Tag Archives: Jessica Millard

From ravaged to renaissance is a tale of one East York home's transformation

East York home’s transformation a tale of ravaged to renaissance

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East York home’s transformation a tale of ravaged to renaissance

 

Once upon a time, on a quiet crescent in east Toronto, a “For Sale” sign sat on the front yard of a post-war 1950s home. The house was in tragic condition. A pie-shaped lot presented some trying limitations, but it was well situated in an excellent neighbourhood, and had a private driveway with an attached garage. Buyers without construction or design knowledge might not see the opportunity to develop a great family home on this property, but luckily, the new homeowners did. The young couple came to us with excitement, a great attitude, and willing to let our team design and build a house that could meet their growing family’s needs.

Master plan and permits

However, this project was no small undertaking. Designing and getting approval of the plans proved to be more challenging than the construction itself. We explored several preliminary plan options, researched the zoning restrictions for the property, and visited the Committee of Adjustments for zoning variances. The final decision was to do a whole interior and exterior renovation project. This included raising the ground-floor ceiling height and rebuilding the second floor; creating a new third-floor study in the attic space; adding a two-storey rear addition with finished basement below; renovating and finishing the existing basement space; and completely remodelling the existing ground floor.

Ground floor greatness

The homeowners had a strong preference to gain more ceiling height on the ground floor, which led to the decision to destroy and rebuild the existing second floor entirely. With new 10-ft. ceilings, we wanted to optimize the space for better living and entertaining, so we decided to remove the walls between the living room and dining room to allow for a better connection to the new, contemporary kitchen. After enlarging the existing garage, we then converted the existing kitchen into a new mudroom and powder room. Overall, the design of the ground floor was intended to be functional for a family to grow and entertain in.

Privacy matters

On the newly rebuilt second floor, we constructed four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a laundry room. The master bedroom features a walk-in closet and a four-piece ensuite with double vanity. Two of the three remaining bedrooms have private access to their own full bathroom. The second floor is spacious enough to accommodate the entire family, and laid out in a way that provides the master bedroom with privacy.

Light and bright attic

To keep the overall height of the house feeling reasonably scaled, we arrived at the design of a unique roof shape that allowed for a generous third floor, which is minimally visible from the street. The third floor addition in the attic is a great feature to the house, as it is open-concept, light-filled and has a walk-out balcony.

Room to spare

Finally, the existing basement and addition were designed as an extension to the family’s living and entertaining space. A spacious recreation/movie room takes up a sizable portion at the front of the basement, while a guest bedroom and washroom add yet another sleeping arrangement to the overall house. There is plenty of designated storage in the basement, and a small home gym as well. The project in East York is one that our team is very proud of. We managed to deliver one family’s dream home, on a property in which they took a sizable risk on purchasing. With the meaning of home taking on a whole new meaning this year, our city, and world, is reminded just how important it is to love the physical space – from function, comfort and design – to make your home the safe haven we all crave.

Photos: Valerie Wilcox

Jessica Millard joined Men At Work Design Build in 2017 while studying at Ryerson University.

The Toronto-based firm offers integrated engineering, design and professional construction services for addition and major renovation projects on old Toronto homes.

Jessica has been involved in various internal departments within the firm, and is currently the company’s Project Coordinator.


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Alternative to downsizing

Alternative to downsizing

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Alternative to downsizing

Photography by Lianne Gesoir

There is an interesting trend emerging in Toronto, which is challenging the traditional notion of what it means to downsize in the city. More and more, we’re seeing urban homeowners opt to convert their single-family home into high-quality, multi-suite properties, where the owner occupies a more modest portion of the house to allow for additional suites for their children, parents, or paying tenants. In an effort to increase supply and ease the rental housing shortage, the province and City of Toronto are amending regulations to make it easier to build secondary suites within existing and newly built homes, and, in some cases, in ancillary buildings like garages. Taking advantage of these relaxed policies could just be your ticket to a smart downsize in Toronto.

