couldn’t afford. Secondary suites are an as-of-right housing condition across Ontario and can help enter into a housing type that would otherwise be out of reach for many, without the supplemental income support. It’s a great stepping stone.

Fixer-uppers can be found in any neighbourhood. “Once you narrow down where you want to live, it’s important to keep an eye out for the homes with poor quality or cluttered photos, or no photos at all,” says Crisp. Buyers these days tend to gravitate towards prettier, staged options. So, the opportunity to scoop up a property at a lower price without the competition may be there.

Before purchasing a fixer-upper, speak with your realtor and design-build firm about your vision and priorities. A realtor can recommend the most cost-effective fixes that will make the highest impact on your future home value, to ensure you’re spending your reno dollars wisely. In contrast, your contractor can advise you of real costs to undertake what you are planning before you calculate your offer. Both of these are critical aspects when determining your costs on top of the purchase price.

In a hot market, being creative and resourceful and building a team of advisors can make the difference between sitting on the sidelines or buying your dream home. Visit realtor.ca to find a licensed realtor and renomark.ca, the home of the professional renovator, to begin your search.

Happy house hunting – and may your next offer be the one that is accepted!

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Toronto design-build firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the 2020 BILD Renovator of the Year.

@eurodalehomes

416.782.5690


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Suburban to Urban

Suburban to Urban – Density for the good of the community

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Suburban to Urban – Density for the good of the community

Toronto, having entered the global scene as a major world centre over the last two decades, still needs to mature in many ways. As residents of the fastest growing metropolis in North America, Torontonians have had to embrace change, and have done so reasonably well. However, where we have failed is mirrored across major centres throughout North America, and in many cases, the world. It has been highly publicized that Toronto is a tale of two housing types – the highrise condo and the lowrise single-family home. There is a gap in choice for the residents and new Torontonians immigrating to this city (more than 100,000 arrived last year alone).

The “missing middle” is a housing type that takes the built form of duplex, cottage courts, fourplexes townhouses, stacked triplexes, multiplexes and live/work suites. These are sometimes illegal due to the zoning that governs many of the areas defined as stable neighbourhoods. Also referred to as the “yellow belt,” this area makes up about 70 per cent of the city’s landmass. Still, it also includes a declining population (as those living in the single-family homes continue to age and their kids leave the nest, permanently). In comparison, defined strips of the city (generally downtown and along the Yonge Street corridor) are booming in vertical expansion of condominiums that scrape the sky.

The dichotomy is often not suitable, as it leaves an aging population in homes they may have difficulty aging in. It also relegates young cash-strapped families starting in tiny condos to move out sooner, fleeing the city in search of more house and more land.

With an excess of six million people calling the GTA home today, slated to grow past eight million in 10 years and balloon to more than 10 million in less than 25 years, the great bastion of the “stable neighbourhood,” and the people and property owners within it, must change. If everyone who moved out of a condo in search of an alternate housing type moved to one of the bedroom communities outside the GTA, our North America leading gridlock would only worsen. We just can’t build enough transit to keep up with that solution. In a mega-city such as Toronto and an even more populous group in the GTA, efficiently moving people will forever remain a significant challenge.

But, as we know, change is hard. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about swift change for the entire world. One of the great challenges that has been noticed is the impact of density on the transmission of the virus. Rental rates of condos located downtown are reported to be down close to 20 per cent. While anecdotally, real estate professionals are citing a growing flock of persons cashing in and relocating to communities up to two hours from the city in hopes of finding affordability and physical distancing from others.

With the help of Zoom and similar technologies, working from home is possible, but can also provide strain when working and living with a family within a small condo. The single-family housing type which dominates most neighbourhoods can become more flexible and provide housing for many types of residents, across different life stages and various economic levels.

It makes little sense for a young family to become grossly indebted obtaining a single-family home, have their kids vacate the building in search of their own housing once they’ve grown, leaving two people to remain in a four-bedroom home. When one passes away, it can leave three empty bedrooms and a lot of house to maintain and safely provide for their own care within, all while shutting other families out of the market for longer than necessary.

Suppose we were to reimagine these existing buildings – to convert from a single-family dwelling to a duplex, triplex or fourplex. Or, even allow for the assembly of two to three of these structures for a lowrise, four-storey walkup (with elevators) as was allowed in old Toronto. We could provide for transition options for people to stay in their communities for their entire lifecycle if they chose to.

