Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cardinal House : Our Wish List

The celebration of finally receiving the  building permits for our house was well deserved, but Richard and I are excited to see the first stages of the renovation/build begin.

The town we live in features established properties that are protected by the Historical Society, as well as many new but sizable homes. The charm of the historical homes and the quaintness of the town is what excited us about living in Oakville.

Oakville Harbour

Our search was far too long and the market has faced many adjustments since we first began the journey. Richard and I were frustrated with the options and yes - very picky. But there were more important things in life that needed our attention, so the house hunt went on hiatus for awhile. We know that everything happens for a special reason and we were obviously supposed to take this time searching for the house keys.

So what was on our 'wish list'?

       1)   A house with character or one that we could inject character into without it
             looking contrived {this is definitely our buzz word to keep it all in control}.  

       2)   An old home or a new build that had the character of an old home.
             No cookie cutter design or finishes.

       3)   A moderate size home and property that allows us to take care of the house
             easily and still have enough room to entertain.

       4)   I was open to many different styles and didn't mind a big staircase with
             bedrooms upstairs. Richard preferred a bungalow style the most {makes
             sense as you mature in life and we are building on the future}.

       5)   We preferred to be close to the water - but that comes with a much higher
              price tag than the neighbourhoods beyond the main street.

       6)   Must have mature tree's on the property or land beside the property where
             the trees are protected. A canopy of tree's was a big factor.

       7)   There must be enough space so we can host family/friends for large gatherings.   

We first stumbled upon the house we chose and kept referring to it as 'the tree house'. The house itself wasn't a selling point - it had 'good bones' that we could work with, but there was nothing in the design aspect we wanted to keep. The property and tree's literally sang to us. We stood in the yard and listened to the whisper of the tree's while the breeze blew through the property and knew it was singing our song.

But we still sat on the idea for several month because the house needed to have
e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g redone. In fact, the tree's we loved and the garden were so over-grown that it was scaring off potential buyers. We saw beyond the forest .... so to speak.

Inspection day - you couldn't even see the house.

So we took the floor plan from the real estate brochure,  I doctored it up and re-designed the house as I saw it working for us. After playing with the new pencil lined drawing we estimated the costs associated to redesign the house and property and added a sizable % for good measure. Then we called our Realtor to walk through the property with us.

first draft .......... oh so many changes along the way.

It was in July 2012 that a deal for the property was struck and the house keys were in hand last November. So what the heck has taken so long to get building permits? {we've been asked that a hundred times or more}.
The house backs onto a parcel of land owned by Halton Conservation and they had to approve the request for an addition before we submitted to the City of Oakville for a site plan approval and building permits.
That meant we had to obtain a geotech survey on the property that provides detail on the soil stability. It's costly  bloody expensive, a lengthy process and there is no guarantee at the end of the testing that you will get a green light to build. Although we knew prior to purchase that we might have to get a survey, we didn't anticipate the cost or length of the process - hrmphh!!
Our test results allowed the red flag on our property to be removed and the opportunity to proceed with a request to build {still not a full green light}.

And the inspiration to transform the boring beige and brown 1961 bungalow into our dream home ?? Well, it looks something like this ...........

The main focus of our renovation and design revolves around the 'vista of the house'. We did not want an open concept house, nor did we want it to be a series of rooms without flow. Finding the vista of the house meant finding the heart from the inside out. It is about more than just the design, it's about the experience.
When I rearranged the floor plan, the goal was to ensure that the view of the tree's outside could be appreciated inside. Walls and hallways have been moved so that when you step into the house you will look through to the beauty of the yard {well, it will be beautiful next year}.
It was only recently that I found a great article on Finding the Vista of a House - by Carla Aston. 

via unknown

via unknown

Jones & Pierce Architect

The placement of openings throughout the home should be carefully considered when trying to design an attractive vista that allows a glimpse into its heart. Carla Aston

Let's start at the beginning ....

The before : the entry steps right into the living area.

Currently the front of the house has no welcome mat - it's void of a covered entry or foyer space to allow guests to comfortably enter or depart. The new entryway will be built - OUT, in the space that was the front wooden porch and steps. The new covered stone porch and steps will extend beyond that point and a new walkway will be added.

The porch with a front entrance similar to this one will begin where the front steps currently end.

It was on our trips to France and Greece that Richard and I were charmed by the over-grouted worn stone. And while it's hard to inject the strength and elegance of Europe into a simple 1961 bungalow, we felt that the essence of the things we love can be conveyed. Delicately we will nudge the bungalow into a Provencal feel with the use of materials, soft tones, textures and a bevy of incredible antiques  {we've been shopping while we were waiting for the permits}.

in love with this stone work

Master bedroom inspiration

The kitchen is the hub of our home and we want to bring a subtle understanding that this is the place of happy gatherings. The finishes and accents we have chosen will provide the aura of the time worn essence we love.
Some of the inspiration comes from the original kitchen at Hotel Particulier. It is not about replicating a room or design, it's about creating the feel and character that has attracted us. 

original kitchen at Hotel Particulier, Arles, France

We've purchased a fireback from France to be inserted above the gas cooktop and a French provincial sideboard that will be re-finished and added as additional cabinets on one wall. Mixing these elements with the new traditional style kitchen cabinets will bring the essence from France that we are looking for.

Fireback                                            via unknown

French pastry shelves - Linda Floyd

We wanted a covered outdoor area to enjoy even during the winter months, so we will be building a lanai just off of the family room area and the master bedroom. There will be a wood burning fireplace finished in over-grouted stone, a vaulted ceiling with sky-lights to allow maximum amount of sunlight into the master bedroom.

The lanai will feature a wood burning fireplace.                   via unknown

The outdoor patio will be finished with cobble stone. There will be two wood tables created from old barn wood that will allow us to have a dining area and serving table, or the option of a large communal table. The rustic European look will be completed with the addition of our folding wood chairs. 

Patio table inspiration.
We purchased 18 of these chairs last year - perfect for our big family gatherings and our rustic patio inspiration.

The basement level of the bungalow with the new build will bring another 1700 sq feet of living space. There will be a guest bedroom and full bath, a large media room {thankfully Richard never utters the words 'man cave'}, a wine room open to the media room, storage and eventually a gym area.

wine room inspiration
The wine room brings the opportunity to introduce some of the elements used in other area's of the house - the over-grouted stone, rich woods, patina finishes, and French accents.

Much like the house and the finishes that will be installed, the garden will evolve with the layers planted. It will be next spring before I get to really play in the garden; for now it has been cutting back, moving plantings and preparing the property. But I am excited about building a new oasis for us.

garden inspiration

garden inspiration
The house will evolve with the layers we add and the garden will grow under the tree's that are the perfect home for the cardinals. This is Cardinal House - this is home.


  1. Katharine, I read this post several times....lovingly created and thoughtfully planned...I am so happy and excited for you and Richard...finally your dreams coming to fruition...I know! It will be a long haul, but it is about the journey, try to keep that in mind at all times while you make progress...I have been at the helm of our journey for years..still planning, dreaming always...congratulations and wishing you both the very best....can't wait for updates!! N.xoxo

  2. Nella,
    If there is one thing I have learned from you - it is that the kind of home we appreciate takes time to layer. We are excited about bringing our special things out of storage and layering them with the new in the house. Like our garden, we will grow into the space over the upcoming years.
    Hoping that next summer you will enjoy a bevy with us on the lanai at the house.

  3. Hope that you find wonderful vistas in your new home.
    It IS so important. I read the article you linked to, thank you, it helped me!

    Deconstructing the existing overgrown garden, and creating your own lovely green living spaces will be a joy!