Creating an open plan living room and kitchen

With the holidays over, this week we started the main floor demolition for our beautiful 100-year-old gem in the Glebe. I met my contractor early in the morning to go over a few details and then… waited patiently to find out what was hiding behind the partition wall and bulkheads.

Remember this was before…


Living Room (before)


Removing this wall (before)

Mziray_Clarey2_Staged_ 51-2

Kitchen (Before)

End of Day 1…

Good news, the partition wall doesn’t contain anything that can’t be moved! The HVAC duct and electrical will be relocated to the outer wall. As you can see below, most of the bulkheads can be eliminated to create a nice flush continuous ceiling between the kitchen in living room.

Open concept in progress

Open concept in progress

But unfortunately the bulk head in the living room is encasing a support steel beam running parallel to the outer wall. This steel beam is held up by a support pillar at the corner of the partition wall.


But… surprises are always expected when opening up the walls of a house built 100 years ago!

Key is to be flexible and come up with different options. In this case, we will be changing my original kitchen layout slightly in order to work around this support pillar. As for the support beam, we can encase it with a smaller bulk head and have it run in one clean line to the back.

End of Day 2 (drum roll please)…

Living room/kitchen

Living room/kitchen


Wall, bulk heads and old kitchen cabinets are gone



Future powder room (far back wall)

Stay tuned for more updates!

What’s lurking behind the wall

Ever wondered what’s lurking behind the walls of your old house? Well not until you HAVE to open the walls up for “some reason”. This so-called “some reason” could be anything from electrical and plumbing updates or water damage. Maybe your house is haunted or home to a not-so-friendly family of squirrels and you need to perform an exorcism. Lesson learned, exorcists (and exterminators) are extremely busy this time of year. Everyone (and everything) is hibernating indoor to escape this gruelling -30 degree Celsius weather.

The Hintonburg fourplex building we renovated this year was built in 1922, therefore you can imagine the history that was lurking behind the walls *shiver (I live in Canada, it’s cold).

Flowered wallpaper was a big hit in the 1960s and 1970s and was clearly a feature in our building. Call it vintage if you want… I will keep my thoughts to myself. Most of the bedrooms in this place had 2 or 3 layers of wallpaper and in some areas these layers were topped with a couple coats of paint. Why fix the problem when a “band-aid” will do just fine?

Wouldn’t you also be sad to have to part ways with such beautiful wallpaper?


Needless to say, when you decide to remove these layers, be ready for a mess.

Especially when you have lath and plaster walls.


Lath and plaster was used in Canada and the US until the 1950s (when drywall first made its appearance). Wood laths are nailed horizontally in rows across the wall studs (see above photo), then the plaster (mixed in with horsehair for added cohesion) is applied in layers. It’s not uncommon to find other materials like cardboard or newspaper that may also have been used to hold the layers.

Like this newspaper from 1963 that I found behind the bathroom wall.


I was curious what this add was promoting. Check out the story!


Next project, before closing up the wall, I will do a time capsule like they did on Young House Love (see here). What would you put in your time capsule for future owners (squirrels or spirits included) to find in 50 years?

Thanks for stopping by!

Let’s update this 100-year old house

In January 2014, a small window of opportunity has opened to update one of our properties located in the Glebe neighbourhood of Ottawa,ON. Since the current tenants are moving out at the start of the month, I will have exactly 4 weeks to get renovations done for a new February 1st lease.

To add to the excitement of this 4 week renovation project,  I will be 7.5 months pregnant (going on 8) when we tackle this on. There’s nothing I’m looking more forward to than getting premier access to the “Expectant mothers” parking spot in the Home Depot parking lot. Believe it or not, it’s even better than the contractor parking!

Here’s my renovation wish list:

1. Create an open plan on the main floor. 


As you can see, the main floor is not quite open-plan. I would like to remove the separating wall between the living room (featured) and the kitchen in the back. 

2. Install new kitchen cabinets, tile backsplash, stone countertop and update white stove to stainless. 

Mziray_Clarey2_Staged_ 51-2 Mziray_Clarey2_Staged_ 50-2

The good? The new pot lights we put in last year. New stainless fridge and dishwasher.

The bad? Everything else… I’m still not sure why there are two types of tile backsplash. But overall, the kitchen needs a complete overall in order to bring it up to par with what future home owners in this area look for. 

3. Level floors and reinstall new hardwood flooring on main floor. 

This house was built in 1926. One of it’s charming features is a slanted main floor. If we’re able to remove the separating wall, we will be removing a significant portion of the hardwood to reconfigure the kitchen and add a powder room. Why not take this opportunity to have the floor levelled? This is exactly why renovation budgets always go over ;). 

4. Create a half bathroom on main floor. 

This would bring up the property value significantly and add an element of convenience for renters and future home-owners. 

5. Finish laundry room. 

A few sheets of drywall  and a coat of paint should do the trick.