It would also develop a more accurate societal cross-section (a real “community,” if you will), comprising babies, young children, teenagers, young adults, families and seniors. Each of whom has vastly different housing needs and have varied socio-economic backgrounds. As Ted Knight famously quips in the movie Caddyshack, “The world needs ditch diggers too!” Why must the post-war suburbs be reserved for high-income professionals or those benefitting from generational wealth?

Toronto and its residents know full well that we are in a housing crisis. With only a few thousand legal secondary suites in the city and, an estimated existence of between 70,000 to 100,000 illegal basement apartments, a well-defined and exploited need is outpacing political abilities to make the changes we need.

For our mutual benefit, as we all travel the journey of our lifecycle together, we could be creating walkable communities while rehabilitating the aged housing stock in the process and helping the environment, too. If still unconvinced, spend some time reading from local planners such as Richard Florida, Jennifer Keesmaat, Gil Meslin and Architecture critic Alex Bozikovic. Google terms “gentle and distributed density,” “missing middle” and “flexible housing” to get an idea of how subtle change can make a positive impact for everyone. If you like your community, let’s work together to change it so it will work for you and your family forever.

If you want to design, build or renovate your home for the long term, remember there is real value in working with a professional to design and build the space. Visit renomark.ca, the home of the professional renovator, to start your search when looking to start your project.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at design-build firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the 2020 BILD Renovator of the Year.

@eurodalehomes

416.782.5690


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The must-do maintenance checklist for every homeowner defined by nature

The homeowner’s must-do maintenance checklist defined by nature

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The homeowner’s must-do maintenance checklist defined by nature

Elements of nature. Powerful and unlike anything invented by humans. In the end, nature always wins, so within here, we offer every homeowner a simple checklist to follow to ensure that you protect your investment, and everything inside of it, from falling prey to the forces attributed to the elements of nature.

Air, water, fire and earth – the four elements present different risks, and thus, different approaches to minimize those risks, when it comes to your property. To keep it simple and easy to remember, we will provide four tips for each element, for a sweet total of 16 maintenance items we can all get behind.

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Air

Roof – Inspect at grade and at roof for torn, missing or curling shingles as they can lift easily in high winds and expose raw sheathing. Check inside attic for proper ventilation and potential signs of moisture (mould on underside of sheathing, depressed or black insulation). Wind-driven roof damage may only otherwise show up when you notice ceiling damages on the inside.

Photography: bigstock.com
Photography: bigstock.com

Caulking – Window sills, joints between exterior cladding, door frames all bleed air. Insulation and caulking at basement floor joist headers can dramatically reduce air infiltration and exfiltration, resulting in energy savings and increased comfort.

HVAC – Have an annual furnace/boiler and AC service, replace filters every three months, clean ducts and ventilation fans inside grills.

Tie downs/weight – Lawn furniture, yard tools, anything left outside that is not overly heavy or tied down can become a dangerous projectile in a strong wind. Review these regularly before the storms blow into town.

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Water

Photography: bigstock.com
Photography: bigstock.com

Roof – Similar to wind risks, old or missing shingles cannot perform in keeping water out. Water inside the building envelope can create major finish damages, structural and health problems in a big hurry. Included with the roof inspection, we recommend cleaning eavestroughs twice per year to ensure proper flow and reduce ice damning risk in winter.

Caulking – Interior and exterior caulking should be inspected annually. Showers and sink edges, a crack the size of a credit card could result in major leak damage. Window and door sills should be inspected for bubbling and cracking of caulking, as well as roof vents to ensure reduced risk of water infiltration.

HVAC – Check hot water tank, furnace and air conditioners for leaking at floor, and drain lines to be free flowing. Ensure humidifiers are not overly scaled and flow as should.

Drinking water – Replace fridge or sink filter at least twice annually. Send test kit sample of tap water to municipality for testing annually. Also, turn off hose bibs on interior and open exterior by November 1st each year to avoid freezing damage (even on “Frost-Free” faucets!).

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Fire

Courtesy of Nest
Courtesy of Nest

Alarm – Replace Smoke/CO alarm battery annually and test alarms monthly. We recommend the NEST alarms for their regular smart phone notifications and testing, as well as the neat night-light option.

