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Home tips and tricks from BC Renonation
Getting rid of the commute in Vancouver
Imagine waking up in the morning and walking next door to work. Sounds like a dream for those who commute every morning and evening.
That dream came true for one Vancouver homeowner, with the help of Kerr Construction.
“It’s a beautiful home,” says Doug Kerr, founder of Kerr Construction. “One of the aspects of the house that I think turned out really well was that it looks and feels like a home even though it sits on top of a parking structure beside a commercial building. With the landscaping, the green wall and the exterior finishes it feels like a home and yet still belongs in the environment with its commercial surroundings.”
Because of the regulations governing commercial sites, it took a year to get approval from the City of Vancouver, and the home had to match commercial fire codes due to its location. It was also built using steel construction in order to fit in with the city regulations, as wood framing is not allowed. The noise from the existing commercial space was one of the considerations when constructing the home, as well as the space constraints.
“We had to be mindful of the existing active commercial businesses on site and had to keep the noise contained and the site tidy and orderly,” Kerr says. “Space was tight and anything heavy has to be craned in as there was not vehicle access to the rooftop patio where the home was built.”
The shape of the home was determined by the patio that was already in place, while the exterior finishes were chosen to complement the commercial building next door.
“The existing patio we built on was not square,” says Kerr. “So the home had to be designed to fit the irregular shape.”
The 52-inch-wide pivoting front door suits the commercial space, but also showcases the warmth of the home. Inside, the kitchen island counter and recessed ceiling above match the shape of the home, lending a modern touch to the space.
The homeowner, an older gentleman, now has several features that will help as he ages. Among them is a convenience kitchen on the second floor to ensure that he can entertain on his deck without having to go up and down the stairs to the main kitchen. There are also flush transitions on the floor in case a wheelchair is needed in the future.
Smart home automation is included throughout, making it easy for the homeowner to keep connected.
“My favourite part of the home is the floating wall beside the open staircase,” Kerr says. “It was such an engineering feat to make an eight-foot-high wall solid without being attached at the top or sides. It provides the definition of space without blocking out all the light from the skylights in the stairwell as well as adds a little mystery of how it was constructed.”
The view from the home is spectacular, so the exterior deck was constructed to maximize the homeowner’s view, enhanced by the large windows and skylights.
Among the interesting features of the home is a textured green wall above the entrance to the parking garage below the home. The greenery already surrounding the home was kept, with new plants added as well. Now, the home looks like it was always there.
“The homeowner was very involved in the day-to-day decisions of the home that took just over a year to build,” Kerr says. “He had a vision of how he wanted it to look and how it would function. It really is his vision. Our job was just to figure out how it could be built.”
Now the homeowner can enjoy his new home without having to worry about commuting, and he has plenty of space to entertain or relax.
“He loves the way the simple modern interior of the home showcases his art collection and his favourite Finn Juhl furniture made in his Danish homeland,” says Kerr.
Fall in love with autumn
As the weather cools and we find ourselves spending the majority of our time indoors, you may be feeling the urge to spruce up your home with some new decor or a little makeover.
When it comes to picking out the proper colours, patterns and styles for your home, this fall there is plenty to be excited about, according to designer Joan Walker, owner of The Curtain Call Drapery & Decorating Co.
Similar to previous seasons, wallpaper is still a popular choice for homes, and choosing a print with graphics and texture helps to fill any room with subtle warmth.
This year, fabrics for chairs, cushions and other such items are a little more bold, with orange and blue hues.
“After years of natural texture, prints are creeping back in with bold graphics and embroidery,” Walker explained. “This can add the perfect pop to any room, especially in a modern design. And we’re not just seeing a single colour any more as an accent.”
If you’re in the market for some new furniture, Walker said the latest trend is leaning towards a more refined, ‘glam-rustic’ look to pieces that are on the lighter side, with fine features and tapered, slim legs.
“Overall, it’s a little more sophisticated, but at the same time exuding a casual glamour and relaxed look,” she said.
Natural wood finishes are still a popular choice – especially in coffee tables, which are often placed in groupings at different heights for a tapered look.
“These pieces are not only multifunctional, but they create a dimension of a square centre of a room.”
