Tag Archives: Design/Build Expert

Design/Build Expert: Metals

Magic Metal Mix: The beauty of blending hardware finishes creates a unique look

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Magic Metal Mix: The beauty of blending hardware finishes creates a unique look

Metal is mined from nature and provides durable and stylish fixtures and hardware in our homes. Once upon a time, metal selection followed a “set and forget” method when detailing hardware accents – never veering from the single selected metal – no matter where it was used within a home. If the faucet was chrome, brushed nickel or brass, so too were the light fixtures, the door handles and the cabinet hardware. Those rules have now fallen by the wayside, as designers, contractors and homeowners are switching things up and even adding metallic accents where they were not typically thought of or seen before.

We interviewed Halina Catherine from Halina Catherine Design in Toronto to get her take on how and where she is mixing metals in her projects. First, we wanted to know if there were rules for mixing metals in a home.

Photography: Peter Sellar
Photography: Peter Sellar

BRENDAN CHARTERS: What is the rule when mixing metals?

HALINA CATHERINE: Mixing metals in home decor can give your space a clean and elegant look. Although some people may feel intimidated to do so, there is no hard rule against it. A trick of the trade to create a more esthetically pleasing mix would be to select a dominant metal and accent it with another. A kitchen, for example, with predominantly stainless-steel finishes (stove, sink and fridge) would look nice with an added pop of gold cabinet hardware to offset and accent it, and could be further layered with a matching highlight trim on the stove hood. If the homeowner is more reserved and prefers a more minimalist look, mixing darker metals, but still using different finishes like polished, hammered and matte finishes, can develop a similar, albeit muted effect.

BC: Do you think this somewhat “glam” style of metallic influence has potential for crossing over into fabrics and furnishings?

HC: Yes! Metallic materials in fabrics have started to make their way from the fashion runways into home decor. Sheer neutral drapery with a slight metallic thread running through them is something I’ve incorporated in my interiors for the last few years. It’s so subtle but enhances the overall appeal.

Photography: Halina Catherine
Photography: Halina Catherine

Photography: Halina Catherine
Photography: Halina Catherine

BC: Since runway clothing fashion is increasingly influencing what we put into our homes, what trends are you seeing in metals for cabinet or door hardware vs. plumbing or light fixtures?

HC: We are living in a relatively unstructured time – people are resisting typical rules, they don’t want to follow trends, and they want individuality expressed in their homes. Designers want to flex their creative muscles to the max. Since clients are open to this, suppliers are now developing more metals than ever, in different and more creative ways. Furniture, including tables, sofa bases, kitchen and media cabinets with brass or brushed chrome or stainless inlays, are all unique methods of adding a touch of metallic, which highlights and mixes well with more traditional metallics. Light fixtures and plumbing fixtures are also following suit. I just finished a project where we used brushed platinum plumbing fixtures, accented with polished gold and smoked-amber glass. The combination was stunning! Who thought platinum would be available in plumbing fixtures? I always thought it was reserved for wedding bands!

BC: Boundaries are being pushed and interiors are looking more unique than ever, however, is there an urban vs. rural divide?

HC: It’s important to choose your finish according to how it will make you feel. It’s always about loving your space first, whether rural or urban. No rules. However, in saying that, if I were designing a space in an urban environment, I typically gravitate to cool tones – think chic polished chrome with white inlays, or matte-black paired with nickel. In a rural farmhouse I’m designing in Caledon, Ontario, we have incorporated bronze alloy hardware throughout, containing copper, silicon and zinc, giving all the fixtures a warm coppery-gold undertone. It’s rustic-warm but weighty at the same time to be able to hold its own in rooms with large wood beams and stone.

BC: Trends can change quickly, which can mean costly mistakes or changes. What would you recommend for people in search of something more “timeless?”

HC: The truth is, there is nothing trendy about metals. They have been around since the beginning of time. Gold is timeless, as is stainless steel, nickel, platinum and matte black pewter – though some of the finishing of these metals can change, the metals are all natural, hence timeless by their very nature. I encourage you to stop feeling like you need to follow a trend and instead be your own trendsetter. Do what you love and what feels best to you. Fortunately, the days of choosing all-polished chrome as the only acceptable choice have truly gone by the wayside.

The bottom line is that we can surrender our fears, as we are officially free to mix it up with metals and have some fun. At Eurodale Design + Build, we like to work with professional designers, like Halina Catherine Design, as experts help provide confidence and direction to homeowners undertaking an addition, renovation or custom home project, and their expertise always ensures things tie together nicely.