Extinguishers – Check/recharge fire extinguisher(s) for the kitchen. Add a single sprinkler head or the Haven ceiling mount suppression device in the mechanical room (the location of most fires.)

HVAC – Clean or have annual service performed and check

Dryers – Remove and clean out ventilation grill, vent pipe and inside edge of appliance to prevent overheating.

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Earth

Soil – Ensure positive slope away from foundations and fill any depressions around downspouts to ensure proper storm runoff.

Radon gas – Test kit or continuous monitor (preferred) and ventilate sub-slab in basement to depressurize against odourless carcinogen that naturally emanates from some soil types.

Fertilize – Early spring, mid-summer and late fall to ensure lawn and garden have adequate nutrients.

Sweep – Monthly cleaning of the hard surfaces around your house can highlight any rot or repairs needed to decks, porches and also reduce the amount of dirt dragged into your home.

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If your home is in need of more than a little routine maintenance and you are contemplating a new home or more extensive renovation, remember there is real value in working with a professional to design and build the space. Visit renomark.ca, the home of the professional renovator, to start your search when looking to start your project.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.

@eurodalehomes

416.782.5690


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Top honours at 2020 BILD Renovation and Custom Home Awards

Top honours at 2020 BILD Renovation and Custom Home Awards

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Top honours at 2020 BILD Renovation and Custom Home Awards

The Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) handed out their annual Renovation and Custom Home Awards to the GTA’s top renovators and custom home builders by video conference on April 8th.

Created by BILD in 1999, the Renovation and Custom Home awards recognize professional renovators and custom home builders for their innovation, quality of work, customer service and industry leadership.

BILD received a record 117 submissions for 25 categories that included Best Overall Space, Best Overall Renovation, Best Overall Custom Home, Custom Home Builder of the Year and the coveted Renovator of the Year award. All submissions were evaluated by 28 industry professionals who served as volunteer judges.

This year, the Renovator of the Year award went to Eurodale Design + Build for their commitment to customer service and their contribution to the overall image of the renovation industry. Eurodale Design + Build also won Best Innovative Renovation.

“Eurodale customers were impressed with the renovator’s quality workmanship and professionalism,” says Dave Wilkes, president and CEO of BILD. “True to the RenoMark brand, Eurodale clients were provided with a warranty for the work done and clients felt that the renovator went out of their way to deliver an outstanding project with excellent service and followup.”

The award for Custom Home Builder of the Year went to Luxor Home Corporation. Luxor Homes’ clients felt that the builder went above and beyond to provide great quality of work and outstanding customer service. Luxor Home Corporation also won Best Custom Home Kitchen.

Profile Custom Homes won the Best Overall Custom Home award for their project in Mississauga. The design and flow of the home blurs the line between indoor and outdoor living areas. The modern design is softened by the use of wood and the integration of views of nature from every room of the home. They also won Best Custom Home over $2 million, Best Custom Home Washroom, and Best Renovation (No addition) over $500,000.

Best Overall Renovation went to Carmelin Design + Build. Carmelin Design also won Best Condominium Renovation under $200,000, and Best Renovation (No addition) under $250,000.

Both of these award-winning projects utilize high-contrast colour features in the kitchen, while softening the floor through the continuous use of hardwood floors throughout the home. The integration of large windows, which are expertly orientated in the design, maximizes the infiltration of sunlight throughout the home.

Lifestyles by Barons Inc. won Best Overall Space Renovation. This beautifully constructed whole home renovation is a testament to Lifestyles by Barons’ attention to detail and listening to the desires of their client. The integration of the soft-coloured stone and tile throughout the home provides an ambience of strength, while relaxing and easing the homeowner’s state of mind. Lifestyles by Barons Inc. also won Best Basement Renovation over $125,000, and Best Washroom Renovation.

“This year’s winners exemplify the quality, innovation, creativity and integrity that homeowners can expect when working with professional RenoMark renovators and custom builders,” says Wilkes.

All award winners are members of the national RenoMark program, which connects homeowners with professional renovators who have agreed to abide by a renovation-specific code of conduct. Contact information for all RenoMark renovators is accessible on renomark.ca. A complete list of winners can be found in the latest blog on the RenoMark website as well.