Other styles to look out for this season include designs with hints of metallic and luxury accent fabrics, including velvet and faux fur, as well as the ever-popular tribal motifs and animal prints.
If it’s the flooring in your home that needs a little attention this fall, a popular choice, according to Dora Belyk of Surfside Flooring, is vinyl wood plank and tile.
“It is durable and has great design detail that looks very similar to real hardwood or tile,” Belyk said.
For those homeowners who enjoy the challenge of DIY (do it yourself), these vinyl-flooring products are now available in a high-quality self-adhesive format to make the job easier than ever. If you prefer to leave it up to the experts, however, Surfside has a team of professional installers on hand to get the job done.
Whether you’re just looking to add a splash of colour and style to your home, or you want to embark on a complete design renovation, seeking out the advice and expertise of a design professional will help save you time and stress and will ensure you have a finished product you will love.
Think of the big picture when it comes to windows
When it comes to replacing your windows, you’ll need a clear vision of what you want the exterior of your home to look like.
“You have to think big picture on what look you want,” says Mark Brandow, sales manager for Centra Windows. “Are you going to paint the exterior a different colour in the future? Are you going to change the siding?”
Brandow says that the first thing he does when he goes to a client’s home is to stand outside the house with the homeowner and talk about the look he or she wants for their home.
“You need to have a vision of what you want,” he says.
The biggest thing that homeowners need to consider when replacing their windows is the energy savings, especially as it gets colder.
“You want to keep the heat in,” Brandow says, adding that it will save you money in the long run.
The important things that you should consider are what Brandow calls “the three keys.”
The first is the glass, followed by the frame and the installation.
“The installation is the most important component,” he says. “If you don’t have it installed properly, it’s more drafty in your room and it opens walls to rot, which leads to mold and bigger expenses.”
He also recommends homeowners ask the window company what they use as spacers between the glass to maintain the seal.
“We use structural foam that expands when it’s hot and contracts when it’s cold,” Brandow says. “Glass does that too.”
When it comes to style, clean, crisp lines and clear glass are the most popular, whether you’re looking for a large bay window or a small picture window.
Brandow recommends those looking to replace their windows budget between $600 and $800 per window in order to cover the glass, screens and inert gas that fills the space between the panes. He also notes that most window replacements will take about five to eight weeks from the time you sign the contract to the finished product.
“We’ll go through the options that work for you,” he says. “We’ll talk about function and the trim options including the colour scheme.”
While you may not consider your windows tops on the list of things keeping you warm in your house, it’s definitely worth a second thought as the nights get colder. No one wants to spend more money on energy bills than they have to.
Hiring an interior designer well worth the money
Renovating is one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do in your life. The number of decisions to be made, the constraints of a budget and the scope of the work can all combine to make you wish you had never started the project at all.
Hiring an interior designer goes a long way towards making your life a bit easier.
“I do a lot of hand-holding,” says Beverley Richards of Beverley A. Richards Interior Designs. “I also put on the stripes and referee between homeowners and trades sometimes.”
She laughs when she notes that she sometimes has to play the ref between homeowners who can’t believe what their spouse likes.
But money is the biggest reason that homeowners should hire an interior designer when they’re doing renovations.
“We do many houses a year, while the homeowner only does one,” Richards says. “We have better buying power and get a price break on things, which I pass on to the client.”
Most interior designers will charge by the job or by the hour, depending on the project, but that cost is often less than what you would spend if you were buying materials and furnishings on your own.
“You have to trust your designer,” says Richards. “They have your best interests at heart. The process should be fun, and having a designer means you don’t have to micro-manage everything.”
An interior designer will liaise with the contractor and tradespeople, ensuring that they know what everyone is doing and get to that cohesive look at the end.
“Everyone has their own expertise,” Richards says. “You wouldn’t go to a dentist to get your arm fixed, so why would you want to do things you’re not used to doing?”
Hiring an interior designer might be one of the most important choices you make when renovating your home, no matter the size of the project.
“At the end of the day, you can take great pride in your new space,” Richards says.
Glitter reigns supreme for the winter holidays
The winter holidays are fast approaching, and you’ve probably already seen the first sprinklings of snowflakes and reindeer in stores. It’s never too early to start thinking about what you’d like to include in your holiday decor plans.
