Reno Madness – Uncovered
November 9, 2018

A year ago, my husband, Arriz, and I decided to shake up our lives entirely by selling our completely finished, renovated to the hilt, house in Toronto’s Little Portugal neighbourhood and buying an old Victorian home in Historical Cabbagetown, (the largest Victorian village in North America), in need of a top-to-bottom makeover. I had already decided it was time to leave my post as the Editor-in-Chief of House & Home magazine to start my own boutique design agency and I figured, why not dive into three major life changes at once? It was all part of a plan to simplify my life: Downsize from a large house, free up some cash to invest and finally buy that house in Mexico that I’ve always dreamt about. This was the year that I was going to make it all happen – and I did!

But it wasn’t easy. Renovating this old Victorian was the most challenging renovation Arriz and I have ever navigated because, unbeknownst to us, the house had a terrible support structure. (Seriously, why do we even bother with home inspections?) But, we got through it.

Unpleasant surprises are, to a certain extent, par for the course when it comes to renovating, (especially old victorian houses), so I’ve learned to look for the silver lining in these situations. The fun part of having to open up and reinforce all the walls in the house was discovering what lay behind them. From old photographs to vintage scraps of wallpaper, the vestiges of the people who lived here before us were hauntingly beautiful. Looking back at images of the demo phase, I realize it, too, was beautiful – in a dusty, disheveled kind of way. Despite the undo stress of the reno, I am happy to have these stories to share.

The house needed all new electrical and hvac and almost every wall had to be opened up. This is the third floor landing with the walls and ceiling ripped open. The only thing we kept in this area was the original railing and newel post. I think this was about the time that I was suppressing panic attacks about how much extra work this project was going to be.

Underneath the drywall, the third floor featured a chimney stack wrapped in a brown and white Graeco Roman themed wallpaper that was beyond dingy.

Under the fireplace breast in the living room, we uncovered old red brick and a wonderfully aged wallpaper with a home-on-the-range theme. I loved the decaying beauty of it all and briefly contemplated working it into the room.
The most fascinating thing we found during the demolition was this small photograph of a young man in a brass frame with no name attached. It was placed in a glass box inside the framing of one of the bathroom walls. We guessed that he likely lived in the house at some point. Since many of the houses in Cabbagetown were once rooming houses, he could have been one of many people who lived here. Before we closed up the wall again, Arriz and I filled a box with a few snapshots of us, our pets and the photograph, and put it back in the wall. One day, far in the future, when the house is ready for its next makeover, I hope the new owners will be just as thrilled to find our little time capsule.

When we tore up the 80’s mottled green slate floor in the compact foyer, we found this zigzag pattern underneath. I was over the moon when my contractor sent me a pic because I thought it was marble, (wishful thinking!) It turned out to be linoleum, which still could have been cool, but it was sadly too chipped to stay. It had to go… more on the updated look later!

To give you a small taste of the before and after i’ll give you a peek into with the tiniest room in the house – the powder room that’s tucked under the main staircase. It was a totally beige room without much of a personality – blah, blah, blah. Beige floor tile, beige walls, builder basic pedestal sink.

I always like to go a bit pattern crazy in a powder room. Why not?! This time I started with a Galbraith and Paul wallpaper (love everything they do!) and paired it with a tri-colour hex ceramic floor. Yum! I found the tiny vessel sink at Taps for a steal and in fact we had a slab of off cut Statuario marble kicking around from the reno at our old house. It was just enough to fabricate the counter and backsplash. The gold wall mounted purist faucet from Kohler offsets all the cool tones beautifully. I love this room so much that i often just leave the door open so i can see it from the kitchen.

Stay tuned for more before and afters!