BILD would like to congratulate all the winners and finalists.

A complete list of winners can be found in the blog section of renomark.ca.


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Kitchen Trends 2020

Kitchen Trends 2020 – Tips to advance your home into the roaring ’20s

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Kitchen Trends 2020 – Tips to advance your home into the roaring ’20s

Photography: Thornton Design

In 1949, the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed a full research project around what it described as “A Step-Saving Kitchen.” YouTube it, it’s pretty awesome…but technology, trends and how “the farm homemaker” (or urban millennial) uses the kitchen has evolved greatly since then. So, where does one start and how do you filter the noise? We sat down with our team to break down the main kitchen trends we are implementing in 2020.

Jim Cunningham, Architectural Technologist from Eurodale Design + Build, Interior Designer Laura Thornton from Thornton Design, and Jimmy Zoras from Distinctive by Design, all shared key elements being recommended for consumers. These experts routinely guide homeowners in two crucial areas of the kitchen – functionality and style – so we posed three key questions for them (and you) to consider when crafting the perfect kitchen for this new decade of food storage, preparation and the social interactions connected to food.

Firstly, what is the single most critical design feature you try to convince clients to include in their kitchens?

JC ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN: Incorporate more receptacles, with integrated USB ports for connecting devices. Backsplash, under cabinets, sides of islands, counter pop-ups, even inside drawers – you can never have enough. Lastly, always rough-in for water to the refrigerator, and a future pot-filler over the range to future-proof the space.

LT INTERIOR DESIGN: Kitchen islands are a great addition to any kitchen, offering extra seating and storage. If size allows, instead of one large island, we prefer dual islands. They are a fantastic way to increase traffic flow while expanding a kitchen’s function, dividing between meal-prep island and a serving island or additional seating island.

JZ KITCHEN DESIGN: Specialty hardware adds real-life functionality. Automatic Servo Drive mechanisms for doors and drawers, pull-out drawers instead of doors, cabinet door-lift systems and corner-cabinet hardware (magic corners and Lemans units), these are all great investments for easy cleanup and access.

What do you feel is the outgoing or passé trend (style or function-based element)?

JC: Gold knobs. Some things should remain in the ’80s, if only for historic preservation.

LT: Goodbye boring subway tiles and say hello to slab backsplash. Eliminating grout eliminates maintenance. In addition, a vertical-run slab adds show-stopping drama.

JZ: Dark-stained cabinets are a thing of the past as we are using more natural wood as accents for cabinetry to make the kitchen pop with a statement.

What is the next hot thing that will find its way into new kitchen designs for 2020 and beyond?

JC: Contrast is back. Now we see a flip to three-tone colouring and wood uppers with painted lower cabinets. Light blue is making a splash as well vs. the navy that has been prevalent the last five or six years.

LT: Concealed hood fan covers. The unexpected use of metals, marble or quartz, stained wood, tiles and even shiplap has become a way to cover the hood fan for a sleek and clean overall esthetic. Material, texture and sizes are changing the face of this long-ignored kitchen element.

JZ: Black-powder coated metals for exposed tubing and framed open-shelving with wood accents. Stone is also a big item now for full-height backsplashes as well as accent pieces such as hood fan covers as a vertical stone show like an art piece.

Lastly, the biggest thing to remember is that kitchens are now multi-faceted spaces that allow for almost everything you could otherwise do elsewhere in the home (excluding sleeping and washroom facilities, thanks). Sizes of homes in urban settings are shrinking and the kitchen has evolved into a space, which is constantly visible, not excluded from the rest of it. Built-in banquettes, eat-in kitchens, desk spaces and multi-use elements are allowing families the ability to congregate in one main room to remain connected to each other vs. ducking away into private rooms with their personal devices. Housing affordability is also shaping these spaces as in many bachelor condos, the kitchen is open to the combined family room and bedroom, so concealment of storage, prep items and appliances is essential. Whatever the square footage, we are sure that the design team’s suggestions of functional storage, hardware selection, texture, colour, millwork elements and tone integration as well as multi-use islands are all critical features for a modern kitchen to kick off the new decade.

When planning your own kitchen in a new home or renovation, remember there is real value in working with a professional to design and build the space. Function is as important as form here, and planning your search at renomark.ca, the home of the professional renovator is a great place to start looking for help.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.

