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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

Colour Theory 101: A main floor renovation in Little Portugal hits all the right notes

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Colour Theory 101: A main floor renovation in Little Portugal hits all the right notes

Photography by Valerie Wilcox

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane, and revisit those lessons on colour theory from high school art class; I promise this detour will be quick. Everyone knows that the primary colours are blue, red and yellow. Secondary colours are made by mixing two primary colours together: purple, orange, and green. Tertiary colours are made by (you guessed it), mixing one primary colour and one secondary colour together.

Opposites attract

Now that we’ve got those three terms straight, let’s move on to complementary colours. One common misconception about complementary colours is that they are similar colours. When we say “complementary,” we are actually referring to two colours on opposite sides of the colour wheel. A complementary colour pairing is made up of one primary colour, and one secondary colour that was made without the primary colour it is paired with. The pairs are blue and orange, red and green, and yellow and purple. Scientifically speaking, complementary colours simultaneously stimulate different parts of the eye, which is why we find the combination so appealing. It’s a natural example of opposites attracting. When we are describing similar colours, the technical term is “analogous” colours. They are groups of three colours that are next to each other on the proverbial colour wheel. An example of a trio would be blue, teal and green.

Mood-enhancing hues

Now that we are up to speed on our colour theory, let’s apply it! This is the fun part. First of all, don’t get hung up on the colour of the year. Rather, think about the colours that evoke the atmosphere you want to create in your space. Some may find peace in darker, more dramatic hues, while others find solace in brighter spaces with varying shades of analogous colours. The latter was the case for our client’s ground-floor renovation in Little Portugal. The main goal for the space was to open it up by removing the partition walls. In doing this, we shifted the location of the kitchen toward the back of the home to provide a more formal living/dining space at the front of the house, and a family room right off the kitchen at the back of the house.

Family heirloom plays a new tune

One of the major influences in this design was finding a way to transform the client’s family piano. The piano was no longer in great musical shape, but it had been in the family for decades, so it was an important piece of family history that needed to be preserved. The piano was lovingly disassembled, and the salvaged pieces of mahogany were stripped and sanded, revealing a beautifully rich reddish-orange wood. The family heirloom was then reconfigured into a functional and original desk in the kitchen. Considering the open-concept floorplan, we chose a classic white-and-grey paint combination for the kitchen cabinetry. To add a hit of timeless contrast, we selected a moonstone marble backsplash in a herringbone pattern.

Colour’s transformative power

Knowing that blue and orange are complementary colours, it is no surprise that the hints of blue found in the backsplash, as well as the undertones in the dark grey colour of the island, are the perfect pairing for our custom mahogany piano desk. The vibrant runners are an excellent way to add colour and pattern to the neutral backdrop of the walls and cabinetry. By simply changing the runners, some accessories, and the artwork, the colour story of this space was completely transformed, without another major renovation.

If you are like me, and constantly thinking about your next design project, take the time to consider the colour story of your home, because great spaces are carefully and selectively curated to present a cohesive story from the foyer to the back door, and everything in between. Now for your homework – because I have to give you the full high school experience – do a little colour soul searching; discover what colours empower you, energize you, console you, and then create your new space with unapologetic conviction.

Sources:

KITCHEN CABINETRY PAINT: Chantilly Lace OC-65, Midnight 2131-20 Benjamin Moore KITCHEN COUNTERTOPS: Noble Grey from Caesarstone KITCHEN BACKSPLASH: Moonstone Herringbone from Creekside Tile KITCHEN CABINETS: Merlo Woodworking WOOD FLOORING: Bistro Collection, Maple French Roast, Fuzion Flooring

Natalie Venalainen is a Senior Designer at Men at Work Design-Build.

She has 10 years of industry experience and has won several awards including the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s top 30 under 30 design professionals across North America in 2018.


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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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HOME is where the kitchen island is

HOME is where the kitchen island is

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HOME is where the kitchen island is

Photography by Valerie Wilcox

A High Park kitchen trades in its peninsula for a family-friendly island.

An open-plan kitchen is the epicentre for modern living. It has merged living, dining, work and play into one great space, and the kitchen island is command central.

Long gone are the days of the peninsula – making an island fit into your plan by any means very necessary! Our lives revolve around this proverbial island whether or not the home has the luxury of a separate dining room. We cook, eat, laugh and sometimes, even shed a few tears at this central gathering point. The notion of formal sit-down dinners is almost a thing of the past. We are willing to forego that formal space to make room for our busy, multi-faceted modern lifestyle.

