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Restoring a Heritage Home

Restoring a heritage home – old, yes, but not forgotten

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Restoring a heritage home – old, yes, but not forgotten

Transforming a heritage home into a real estate jewel through a renovation or restoration is a labour of love – it requires a commitment to architectural character and a willingness to meet the challenge of unexpected surprises along the way. If your client has hired you to preserve the look, but update certain areas, the following are five broad categories that you’ll want to investigate.


Age, general architectural style and condition

Learn as much as you can about the history of the building. The historical society can be a good resource. Also, check archives for any old permits, drawings, photos, or newspaper articles about former owners. Learning about the lives of the people who built and lived in the house can help with restoration decisions. Many styles of architecture have played a role in our history, from Queen Anne, Victorian to Colonial Revival. Occasionally, you might also find a true Arts and Crafts style home too. It’s worth documenting the details of the home and checking books at your local library (or on the Internet) to determine its exact style. By learning the age of the home, who its former occupants were and its architectural style, you’ll be able to more easily piece together the “historic” puzzle for your client.


Structure, electrical, plumbing, heating-cooling and drainage

As far as condition goes, it’s worth investing in the services of a home inspector who is knowledgeable about historic architecture. He or she will be able to create a report that identifies potential problem areas and suggest viable, cost-effective solutions.

Problems with infrastructure can range from knob and tube wiring to clay pipes in plumbing. Foundations can be problematic as well, as old concrete can settle and crack, causing the building to shift; a pencil or a marble placed on the floor may well provide you with a heads-up. Any horizontal cracks in the concrete indicate severe settling and could mean costly repairs. If you suspect any underlying issues with the structure, it’s best to have it inspected by a structural engineer.

Envelope, roof, insulation, walls, windows and doors

Before changing any of the elements that make up the envelope of the building, ensure that replacements or repairs will maintain the architectural character.

Windows and doors on old homes can be problematic due to rotten wood and energy inefficiency. Luckily, most historical boards recognize this and let owners replace them with more modern choices as long as the general character is the same. However, if you are fortunate enough to have windows with stained or art glass, consider hiring an expert to restore them.

Many older homes were originally insulated with horsehair or newspaper. Newer homes, but older than 1990 may also have vermiculite insulation which likely contains asbestos. In most cases, an investment is needed to remove the old insulation and properly insulate the walls, the attic and the roof. Energy rebates may be available for this.

Interior furniture, fixtures, materials and decorative trim

The interior design of a heritage property can be very detailed, and it’s important to decide which characteristics contribute to the value of the home. Ceiling details and interior trim — such as door stiles and rails, wainscoting and any decorative motifs — can be extremely valuable and worth preserving or restoring to its original state. Wallpaper patterns can be replicated and heritage paint colours are available.

Door and window hardware is often bronze, copper or crystal. Sometimes missing fixtures or ornate lighting can be found in architectural salvage stores.

The fireplace was the focus of many older homes. Oftentimes, mantel and hearth details were spectacular and included carved wood or marble. Make sure the home inspector is a bit of a detective as well and removes bits of paint in inconspicuous areas to see if you own a hidden treasure.

Landscaping, hardscape, plantings and style

The landscaping of a historic property can’t be overlooked. Many of our forebears brought their gardening skills with them from England, Italy and France, where gardens were outdoor living spaces. While it may be difficult to determine from an initial observation of what a garden may have once looked like, old photos can provide valuable clues.

Scent gardens, formal seating areas tucked into the shrubbery, and decorative ironwork gateways that framed views of other landscape elements. Gardens can give a heritage property context and take a historic home from stunning to truly spectacular.

SAMANTHA SANNELLA, BFA ID, M ARCH, is a designer, educator and principal at Urban Retreat Homes.

She is an expert in the field of design and construction and is a columnist for several HOMES Publishing Group publications.


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Smart Spend: Custom Kitchen Mapping

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Smart Spend: Custom Kitchen Mapping

Budget-savvy Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault pulls off a custom kitchen mapping out where to save and where to splurge

• Photography By Larry Arnal


I’ve always believed that great style doesn’t need to come with a hefty price tag. In fact, almost all my projects hinge on the idea that the most important ingredient in any well-designed space is creativity, NOT money!