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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Design/Build Expert: Laneway housing

Stay in your lane, pal: Laneways, now are for more than just vehicles and vermin

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Stay in your lane, pal: Laneways, now are for more than just vehicles and vermin

Toronto has a housing problem; some call it a crisis. One of the levers Council is pulling at to increase more urban housing options (a pilot project) is to construct laneway houses in rear yards that abut public lanes.

Photo courtesy of R-Haux
Photo courtesy of R-Haux

Beyond the basement

There are 2,433 lanes in the city of Toronto and since June 2018, residents have been able to plan for and build these secondary suites, in a (somewhat) detached fashion from the main dwelling. Essentially, it shifts the previously permitted basement apartment to move up and behind the principal dwelling, so long as the services are provided from the main building, and the lot is not severed. It’s a practice that has been allowed in many other metropolitan centres for some time. Cities such as Vancouver, Los Angeles and even Ottawa have had similar bylaws and a plethora of interesting solutions already successfully resided in. Over the past year, however, the Building Department reports there have only been 78 permits applied for and six permissions issued. The goal of the bylaw was to allow for quicker and easier action by Torontonians, but given its connection to the city’s more complex makeup of other governing bylaws, 15 other applications are awaiting Committee of Adjustment hearings for minor relief to the rules. That alone can add more than six months to the approval process, so seeing this put into any significant practice will take some time.

Livable lanes

So, who benefits from this pilot project, you ask? Potentially, anyone and everyone. Adding laneway housing brings eyeballs to the lanes, which increases safety of persons living in or passing through them. The city benefits from an increased tax base and the (hopefully) good news story about gentle density, increased housing choices and improved stock – therefore improved affordability.

Photo courtesy of Lanescape
Photo courtesy of Lanescape

How to make it happen

There are many options available to any current homeowner who has property abutting a lane inside the pilot area. One company that was a part of the laneway bylaw development is Tony Cunha and his team at Lanescape.ca. They hold regular public information sessions for designers, builders and homeowners looking to learn more about the intricate process and rules governing these initiatives. They also provide design and construction services, which range in cost due to factors including finished vs. unfinished areas, site-specific servicing, plus consulting fees. Tony emphasizes that this is not the ‘Tiny House’ movement gripping social media. “These units,” he attests, “can be up to 1,700 sq.ft. in size, with a 10mx8m footprint.” Lanescape has done a great job at creating illustrations of how to fit a laneway house onto a lot, and the zoning restrictions that govern it. Setbacks from the lane, the main dwelling, as well as height and angular plane restrictions ensures this is a true secondary suite, and not just another house behind a house. While every lot is unique, if you understand the basic rules, there is an as-of-right condition to fit something onto virtually every lane abutting lot. Stickhandling the rules, with guidance from professionals, can shorten the approval process and build the laneway home faster.

Bylaw-friendly design

Another group focused on designing solutions that fit the bylaws, is Leith Moore and his team at R-Hauz. They are taking the approach of full bylaw conformity, and have designed a number of products that fit the as-of-right-bylaw, based upon the typical Toronto lot sizes aiming at range from 15 to 30 ft. with stops at 20 and 25 ft. Their goal is to reduce the time required to erect the dwelling through a level of pre-fabrication and repetition of product and process. With roots in larger tract-style development, they are focused on the speed and scalability of the build, for the benefit of the customer and their neighbours, who also share daily access in and out of the shared lanes. With a more contemporary square, yet curvilinear design and standardized options for systems and finishes, these houses have been designed with a “best square foot, rather than most square foot” mantra to maximize storage and comfort and flow for the occupants. With a design already hatched, zoning approvals as-of-right and a repeatable product with modularized components, these may be the most prevalent solutions we start to see around our lanes.

Photo courtesy of Lanescape
Photo courtesy of Lanescape

Urban revival

We at Eurodale Design + Build, coupled with a handful of architecture offices and custom builders throughout the city, have also dipped our toes in the collective waters, but on a per lot, per client, custom type solution. Many of these projects become lumped in with improvements to the original, aged dwelling that exists on the lot to begin with, as part of a more holistic gentrification of the site. Given the services for the new laneway must be tied to the original home, work will be required at the basement level for connecting electricity, water, sewer and gas anyway. Damages done will want to be repaired, and there is an economy of scale to do improvements to the principal dwelling when crews are on-site for the laneway project. These will create a whole host of unique designs and construction projects of varying style and quality levels, spearheading a tapestry of urban revival of sorts, while solving some housing challenges Torontonians are collectively feeling as we mature and grow.

Do you have any ideas as to how a laneway house could benefit your own life? Give one of the aforementioned professionals a call to see how this exciting initiative could become a benefit to you and your family. As always, I recommend you start your search at RenoMark.ca to find a professional builder to help undertake your project for you.