Make a statement

The great room plays many different roles, and as such, we want our kitchens to blend into the living space. One of the ways to successfully do this is to incorporate cabinetry that resembles furniture, more so than one may expect for a typical kitchen cabinet.

The materials and colour palettes we are exploring for our kitchen spaces are getting more daring, slowly moving away from a neutral palette, and allowing statement colours, tones and textures to make a permanent appearance.

Lighting schemes are becoming increasingly more prominent and hi-tech, with the ability to alter the whole ambience of a space with the touch of a button on your mobile device.

Let’s talk about the dollars and cents for a moment; your kitchen is the best investment you can make in your home, not only for resale, but for the sheer enjoyment of your day-to-day life. Knowing how to maximize what is often the limited space of your old-Toronto home is a challenging task. Our High Park project is a prime example of a traditional old-Toronto home with a closed-off kitchen, which provided poor circulation throughout the ground floor, as well as a lack of natural light – did we mention that it had a peninsula?

Space & view enhancements

The homeowners had previously invested in their west-facing rear yard, but could barely see the beauty of their gardens from their small kitchen windows. The task at hand for our Design Build team was to respect the historical period of this Edwardian home, and bring the kitchen into the 21st century, all the while monitoring the budget.

A small addition over the existing basement staircase provided the opportunity for glazing across the entire rear facade of the kitchen, blurring the lines between indoors and out.

An island almost 10-feet long that could accommodate the family of five was the starting point of the kitchen plan. Existing architectural features, such as the stained-glass bay window, were also a key element to the kitchen design. The paint colour, Forest Black Green by Benjamin Moore, used on the cabinetry grounds the light tones of the natural limestone floors.

A servery by the doorway to the dining room plays double-duty for entertaining formally in the dining room, and preparing breakfast on the daily.

Heightened functionality

Deploying clever planning and organizational tips to ensure adequate storage needs were met allows for the open-shelving above the servery, which is not only functional, but showcases a collection of the homeowners’ curated accessories making the space uniquely theirs.

An abundance of marble shapes the focal points of the space, from the Quartize Nuage countertops in the kitchen to a striking black Belvedere marble countertop on the servery, signposts a change of function and invites a new texture into the overall design.

Updating this kitchen also meant investing in home automation; automated blinds, kitchen appliances and even music create that perfect mood, and are of course all easily controlled by your smart device.

If you are dreaming about an escape to your own island, consider what “home” really means to you, and we guarantee you will find that home is where your kitchen island is.

SOURCES: KITCHEN COUNTER MARBLE: Quartize Nuage, CIOT SERVERY COUNTERTOP: Belvedere marble, Olympia CABINETRY PAINT: Forest Black Green, Benjamin Moore WALL PAINT: Chantilly Lace, Benjamin Moore

Natalie Venalainen is a Senior Designer at Men at Work Design-Build. She has 10 years of industry experience and has won several awards including the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s top 30 under 30 design professionals across North America in 2018.

Claire Muldrew is a Designer at Men At Work Design-Build. Claire has a B.A in Architecture & Design and a profound interest in how the interior environment shapes our everyday living.


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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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AT HOME WITH MEN AT WORK: The Ultimate Gift

The Ultimate Gift: Home improvement projects that get your home holiday-ready

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The Ultimate Gift: Home improvement projects that get your home holiday-ready

The gift of renovation involves thoughtful planning and careful execution.

When we ask some of our clients about their holiday wish lists, oftentimes we hear that the home renovation is their gift to one another. Imagine the gift of a new addition to the master bedroom you have been dreaming about for years. The open-concept living room, which boasts wall-to-wall windows, or the chef-inspired kitchen you’ve been fantasizing about sharing with your friends and family while serving that beautiful charcuterie board on your new oversized island. Instead of copious amounts of gifts that add up to thousands of dollars over the years, consider investing in a present the entire family will cherish and enjoy for years to come.

Photography: Courtesy of Interiors by Odette
Photography: Courtesy of Interiors by Odette

Renovation spending in Toronto has been hitting record highs in the last few years, and it’s no wonder why. Our homes have become our safe haven in a chaotic world, the cocoon that embodies our sanctuary, but what is it about the holidays that make us want to have the house in tip-top shape? Is it the fact that we are getting ready to open our doors to entertain more than any other season, or could it be the sheer fact that we are nesting for what is to come our way for the next few months? Whatever the reason may be, the holidays are a perfect excuse to spruce up your home, not only esthetically but also by adding practical function.