Having said that, I recently completed my very own dream kitchen makeover that required an equal serving of creativity AND money to complete. My husband and I had planned and saved for years to be able to tackle a complete “no-compromise” overhaul, and contrary to my frugal DIY ways, the kitchen was a MAJOR investment that not only completely changed the overall appearance, but also the function of the space.


Although the majority of the renovation fell into the category of “custom,” it’s important to note that “custom” should not be synonymous with expensive. There were countless ways that we saved during our reno, which allowed us to splurge on a few extra luxuries. It proves that you can absolutely create a customized space with a modest budget…you just need to be a little more CREATIVE with the dollars you have!

Here’s where to save, and where to splurge to create a compromise-free custom kitchen:



Many homeowners plan to save by attempting to do the demo of their old kitchen themselves, but skip swinging the sledgehammer and instead, call your local Habitat for Humanity to schedule a crew to do the deconstruction for you… for FREE! Not only will they remove your existing cabinets and countertop, but they’ll do it with extreme care, and then transport it to a local ReStore where it will be sold to support the amazing work that Habitat does in the community. The added benefit is that you also get a tax receipt for the donation and you save the items from ending up in a landfill. Now, that’s a lot of SAVINGS!


Cabinetry typically takes up the most visual space in a kitchen, and the colour and finish immediately dictate the room’s overall mood and style. In the case of most custom kitchens, two-toned painted cabinets don’t often come at an added expense, but create a truly unique and customized look. I wanted our kitchen to feel light and bright, but I also wanted to add some personality with colour, so we opted to add a splash of navy on the lowers. The best thing about painted surfaces is that if (and when) you tire of the two-toned look down the road, it’s easy to update them with a fresh coat of paint.

Now, if painting cabinetry sounds like a daunting task, consider a DIY-friendly kit called Cabinet Transformations by Rustoleum—it has everything you need to easily and affordably tackle a cabinet makeover in just a weekend. The kit even contains a seemingly miracle product called “De-glosser,” which micro-etches the surface so you don’t have to sand before painting—and that will save you tons of time along with money.

The lower cabinet colour was matched to Benjamin Moore’s Deep Secret, and the upper cabinets were Steam. Both were mixed in a commercial lacquer, so the colours read slightly differently.


Pewter today…bronze tomorrow! Colour trends seem to change so quickly these days, and that includes trends in metal finishes. If your budget is limited, but you’re craving a trendy hardware update, consider buying a can of metal spray paint to update ALL of your existing handles and knobs instead of replacing each one. It may seem like such a small change, but hardware is like the jewelry of the space, and I promise that updating it will make a big overall difference.

Deep Secret




A faucet often becomes a focal point accessory in a kitchen, and with your entire reno budget considered, why skimp on spending an additional $100 or so on a less expensive faucet when that small amount of extra money (in the grand scheme of things) can make it a showpiece and elevate the entire look of the space? I ditched our original builder-grade faucet in our old kitchen and upgraded to the Delta Trinsic with Touch2o technology. It’s become one of those small luxuries in the space that even guests take notice of and compliment.


As much as you want your new kitchen to look amazing, you also want to make sure it functions really well. Planning for custom interior fixtures, like Magic Corners and utensil dividers, will add a bit more to your budget but will make keeping your drawers and cupboards organized so much easier. Also, consider storage solutions for small appliances that you don’t use often and create a dedicated area in your design to stash them away. Having something like a double-deep drawer to stash mixers and blenders or a space-saving pull-out pantry will help cut the clutter from your counter.


The one item at the very top of my kitchen reno wish list was quartz counters. After years of living with scratched and stained laminate, I was excited to invest in a non-porous surface that would stand up to everything from tomato sauce spills to coffee drips. Not only is quartz stain-resistant, but the man-made material is virtually impervious to bacteria, and is incredibly durable against scratches and chips from pots and pans. Quartz is an investment, but it’s definitely a worthwhile one for any kitchen.