Short-term and long-term benefits

The Men At Work Design Build team recently completed a project in the Regal Heights neighbourhood, near Dufferin and St. Clair, successfully converting a large, single-family house into three high-quality independent suites, each with their own private outdoor space. The goal of the renovation was to provide the homeowners with an updated, efficient suite for themselves, while being able to offer their adult children affordable, independent units to help them get on their feet in this expensive city. Over time, the units will be able to help support the homeowners in retirement, as well as generate significant additional income to pay for the costs of the improvements.

Suite-specific permit process

Navigating the design and approvals process, for a project like this, requires good planning and familiarity with the myriad of zoning and building code rules and cost implications. There are important requirements to isolate the units for fire containment and soundproofing, and numerous technical considerations for egress, parking, hydro, water, and gas distribution.

Privacy & outdoor space

In the design of the Regal Heights project, we wanted to create bright, high-quality, functional living spaces that would feel as much as possible like living in a private house. It was determined early on that each unit would have its own private yard space and separate entrance, but the corner lot location made it possible to allow each entrance to face a different direction, ultimately creating an even better sense of privacy.

Custom home finishes and fixtures

Purpose-built rental units and apartment conversions often skimp on the size and quality of kitchen and bathroom finishes in the interest of saving costs. For this project, we felt that offering larger, eat-in, custom kitchens with luxury appliances would better suit the owner-occupier, and make the units feel more like living in a nice house instead of an ordinary rental apartment. Lots of built-in storage and careful advance planning for how each unit would be furnished, optimized the use of space, while enlarged windows increased the natural light and view to make the units all feel much larger.

Divide & conquer

Many long-time homeowners look to the condo market as a natural choice to downsize, in order to invest in units for their adult children or generate rental income. However, if you’re reluctant to give up the lifestyle of living in a house with your own yard, in a neighbourhood you’re familiar with, and you don’t like the thought of high-rise living, costly maintenance fees and condo board headaches, then maybe a house conversion is the right fit for you.

Men At Work Design Build offers integrated engineering, design and professional construction services for major home renovation projects in Toronto.

Jessica Millard joined the team in 2017, and is currently the company’s Project Coordinator. The featured project is a renovation that Jessica had a professional hand in managing, turning a single-family home into a multi-suite income property.


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At Home With Men At Work: Humber Valley Village family home

A Humber Valley Village family home is a labour of love enjoyed well beyond the holidays

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A Humber Valley Village family home is a labour of love enjoyed well beyond the holidays

Photography by Valerie Wilcox

To move or to renovate…this tends to be one of the tougher questions Toronto homeowners are forced to ask themselves when their current house fails to meet their current, much less their future needs. Our clients in Humber Valley Village were faced with this very dilemma, when the love for their charming, corner lot home was overshadowed by its dysfunctional layout and size. The decision was one that certainly took much deliberation, but ultimately, the homeowners loved their house, property and the neighbourhood all too much to leave it. With the decision made, it was now our job to deliver a home that retained the charm and character of the original house, while creating functional living space fit for today’s modern family.

The wish list

The ultimate goal for this project was to expand and update the family’s living space, and to create a flow within the house that allowed them to utilize their backyard. There were a number of delicate design iterations that were thought up before settling on the final plans. The final scope included adding an addition, and remodelling both the main and second floors to be more functional. Some of the changes included relocating and rebuilding the garage, adding a rear, two-storey addition to accommodate relocating the kitchen and second floor master bedroom, and adding a fourth bedroom and laundry room on the second floor.

The design

In terms of interior design, the homeowners wanted a clean, contemporary look that felt warm and inviting. It was designed for a family of four to easily live and grow into, while the open-concept main floor and extra guest bedroom allowed the homeowners to comfortably host parties and overnight guests. Large sliding doors were added along the west wall of the newly relocated kitchen, to allow for a more seamless transition from the house to the backyard. In the kitchen, custom millwork was introduced to add in extra storage and an office nook, and cool neutrals were used in the colour palette to further open up and brighten the space.