@eurodalehomes

416.782.5690


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Make room for mudrooms

Make room for mudrooms

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Make room for mudrooms

The Four Seasons – no, not the luxury hotel chain – the actual seasons that are responsible for supplying the dust, dirt, snow, salt, leaves, grass clippings constantly deposited inside your front entry are a year-round issue. The sandals, shoes, boots, coats, toques, mitts, scarves, ball caps and knapsacks that we drag inside (and out) join in too, making it next to impossible to have a presentable and formal entry in any home – unless you have a mudroom, of course.

A few short steps to a lower level can reduce stress on the main floor. Photography: Valerie Wilcox
A few short steps to a lower level can reduce stress on the main floor. Photography: Valerie Wilcox

Lack of space, surplus of footwear

The reality is that many urban homes have tiny main entrances. As such, finding a creative and attractive way to store outerwear becomes challenging. Even if you have the room to tuck away all the outdoor paraphernalia, the floors quickly become an extension of the exterior – and not in the good way – like when architects reference the free flow between the main floor family room and the pool terrace off the bi-folding Nana-wall in Arizona. This is just messy, and when guests come to your door, it is best if they are not greeted with footwear strewn about and forced to step into slush or mud in their socked feet as they enter.

Enter Peacefully – a clean main entry is only achieved with an associated mudroom. Photography: Valerie Wilcox
Enter Peacefully – a clean main entry is only achieved with an associated mudroom. Photography: Valerie Wilcox

Carve out some unconventional space

The solution is to add to, or creatively remodel, your space to allow for an alternate entrance. With space at a premium in urban house settings, the footprint of homes needs to maximize the lot areas and if they don’t already do so, pushing outward off the side of the existing dwelling is the first natural choice. Second to that, is to push off the back of the home, allowing pedestrians to avoid the front door entirely and access the home from either the side or the back. If neither option is available, a front-facing expansion can occasionally allow for a de-formalization of the main entry and create an expanded combination vestibule/mudroom at the front of the home. Let’s face it, if we get a chance to install some more storage elements, it will instantly make the space feel more clean and organized, reducing clutter and mess. If none of those options are viable, we take a look at a quick floor level shift. Given the main floor in the majority of homes are a couple of feet above established grade (a function of pushing footings at least four feet below grade to avoid the heaving effects of winter frost), a side door at, or close to grade will provide for a short run down to the basement level where one can install a mudroom, leaving only a few stairs to keep clean and removing the mess entirely from the main floor.

Millwork is perfect to hide it all with stylish doors and drawers. Photography: Will Fournier
Millwork is perfect to hide it all with stylish doors and drawers. Photography: Will Fournier

Design considerations

We have developed many different configurations for these rooms and the total space allocations and quality of the finishes are dependent on how many people reside in the home, how many visitors (extended family and close friends) come over on a regular basis, if there is a home-based business on the property, whether the home is a single family dwelling or if there is a secondary suite within the same building, and what the budget provisions are for the undertaking. Closets, millwork, benches, flooring type and natural light are all key considerations in the design.

Use earth tones to hide the dirt we bring in from the outdoors. Photography: Valerie Wilcox
Use earth tones to hide the dirt we bring in from the outdoors. Photography: Valerie Wilcox

Creative space alternatives

No matter what your existing home and lot may offer, if you are struggling with the mayhem at the front entry, some careful planning and design can go a long way to retain the sanity of all residents and guests visiting your home. It just takes a little creativity, time and initiative. Don’t get bogged down by the conventional labels for spaces. Define how to best allocate the areas of a home for the needs of everyone who lives there. Let’s mudroom together! For your really good friends, invest in one of those kitschy mats that suggest “Back door (or side door) guests are best.” Trust me, you (and they), will be glad you did!

Thinking of a mudroom in your new addition, renovation or custom home project? As always, I recommend you start your search at RenoMark.ca to find a professional design-builder to help undertake the full project from initial plan, through design, approvals and final construction.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.

@eurodalehomes

416.782.5690


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The Party Project

If you want a major renovation to be completed in time for a holiday party, think again

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If you want a major renovation to be completed in time for a holiday party, think again

The global calendars are set around the end of the year. Across all religions, the holidays or holy days are virtually the same every year (within reason) and yet each year – sometime between the end of summer (read Labour Day) and December 1st, we seem to lose a few critical months in our minds. The day Halloween is over in Canada, the shops and malls start playing holiday music, parties begin to fill our calendars through to New Year’s Eve, before we even digest our Thanksgiving meals. Just like that, another year has passed!

