I’m so excited to share my Victorian kitchen remodel and the incredible work of my brother and sister-in-law Paul and Rena Chase.
We bought the Douglas Avenue property seven or eight years ago, hoping to convince my parents to live in the bottom flat. At some point, we would sell our home on Carmarthen Street and downsize to the upper flat. I thought it would be a great idea to have Mom and Dad in their own space with us a stairwell away in case they needed us. After several attempts to entice them into the city, Mom made it clear that she was not interested in leaving her home. I had no choice but to respect their wishes and to move forward with a rental property.
If we hadn’t been faced with a worldwide pandemic, it’s not likely that Ralph would have convinced me to leave Carmarthen Street. The uncertainty of the future opened me to the idea of simplifying our lives. We didn’t need that big house anymore. Our girls no longer live in the city and we spend half the year at our farm. It was time.
We sat down with my brother and sister-in-law, Paul and Rena Chase and discussed what we wanted to do with the Douglas Avenue space before we moved in. I had lived through twenty years of renovations on Carmarthen Street and had no intention of breathing construction dust ever again. Their understanding from our initial conversation was a kitchen and bathroom reno and maybe a few odds and ends. The odds and ends turned into a complete remodel/renovation/restoration of a hundred year old flat. For six months, Paul, Rena and their team Kelsey Meister and Steve Roy worked tirelessly to turn the space into our forever home. They started with a Victorian kitchen remodel.
Like many Victorian kitchens, decades of faddish upgrades and poor planning had created a mess of a space. Ill placed cast iron radiators, multilayers of outdated wallpaper and flooring, inadequate cupboards due to a poorly designed pantry, useless lighting and electrical and a dark, cold storage shed all had to go.
We knew from experience that there’s always a surprize when you renovate an old home. Paul discovered the first curveball when he started to tear down the pantry wall. Safely tucked away, many years ago, was a decommissioned chimney. I asked him how we would get rid of it.
“One brick at a time,” he smiled.
The next day it was gone. Ralph and I have worked with many subcontractors over the years. No one comes close to Paul’s work ethic or efficiency. When he started to take up the old kitchen flooring, he discovered,for reasons unfathomable, that it had been nailed down every four inches. After hours of back breaking work the old floor, sink and chimney were gone, the walls were down to the laths and electrical and plumbing exposed. Now we had raw space and I could see what we had to work with.
Three major changes would help transform the kitchen space in to my dream kitchen. Remove the window closest to the back wall, open the kitchen into the dining space and turn the back shed into a breakfast nook. The breakfast nook idea was a leap of faith!
I wanted to create the illusion of open space without sacrificing function. Paul installed a beam to support the ceiling and cut out a pony wall to allow light to flow through from the dining room but still leaving counter space. He designed and built custom molding to work with the original molding for the opening.
What started out as the least usable and most unsightly part of the original kitchen has become a stunning space to eat, read, work and day dream with a spectacular view of the city and the Bay of Fundy. Paul insulated and drywalled the backshed, dropped in two oversized windows and installed a man door leading to Ralph’s office and french doors leading onto a full size deck. He built a window seat with storage space underneath the entire length of the windowed wall and returned it to create a cozy spot on the hidden side. The abundance of natural light allowed us to forgo additional lighting other than three pot lights.
To accommodate the cabinetry design, Paul removed the pantry window then repaired the outside wall to hide the original window opening. No matter what adjustment I had, he figured out a way to make it happen. His years of experience gives him invaluable ability to troubleshoot before things go off the rails. Maybe because we’re siblings, we have a verbal shorthand. I give him minimal direction and he builds exactly what I envision. It’s magic.
I worked with Cathy McGill from Kent Building Supplies on the kitchen design.
I knew what I needed and wanted. She was a dream to work with. I’d had a long time to think about how this kitchen would feel. I knew exactly how many cupboards and drawers I needed, where all my equipment would be placed, what type of cabinet and drawer organization was needed, what appliances I wanted and where I hoped they could go. It had to be well lit and have a convenient traffic flow. I wanted as large an island as possible with storage and a prep sink with garburator. Cathy presented me with a fantastic design that needed only minor adjustments due to space restrictions. I sourced all of the hardware, appliances, lighting, sinks, faucets and flooring buying local whenever possible. The cabinet installation did not go as smoothly as I’d hoped. Luckily, Paul and his team were on site and able to keep things moving forward.
Heather Attoe from B&N Flooring was also fantastic to work with offering endless suggestions until I found what I wanted. I chose a 24 inch carrara marble tile for the floor and a white wavy subway tile for the backsplash. The counter tops are white quartz.
My sister-in-law, Rena joked that she was going blind due to all the white. She did an unbelievable job with the patch work, molding repair, wall repair, painting and touch-ups. Her attention to detail was critical in ensuring my vision for the space.
Beyond being beautiful, my Victorian kitchen remodel is the most functional cooking space I’ve ever worked in. I am so grateful to Paul and Rena for their willingness to believe in my vision and their skill to create my dream kitchen.
Thanks for reading.