One of the key design features in this house is the two-sided fireplace that separates the living room and dining room. In addition to being a design feature, the fireplace acts as structural support to the main floor living space. After opening up the main floor and adding the rear addition, the house needed interior support to bear the open-concept design. The large, two-sided fireplace was a good solution to the structural issue, plus it acts as an interesting design feature that adds just the right elegance to the space.

This particular project stands out for our team, because it’s further proof that using an integrated design-build method is the most efficient and effective way to execute a renovation. We faced a number of challenges throughout this project that forced us to be creative and collaborate amongst each other, and in the end, the homeowners were left with a beautiful and functional house, in a neighbourhood that they love to call home.

Jessica Millard joined Men At Work Design Build in 2017 while studying at Ryerson University.

The Toronto-based firm offers integrated engineering, design and professional construction services for addition and major renovation projects on old Toronto homes.

Jessica has been involved in various internal departments within the firm,and is currently the company’s Project Coordinator.


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Men At Work - Bathroom Reno

4 tips to design your dream bathroom

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4 tips to design your dream bathroom

Photography by Valerie Wilcox

We get it. A bathroom renovation is by no means a glamorous undertaking. No matter what the end result looks like, you can count on an unimaginable amount of dust, loud noises and traffic from tradespeople, who you’ll soon get to know all too well. Despite the stress and costs that come with renovating, we promise you that investing in your bathrooms is worth the headache. Aside from the kitchen, bathrooms are hands-down one of the best ways to increase your home’s value while greatly improving your everyday living.

We tend to appreciate good bathrooms the most on those hectic mornings we’re just trying to get out the door, or those relaxing (and often rare) evenings we take the time to run a bath. The functionality and luxuries of good bathrooms come down to thoughtful design and thorough project management. Here’s a handy guide of what we think you should know before taking on your next bathroom renovation project.

1 Set a budget

Our designers and renovation professionals are always stressing how important it is for homeowners to understand the financials behind the renovation. What can you afford? What can you expect to get from spending that kind of money? Setting a realistic budget early on will help your contractor determine what the budget parameters are for each category required to complete the project. For example, a contractor or project manager will know what percentage of your total budget will need to be spent on different trades, and what can be spent on interior selections. Start by determining what you’re willing to spend and what your priorities in spending are; then be sure to communicate that to your contractor from the start.

2 Determine your scope

Decisions like tearing down walls, rearranging plumbing, or adding more natural light through a skylight or window are bound to increase the cost of your project. The longer it takes to finalize big decisions, the longer the life of the renovation – meaning more money spent. Our professionals agree that an average bathroom renovation will take anywhere from six to 12 weeks, however, much of that is dependent on the scope of work that’s been set and the length of the overall design phase.

As the homeowner, the single most important thing you can do to speed up the design phase is to be quick with approving designs and deciding on interior finishes, fixtures and accessories. Something that people tend to greatly underestimate is the time it takes to choose finishes. Today there are seemingly endless options of everything, so it often becomes overwhelming to commit to one faucet, one tub filler, one shower system, when thousands are so readily available.

Another miscalculation that homeowners often overlook is how long it can take the items they chose and ordered to arrive at their home. Longer lead times can be the result of various things, but it’s often due to items being on back order or the manufacturing process happening overseas that cause orders to take weeks, sometimes months, to get to the jobsite. It is for this reason that our design team always stresses the importance of selecting fixtures quickly and placing orders early on to avoid delays and unforeseeable expenses.

3 Lay it out

Once you’ve determined the budget and scope, you can start playing around with the configuration of the space. Consider how you, or those visiting your home, will use that particular bathroom. Is it a kid’s bathroom that requires a bathtub and height considerations? A main floor powder room or a guest bathroom that will be used by many people. Or maybe, this is your dream master ensuite that you’ve been relentlessly pinning inspiration pictures towards for years. Regardless of which bathroom you’re renovating, maximizing the space and layout to be as functional as possible is of the utmost importance. A fun little exercise to try, that always seems to pay off, is to have your family create a wish list that includes ‘must-haves’ and ‘nice-to-haves.’ Fill out those two sections and present them to your designer and contractor. Lists like these are helpful for everyone involved in the project because they clearly point out the bottom line priorities of the renovation, and what the ‘nice-to-have’ add-ons are.