A self-proclaimed DIY ninja, Leigh-Ann believes that great design has little to do with how much money you spend, but rather how creative you can be with your budget. As an expert on CityTV’s Cityline, Leigh-Ann embraces every opportunity to spark creativity and instill confidence in others who strive to “DO IT YOURSELF.” For more information, visit huelala.com @leighannallaire


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Active Home: Suspended BRILLIANCE

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Active Home: Suspended BRILLIANCE

THE DICTIONARY’S DESCRIPTION OF A CHANDELIER IS QUITE SIMPLE – an ornamental hanging light with branches and holders for several candles or bulbs. However, with the endless styles, shapes and sizes now available, shopping for a chandelier is anything but simple. As lighting technology and design elements continue to grow at lightening speed, choosing that perfect fixture can be overwhelming. Here’s how to break it down and cut through the confusion.

right chandelier


It’s important to size your chandelier so that it is the focal point of the room.

  • Measure the length and the width of the room in feet.
  • Add those two numbers together.
  • The sum of those two numbers should be the diameter of your chandelier in inches. When in doubt, err on a larger size, since chandeliers are statement pieces.
  • In a dining room, the goal is to suspend the fixture(s) low enough so that you don’t catch any glare from the light source, but high enough so that it doesn’t obstruct your vision.
  • A good rule of thumb is to hang the fixture 30 to 36 inches from the top of the table.


Chandeliers are decorative fixtures. With this in mind, they aren’t meant to be a room’s primary light source. Instead, they create ambiance and augment the style of a room. It would be unrealistic to expect a single fixture hanging in the centre of a room to light the entire space. The chandelier is a supplementary light source that should be incorporated into a layered lighting scheme. As part of the overall plan, consider integrating cove lighting, recessed pot lights, wall sconces and/or lamps. In addition, accent lighting can highlight paintings, countertops and cabinets.

When selecting a fixture, ensure that it provides the right kind of light. There’s nothing worse than sitting at a table with a glaring bulb shining in your eyes. If the bulbs are exposed on your fixture of choice, check to see what kind of bulbs would work best. Lean towards a warmer, ambient light that can be balanced with the cooler light of recessed options. In all cases, instal a dimmer switch so that you can control the light output.


Chandelier styles tend to fit into one of four categories – traditional, transitional, modern or rustic. The style of the fixture doesn’t have to follow the other style elements in the room. Since it’s a statement piece, perhaps an unexpected look would be more enlightening, rather than playing it safe.

For a more modern look, focus on satin nickel or chrome finishes. Traditional fixtures often feature brass (brushed or bright), and transitional options combine design elements from both traditional and contemporary styling. Wood, resin and metal are preferred materials for rustic fixtures. Mixed metals are very popular, including various combinations of black, bronze, silver, gold, glass – whatever. When adding jewellery to an outfit, one piece can change the whole look. Selecting a light fixture is similar. Choose a chandelier that provides a pleasing light quality, helps to balance the room, and is also appealing to your design sensibilities.

By Cobi Ladner



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The Basics of Lighting Design

The Basics of Lighting Design

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The Basics of Lighting Design

by Samantha Sannella

Ensuring that your space looks and functions requires the perfect lighting. Light is the key ingredient in the space and influences our safety, health and mood. Layering three types of lighting is critical for good lighting design. Providing flexibility in how lights are activated is important as well. Whether old-fashioned switches or a digital smart system, the guiding rule about how lighting is used should be common sense.

Ambient Lighting

This is the general lighting that must be provided to ensure that a space is well lit. It provides illumination for general tasks and it is always better to provide more, rather than less, ambient lighting. It’s easy these lights on dimmers or to zone it on switches if you believe that you might over-light a space. The psychological aspect of lighting is an important element throughout the design. Ensuring that spaces are devoid of shadows and dark corners helps us to circumvent our mental triggers of looming danger, according to Kristina Zarembo, a lighting consultant at Nemetz.

Task Lighting

Task lighting is critical in workspaces such as offices, kitchens and bathrooms. Under-counter lighting, bathroom vanity lights and desk lighting should be carefully calculated. Foot-candles measure the amount of light on a surface while lumens measure the amount of light emitted from a source. It is important to know the meaning of both of these terms since there can be significant loss of light as it travels to a surface due to distance, direction and other factors, such as the colour of the surface.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting brings added visual interest to a room by creating different focal points and is another important element of lighting design. Accent lighting highlights specific objects like art, sculptures and bookcases. It can also be used to highlight a textured wall, or other architectural features. Classic track lighting and picture lights are often used to provide accent lighting.

