Before & After--The Big Bedroom


I've never been much of a master bedroom person. Besides the term 'master bedroom' itself, which makes me want to put on a giant velvet cloak as I survey my medieval fiefdom, fussing over a room in which I don't spend many waking hours hasn't historically been a high priority.

But I'll admit, I'm warming to the fuss. After cracking open some ceilings, adding dormers to our awkward roofline, and rearranging the walls, a pretty nice space seems to have emerged. 

Here's a shot of the old room, complete with ominous-looking rope:

bedroom: before

And here's where we ended up:



bedroom: before



Our budget was finite (and, in fact, often in need of creative resuscitation), but we decided early on to put something aside for built-ins and a vaulted ceiling. As it turned out, the engineering requirements for a high ceiling were no different than they would've been for a regular-height ceiling. Our cost difference? A little extra drywall and labour/ material to install faux beams along the peaks. It was among the few true no-brainers of this tricky project--and one that defines the room unlike any other choice. I love the interplay of shadow and light on the angled ceilings and the way light shifts throughout the day. It's a new room every hour.


From where I stand/ sit/ sleep, the best feature of this house is what lies out there, beyond the walls. It didn't seem right to mess with a nice view by introducing a bunch of visual litter inside. Dressers? Armoires? Chests full of stuff? Bah. Clothes are so overrated.

Well, perhaps our pursuit of the minimalist ideal isn't quite so far-reaching, but you get the point.

dormer nook:

The copper fixtures above were part of the original 1939 home. We polished 
them up and had them rewired to current electrical standards. I love them so
much more than anything we could've bought new!

So, back to the matter of where to stash 'stuff' without adding too many bits & pieces of furniture. Our solution: build it in and let the walls assume furniture-style functionality. I thought the 6' high knee wall, along a corridor linking the bedroom and ensuite, would be an ideal spot to house a bank of storage drawers. Enter our nifty cabinet maker, James, who built this:

bedroom storage:

There are 12 drawers in all. They extend fully and are extra deep, providing a practical storage solution that doesn't protrude into the main bedroom space.

And just because I got all excited about the idea of built-ins, I figured we should find some use for the 4' high knee walls that run the entire upper floor perimeter. With new insulation, drywall, and a little custom carpentry magic, we were able to turn otherwise dead space into extra storage.

If you can momentarily tear your eyes away from the impressive piece of audio technology on the shelf below, you'll notice the rustic-style wooden sliding doors. They're made of thick slabs of hickory, which, after 18 billion hours of sanding with a 60-grit orbital and much swearing, I have determined is the hardest surface known to humankind.

It's also quite beautiful, with plenty of tonal variation and knots to lend some lovely rustic character.

knee wall storage:

Click to check out the storage space inside!

And so ends the bedroom (boudoir? sleeping chamber? lair?) tour. Nighty night--and Happy New Year, friends!


A few details:
Barn door construction: Frank Vickery
Barn door hardware: Rustica Hardware
Built-in drawers: James Weedmark
Capize shell lampshades, sconces, bedside tables, side chair: vintage

Before & After--Exterior


At one point last spring, if you'd have asked me which was more disturbing--the wood chipper scene in Fargo or the condition of my house-- I'd probably have picked the latter. Oh. Geez. Margie.

It was month#3 of construction and I headed to the house with a little extra sproing in the ol' Chuck Taylors. I'd just received a text from our foreman saying that the latest round of demo had begun. By that point, demo messes were generally more thrilling than terrifying. Having already said goodbye to Prince's secret hideaway on the upper floor and piƱatas in the linoleum-lined living room, I felt steely and unafraid of the fresh new start awaiting our house. Yeah, let's do this!

But that morning, our crew had been especially busy. As I rounded the corner, my stomach dropped like an elevator shaft in a bad action movie. How it happened, I don't know, but apparently, my house had barfed all over itself.

our house: in progress

Yikes. In tears, I wondered what kind of costly mess we'd gotten ourselves into and whether this house was simply too challenging, as so many seemed to think when we had first bought it. Maybe we'd been naive to believe otherwise and should be flogged in penance for p*ssing away our nest egg.

Getting through the panic and self-doubt triggered by the sight of our new house laying in pieces all over the yard was amongst the most trying tests of the whole reno process. There were sleepless nights--many of them.

But then came a timely realization, brought on by recollections of our previous construction experiences: in virtually every reno, it's inevitable that things will get worse before they get better. Patience, Jedi. Big, beastly projects demand it.

The next steps, in order of priority, were to: a) stop freaking out; b) stick to the viable building plan in hand and let the project unfold more fully; and c) remember that we had an excellent crew supporting us.

A lot has changed since then:

exterior (before):


exterior progress:


our house (front):

While we loved the shell of the original 1939 structure, we were less excited about the awkward aesthetics of a 1960s addition along the south side of the house. There was no way of bringing the house back to 1939, but we were able to give it a freshened, character look. Incorporating three dormers into the roofline also gave us a better-functioning upper floor. Three cheers for headroom!

The house now feels more balanced and seemingly comfortable in its new skin. Best of all, I can sleep again.


A note: I'm so grateful to our terrific neighbours and kind passers-by. Even when the place looked like crap and our noise pollution shot through the air with merciless regularity, everyone was SO NICE, offering words of encouragement when we needed them most. Dear neighbourhood friends: thanks for your little white lies and other kindnesses, even when you were skeptical of where this project was heading. It meant a lot.