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Design/Build Expert: Kitchens

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

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

Photography by Peter Sellar

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

Size matters

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

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

Paradigm shift

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

Industry insider

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

Design district privileges

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

Buon appetito!

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.

@eurodalehomes

(416) 782-5690


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DESIGN/BUILD EXPERT: The Kid's Convenience

DESIGN/BUILD EXPERT: The Kid’s Convenience

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DESIGN/BUILD EXPERT: The Kid’s Convenience

by Brendan Charters
Photography: Peter Sellar

Tips for designing the perfect second bathroom

In tight urban homes, it is not uncommon that the entire family shares a single washroom in the home. While many homes have been retrofitted to accommodate a main-floor powder room, or a dungeon-style, three-piece washroom for the men to occasionally use, the main bathroom has been the historical serve-all of the home.

MULTI-BATHROOM HOME

Since the latter half of the 20th century, homes have grown in size and many of those older homes have been expanded to allow for a proper master suite. Today, virtually every new home built has multiple bathrooms serving the bedrooms. Not all of them function as best as they could, as they rarely receive the bulk of a designer’s attention, nor homeowners’ budgets. Since bathrooms are such critical spaces in homes and can be directly linked to how comfortable a space is, we will outline some of the key elements to create a space the kids will love, which may also impact longer-term resale value.

ENTRY ACCESS

Firstly, define who the space is serving. Is it for only one bedroom, two or more? Would it serve guests coming from other areas of the home? This will help answer the critical question of how best to access the bathroom. If serving one bedroom, creating ensuite access only (from the bedroom) is best. If serving two bedrooms, a door to a main hall helps save internal space for fixtures, but a Jack-and-Jill-style bath creates the feel of an ensuite-style. If people will be using it from a third bedroom, or any other areas of the home (say if there is no powder room for example), then you will need to ensure a door from a main hall is provided, to avoid having to walk through a bedroom to get to a bathroom.

FUNCTIONAL LAYOUT

Secondly, layout is key. Think first impressions. When the door swings open, or is left open, one does not want to stare at a toilet. This is an architectural atrocity for any bathroom. We routinely try to conceal the ‘House of Lords’ behind a door that swings, or tucked beside a vanity, tub or shower…or if space will allow, within its own separate room, also termed a water closet. This allows for more than one person to use the bathroom at a time, which can be valuable on busy school mornings. Likewise, if the main room is tied in with a tub and/or shower, it becomes a pro shared-gender use, allowing for makeup or toothbrushing to happen at the same time, as more private activities are behind a closed door.

MAKE ROOM FOR FIXTURES

Space allocations come next. While a double-vanity is a dream, if you have less than four to five feet to provide for it, a single trough-style sink with two faucets can provide the feeling of more space. For a toilet, if a three-foot-wide water closet cannot fit, we recommend at least a 30″ width be reserved, with absolute minimum being 27″, or else it will be cramped. If adjacent to a vanity, the space will feel more open than if tucked in beside a full-height obstruction. For the tub, shower or tub/shower combination, think of the size of the children (and their parents). Will a five-foot tub be enough? When thinking resale, think of potential buyers with babies. While a shower may feel more convenient to you, those new parents will need a tub somewhere to bathe kids so we recommend a combined tub/shower. Standard tubs are easier to get in and out of versus a soaker tub, but it depends on lifestyle if a deeper tub is preferred. If the kids are over the age of 5, a shower only may suffice, as it can save on space and may be more comfortable for them to use, but we recommend not selling within the next 10 years. Storage of ‘stuff’ is also of utmost importance, so planning hidden cubbies for toiletries, benches, recessed medicine cabinets at the start can go a long way at hiding the inevitable onslaught of products that will be tossed about this room on a daily basis.

LONG-LASTING FINISHES

Kids are rough, they tend to avoid manual labour associated with cleaning and will be relatively hard on the space. Durable and functional is what we recommend for the fixtures. Toilets that flush well and have a fully glazed trapway will reduce clogs and mess inside the bowl. Vanities with solid-surface counters like Cambria Quartz and undermount or integrated sinks reduce damages from splashing water as well as bacteria. Faucets and shower valves will take a lot of punishment, so go for durability and thermostatic adjustability of the mixing valves, ensuring long-term comfort is managed. Frameless glass for shower and tub surrounds with mould-resistant caulkings and a squeegee on-hand can reduce soap scum and mould growth. For tile, ceramic or porcelain, large-format tiles with thin grout lines is best for the main floors and tub/shower walls. Avoid the use of natural stone as they can require regular maintenance since they stain more easily. Fusion Pro premixed grout is stain- and mould-resistant and offers great protection in this regard. Even the accessories need to be thought out.

Have some fun, and if this space is predominantly for the kids, we recommend involving them in the design and selection process. The pride of space may start here and help in their desire to keep it clean and nice, which would be a bonus. Select finishes with the goal of them lasting at least 10 years, and also finishes that reflect their personalities and age ranges.

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

eurodale.ca

@eurodalehomes

(416) 782-5690


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Design/Build Expert: Permit Process Primer

Design/Build Expert: Permit Process Primer

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Design/Build Expert: Permit Process Primer

by Brendan Charters

Navigating twists & turns along the permit path

Whether creating, moving or otherwise altering a structural wall; relocating or running a new drain; installing a new furnace or amending the location or size of a heat run—a permit is required. Contrary to popular belief, even when rehabilitating an old porch, deck or structure over 10 square metres (about 108 square feet), not only will you require a permit, but you will also need to clear zoning bylaws.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

The world we live in is a highly regulated one, and while there is ample debate on both sides of the argument as to whether that is a good thing or not, it is the environment we must all operate in. As such, when planning to renovate or planning to build, it is imperative that you understand the process and what impacts to cost and timing it may have on your project.

