Armed with design ideas and a DIY spirit for renovating on a budget, this driven young couple bought an Oaklands, mid-century, fixer-upper with long term plans. “We knew that a house in our price range was going to need work so our basic requirements were a home with good bones that had undergone minimal renovations,” says the homeowner. Looking for a short-term home while their family grows and then a possible revenue property in the future, the couple knew how they wanted to approach the design and renovation. They hired Ryan MacLeod at Citizen Design Build to transform this classically dark, 1952 bungalow, into an open, family-friendly home with modern details.
Classic renovation story: what started out as a simple kitchen cabinets and flooring replacement, led to gutting the entire space, removing the chimney, and vaulting the ceiling. Sound familiar? With a keen eye for design, combined with the husband’s background in construction, the process became a collaborative design project. For design inspiration, the homeowners turned to their friends who had recently hired Citizen Design Build to overhaul their century-old Fernwood church. Inspired by the former church’s gallery white walls, use of simple materials, and an overall feeling of modern serenity, the bungalow homeowners realized that with MacLeod’s creative solutions, a modern design could still be possible on a budget.
Creating spaces that fit a family’s story, MacLeod states that, “the whole process was unique; the clients had done their research and it was more collaborative than most renovations. They were a great couple to work with; they like to think outside the box which was helpful when considering solutions for their list of needs,” says MacLeod. Using budget-conscious transformative wizardry, MacLeod managed to convert their cramped kitchen and pint-sized living room into an open and airy, family space with modern details.
“Heading into a busy period of life with careers as educators, and a toddler, I knew we needed to create a stress-free, straight-forward home. With their budget a priority, the aim was to employ creative solutions to capitalize on space and light,” explains MacLeod. Using a limited palette of materials, the space is defined by concrete, laminate, reclaimed fir, and a tastefully curated Ikea kitchen with creative features.
The original entrance was tiny and dark with two doors: one leading to the left into the living area and one on the right leading into the kitchen. Happily gutting the confined space of the main floor, including the removal of the fireplace, chimney, and wall, MacLeod unlocked the home’s potential. Vaulting the ceiling, MacLeod transformed the room from cramped to capacious using height to bring life and light into the otherwise small footprint. “With a front entrance that opens into the living area, I built alcoves in the wall with built-in benches to create an area of distinction and to add interest,” explains MacLeod. The storage space in the benches and the extra seating add to the functionality without exploiting the limited square-footage.
“The original kitchen was small and unusable; the cabinets were old and covered in mold,” says the homeowner. Guided by cost, after structural changes had seized a large portion of the budget, the couple relied on Ikea products and laminate countertops for inexpensive, yet minimal, clean finishes in the kitchen. Evading a homogenous Ikea look, the design-conscious couple injected stylish details like pulls from Anthropologie and reclaimed fir which were low on cost and high on character.
A functional office alcove was built into the kitchen to keep clutter at bay and reserve a space for paperwork and a laptop. White subway tile combined with dove grey grout in a running brick pattern is uncontroversial and au courant. The outlines of each tile add depth and a graphic interest to the space without competing with the minimalistic design. Grey grout is easier to maintain in a kitchen than white which can easily stain over time.
Essential to the client’s design requirements was a generous island that could work double-duty as an everyday family dining space and a large dining table for entertaining. The concrete countertop on the island anchors the space and provides a durable, industrial-modern feel. Cost-effective, stain-resistant, and waterproof, laminate countertops flank the L-shaped kitchen counters. Skylights infuse the kitchen with natural light and contribute to the illusion of spaciousness. Open shelving livens the space and offers a place to showcase personal accoutrement.
Behold the iconic feel of the apron-front, double bowl, farmhouse sink. Evoking a feeling of nostalgia in a modern kitchen, it serves as a focal point below the main window. Jutting out slightly from the cabinetry, the ergonomic farmhouse sink recalls a time when hardworking sinks boasted dents and scratches from continuous use, from scrubbing stock pots and even bathing children.
Striking the balance between form and function, MacLeod is well-versed in locating the point of equilibrium between design elements and value. “Instead of taking the typical, cost-conscious route and just sourcing the cheapest materials, I really strive to get creative with unique design elements and try to give my clients more than they expect, even when on a firm budget. My suggestions are always based on longevity and durability for those items that really require quality,” says MacLeod. Chocolate brown rattan bar stools provide a contrasting warmth to the cool concrete and offset the predominantly white surroundings.
“You have to remember that the purpose of walls is to divide and organize a space; walls also provide parameters for arranging furniture. When you remove walls you have to be aware of how you will define rooms and create spaces for furniture and shelving. People often use built-ins as a solution which are costly and not always an option. Working within the budget on this project we did a drywall return in a couple of areas to create alcoves as a place of interest and a place to personalize the space. Pot lights were installed in the alcoves to create depth and bring attention to this unique feature,” explains MacLeod. Coral, antlers, and glass give this personal vignette a natural, biotic feel. Think original still life. Vary the colour, texture, and size of the objects for an artistic display that creates a mood for the room. Often used in place of artwork, the down lit vignettes impart a polished, sophisticated feel.
“We originally bought our home with a short-term plan but after this renovation, especially with the vaulted ceiling and open space, we feel like we are in a much more livable space for a growing family and anticipate staying here for as long as we can.”