Tag Archives: kitchen renovation

Kitchen prep

Kitchen prep

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Kitchen prep

Photos by Chris Harrison

Are you planning a kitchen renovation once the pandemic protocols ease up? Renovating a kitchen can bring a lot of disruption to your life, but remember, the pros outweigh the cons. From enhancing functionality to increasing the value of your home, an updated kitchen is a worthy investment. With so many options out there, you may be wondering where to begin. Here are four suggestions to keep in mind.

The overview

The best place to start is with a clear budget. Having a specific budget will dictate how much money you can spend on the design, finishes and appliances. You can pay as little as $25,000 for kitchen cabinetry and as much as $80,000. A good rule of thumb is to set a budget in relation to your home’s value and ensure at least a 20-percent contingency for your unknowns and your must-haves. If the average Toronto home value is in the $1-million range, a newly renovated kitchen would cost between $40,000 and $60,000.

Sink with a view

Do we put the sink by the window or on the island? It’s a question I am asked a lot as a designer. Cleaning is often a tedious task. Since it’s always a chore and never a pleasure, make it into as much of a good experience as you can. It does not cost more to place your sink well, so consider it and do what works for you. If you put it at the window, a great feature at a small premium of about 10 per cent is to cover the windowsill in the countertop material instead of the standard wood casing. This allows you to forget about water splashes and offers a great base for small planting pots.

Hide those gadgets

Bakers and cooks alike love their mixers on the counter, and for a good reason. Many are sleek and beautiful and make for fantastic decor. Add to that, the coffee maker, toaster, grinder, juice maker, and soon enough, what you end up with is a small appliance store right there on your beautifully renovated kitchen counter. One way to avoid this scenario is to put in an appliance garage – one that looks sleek and is completely integrated with your kitchen. And guess what? It costs very little because the only add-on is the door. Inside, extend the counter to avoid unpleasant splash accidents and make sure your electrical plugs, if any, are all to code.

Team prep area

We often think of meal prep as an individual activity or as areas split up per task, per person. While this works well in a restaurant, home kitchens should be more social. Kitchens are social spaces for everything else, why not meal prep? Historically speaking, we had this and lost it somewhere on the way. The Victorians had it figured out when the table in the middle was the only prep area. Nowadays, instead of placing everyone on the perimeter, you can group the people around the island. Sizing the island becomes crucial. An easy way is to take a standard table of seven-by-three ft. and make that the island size. You can go a little bigger, but really, you don’t have to. Team prep areas, for obvious reasons, can often double up as serving areas too.

Adriana Mot is a multiple award-winning designer and founder of Dochia Interior Design in Toronto.

She is known for her practical creativity and a unique talent that builds refined and beautiful connections between people and their surroundings.

Contact her at 416.492.7451. info@dochia.com


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Out with the old

Out with the old

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Out with the old

A kitchen renovation is like being on a seemingly never-ending rollercoaster ride. The highs (approving the final designs) to the lows (two weeks without progress) are not for the faint of heart. Even celebrities aren’t immune to the drawn-out process of renovations. Harry Styles recently told Vogue his London home took 18 months to complete, a project that initially began as two weeks’ worth of work he had planned to do himself. I feel you, Harry, I feel you.

If you’ve been following my column in Reno + Decor, then you may remember the kitchen had always been the “big” project we wanted to tackle first. It was usable, but it felt dated, worn, and didn’t utilize the space to its full potential (having come from an 800-sq.-ft. condo, we knew a better layout was possible).

Enter my soon-to-be sister-in-law Jessica Fehr, a designer with Madison Taylor Design. She was thrilled at the idea of helping us with our designs, and once we sent over our kitchen measurements, she eagerly started designing. This was my first experience with an interior designer – from now on, I plan to use one for any major renovation to come. Why? Fehr was able to help synthesize everything I told her we wanted and needed, and come back with designs that made sense. That’s the other thing, there are endless combinations of finishes you can choose from, and they know what works and what doesn’t. A clashing kitchen is an expensive mistake I didn’t want to risk making, and as a pro, Jessica was able to help guide us through.

Ordering our custom cabinets was a top priority – even in June they were booking out to the fall. We decided to splurge on custom cabinets by Absolute Cabinets, as we plan to stay in this house for a while. And with almost 10-ft. ceilings and uneven floors, you get more precision and what you want, versus going out-of-the-box.