Calculating Lighting Requirements

Lighting calculations can get technical. Fortunately, many suppliers offer these services at no additional cost. However, it is still essential that designers understand the terminology and can ensure that the space is lit appropriately.

Lumen: A lumen (lm) is a measure of the total amount of visible light emitted by a source in any particular direction.

Lux: Lux (lx) is the metric measure of illuminance. This is a measure of how much light there is over a given surface area. One lux is equal to one lumen per square metre.

Foot-candle: A foot-candle (fc) is the imperial measure of illuminance for those who prefer to work in imperial feet. One foot-candle is equal to one lumen per square foot.

There are charts recommended by the Illumination Engineering Society (IES) that recommend the number of foot-candles or lux required for a space.

Lighting fixtures and their lamps indicate how many lumens they emit. After calculating how much area you are lighting, and how many lumens are needed, then you must search for fixtures and lamps that meet your requirements. It is recommended that you over-light and use dimmers. As people age, they need more light.

Photography: Loft BBY SDJ Design
Photography: Loft BBY SDJ Design


Indirect hidden light is a trend on the market today made possible by advances in lighting such as LEDs, OLEDs and fiber optic lighting. It is possible to hide the light sources and illuminate walls and ceilings without ever seeing a single fixture. Lights have become more powerful and laser technology has influenced lighting development.

Also important to note are the advances in lighting control systems. In short, everything can be controlled through WI-FI and a smart phone or iPad, even when you are not home. While some of these applications are great, when the Wi-Fi is down frustration can increase. While many designers dream of never seeing a light switch mounted on a beautiful wall again, reliability over form is highly recommended and at this time redundancy is needed.

SAMANTHA SANNELLA, BFA ID, M ARCH, is a designer, educator and principal at Urban Retreat Homes.

She is an expert in the field of design and construction and is a columnist for RENO & DECOR and editor of the Ontario Design Trade Sourcebook.



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Design: The New Look of Brass

Design: The New Look of Brass

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Design: The New Look of Brass

by Linda Mazur

What’s hot in bathroom finishes? Believe it or not it’s brass.

This is not the shiny yellow brass of decades past, but unlacquered brass that highlights a beautifully aged, slightly antiqued finish. After making an impressive resurgence in popularity from their peak in the 90s, brass fixtures are among the hottest trends now in bathroom design, with today’s styles showcasing a warmer, more sophisticated vibe, than bold brass of decades past.

Unlacquered brass has an attractive look and feel all its own. Its warm, less formal than polished nickel, less typical than chrome. This unparalleled finish is organic, and is sometimes referred to as a “living finish”. Due to the absence of the lacquer, this durable solid brass finish is allowed to naturally age over time and develop a beautiful patina of colour and texture unique only to itself.

As a designer, I find that this ever-evolving finish is beyond adaptable. When designing bath spaces I find I’m drawn to the unlacquered brass finish for bathroom fittings and accessories. It offers sophistication, old world charm and yet modernism. It can be used in an upscale setting, more rustic inspired spaces, or if you’re creating a more bohemian vibe.

One of the hardest working elements in any bathroom are your faucets; they sustain a large amount of daily use and abuse. As such, choosing the right one goes beyond simply looks. You should consider functionality, durability. Look to ensure that the finish will last and look as beautiful as the day it was installed. As obviously functional bathroom fittings and accessories are, they can also be considered the finishing touches or “jewellery” to your bathroom renovation. Making the right selections can be the difference between a moderately successful bathroom design and renovation, or a truly remarkable one.

When looking for beautiful bathroom fittings and superior quality, one company that always delivers is Victoria + Albert. Their impressively designed faucets are made using traditional techniques with high quality materials. Here you will find transitional styles that boast a graceful combination of classical traditionalism with modern lines, to one of my personal favourites, the Florin collection, that captures the essence of the Art Deco aesthetic in a fresh new way. You are sure to find a look to enhance your bathroom designs, while perhaps entertaining their latest unlacquered brass as the finish.