Who is laneway housing good for? Potentially anyone and everyone. Here is a quick list of who may find it a solution to their needs.

• ADULT KIDS – a great launching pad to help teach these birds to fly.

• AGING PARENTS – retaining independence of space, but safety and security of proximity to loved ones.

• FIRST-TIME OR MOVE-UP BUYERS – help qualify for and pay down the mortgage with a tenant in the main dwelling or the lane house.

• REAL ESTATE SIDE HUSTLERS AND SMALL DEVELOPERS – a way to maximize the value of a lot with some extra construction.

• CAREGIVERS OR PERSONAL SERVICE WORKERS – live-in-style care with a live-out feeling.

• RETIREES DOWNSIZING OR IN SEARCH OF RESIDUAL INCOME STREAM – convert an existing property into an income source without affecting the main house.

• DIVORCEES: better than the proverbial doghouse, this could allow families to stay close together, albeit not under the same roof.

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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Design/Build Expert: Kitchens

What’s cookin’ good lookin’ ? Kitchens are changing. This is how and why

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What’s cookin’ good lookin’ ? Kitchens are changing. This is how and why

Photography by Peter Sellar

Kitchens are changing dramatically in Canada as housing forms continue to change, and the driver is the divide between larger, expansive sprawl or estate-style homes versus the shrinking units found in the newer, micro-sized condo suites. They are also evolving to represent the true goal of these spaces – and it may differ from what you may initially think.

Size matters

The larger the home, the more likely one can find an eat-in style, more closed concept, dedicated kitchen space. While this room may be somewhat open to either the dining room or the family room for a great-room style feel, it is now more expansive and opulent than ever.

The smaller the home, the more likely the kitchen is completely open-concept to the main living area, adjacent to either the dining or family rooms, or even integrated into the suite as a whole like in a bachelor-style suite. In these types of spaces, appliances are more often hidden behind panel-style fronts, blending seamlessly and completely out of sight when not in use. It provides more of a multi-functional and flexible space, eliminating the feel that one is always in the kitchen when eating, socializing or even sleeping in those tight urban abodes.

Paradigm shift

The trends as it relates to colours of the cabinets and counters themselves are changing too. While the most popular all-white kitchen has dominated the last decade, the mood and related colour palette is shifting in a big way. The intermixing of colour, be it stained or painted cabinets, have been dropped into the spaces by way of feature islands or lower versus upper cabinet colouring, for some time now. Designer Laura Thornton from Thornton Design confirms the fashion of this hub has taken a virtual 180. “Black,” she says, “as well as deep greys and hearty wood tones in a matte or high-gloss finish,” are setting the dramatic stage. Mixing in more offsetting style includes large industrial ranges and ventilation hood fan covers as popping focal points in larger kitchens. Paired with gold hardware, the strong statement is a paradigm shift from recent historical kitchen projects where hoods were hidden and white cabinets and brushed nickel adorned virtually every project, along with light, if not pure white counters.

Industry insider

Quartz countertop company Cambria further confirms this. Kirstin Kucy, Toronto market rep from Cambria, affirms that even though white and grey counters are still extremely popular in kitchens, consumers and designers are trending more to a darker, sophisticated, richer colour palette. This is most visible in the kitchen surfaces where consumers are gravitating towards darker hues and low-lustre (matte finish) materials. “We’ve seen an increased interest in Cambria’s Blackpool Matte design, a low-sheen, solid-black quartz surface material, as well as in designs from our new Black Marble collection for use in kitchens, and even in architectural elements such as backsplashes, shower walls and fireplace surrounds, in lieu of tile,” she says.

Design district privileges

When planning your own kitchen project, be sure to swing by Toronto’s design-decor district – specifically The Building Block – the new one-stop shopping solution at the corner of Caledonia and Lawrence, where you can retain the full suite of both architectural and interior design services for your space, experience a number of the newest kitchen designs in new vignettes, as well as more than 160 countertop styles in the Cambria Premier Dealership in the Distinctive by Design Fine Cabinetry showroom. You can even retain the service of full construction execution – all under one Green rooftop patio! While in the area, be sure to check out some of our designer and trade local favourites, such as the café inside Elte, or for some cured meats or an espresso at Speducci Mercatto, where you can feel like a trendsetting European as you sort out the selections you will use for your own amazing kitchen.

Buon appetito!

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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DESIGN/BUILD EXPERT: All The Way UP

What to consider when putting a vertical addition on your home

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What to consider when putting a vertical addition on your home

There are many options when looking to put an addition onto an existing home. Finishing of basements, conversions of attics, expanding the footprint outward laterally, or on tight urban lots, expanding upward with a second- or third-storey addition. This latter option poses unique opportunities and challenges compared to the others. Key considerations include structure of the existing dwelling, wall composition, ceiling heights, mechanical supply and roof type.