6. Replace part of the backyard fence.

Once the snow melts of course!

The 5 year old in me knows that Santa Clause can’t possibly fill every item on my wish list. But perhaps the bank can!

Stay tuned for updates and thank you for stopping by.

Hintonburg renovation project: Updates!

It’s been a busy couple weeks at the four-plex unit 1. Good news, we’re still on track to complete on May 1st. I found my tenants and they signed the lease… no time for procrastination.

Here are the last 2 weeks in picture updates :). I will take more time to elaborate later!

Goodbye drop ceiling, hello drywall

Remember what the ceilings looked like before?

A look at my new kitchen ceiling, with the box for the track lighting

A look at my new kitchen ceiling, with the box for the track lighting


Ugly cabinets are gone! New kitchen is being installed on Sunday!


New upstairs shower plumbing (work in progress).

New insulation and ceilings

After taking down the drop ceilings, we realized why this bedroom was much colder than the rest of the house. Seems that when “they” built the addition to add a bedroom, “they” decided that, since we live in Canada, it wasn’t necessary to insulate the ceiling. “They” are who you ask? My mother always said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”…

I bought a couple bags of ComfortBatt insulation and sent Des crawling in the attic space for an hour. Voilà, we now have a warm and cozy bedroom. Once the carpet is installed, it will feel like drinking a nice cup of hot chocolate while snuggled on the sofa… in front of a fireplace. Maybe with a chick flick? Or something with Vikings, Laser Beams and Hobbits if you’re a guy. Anyway, you get my drift. While we had the ceiling open, it was easy to have Marty, my electrician, run the wiring to a box in the centre of the ceiling to add a light (instead of one wall sconce).


Bedroom 2


Replaced bottom floor treads… here they were before.


New centred ceiling fixtures and new ceiling


Des mudding the drywall

I try to be helpful, and this is what happens


Sanding the drywall. Note to self: wear proper work boots


Note to self: take a shower!

Stay tuned!, two weeks until the final reveal!

Hintonburg Renovation Project – Bathroom Remodel

During my initial walk-through of the unit, I quickly realized that in order to increase the rental value of this 3 bedroom apartment, we would have to add a 2nd shower. There are 2 bedrooms on the main level and the only bath/shower is in the basement. Not ideal. So part of my small $15,000 budget includes the addition of a corner shower. This requires means we have to reconfigure a wall and relocate the vanity.

Adding a shower

Like my chicken scratch drawing? There must be a better way to do this ;)

Like my chicken scratch drawing? There must be a better way to do this 😉

As you can see, the bathroom wall has been removed. The protruding pipes are my vanity plumbing. Since the smallest shower available is roughly 3’x3′, I have no choice but to relocate the vanity plumbing to the right. If I can find a shower with sliding doors inside instead of a door, I will be able to avoid hitting the toilet.

Adding new and relocating existing plumbing

new wall

Once I had the floors opened up, it was time to get a plumber in for a quote. Next step will be to build the frame for the new walls (as you can see from my very STRAIGHT lines above). Once the frame is up, I can have the plumber do his thing!

It’s moving along quickly!

Hintonburg Renovation Project – Drop ceiling tiles dilemma

Last week, I was debating taking down the drop ceilings in the kitchen. They are old, stained and look dated.

Option 1 – Switching out the drop ceiling tiles with a new modern design

Possibly some with a more modern design like these. At $15 a pop… I’m looking at $375 + $100 frame + labour.

Option 2 – Simple swap for the same style

Replacing them wouldn’t be too difficult and expensive. They are under 5$ each + the cost of the frame. I could do the whole job for $100 + labour. Problem is… they really bother me. They remind me of an old office building and I lose 5-6″ of ceiling height.

Option 3 – Drywall + Paint

So I had Des take them down.


What did we find behind there? Of course… that ugly drop ceiling had to be hiding something right?

This big hole!


Older homes are always full of surprises! You never know what’s lurking behind the wall (or ceiling in this case).  Looks like the previous owners possibly had a leaking issue (thanks for letting us know*) and went in to replace some of the plumbing (see the new plastic one). So why didn’t they simply drywall over it after tearing down part of the ceiling? The new plumbing actually protrudes about 1″, so it wouldn’t be possible to just patch up the area. The whole ceiling would have to be shifted down and drywalled.

So what to do? Drywall is cheap as well. And Marty, our electrician (yes I’m taking direction from an electrician) gave us the idea to stack a couple 2x4s to build a frame, thus taking the ceiling down a few inches (but still higher than with the drop ceiling). This way we can avoid the protruding pipe, and get a clean finished ceiling by drywalling. The kitchen is just over 100 sq/ft, so at $10-$15 a sheet, drywall is the way to go!

While we’re at it. Might as well take down the drop ceiling in the 2 other bedrooms.

… I just hope we don’t find something else lurking under there.