Photography: after shot courtesty of Peter Sellar
Photography: after shot courtesy of Peter Sellar

MUNICIPALITY REALITY

Depending on where you live, your municipal planning and building departments may operate in a very personable and efficient way. Should you be lucky to live in a small town, you may even know the people helping you on the other side of the desk. As you get into more metropolitan regions, especially in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) or in Toronto proper (especially North York, Toronto and East York), your project rarely has a face to it, in that the examiners reviewing your file are often not speaking directly with you at all. The timing of the project can be drastically impacted due to the sheer volume of applications that the local municipality receives.

Photography: after shot courtesty of Peter Sellar
Photography: after shot courtesy of Peter Sellar

ILLUMINATING THE PROCESS

Additions, renovations and custom home projects can often take a path similar to that of the stacked townhouse, mid-rise or even high-rise project that your local developer is undertaking. The difference is, with the development fees they pay, there is often a dedicated planner on their file. In the case of smaller projects, it becomes imperative you understand the process to ensure you (or your designer/consultant) can shepherd your file around the various departments that need to review and approve your file before a permit is issued. To help you do that, or to at least shine a light on the process so you understand what you may be into, I have outlined a typical project process, along with typical time frames as outlined in a survey of professional RenoMark contractors undertaken by the BILD Association last year.

TYPICAL STEPS & SUBMISSIONS

Photography: diagram courtesy of BILD
Photography: diagram courtesy of BILD

In the chart above, we outline some typical steps in the process of renovating an old Toronto home and assume we are building an addition to it in order to expand the living area.

In order to submit for zoning review, you will require plans of the as-built home, plus plans showing the proposed changes, including floorplans, elevations and a building section to show heights of floors and the roof. You will also require an up-to-date survey, which shows neighbouring houses (half of them at least) and some key grade heights (top of first floor, and average grade across front of home, as well as 0.01m on each side of your property at the front yard setback), in order to determine the height of the building in relation to your surroundings. A site plan will show your existing conditions relating to the house and the lot, as well as what is being proposed by way of expansion. The first step is to submit that for zoning review. This review will outline your compliance with applicable laws governing the site, will set your path to move forward and can typically take anywhere from 2-12 weeks, depending on where you live.

SUPPORTING ARGUMENT

If your zoning review yields non-conformity with the bylaw(s), your next step is to submit to the Committee of Adjustment. Here you will request relief from the bylaw, arguing the merit of your application as it pertains to the four tests of the planning act. They include:

  1. Is it minor?
  2. Is it appropriate and desirable for the area?
  3. Is it in keeping with the intent of the bylaw?
  4. Is it in keeping with the Official Plan?

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

Timing for a Minor Variance can vary tremendously. The Planning Act legislates that a file be heard within 30 days of an application being accepted. In Toronto/East York, that timing is currently in excess of 120 days. Assuming you are successful at the Committee of Adjustment (CofA), there is a legislated 21-day appeal period where if contested, you may have to go to the Ontario Municipal Board or the Local Appeal Body (if in Toronto) to plead your case. Doing this adds months and costs to the project, as a formal trial takes place, which requires a planner and lawyer to be retained to argue the facts of the application. Avoid it if you can by being a good neighbour and involving your neighbours early in the planning process, in hopes of obtaining their support of your application—it can go a long way with the Committee members at the initial hearing and also reduces the risk of an appeal of the decision.

CONDITIONAL APPROVAL

If you were successful at Committee, the decision often comes with conditions of approval, including urban forestry, transportation or other department conditions, which must be met in order to allow the Building Department to accept your permit application as complete. Start the process with the various departments immediately after your CofA decision, as they can often take a long time to clear (i.e. Forestry or Ravines and Natural Features can take 8-12 weeks to review and approve if there are trees on the property affected by your application).

NEARING THE FINISH LINE

Once you have the final and binding letter from the Committee of Adjustment, and have clearances from the various commenting departments, you can request your initial zoning submission to be closed off and cleared as compliant. Congratulations! You now have a file that can be accepted as a complete application, which binds the Building Department to a 10-business day review. Keep track of your file to ensure you get a permit issued, or comments back within that time period, as files can often lie dormant if examiners are away on vacation, or if a labour union strike occurs, as it has twice in the last 10 years in Toronto.

STAYING ON TOP OF THE FILE

Our industry experience has been that a typical project can take an average of 46 weeks (or close to 12 months) to go through the process from initial submission to permit issuance. Six months is by no means unheard of and can be possible, depending on your specific region, if you are fortunate with whom you are working with at City Hall, and you stay on top of the status of the file. As such, we recommend being diligent with moving your file along the path outlined above, keeping in regular contact with the various departments, to ensure your file does not get lost in the shuffle. If things seem to be at a standstill, don’t wait on an email or a phone call to be returned—there is value in making a trip to the department you are working with. A face on a file can help to bring a personal urgency to a file that a phone call and email just cannot deliver.

EXPERT KNOW-HOW AND A DASH OF COMPASSION

As always, we recommend working with a professional who knows the process and the people to help move a file from a dream into a reality. The approval process is a daunting one, and if you are not aware of the chess moves required to advance a file, a lot of time and stress can be added to the timeline suggested here. Also remember the individuals reviewing your file are people too—ones that are just as stressed with the file loads as you are, and a smile and professional treatment can go a long way in helping you and your file…rather than initiating the heat of battle, which can be counter-productive. Once a permit is issued, there is a fantastic relief that your project can get underway. Enjoy the euphoric ride!

Brendan Charters is co-owner of Toronto Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments – 2016 BILD Renovator of the Year.

Visit eurodale.ca or follow Brendan on Twitter @EurodaleHomes



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