Finding a contractor was the next major task on my list, since the alternative would be hiring and coordinating all of the trades ourselves – a job neither of us had the time or patience to do.

A colleague of Fehr’s recommended Corner Contracting. After meeting the owner Dylan, we decided he was the right fit based on his friendly demeanour, previous experience with old homes and transparent contract.

Before we began tearing down walls, we replaced two windows to change to a drywall return style (no casings). Truthfully, we need to replace every window in the house, but not replacing these kitchen windows at this stage will create an expensive future issue, since our new backsplash surrounds them.

At the end of September, a complete gut was finished, right down to the studs. To save money, we did this ourselves. Instead of smashing the cabinets a la HGTV home reno shows, we carefully removed everything and donated the kitchen (including appliances) to Habitat for Humanity. The cabinet removal led us to discover significant evidence of mice (ew!), an issue we were able to resolve by ensuring there were no gaps in the subfloor and sealing any possible openings in the foundation.

Another money-saving job we did ourselves was adding Rockwool Safe ‘n’ Sound soundproofing insulation to the ceiling, as our daughter’s bedroom is directly above the kitchen.

Once that was complete, Dylan contracted a plumber and electrician to get everything right behind the walls… which is when our first big issue was revealed. Our plumber, Paul Corcoran, PWC Plumbing owner, discovered all of the plumbing in our home had Kitec pipes. This is a product that was considered top-of-the-line in the early 2000s but essentially is faulty. A burst in the pipes isn’t a matter of if, but when.

We replaced everything in the kitchen, including the lines to the laundry room, as that wall was going to be covered by our new cabinetry. Dylan also suggested we consider using Flo by Moen, a smart water security system that gave him personal peace of mind in his home. Not only does it track your water usage, but it can detect leaks, read temperature and humidity, and lets you shut off your water with the click of a button on your phone (meaning, you could be on vacation and shut off your water from the beach). In the end, we added the shutoff system, two additional sensors and a leak sensing cable, and we’re planning to add two more sensors – one in the attic and another by our water heater – for further protection.

Our electrician, Adam Boyce, owner of Electric All, helped us make sense of our lighting configuration. This meant changing our outlets from double-gang to single, adding additional pot lights, moving the island pendants, adding outlets to the island and putting up a second fixture to frame the back door.

Next up was to replace all of the subfloors and drywall the ceiling and walls, so our hardwood floors and cabinets could be installed. We didn’t plan on replacing our subfloors, but it was sloping down towards the back of the house, and too uneven for laying the hardwood (another ding to the budget).

Once the floors and walls were up, we finally felt like we had made some progress. From there, we had a few weeks of smooth sailing, while cabinets and countertops were installed. The next best day was when our appliances were taken out of their boxes, and our sink was hooked up (no more lugging dishes up and down from the basement), and we could officially stop using our temporary kitchen that was set up in our living room.

The bulk of the work happened within about two months, then the rest, petered away, one task at a time. For example, we had to wait a few weeks for our contractor to find more of our backsplash, as it’s now a discontinued style. Add in a COVID-19 scare (thankfully, no one tested positive), a labourer who quit, a broken truck and a missing ledge – all things out of our control that dragged out the process.

In total, the process has been almost nine months, from when we started reviewing designs and looking for a contractor, to today, when we can fully live in and enjoy our kitchen. No one said renovating was easy, but having a space you love is worth the wait.

