A year later, a new kitchen

A year later, a new kitchen

Upheaval, mistakes and compromises made for a long renovation

Oak-framed cupboard doors, each with a matte-white lower portion and frosted glass upper portion, swing up and open to reveal storage space.

Photograph by: Vincenzo D’Alto. The Gazette

The kitchen in the gracious and spacious 1919 cottage in Notre-Dame-de-Grace was the last room to be touched by a makeover paintbrush and reno hammer.

It turned out to be the most taxing, lengthy and ultimately satisfying renovation the owners had experienced since buying the four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom brick home in 1991.

The idea was to bridge eras by filtering the home’s pedigree through a contemporary lens.

The wife, a busy tax attorney, began poring over design magazines and sourcing paint, fixtures and tiles more than three years ago. Her vision took shape with occasional feedback from her engineer husband and two teenage sons, so that by the time she connected with designer Louise Paradis — recommended by a friend — her dream kitchen was complete, at least in her mind’s eye.

In my mind, because I wanted a kitchen that was modern but that also fit with the age of the house, it meant Shaker-style cabinetry, she says. And I really wanted the interiors of the cupboards and drawers to be custom fit so that everything had its place.

Paradis normally works with her own cabinetmaker, but the homeowner wanted more than one quote, so they visited two more kitchen companies and settled on Galleria Design in St-Leonard.

They didn’t give me sticker shock, and the work was beautifully done.

The old home has oak millwork, but the homeowner wasn’t a fan of its big veins, so Galleria Design’s Manon Riendeau suggested going with riff-cut (cut against the grain) oak, which produces a sleeker, more contemporary line.

It took six months for the homeowner, Paradis and Riendeau to finesse the final plans. That was the short of it. The long of it is quite the tale.

There was upheaval. Structural work had to be done on the second floor above the kitchen, so the homeowner arranged for the kitchen demolition and re-plastering to be done at the same time. With so much going on, the family had to move out, so they rented a house for three months. Three months seemed reasonable at the time. After all, they’d calculated the work on the second floor and the kitchen renovations would take four months. They did move back in three months later, but the kitchen was nowhere near completion. Work began in September 2012. The backsplash was installed last July.

It was partly my fault that the reno took so long, because I was picky with my timing, the homeowner says. I had found the contractor and was working with the designers long before the work started. I didn’t want a spring reno, because I’m super busy at work. I didn’t want a summer reno, because there is the break for the construction holiday. So I picked a fall reno. I still believe my timing was right. There were challenges. The homeowner wanted an uninterrupted row of upper cabinets installed along the exterior wall, but a chimney shaft jutting into the kitchen, a support beam in the ceiling and an unnecessarily large window installed by the previous owners wreaked havoc on the original plans. The big window was replaced with a compact version, and the cupboards became a mix of 18-inch-deep and 12-inchdeep ones, working their way around the shaft and beam to create the illusion of symmetry.

Planning is everything

It can’t be said too many times: Plan and plan some more before beginning a big renovation job.

The homeowner’s advice: Collect magazine photos that reflect your taste and spend time wandering both high-end stores and big-box stores.

Pick out what you want in advance, but don’t purchase until the final design details are in place. You might have a change of heart, like the homeowner did about the backsplash.

Find a designer who will work with your ideas.

Be a regular presence during renovations. There is so much co-ordination to be done between the different trades, and so many surprises to deal with, especially with an older home. Many decisions need to be made on the spot. If you are not there to make those decisions, others will make them for you.

But that left no room for the Jenn-Air wall-mount oven, so the team figured out a way to install it under the Jenn-Air cooktop. The homeowner also wanted the stove hood hidden and the microwave stashed away. In the end, the nearceiling-height, oak-framed cupboard doors, each with a matte-white lower portion and frosted glass upper portion, swing up and open with a gentle finger push to reveal storage space.

There was compromise. The back wall of the kitchen is the first thing you see when you walk in the front door. That’s where the fridge has always been. I wanted to change that with the new design, but no amount of tinkering with the plans could fix the problem. So I bought a super-duper Sub-Zero fridge, and now I don’t mind seeing it first thing when I walk in the door.

The kitchen is too wide to be called a galley kitchen, but too narrow to comfortably accommodate an island. The family had lived with an island since moving in, but it was more of a hindrance than a help, so installing a new island was out of the question. Paradis suggested a peninsula, but the homeowner balked. Too old-fashioned. The designer won her over by giving the peninsula a modern twist, making it as wide as a table — creating a perfect spot for quick family dinners and long chats with friends.

There were mistakes.

The 1¼-inch-thick quartz countertops were supposed to be installed before Christmas — the original deadline for the project — but in the rush to hit deadline, the counter was badly cut and didn’t fit. The family was left to prepare Christmas dinner on plywood.

By the time the countertops arrived in mid-January, the homeowner was suffering from reno fatigue, and began second-guessing her choice of tiles for the backsplash.

The backsplash is the jewel of the kitchen. I didn’t want to make a mistake. The room’s palette is white and grey, with warm oak. I needed something with a little sparkle.

So she held out until she’d wandered all the stores one more time, ultimately falling in love with the perfect amount of sparkle in a tile from Les Carreaux Ardesia.

Looking back at the almost 12-month renovation, the homeowner realizes that although she had a wonderful working relationship with the contractor and two designers, there was one important player missing from the team.

I should have hired an architect right from the beginning. If you’re dealing with structural issues, like a support beam or chimney shaft, and it’s an old house, you need an architect. It would have cost me more, but the process would have been much less stressful.

Installing the pot lights was pricier than planned, and purchasing the Sub-Zero refrigerator was not in the original budget, but because the homeowner did her homework and got several quotes for the custom cabinetry, she was able to keep the spending on track.

The cabinetry cost $32,000, a good $8,000 less than she had expected to pay.

Next project? A garage sale to get rid of two-thirds of the kitchen stuff I’ve collected over the last 20 years and realized during the reno that I never use.

- Backsplash tiles: Luxx Corail from Les Carreaux Ardesia ( ardesia.ca )

- Cabinet pulls: Richelieu from Home Depot ( homedepot.ca )

- Paint: White Heron (OC57) from Benjamin Moore ( benjaminmoore.com )

- Cabinets: Galleria Design ( galleriadesign.ca )

- Fixtures: Batimat ( batimat.net )

- Sink: Julien sink from Ciot Habitat ( ciot.com )

- Peninsula chairs: Pier 1 Imports ( pier1.ca )

- 12×24 floor tiles: Ciot Habitat ( ciot.com )

Leave a Reply