Stress-stopper

When thinking about a big party to footnote a large addition, renovation or custom home project, our first piece of advice is to stop, and not do it if it is at all tied to a rigid date like a religious holiday, birthday, graduation or worse… wedding day! Sure, some of us work better under the pressure of a deadline, and having a firm date can truly help spur things to happen quicker (or when they should in the first place), but keep in mind that residential projects are fluid beasts that can twist and turn as a result of a series of relatively uncontrollable factors.

The perfect project — right up until the thick Fibre optic cable was uncovered where the addition was designed to sit, adding over a month to the project.
Photography by Valerie Wilcox (After photo), Nikolas Koenig (Before and During photos.)

Permit backlog

Projects start with design, but most projects require review and approvals from some municipal regulatory body. In busy cities across this province, those time frames have been lengthening and have become increasingly unpredictable. In Toronto proper for instance, it is not uncommon for a large addition and renovation project to require anywhere from a few months up to two years to obtain approvals required to start construction, depending on the rules which govern the property and the proposed project.

Nature delays

Forecasting and scheduling handcrafted builds is also unlike the highly measurable work undertaken in a controlled factory setting. Although prefabrication is increasing in many tract-built sites, it has yet to make inroads successfully into smaller, single infill or remodel sites. What may look perfect on paper, rarely translates perfectly to the field. For example, hidden surprises like soil conditions, asbestos, or archaeological finds can only show up once things start on-site. Likewise, weather can impact delivery of materials, as well as production rates of workers until a structure is closed in and at least watertight. In Ontario, as in much of Canada, we undergo blistering heat in the summer and bone-chilling cold in the winter – both have impacts on the pace and safety of workers on-site, which in turn affect productivity estimates. From one year to the next, temperatures and precipitation rates can vary tremendously and are unpredictable at best.

Not to mention, most firms that take on single family projects are small businesses, hence with small teams. Anything from illness and injuries to vehicle breakdowns, life’s curveballs impacts the number of people who show up to work on a site any given day.

The project schedule was railroaded upon discovery of what lied beneath. The house was situated atop cinder and ashes from a former adjacent rail line.
Photography by Will Fournier

Rebates & supply-demand chain

Suppliers of materials are very susceptible to market forces when it comes to being able to supply goods that are desired or required. A busy marketplace can become infinitely busier and almost unmanageable when government initiatives are rolled out, such as rebate programs (remember GreenON and the impact on window manufacturers?), as well as economies, which purchase supplies from us such as our friends south of the border (remember the Gulf War and the impact on plywood?). Tariffs and trade wars, as well as market prices of commodities can all affect availability of items you plan to put into your home.

Lastly, as the consumer, we must also appreciate that our own lives can get in the way. Domestic challenges can quickly require much more attention, as well dependents and work commitments can delay our scheduled plans to select finishes or review project details that the contractor may require from us.

Realistic timelines

The construction project road is nicely paved with good intentions. It’s important that we are all realistic about the time it takes to build what we are planning. It’s also very helpful to look into the project rear-view mirror. Ask your architect, designer and builder what similar projects took to undertake, and ask for client references to confirm those time frames. Each project is also unique in its own right and deserves a custom schedule. A generous site with a new-build custom home can be undertaken in less than six months, whereas a tight urban addition and renovation project that includes underpinning could easily take upwards of a full year to build. We recommend creating two schedules – with a two-month gap between them. Have your project partners work towards the tighter target, and you plan for the one with the two-month padding and hope that you are able to meet somewhere in the middle. If either of your targets arrive within a couple of weeks of the holidays, resist the urge to mail out party invitations, unless it’s a painting or moving party, as the odds are…something will have impeded the project completion. Why add that stress to anyone’s plate as part of a dramatic construction project?

Thinking of undertaking an addition, renovation or custom home project? Start your search at RenoMark.ca to find a professional design-builder to help undertake the full project from initial plan, through design, approvals and final construction. You’ll be glad you did.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.

@eurodalehomes

(416) 782-5690


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