Trades: Madison Taylor Design. madisontaylordesign.com | CORNER CONTRACTING. cornercontracting.ca | ABSOLUTE CABINETS. absolutecabinets.ca | PWC PLUMBING. pwcplumbing.ca | ELECTRIC ALL. info@electricallco.com | MARIO’S WINDOWS & DOORS. marioswindowsdoors.com | Countertops in Arctic White (perimeter) and Colton (island) by CAMBRIA. cambriausa.com. Installation by ELEGANT SOLUTIONS. elegant-solutions.ca | DECOR & HARDWARE: Old Fashion Mosaico BACKSPLASH by Ston. stonitalia.it | PAINT in White Dove (island, upper cabinets and walls); Simply White (trim and baseboards) by Benjamin Moore. benjaminmoore.ca | CABINET HARDWARE in the Ellis Collection Davenport in matte black by Top Knobs. topknobsdecor.com | High arc pulldown KITCHEN FAUCET and Flo Smart water security system by Moen. moen.ca | Quatrus double bowl undermount SINK by Blanco. blanco.com | Classic light filtering ROMAN SHADES window treatments in White Linen by Select Blinds. selectblindscanada.ca | Madeleine leather seat collection COUNTER STOOLS in black oak drifted by Restoration Hardware. rh.com | RANGE AND DISHWASHER by Samsung. samsung.com | 800-Series FRIDGE by Bosch. Bosch-home.ca | MICROWAVE by Frigidaire. frigidaire.ca | RANGE HOOD by Kobe. koberangehoods.com | APPLIANCES from Canadian Appliance Source. canadianappliance.ca | Linear PENDANT by Wrought Studio. wayfair.ca | Arti SCONCES and Skye Globe PENDANTS by Hinkley. wayfair.ca | Tompkins Industrial DINING TABLE 74 in., in black. westelm.ca | Restored vintage mid-century modern DINING CHAIRS by Poul M Volther from Kijiji. kijiji.ca | ART by Holly Addi. hollyaddi.com

A writer and editor for more than a decade, Stephanie Gray has covered everything from luxury travel to modern parenting challenges.

Her work has been featured in publications including Glamour, Elle Canada and Best Health.

She recently bought a century-old home north of Toronto, in need of updates, which she’s taking on with her husband (and toddler in tow).


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Home Improvements: Renos that boost your R.O.I.

Renos that boost your R.O.I.

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Renos that boost your R.O.I.

Illustration by Rachel Joanis

So, you’ve decided to sell your home. That means you’ve also likely tossed around the idea of a home renovation to yield the best possible profit. Here are four home renovations that yield the highest payoff.


It’s the beating heart of the home. This is the most-significant and most-expensive room to renovate, but it also gives you the highest return on your investment. There are a few reasons for this. Kitchens are a pain to renovate, from the inconvenience of functioning without a kitchen for weeks (or months) and the effort required to coordinate or complete the work. That means buyers are often willing to pay a premium for a home with a brand-new kitchen. Always choose quality over quantity – a cheap or poorly done renovation can decrease your home’s value.


Much like the kitchen, bathrooms are difficult to renovate, and many homebuyers will pay extra for the convenience of having it done for them. Spa-inspired bathrooms are a common upgrade in older homes when the bath was considered a utilitarian room versus a feature space. A bigger, brighter bathroom with custom elements, such as vanity and countertops, unique tile work, fabulous lighting and extras like a steam shower, make-up area or a meditation zone can bring in the bucks on resale.

Income suite

An income suite is a biggie – especially in pricey urban housing markets such as Toronto and Vancouver. Young homebuyers often look to tenants to help them pay off their hefty mortgage, and multi-generational households can reside together with greater cost-efficiency and privacy. Look at secondary suites for rent in the area to get a feel for what those units look like, and how much they rent for. This will be a great selling point for your home.

In the current sellers’ market, a fairly-priced home shouldn’t stay on the market for too long. Every homeowner is looking to get the biggest bang for their buck, and the quickest possible sale – which translates to even more money in your pocket. Work with your realtor to determine what renovations make sense in the current marketplace, and for some tried-and-true advice on how to get everything done.


Here are some more tips to help sellers keep their eyes on the prize:

  1. Renovate for your target buyer, not for yourself. Your realtor can advise you on the types of renovations that will resonate with buyers in your area, and of the kind of home you’re selling.
  2. Work with an experienced contractor who’s familiar with the type of work you’re planning. Check out their portfolio, ask for references and contact them.
  3. Before any work begins, ensure your contract stipulates precisely what work is being done, what materials and products are being used, the budget and the timeline for completion.
  4. Do it by the book. Don’t try to save on costs by skipping the permits or taking shortcuts in the work. This will only end up hurting your bottom line, not helping.

Heather Hadden, Principal at Hadden Homes, notable top real-estate professional in GTA is focused on providing comprehensive full-service real-estate support for all new and existing homeowners.

Making you love where you live once again.