4 Make it timeless, not trendy

It’s likely that you won’t be renovating your bathroom every few years, so choosing timeless over trendy elements, tends to be worth it in the long haul. Realistically, if your next renovation provides you with a functional bathroom layout and relatively timeless finishes and fixtures, giving your bathroom a little facelift in a few years might be as simple as swapping out sconces or replacing the shower curtain. All this to say, never underestimate the impact that small changes can make to a familiar space that you’ve grown bored of.

Undertaking a bathroom renovation of any sort may seem invasive and overwhelming, but the results will make it worth your while. One way to reduce the stress for you and your family is to hire an experienced Design Build team to take on the project. This will make the experience more enjoyable because you can focus more on the design side of the project (the fun part), and leave the production side in the hands of your trusted contractor.

Jessica Millard joined Men At Work Design Build in 2017 while studying at Ryerson University.

The Toronto-based firm offers integrated engineering, design and professional construction services for addition and major renovation projects on old Toronto homes.

Jessica has been involved in various internal departments within the firm, and is currently the company’s Project Coordinator.


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At Home With Men At Work: Windows & Doors

The Great Outdoors: The doors and windows that enhance views and extend your living space

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The Great Outdoors: The doors and windows that enhance views and extend your living space

Summer is finally here (hurray!), which means you’ll want to enjoy the great outdoors as much as possible over the next few months. Maximizing those backyard views is a growing renovation trend that we’re seeing everywhere. Seamless transitions not only create an inviting atmosphere that encourages you to spend more time outdoors, but it makes your indoor living space that much better, while adding substantial value to your property.

Homeowners today can choose from many styles of windows and doors designed to erase the line between the interior and exterior of the home. That’s why, when planning for your next home renovation, it’s important to consider which features will maximize the view of your home’s scenery.

Photography by Lisa Petrole
Photography by Lisa Petrole

Large patio doors

Patio doors foster a smooth indoor-outdoor transition. They will not only provide you with gorgeous year-round views of your backyard, but they’ll invite ample natural light and cool breezes into your home as well. In addition to looking great, they make outdoor entertaining much more manageable and enjoyable because they provide quick and seamless access to your backyard, patio or balcony.

Photography by Valerie Wilcox
Photography by Valerie Wilcox

Bi-fold-glass walls

Similar to the patio doors, bi-fold glass walls make for even more seamless and spectacular views. Often designed to smoothly stack and fold against side walls, they create huge openings from corner to corner in a room. Modern technology allows these folding glass walls to be completely weather-resistant and energy-efficient, and swing doors can be added to allow everyday access during the cooler months, making them that much more practical.

One thing to take into account, however, is that bi-fold glass walls can take up quite a bit of space on the floor/deck (depending how large the wall is) when in the open position. Folding door units are designed to be stacked perpendicular to the opening. The amount of space that the folding doors will take away from the opening is dependent on the number of panels, panel width, height and thickness.

Photography by Lisa Petrole
Photography by Lisa Petrole

Skylight windows

Amazing designs can be achieved with skylights. Their orientation not only invites natural light to pour into even the smallest, darkest rooms, but they allow you to quite literally look up and see the sky from indoors. While some skylights are purely meant to let in natural light, others open up like windows to act as natural ventilation systems in stuffy rooms. Whether your skylight opens up or not, it is bound to increase your property value and help blur that line between indoors and outdoors.

Photography by Lisa Petrole
Photography by Lisa Petrole

Windows in varying shapes & sizes

Windows may seem obvious here, but what’s important to take away is that introducing various sizes, shapes and orientations will add detail to your home’s interior and exterior. Bay, bow and corner windows are great in dining rooms, kitchen nooks and seating areas; while picture windows work well in rooms that get lots of natural light and/or are adjacent to a scenic outdoor space, such as your backyard. When it comes to deciding on window placement, one of the most important things is to make sure that the view is not being obstructed by large trees or your neighbour’s home.