Hintonburg renovation project – Demolition Part 1

Remember what this 3-bedroom looked like yesterday?

Day 1 of demolition is complete! We’re almost down to the bones in the kitchen. It’s filthy, it stinks… I guess that’s what happens when you uncover 4 layers of wallpaper that was built up over the last 60 years!

I’ve never owned cats, but my guess is… if you had 10 of them, and you left them to do their business for 6 months without cleaning it up… the end result would be pretty much the same. The smell is atrocious. I may, or may not be exaggerating ;). Either way, I was showing the unit to a couple renters again yesterday – and, luckily, they didn’t run the other way.

It’s about using your imagination, am I right?

Just picture this awesome space with a new kitchen, toilet shower, flooring, paint and thorough clean… thorough, thorough clean.


Bathroom wall is gone. We have to make room for a new shower!


Next step, open the floor up to get plumbing access (and HEAVY negotiating on my part to get this done within budget).


That’s not tile my friends… it’s old rotten wallpaper.


My new kitchen will be going there. Plan to salvage the stone backsplash (which is in decent condition) to save some $$.


I was really afraid to see what was lurking behind this mirror.

You can the potential, right?

Thanks for stopping by!


Hintonburg renovation project

Renovation on Unit #1 of a four-plex building in Hintonburg starts tomorrow! I’m excited to lead this project and turn these run down apartments into fresh & clean housing for young professionals and mature students. I’ll be blogging our progress, so stay tuned.

Budget: $15,000

Time frame: 4 weeks

Summary of work: The unit currently only has 1 bath/shower in the lower basement level. The main floor, has a half bath. The major structural change to accomplish – add a shower to main floor unit. New kitchen, new flooring, refinishing hardwood, fresh paint & updating fixtures/hardware.

Goal: Increase rental income.

I’m warning you… the images below are terrifying. You’ll have to use your imagination. Think gut-and-redo!


Bedroom 2


Bedroom 2


Bedroom 2


Main floor 1/2 bath


Main floor 1/2 bath








Living room


Living room


Bedroom 3




Basement bath


Basement bath


Ew… seriously?


Basement bath


Is that brushed nickel AND BRASS?




Stairs (obviously)


Watch your step!

How do you envision this space?

Stay tuned for more!

Clear out the clutter: closet edition

It has been an incredibly busy week and I’m finally only getting around to my blog! Work has to come first right 😉 I spent the weekend working at the Ottawa Boat Show seeking new leads for my other side gig with Ottawa Foot Doctors (And dreaming of a life on a yacht).

For bright grey creations,  I’ve been working on drafting new designs for a four-plex renovation project that will be starting in a couple weeks. We have a couple kitchens and bathrooms to do, which I love! I can’t wait to share these ideas with y’all (accent borrowed from Dr. Phil).

Finally, I’ve been trying to pack 10 travel days worth in a carry-on suitcase… For those who know me well, you’ll understand that this task is next to impossible for me to achieve. I’m taking my man on a trip to Nicaragua for his birthday (which was earlier this month). We leave tomorrow! I got the flights on travel points accumulated through my dedication to using my VISA card (they are so nice, aren’t they?) The catch? In order to get to Managua, Nicaragua: we need to travel via Chicago and Houston. With that many connections, I couldn’t risk the airline losing my luggage… carry-on it is. Chris doesn’t seem to be too concerned with this… all he needs is underwear, t-shirts and a toothbrush right?

I was researching “packing light” ideas when my ADD kicked in. When we had our house renovated, we asked our contractor to build the closets with a double curtain rod and built-in. Although great to hang my clothing collection, it didn’t solve my purse hoarding problem. I came across this idea to hang accessories on your closet bar using shower curtain hooks or rings (and inexpensive too!)

For the man closet!

For the man closet!


I’m adding this to my to do list for my purses, scarves, necklaces and Chris’s ties! Maybe find some cool vintage hooks (instead of plain white ones) that add a little charm to my display of accessories?

Have you found some great ways to keep your closet clutter free?

Inspired from Paris Fashion Week Spring 2013 – checkered prints

Louis Vuitton’s new spring collection at Paris Fashion week 2013 featured one of the hottest new trend this season. Checks, checks and more checks. Marc Jacobs as creative director for Louis Vuitton never stops to impress me… and inspire me! Well some anyway… I never understood herring pants. They are super comfortable, but the least bit stylish (unless you are a 5’10” glamazon).

In the recent years, more and more interior designs are inspired by new season trends right off the runaway. How will your home be following the new trends?

Inspiration – Checkered print

Louis Vuitton Spring 2013 @ Paris Fashion Week.

Louis Vuitton Spring 2013 @ Paris Fashion Week

Be bold with a checkered flooring


checkered greenbriarhotel


Or add a few checkered touches


checkered chairs

Will you be following the new trends this season?

Baby steps by adding a checkered jacket or tights to your wardrobe?