KITCHEN UPGRADE

The kitchen is always the hub of the holidays. It is where you bake batches of cookies with the kids while listening to carols, or entertain crowds over appetizers and cocktails. Designing a smart layout that will handle high traffic—especially around the holidays—is a crucial part of a kitchen renovation. This might mean knocking down walls or carving a unique space out of something that is currently not functioning properly. We recently designed a beverage station/bar area in our clients’ kitchen where the kids’ craft corner used to be. With the holidays in mind, our clients opted to create a space where they could serve buffet-style food and drinks without having to crowd the main island.

Photography: Rob Holowka
Photography: Rob Holowka

MINOR EMBELLISHMENTS

A few smaller projects to consider while tackling large renovations could be revamping the living room fireplace or replacing the old, inefficient front door. Both of these design elements are integral parts of holiday entertaining. Your front door sets the tone for the entire house. Adorned with a beautiful wreath, it can make quite the statement as to what lies within. A contemporary fireplace can also up the ante at your next holiday gathering. Whether you choose to go traditional or modern, holiday decor always looks enchanting with an updated fireplace as the backdrop and it is the cosiest spot to huddle around for great conversations while sipping on cocktails.

HOLIDAY-READY HOME

Unlike running out to the mall on Christmas Eve, the gift of renovation involves thoughtful planning and careful execution. It is a lengthy process that can feel gruelling at times, but the outcome is almost always gratifying. The anticipation of having that perfect holiday-ready space to welcome friends and family is well worth the wait. There is nothing more exciting than unwrapping a home renovation just in time for the holiday season and decorating it to the nines. Ever been invited to a holiday party where the construction crew has literally just moved out the day before and the scent of freshly coated paint is so prominent? I must confess I am one of those eager hosts that embark on a small home project every year at the eleventh hour. There is a sense of fulfillment that goes with tackling a project for the holidays—a sense of good housekeeping and pride of ownership.

Odette De Lucia is a designer at Men At Work Design Build and founder of IBO Design Group.

Odette is best known for creating polished spaces that are elegant yet highly functional. She believes in an approach that mixes modern with traditional for fresh timeless interiors.

menatwork.ca

interiorsbyodette.ca


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AT HOME WITH MEN AT WORK: Constructive Construction

AT HOME WITH MEN AT WORK: Constructive Construction

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AT HOME WITH MEN AT WORK: Constructive Construction

by Craig Essery
Photography: Bigstock.com

Steps you can take to speed up your home reno project

Remodelling is always a big undertaking. Whether you’re redoing a single room or embarking on a full-home addition project, understanding the renovation process ahead of you and doing your part to prepare for any foreseeable obstacles is sure to save you time and headaches—many headaches.

PLAN SMART

Arguably, the most important stage in the reno process is the planning phase. As a homeowner ready to commit to renovating, it’s crucial that you have a clear vision of what you want to get out of your renovation, and that you do your research before hiring a contractor. Start with making a list of what it is that bothers you about your current home; take your time with this and really consider what you want to achieve from the renovation. Do you need more space? Do you want an open-concept layout? Do you need to plan for a growing family? Decide what features are, and are not, negotiable. Next, do your research before hiring anyone. You want to understand the process that’s ahead of you, and handpick the best company for the job based on what’s required for your home. Remember that experience brings efficiency, so it’s important to find a contractor who has plenty of experience working in your neighbourhood with your type of house. For projects requiring substantial design and project coordination, consider hiring a Design-Build company to service the job from start to finish. Design-Build companies tend to have all the trades and services you will need either vetted or in-house, making the process more efficient.

BE TRANSPARENT WITH FINANCES

Although it may seem like a given to have your finances fully in order before signing with your contractor, it’s more common than you’d expect for projects to come to a complete halt, after construction has already begun, due to a lack of finances. Being transparent and clear with your contractor and design partners, in terms of what your main objectives are, and what you’re willing to invest in order to achieve them, is extremely important. Transparency will give your contractor the information they need to ensure that your expectations are realistic for your budget.

MAKE TEMPORARY LIVING ARRANGEMENTS

Relocating your living quarters, be it to an entirely new location or just a different part of your house, is inevitable during a renovation. Talk with your contractor to determine the best plan of action and work together to make the best of that decision. If you decide to fully move out during construction, push the contractor to shorten the timeline slightly; if you decide to relocate to a different part of the house, determine where the best area is that won’t cause delays and jeopardize the project schedule.

AVOID MID-PROJECT CHANGES

Contractors provide homeowners with a project schedule prior to beginning any work on the home. After the design phase has been completed, your contractor will generally provide you with an updated schedule for the upcoming construction phase; however, any changes that are made after exiting the design phase will result in increased costs and an extension in the project timeline. Avoid mid-project changes and don’t exit the conceptual design phase until you’re 100 per cent sure you’re happy with the plans.