Balconies

From a construction standpoint, this feature is a bit more of an undertaking than the others; however, second and third floor balconies are great additions that hold their value for a long time. Plus, with such a wide variety of balustrade and railing options, you can add character and update the style to your home altogether by adding even one balcony. In addition to giving your home’s facade a mini-facelift, balconies allow you to enjoy a new, elevated view of your home’s scenery.

The seamless transition trend isn’t just about bringing the indoors out, but rather establishing a flow between a home’s interior and exterior. Choosing features that work well with your space will help to blur those lines and, ultimately, bring about a proud feeling of connectedness with outdoors – no matter the time of year.

Jessica Millard joined Men At Work Design Build in 2017 while studying at Ryerson University.

The Toronto-based firm offers integrated engineering, design and professional construction services for addition and major renovation projects on old Toronto homes.

Jessica has been involved in various internal departments within the firm, and is currently the company’s Project Coordinator.


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AT HOME WITH MEN AT WORK: Big living in small spaces

Big living in small spaces

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Big living in small spaces

Photography by Valerie Wilcox

Living in Toronto holds its fair share of perks; however, the luxury of space is by no means one of them. If you’ve ever been in the market to buy a house in the city, you’ll understand just how valuable real estate here can be. With the average Toronto house running just shy of 1,950 sq. ft., we’re seeing more and more homeowners hold onto their valuable lots who opt to renovate or remodel to create more functional living space and storage, rather than fleeing the city for larger properties.

As a seasoned, Toronto-based design build company, we are constantly on the hunt for innovative and clever solutions to help us utilize every last square inch of living space in our clients’ homes. Whether it be toying around with the reconfiguration of the existing house, or opting to add on a sizeable addition, improving functional living space for urban homeowners is something we are proud to call ourselves experts in.

Here are some small-space design tips to consider when planning your next home renovation project:

Function first

There is no logical way to design a space until you determine its primary function. Identify spatial needs by determining how you plan to use your home. What people and purpose will it serve? Consider your lifestyle. How often will you entertain, or what type of entertaining do you plan to do? Does your job require a home office area to work from? Identifying your living needs—keeping in mind growing children and any future family additions—will allow you to plan with purpose, something that’s paramount to a successful renovation.

Free up the floor plan

Decades ago, homes were designed and built around the idea that every room had a very specific function. The kitchen— often small and shoved in the back of the house —was for preparing food; the dining room was formal and intended for proper sitting meals; and the living room was for relaxing and entertaining. While a traditional-style floor plan might be nice to have in theory, it’s not as practical or desirable as it once was. Cultural norms and lifestyles have evolved to the point where people prioritize convenient, multi-functional spaces that allow individual activities and social togetherness to coexist.

Open-concept floor plans also eliminate the need for circulation areas between rooms, such as halls, stairs and walkways, which pose as major space hogs in the floor plan. Freeing up this space gives your designer much more square footage to play with when designing your new layout.

Build in storage everywhere

When you choose to undertake a home renovation project, you can begin to really customize the storage and organization options that go into the new design. Start with identifying the storage that you find useful in your current home, and from there, make a list of features that you’d want to incorporate into your new home. Most old-Toronto homes suffer from a lack of usable storage, so the extra effort required to iron out the details of a great storage design plan is worth the time and money.

With a growing family comes growing space and storage needs. Before deciding that the only way to meet those needs is to move, sit down with a designer and weigh out your renovation options first. You might be surprised with the degree of improvement that a simple remodelling job can do for your family.

Jessica Millard joined Men At Work Design Build in 2017 while studying at Ryerson University.

The Toronto-based firm offers integrated engineering, design and professional construction services for addition and major renovation projects on old Toronto homes.

Jessica has been involved in various internal departments within the firm, including design, production and marketing.


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