Before
Before

WEIGHT EXPECTATIONS

When adding a new living area above an existing one, we are adding load. A roof load (dead load) is vastly different from the load applied when we add living space, as we are adding both dead load and live load to the existing foundation and footings. Dead load is the weight of the structure itself (think lumber and sheathing), while live load constitutes the weight of the occupants and their finishes, furnishings and personal effects. Typically, for a house, dead load is 20 pounds per square foot, while live load is about 40 pounds per square foot (heavier in kitchens). As such, a bungalow that is turning into a two-storey home is almost doubling the weight it exerts atop its foundation and footings. The good thing is, for the most part, footings and foundations of bungalows were built to the same size and thus, same structural abilities as their two-storey neighbours. This often means  you can top up an additional storey without having to do any foundation restructuring. In the case of expanding up from a two-storey to a three-storey, the loading changes dramatically and the verification of existing footings and the potential of additional support may be required.

During
During

OPTIMIZE THERMAL PERFORMANCE

Since load travels from top to bottom, from roof to footings through walls and floors, the composition of existing wall types can come into play when planning and designing a top-up. Solid masonry walls are great for adding to, as they function much the same as a foundation does. Wood-frame walls, or other similar wall types, require lateral bonding (such as a floor package) before being extended up, as they are more susceptible to racking. This can be limiting if you are trying to raise existing ceiling heights before adding the new floor level (such as changing from an eight- to a nine- or 10-ft. ceiling).

The difference between existing wall compositions and new wall compositions is that it can impact thermal performance between existing floor levels and the new one. This can result in different heat loss/gains, as well as varying moisture transfer properties, which can impact efficiencies, comfort and health of the occupants. An original, un-insulated, solid masonry wall will perform very differently than a new-wood stud wall with an insulated cavity or skin. Including some “house as a system” design principles can help address these potential pitfalls, or at least manage expectations. Building codes tend to change over time, and what may have been possible when the original walls were built may no longer be so today, therefore planning wall alignments and compositions can be a critical step to the success of any vertical expansion, both from a form and function perspective.

SPLIT-SYSTEM HVAC SOLUTION

Heating and cooling, as one builds up, is a key consideration. Warm air naturally rises and cool air naturally falls. As such, lower levels will often be cooler than upper levels. Forced air type systems are most affected by convection, and with mechanical systems typically located in basements, getting adequate airflow to upper levels can be challenging. Stratification of temperatures increases as you go up to two storeys, and increases even more with the addition of a third. For this reason, we strongly suggest some type of split-system for HVAC to combat physics and provide optimal control and comfort.

The most difficult thing to achieve is proper cooling of the upper levels in the summer. High heat from the sun upon rooftops and windows can add considerable solar gain in the areas most often reserved for bedrooms, which can result in uncomfortable sleeping conditions. Creating top-down cooling systems will combat the heated area as the cool air will naturally fall to the lower levels. Split-systems with newer micro-furnace technology can also offer more complete zoning, allowing people to control temperatures per floor, resulting in a more efficient and reactive system.

After - CREAM TO THE TOP: Eurodale Developments received national honours with this Bloor-West top-up - Best Renovation in Canada over $500k (CHBA). Photography: Peter Sellar
After – CREAM TO THE TOP: Eurodale Developments received national honours with this Bloor-West top-up – Best Renovation in Canada over $500k (CHBA). Photography: Peter Sellar

TOP INSULATION

In Toronto, third floor roof types (currently) must be sloped in nature. This means it is likely the living area is within a portion of the roof space. Cathedral or flat roofs are more challenging to insulate to the same levels as conventional and often end up with about half the R-value (as is required by code). For this reason, the insulation used within this roof should be maximized with the use of two-pound spray foam where possible, as it provides the highest R-value per inch, and is a perfect air seal. If you think of a toque, most of the heat gain/loss in a home occurs through the roof–so the thicker the toque, the better the performance and the greater the comfort.

When planning your own top-up addition, remember there is real value in working with a professional to design and build the space. The process is as important as the final product here, not just the price. We recommend you start your search at the relevant professional associations to explore your options, including the OAA (Architects), AATO (Architecture Technologists), and BILD/RenoMark—the home of the professional builder and renovator, to find the true industry professionals to help guide you to success.

Brendan Charters is Partner at Toronto Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc. – 2017 OHBA Renovator of the Year.

eurodale.ca

@eurodalehomes

(416) 782-5690


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