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White Kitchens are totally timeless

White kitchens are totally timeless

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White kitchens are totally timeless

To say white kitchens are popular is a bit of an understatement. Over the years, we have seen that trends are moving away from whites with the rise of colourful cabinetry and appliances, or with the return of warm wood tones. In the end white cabinets are still a sought-after mainstay. The bright, fresh look and feel of white kitchen cabinetry never really loses its appeal, and for many is the goal for their kitchen renovation.

Kitchens are the heart of the home and really should reflect your own personal style and way of living. White cabinets are always timeless, and an easy commitment with a lot of flexibility when it comes to the final aesthetics of your kitchen. Moving beyond an all white kitchen can open you up to a world of finishes, colours and inspirations that can see a bit of the current kitchen trends introduced into your space. Whether you add some dimension to your kitchen with a patterned backsplash, a great impactful floor tile, touches of coloured cabinetry or mixed metals and hardware, there are a multitude of ways to shake off the simple all-white kitchen.

Another way to change up the all-white vibe of your space is by using warmer whites for the finishes. There are an infinite number of tones and shades of whites; moving to a warmer white tone can make all the difference to your cabinetry, tile and overall look and feel of your kitchen.

As shown in these images, by using a much warmer white for one of our kitchen designs, and punching it up with a great charcoal coloured floor tile, we have added a bit of a modern feeling to a more traditional setting. In contrast, the stark white kitchen with warm walnut accents definitely conveys a more modern space.

I love the look of white mixed with wood accents. White oak is gaining popularity now as a wood finish and it pairs perfectly with white to create a great look that satisfies so many different styles and settings. You can easily introduce a wood feature in your kitchen by way of floating wood shelves, an island, countertop, wood inlay tiles for your backsplash, hardware or something as simple as barstools. Whichever way best suits your desires you’re sure to see the end result is fantastic and feels much warmer and more inviting than an all-white kitchen.

Today, the movement is more towards a streamlined look that highlights simplicity, functionality, and minimalism. Though the white-on-white kitchen has waned in popularity, white cabinetry will always be timeless. When looking for inspiration for your kitchen renovation, look to see how you can introduce a mix of colours, textures, and finishes that will create a kitchen space that keeps you moving forward trend-wise, while still giving you the white kitchen you desire!

Linda Mazur is an award-winning, 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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Top 3 things to consider when remodeling your kitchen

Top 3 things to consider when remodeling your kitchen

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Top 3 things to consider when remodeling your kitchen

A good kitchen has to fill many roles. Sure, there’s the obvious one – a place where you can prepare and serve food. But cooking takes a lot of time (cleaning, too), so it needs to be a place where you feel comfortable, relaxed, and happy.

The kitchen is also a common meeting spot for when you have a friend over for a cup of coffee or a whole bunch of friends over for a party. For parents, it often becomes the base of operations where you serve the kids breakfast, give them their lunch before sending them off to school, and try to curb their sugar intake during snack-time.

It’s not surprising then that the kitchen, along with the bathroom (another major base of operations, if you know what I mean), is one of the most popular rooms for homeowners to remodel. Before you start thinking about a long and possibly expensive home improvement project, though, consider these three factors:


Probably the easiest (and most fun) part of remodeling a kitchen is envisioning what you want it to look like. Much like your wardrobe, your home is a reflection of who you are as a person, and few rooms offer as many opportunities to express yourself through design and decor as the kitchen. Whatever your style – classic, modern, rustic, retro – your kitchen is a perfect canvas.

Maybe you’re a quirky person with a nostalgic heart. Instead of a boxy white refrigerator, why not get a curvy vintage model? Heck, you can make the whole place look like a 1950s rock ‘n’ roll diner if you want. Perhaps you like high-tech gadgetry. Did you know you can cook a meal in your crock pot using your smartphone? Or that Wi-Fi equipped scales can help you readjust entire recipes to accommodate the ingredients you have on hand? Even without going retro or futuristic, there’s a lot to think about: Paint colors, cabinet shapes and decorations. Go wild.


If form is all about exercising your right brain’s emotional side, then function is where your left brain’s practical side comes in. It’s important to find a balance between both. Your kitchen should be a place with an atmosphere and style that makes you happy to be there, but it also needs to be a place where all your meal-making needs are met.