BE REALISTIC

Aside from cost, the main hesitation people have for remodelling their home is time. They envision themselves being victim to uncomfortable living conditions for months, or years, on end; and, while living conditions during a major reno varies from project to project, homeowners are right to be concerned about the lengthy period of time they’ll be subjected to these conditions. It almost always takes longer than expected to complete a renovation, so that’s why thorough planning and having realistic expectations will help mitigate the delays and frustrations that are bound to happen along the way. Depending on the size of the renovation, a typical home in Toronto will take a full year to complete from conceptual design to move in; and if it requires attention from the Committee of Adjustments, add another three to six months.

Specializing in home additions and major home renovations in old-Toronto neighbourhoods, Men At Work Design Build provides integrated engineering, design and professional construction services to help solve home space problems for Toronto families.

Craig Essery is a Renovation Consultant at the award-winning, two-time winner of the BILD Renovator of the Year award, 2012 & 2017, design-build firm.


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AT HOME WITH MEN AT WORK: Suite Solutions

AT HOME WITH MEN AT WORK: Suite Solutions

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AT HOME WITH MEN AT WORK: Suite Solutions

by Paul Gallop
Photography: bigstock.com

Men at Work Design-Build president, Paul Gallop, takes a look at the ever-growing housing issues in Toronto and possible building solutions to keep people in the city.

Since many RENO & DECOR readers live in old homes in the core of Toronto, we’re bringing a bit more of a local perspective from our team who spend their days working in the trenches facing the challenges of planning and renovating our fragile, densely-packed, older neighbourhood houses.

We’re so fortunate to be living in a thriving, internationally-envied urban centre, but let’s face it, some of our old Hogtown homes are in serious need of improvement, inside and out. Our properties are small and expensive, and it’s confusing trying to understand what’s technically and legally possible, and what will actually add real value and comfort for you and your family. What’s worth saving, and what is too far gone? How do you balance the architectural, structural, and interior finishing details while considering energy efficiency, zoning and building-code regulations? Which of those inspirational style ideas you’re seeing in the pages of magazines like RENO & DECOR will actually work in your old-Toronto home?

BUILDING ISSUES IN THE SIX

In upcoming issues we’ll explore questions like these with help from our award-winning team of designers, engineers, project managers and trade professionals, whose focus is exclusively on renovating old-Toronto houses.

One issue that may be of particular interest to Toronto homeowners is the City of Toronto’s proposed Changing Lanes—Laneway Suites project. With a network of approximately 311 kms of laneways weaving throughout many older parts of the city, there is untapped potential to introduce a new form of housing accessible from these lanes. Allowing the construction of secondary suites or small houses at the rear of residential properties served by laneways could increase the supply of desperately needed rental units. It would also provide a source of potential income for homeowners who are struggling with the high cost of property ownership in the city.

BACK ON THE TABLE

A previous initiative to explore laneway housing was rejected by the city due to the complexities and challenges of severing properties and servicing the new buildings through the restricted laneway spaces. The proposal currently under review is based on the idea of allowing the construction of an accessory building that would form part of an existing residential property, and would still be owned as part of the main property. The building would be serviced from the existing house on the property. It would not contemplate land severances or independent utility services. The thinking is this would be more like having a basement apartment, only instead of the apartment being in your basement, it’s in a detached little building in your backyard facing the lane.

CANADIAN CITIES EMBRACE LANEWAY HOUSING

There are numerous factors that the city must consider in determining the viability of this concept, including zoning, building code, fire and emergency services access, demands on public services and the concerns of neighbours and community groups. The city has undertaken an extensive review of the idea and has developed a set of draft guidelines for implementing a program in the districts of the former City of Toronto and East York. The proposal is presently going through various community hearings, with what so far seems to be generally enthusiastic support. Like all things bureaucratic, it’s a slow process and impossible to know if or when it may come to pass, but the signs are encouraging. Other municipalities in Canada and the U.S. have either adopted or are seriously exploring similar laneway housing programs, including Vancouver, Ottawa, Regina and Edmonton.

For more information, the city has a webpage devoted to the program.

Specializing in home additions and major home renovations in old-Toronto neighbourhoods, Men At Work Design-Build provides integrated engineering, design and professional construction services to help solve home space problems for Toronto families.

Paul Gallop is the founder/president of the award-winning design-build firm, also a two-time winner of the BILD Renovator of the Year award.


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