“Traditional colours are being used in a new way,” says Vickie Maxwell, media coordinator for Bouclair Homes. “Red is mixed with gold and black, giving it a strong, glamourous feel to a very traditional holiday colour.”
Red, gold and green is usually what comes to mind when Christmas is discussed, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick with those traditional colours. Bouclair is moving beyond that this year with collections that feature teal, silver and white. Keeping your own style in mind will make for a far better look than trying to stick with something that’s not your style.
Sparkle has always been an integral part of the holidays for some, and you’ll find plenty of options in stores.
“Emerging trends for holiday decor is anything that sparkles and mixing contrasting elements like earthy wood and metallic accents together,” says Pottery Barn spokesperson Kendra Stewart. “Pair big wooden candle pillars with shiny mercury glass and earthy ceramics for a contrast of rustic and luxe elements to create a casual yet festive look for the season.”
Pottery Barn is updating some of the traditional holiday items this year, including glittery reindeer and sequined woodland creatures.
“The holidays are all about creating an inviting space to entertain and celebrate the season, and I love the tradition of decorating with my nostalgic pieces and pairing them with new seasonal updates,” says Stewart.
“This year, bring a little warmth and sparkle to every room with accents of mercury glass and a chunky knit pillow or faux fur throw.”
The holidays can also be a great time to try out some do-it-yourself ideas.
Cutting out snowflakes from folded paper is a time-honoured tradition, stemming from elementary school experiences for many. Setting your kids free with the crayons and glitter makes for an easy afternoon craft project.
Another great idea is to gather some pine cones from your local park and hanging them up with some ribbon. For a little extra touch, try spray-painting them and rolling them in glitter before hanging them.
You can also find a new use for some of the tree ornaments that you don’t want to put on the tree. Filling a glass bowl or vase with them and using it as a centrepiece adds some sparkle and colour to a holiday table. You can also do this with pieces of candy or fruit, or jingle bells from a craft store.
Strings of lights are also a great way to decorate for the season, no matter which holiday you celebrate. Running them along a fireplace mantel or inside a window frame will lend some more sparkle to your space. Or try wrapping them up the banister of your stairs, accented with some tinsel garland.
Decorating for the holidays is all a matter of individual style, whether you want to go all-out with the lights and wreathes or just decorate a tree for you and your family to enjoy.
Getting your furnace ready for winter
The mornings are chilly and it’s getting darker earlier. It’s time to start considering getting your furnace going.
“Most of the time you can flip a switch and it works,” says Greg Eldridge of Milani Plumbing Drainage and Heating. “Beforehand you should change the filters, get it serviced and clean the ducts.”
It is always recommended to have your furnace checked out at least once a year. There’s nothing worse than coming home in the dead of winter to find that your furnace isn’t working, and regular maintenance can prevent that. Most of the time it’s a fairly straight-forward process and won’t take too long. You can easily replace the filter yourself.
“You can get a filter at (hardware stores) and furnace stores,” says Eldridge. “Pull out the filter from the side and swap it.”
He recommends replacing the filter about three times a year, or four times a year if you have pets.
“You can buy a washable filter that will last forever,” he says, adding that they are convenient but pricier.
Before flipping that switch, Eldridge says to make sure there are no flammable liquids near the system and make sure the general area is clear of debris.
“Also make sure the piping isn’t obstructed in any way,” he says. “And make sure that the floor and wall grills are clear because that can obstruct the air.”
In some cases, there’s no other option but to replace your furnace or other heating system. If you’re unsure as to whether that’s the right step for you, take a look at your heating bills. No one wants to pay a lot to keep their home cozy, and an inefficient furnace can eat up your hard-earned money. Constantly repairing an older furnace in order to keep it functioning and safe will also cost you a lot more in the long run.
Another consideration is whether your furnace is keeping all of the areas of your home warm. If you’re noticing cold spots, your furnace is probably in need of an upgrade.
The final thing to think about is whether your furnace is still safe. Older furnaces can leak carbon monoxide or more easily start a fire.
As the cold sets in, you’ll appreciate the heat of an efficient furnace or other heating system. It’s very important to keep it working well in order to keep out winter’s chill and to keep you and your family safe.