When planning to remodel, think about all the necessities a good kitchen requires in order to fulfill its purpose. Make a list of important appliances. Think about how much storage you’ll need for food, utensils and cookware. Remember: Plenty of countertop space is a must when you’re doing meal prep. If you like eating in your kitchen, make sure to leave room for a dining nook or a central island. Last but not least, try not to cram too much into too small a space. Cooking is a lot easier when you can navigate your kitchen with convenience and ease, after all.


The final consideration is both the least pleasant and the most important: Affordability. Your imagination can come up with all kinds of cool renovations, but only your bank account can make them a reality. How much you have isn’t the only thing worth considering, though. There’s also the question of worth.

For instance, if you’re looking to add value to your home for resale, remodeling the kitchen could be a great way to do that. Or it could be a money pit. Using a seller closing costs calculator can help you determine if the added expense is worth adding on top of everything else. The truth is, not every kitchen needs a full-blown makeover. If funds are tight or your kitchen is mostly satisfactory, ask yourself if you can’t achieve the same goals with just a few small changes instead. Sometimes less really is more.


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How to find the best kitchen stone countertops in Toronto

How to find the best kitchen stone countertops in Toronto

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How to find the best kitchen stone countertops in Toronto

In 2020, stone countertops can make a wonderful addition to any kitchen renovation or remodel project. In fact, new stone countertops can easily turn even the dingiest, most outdated kitchens into breath-taking, stylish, executive-looking kitchens.

Whether you choose marble, granite, or quartz countertop, there’s just something about a stone countertop that you won’t find when installing wood or composite countertops.

Stone countertops are timeless, durable and considerably more eye-catching than other materials. And on top of that, kitchen stone countertops are almost guaranteed to add a significant amount of value to your home.

However, you might wonder where the best places are to find stone countertops in Toronto. Rest assured that you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s go over a few tips to help you find the best kitchen stone countertop retailers in Toronto.

How to choose the best place for your stone countertops

When searching for new countertops in the GTA, it’s important to understand that not every store is going to be the best place to purchase your materials.

For example, some stores might offer only the best, top-of-the-line materials, but their prices might be far outside of budget. Or on the other hand, some stores might offer significantly better prices, but they might not offer much in terms of selection. Also, there are some companies, such as stonewizards.ca, that can offer best countertops for your kitchen for a reasonable price. Your goal is to find such companies and deal with them.

Therefore, it’s vital that you shop around and do a bit of research before diving headfirst into your project.

Let’s take a look at the most important factors to consider when shopping around for the best stone countertops in Toronto.

Stay on budget

Obviously, there are dozens of countertop retailers in the GTA. This is exactly why it’s so important to understand that not every one of them is going to keep its customers’ best interests in mind at all times.

In fact, many stone countertop retailers charge significantly more for the same products that can be found at another store for a much cheaper price.

This illustrates why it’s so important to shop around and compare prices before purchasing your countertops from any store.

Before shopping around, make sure to identify your budget range. Then, make a list of a few stores in the area that you might be interested in purchasing from. Finally, contact these stores and get a rough estimate of the cost of your project.

Any companies that give you a quote outside of your budget range, you can automatically dismiss from your list.

Companies that fit within your budget can be shortlisted, and you can move on to researching them and learning about their experience and expertise in the industry.

Choose experience

While being a newer company doesn’t necessarily mean a business doesn’t have the skills or experience needed for the job, it does mean that dealing with them might be a little riskier.

However, it’s vital to ensure that the company you choose to deal with has the necessary experience and know-how when it comes to stone kitchen countertop installation.

When talking to potential retailers, make sure to ask them about their experience, how long they’ve been in business, and what they believe their customers like about their service.

In one way, this might put the salesman on the spot. But if they do indeed have experience and are knowledgeable about stone countertops and installation, they shouldn’t have any trouble answering any questions that you throw at them.

On the other hand, if you ask questions and the salesman stammers or has trouble directly answering your questions, it’s a good indication that you’re not dealing with a knowledgeable or experienced company. And it might be better to contact the next company on your list.

Read reviews

Finally, it’s important to read reviews and get to know what other people are saying about a company.

Think about it this way: When a person takes the time to write a review, they’re not going to lie about how they really feel. This is why it’s important to take some time and do a bit of research.

Before you make a decision, make sure to look up any prospective companies on Google or Facebook, and read through their reviews.

When a customer is satisfied with the services they’ve received, they’re going to be more than happy to share this information and recommend the company to others. On the other hand, when a person is dissatisfied or has had a bad experience, they’re going to be just as adamant about telling other customers.