The faucets and fittings are the “crown jewel” of any bathroom renovation.


Follow some of my important design tips;

  • Decide early on if you are wanting counter top mounted faucets or wall mounted faucets as critical to your plumbing rough-ins;
  • Lavatory, bath and shower faucets and fittings do not necessarily need to match in style as many different looks can complement each other, however the closer the combination of styles the more pleasing the overall look;
  • Do your research select the best quality faucets your budget permits to ensure longevity and durability.

Linda Mazur is a nationally publicized designer and Principal of Linda Mazur Design Group.

With almost two decades of experience this in demand multi-disciplinary design firm is known for creating relaxed stylish spaces and full-scale design builds within Toronto, the GTA and throughout Canada.




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Victoria + Albert perfects the brass finish

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Victoria + Albert perfects the brass finish

Some things really do improve over time. After making an impressive resurgence in popularity from their peak in the 1990s, brass fixtures are among the hottest trends in bathroom design with today’s styles showcasing a warmer and more sophisticated vibe than the bold brass of decades past.

Victoria + Albert Baths is pleased to meet customer requests for this exciting trend with a beautiful new unlacquered brass finish that is now available for all Florin and Staffordshire faucets.

Known as a “living finish,” unlacquered brass ages naturally, developing a unique patina over the lifespan of the fixture. The absence of lacquer allows the durable solid brass to gradually darken and reveal subtle undertones of colour and texture.

The evolving look may be used to create a feeling of “Old World” elegance in a traditional setting or to contrast with the clean lines of contemporary decor. If desired, the finish can be maintained in a polished state with the regular use of a metal cleaner. The Florin and Staffordshire Collections are smart choices to showcase this exceptional new finish, each making its own distinctive statement.

The Staffordshire line celebrates “New Traditional” design and its graceful combination of classic styles and modern lines, while Florin faucets capture the essence of the Art Deco aesthetic in a fresh way. Both collections are available in a wide range of faucet designs for the tub, basin and shower, making it easy to create a cohesive look that is pulled together down to the drains and foot finishes on the clawfoot tub. All of Victoria + Albert’s faucets are made in the U.K. using traditional techniques.


Victoria + Albert is pleased to announce its foray into the world of built-in bathtubs. “Our aim was simple – to create the world’s best built-in bathtub,” said Jonathan Carter, marketing director for Victoria + Albert. “We wanted to keep the elegance and superior quality that is part of our brand and add to that the ease and practicality of a built-in tub. We couldn’t be more pleased with the end results.”

The two new designs, the Gordano 6032 and Rossendale 6636, are beautiful in any setting, with sophisticated lines and exceptional design flexibility. Both may be installed as a drop-in or under-mount and have four adjustable feet for perfect leveling and easy installation. The tubs may be set into a custom surround built to complement any bathroom decor, making them a smart choice for hospitality settings as well as residential use.

These remarkable tubs have been designed with comfort in mind. Each has a 32° angle of recline and integrated arm rests for a relaxing soak. As with all Victoria + Albert baths, they are crafted from their signature Englishcast material, hand-finished to a glossy white shine. The material is naturally strong, which means that the tubs won’t creak or flex.


Freestanding baths: The original core product and what it is best known for. There are two collections, traditional and modern, in a wide range of styles and sizes with six exterior paint finishes.

Freestanding vessel basins: Launched to complement the bathtubs. Modern and traditional styles, made from Victoria + Albert’s English cast composite. Designed to be mounted on a solid countertop and available in six exterior paint finishes.

Faucets: Including basin faucets, tub fillers, shower units. All made in England using traditional techniques. The tree collections include modern, traditional and Art Deco.

Furniture: Both countertop units and vanities with inset Englishcast basins. All made in England using traditional techniques and solid hardwoods.

Accessories: Practical things like garbage bins, but also luxurious bath racks and luxury backrests. Notable is the new Kit 40 “intelli-waste,” the self-emptying plug that guarantees flood protection.

Victoria + Albert is a global brand with a worldwide reputation for creating beautiful baths and luxurious, lasting products.



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