Just keep in mind that it’s impossible for any company to keep every one of their customers happy all of the time. So, don’t automatically dismiss a company just because you see one or two bad reviews.

However, if you notice that a company has significantly more bad than good reviews, you might want to think twice before choosing them.

The best stone countertops in Toronto

When looking for stone countertops in Toronto, it’s best to take some time and do some research before diving headfirst into your renovation or remodel project.

Toronto is a large city and there are going to be tons of companies to choose from. That’s why you need to learn about your options first in order to find the best supplier for your countertop material.


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Kitchen reno on a budget? We show you how!

Kitchen reno on a budget? We show you how!

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Kitchen reno on a budget? We show you how!

I was consulted to help figure out how to best spend a client’s modest budget, wisely, on a kitchen reno, while accomplishing a new look. She wanted to replace her cupboards for more efficient storage. After an honest appraisal and a critical eye, I could see that it wasn’t, entirely, necessary. We didn’t even need to paint them. What was needed was far less expensive and easier to do. We needed to lighten the space up and be creative with functionality. The overall footprint of the kitchen was good, so just a few adjustments to the cupboards were necessary. By adding gliding shelf solutions within the cabinets, we were able to solve the efficiency issue and added extra storage on a budget. Not having to do a full demolition of the existing kitchen put money back into the budget for what needed doing, and splurging on the key elements.

Changing out the countertops was mandatory. We needed to lighten up the space to make it feel more open, and to balance off the darkness of the cabinet colour. We chose Caesarstone‘s Empira White marble quartz, because of its classical white base with deep grey (almost black) veins to accent and tie in with the cabinet colour. This countertop modernized the kitchen, plus it’s durable and easy to clean.

This kitchen also needed a new backsplash. We chose a simple, white bevelled edged subway tile for its elegance and simplicity. Because it’s timeless and classic, it won’t go out of style. By using larger tiles, we maintained clean lines, but the tapered edge offered deluxe detailing.

The custom range hood became the focal point of this space. We removed the small (useless) cabinet above the metal range hood. By making it white, it pulled the colour scheme together. And, in keeping with the white of the backsplash and countertops, it added to the openness of the space as soon as the valance was removed.

A Whirlpool, black stainless-steel kitchen suite provided continuity in this kitchen. I love to match cabinet colours and appliances whenever I can. By making your appliances blend into the colours of the kitchen gives the illusion of a larger space, because your eye doesn’t bounce to the contrast of the cabinets and appliances. Plus, the appliances are fingerprint resistant, which helps keep things looking sleek and fresh with minimal upkeep.

A counter-depth refrigerator made the space more open and accessible. On top of that, the French door option allowed for more clearance when the door was open, which made it easier to have two people in the kitchen at once.

While the kitchen used to have a microwave stand to the right of the range, replacing it with a custom wine rack to the cupboards, was more visually appealing. The microwave was tucked out of sight and utilized a wasted corner.

Having new appliances instantly updated the kitchen. The bells and whistles on these appliances are amazing, and so functional The refrigerator is one of my favourites. Its pantry-inspired layout, with an infinity slide shelf, which allows for extra room for tall items. The range has a touchscreen. It learns, adapts and suggests customized presets based on your family’s routine – perfect for my client and her family of four. Finally, the dishwasher has a third level rack space, so that they can make extra room for those hard-to-fit items and large kitchen utensils.

Wanting to maintain the visual continuity, I selected an under-mount sink. Coupled with a black faucet, the visual ascetics are modern and clean, and is in keeping with the colour scheme.

I removed the closed cabinets to modernize the look. By tiling that whole wall, and adding the natural wood tone of the shelving, it created an up-to-date, open look. We wanted to replace the tan floor tiles, but the cost, timing and mess didn’t warrant it. Instead, I used the shelves, chairs and accessories to tie in the colour, making the floor seem more purposeful. The addition of natural wood helped to ground the space and add an organic feel to the design.

While we were able to use the cupboards, the hardware had to go. The new brass handles were the perfect accents, along with a matching pendant light over the sink. I would have liked to include pendant lighting all around the kitchen, but the light locations didn’t align with the table.

An ultra-useful stand mixer in blue was perfect for this busy family, and I added accent pieces, including the dishware and a vase in a coordinating blue. Floor runners keep feet warm on cool days, add softness to a space, and can tie in colours. It’s important to buy ones that are machine washable.

This basic kitchen has been transformed into one that suits the family’s modern lifestyle. It’s great that we didn’t have to scrap the old cupboards, and could give them a new lease on life. Don’t be too quick to replace items. Sometimes a strategic update is the better way – and it can save a bundle.

36-inch Wide Counter Depth French Door Refrigerator – 24 cu. ft.

5.8 cu. ft. Smart Front Control Gas Range with EZ-2-Lift™ Hinged Cast-Iron Grates

Stainless Steel Tub Dishwasher with Third Level Rack

HGTV Jo Alcorn is an interior and product designer for Alcorn Home, she has a full home furnishing and pet line collection displayed and sold across Canada and the U.S. She is known for her clean line savvy design concepts.


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CHBA Connects: Judgement Day

Judgement day – five tips for a great renovation award entry

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Judgement day – five tips for a great renovation award entry

Winning an award can set your company apart from the competition. In addition to the marketing opportunity that all smart businesses capitalize on, it shows potential customers that not only does your work look great, it’s got the stamp of approval from others in the industry. Receiving accolades adds an additional layer of credibility and confidence, and gives homeowners one more reason to trust doing business with you.

Award season for many competitions is in the fall and winter months. While most competitions have their own eligibility requirements and entry questions, there are universal tips for preparing a solid entry and increasing your chances of impressing judges. We’ve compiled the top five tips for creating a great award entry.

1. Choose a standout project

This doesn’t always mean the most impressive-looking project, or the most expensive project. Keep in mind that judges are often your peers. How would you assess an entry? In competitions where all the product is beautifully designed and executed, you need to tell the judges why yours stands out. What makes your entry unique, creative, or exemplary? What challenges did you overcome? Perhaps you had zoning restrictions or budget constraints that required outside-of-the-box solutions. Maybe the homeowners had unusual needs or unrealistic expectations. Once you’ve selected a project, focus on communicating why it’s a winner when you answer the entry questions. Make sure you elaborate on the thinking behind your project and express to the judges why it stands out. Doing so will ensure your entry isn’t just another gorgeous renovation – it will make the effort and skill behind it stand out from the others.

The uniqueness of this custom cat litter privacy chamber was a hit with judges. Marvel Pro Contracting & Renovations Ltd., Kelowna, B.C. The 2019 CHBA National Awards for Housing Excellence winner for the renovation category "Bathroom."
The uniqueness of this custom cat litter privacy chamber was a hit with judges. Marvel Pro Contracting & Renovations Ltd., Kelowna, B.C. The 2019 CHBA National Awards for Housing Excellence winner for the renovation category “Bathroom.”

2. Photography matters… a lot

For many competitions, judges will not have the opportunity to see projects in person. This means the photos you submit are their only way to visually assess the space. It’s very difficult for judges to see beyond poor photography and imagine what the space truly looks like. Arranging for a professional photographer to take images of your work should be part of your construction workflow. If you’re not already, you should be using quality images for your portfolio, your website, and social media marketing. What makes for “good” photos? The space should appear bright and welcoming, with natural light flooding in. The image exposure should be high enough that you can see the details in your work. If you want to showcase accent lighting, let your photographer know; he or she may suggest shooting closer to dusk when they can capture interior lighting and natural light at the same time. Make sure to include wide shots to give judges an idea of what the space looks like as a whole. Conversely, get some close-up images of fine detail work and craftsmanship that you want to highlight. Your photographer should deliver images that are in focus and true to colour. To really help judges (and potential customers) understand how the space is used, it should be staged as though the house was for sale; minimize distracting elements (remove clutter, knick-knacks, and personal portraits) and take a less-is-more approach to design. Consider adding welcoming touches like fresh fruit in the kitchen or flowers in the entryway.

Plenty of natural light makes the home bright and welcoming. Granite Homes, Fergus, Ont. The 2019 CHBA National Awards for Housing Excellence winner for the renovation category "Kitchen – under $70,000."
Plenty of natural light makes the home bright and welcoming. Granite Homes, Fergus, Ont. The 2019 CHBA National Awards for Housing Excellence winner for the renovation category “Kitchen – under $70,000.”

3. Include before and after pictures from the same angle

The most impressive aspect of home renovations is the transformation. Judges want to know the true scope of the project, and they need “before” pictures of what the space previously looked like so they can appreciate how much work was done on the design, layout, construction, and finishing. Before images should show as much of the space at one time as possible so judges can see in a glance what the room looked like. Almost as important as before pictures is having an after photo from the same angle. When the transformation is easy to see, your entry becomes more competitive. This is especially important if interior walls were removed, windows were relocated, or room layouts changed (kitchen appliances moving or a fireplace switching walls). It’s easy for judges to get disoriented, even when consulting floor plans. Make it easy for them. Before images don’t need to be taken professionally, but prior to starting on a project you should take images from all angles. Later, your professional photographer will have the flexibility to capture an after image of the best angle for the new space, and you’ll have a before picture that matches.

Interior image featuring lighting, taken at dusk. West Ridge Fine Homes Ltd., Calgary, Alta. The 2019 CHBA National Awards for Housing Excellence winner for the renovation category "Whole House – $500,000 to $1 million."
Interior image featuring lighting, taken at dusk. West Ridge Fine Homes Ltd., Calgary, Alta. The 2019 CHBA National Awards for Housing Excellence winner for the renovation category “Whole House – $500,000 to $1 million.”

4. Be clear and concise

In addition to supplying images and floor plans, most award programs will require a written component to entries. Whether you need to answer specific questions or you have a big block of space to write freeform, be aware of the language you use. Make sure you are clear and concise. Use point form if you can, but don’t be so frugal with words that sentences are hard to read. Don’t repeat content from question to question – that’s a red flag for judges who will feel your entry isn’t interesting enough to come up with more varied responses. If you can, find out what level of expertise the judges will have. If the judges are renovators, for example, you can use a fair bit of industry terminology and they’ll understand. On the other hand, if you’re entering a category that’s getting judged by the public, you’ll likely want to explain things in layman’s terms. No matter who you’re writing for, remember that judges often have a lot of entries to get through. Discuss your most important points first, write clearly, and concisely express why your entry is a standout project. Before submitting, make sure someone else proofreads your work. And if the idea of writing up an entry is overwhelming enough not to enter, consider hiring someone to take over the task. There are professionals who specialize in preparing award entries for renovators and builders.

Before and After pictures from the same angle illustrate the transformation.

Interior image featuring lighting, taken at dusk. West Ridge Fine Homes Ltd., Calgary, Alta. The 2019 CHBA National Awards for Housing Excellence winner for the renovation category “Whole House – $500,000 to $1 million.”

5. Give yourself time

This tip is as basic as they come, but it’s worthy of being on the list. Putting together an entry at the last minute is not only very stressful, but puts you at risk of not successfully communicating to the judges why your project is award worthy. Give yourself plenty of cushion time. Fully read the award requirements, judging criteria, and questions well in advance of the deadline. This will give you time to assemble all the elements you need. Be aware that many competitions require a specific homeowner permission form to be filled out, and that it may take some time to have your customer sign off. Familiarize yourself with the award entry method, whether it’s online software or paper forms. Make sure you have all of the required documents and images; you don’t want to be disqualified for missing information. Give yourself time to put thought into how you answer questions, touching on the elements that make the project stand out. And finally, don’t wait until the final minutes to submit an entry or count on an extension, or you may just be out of luck.

Maximize your chances of winning by following all of these tips. You’ll have a great entry, and likely more marketing material for promoting your business, win or lose. And finally, if you are recognized as a top project, make sure to make the most of it! Provide your local media sources with great images and a ready-made story. Use the opportunity to connect with your customers and your community – introduce them to the team that was behind the project, let them in on added details about the home, or tell them why your company is passionate about doing such quality work. Winning an award can be a great motivator for your team, and an excellent marketing tool. So get out there and enter!

NATASHA ROMBOUGH, CHBA’S Director of Marketing and Communications



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Designer Touch: Cooking With Character

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Designer Touch: Cooking With Character

By Rebecca Hay • Photography By Stephani Buchman

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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Kitchen Planner

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Kitchen Planner

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

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

Tight spaces and tight budgets

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


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

Expansive upgrades

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


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

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

Logistical planning

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


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

Visual cues

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

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

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


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