Thrill of Living

A lifestyle blog from Canada's West coast

Category: Projects (page 1 of 3)

our K I T C H E N – before, and after!

Kitchen Renovation Before 3

bench seating kitchen renovation arrangement before 4

This bench area was super cute but it now makes more sense as the nook for the fridge and pantry cabinets.

kitchen renovation before photo 2

I’ll admit that when we bought our house, we loved the character of the existing kitchen. Between the truly inadequate lighting, the leaking pipes, and the rat who ate our potatoes, it was time for a change!

irvin removing flooring during reno

Here’s my smiling Irvin uncovering water damage from years past. Luckily we were able to use some of the flooring from under the original cabinets to patch this area. You’d never know there was water damage there now!

pano kitchen reno

For whatever reason, when we were cycling the Trans Canada Trail across BC, much of the silent time reeling one foot in front of the other was spent thinking about what projects we’d undertake when we reached home. Go figure – the motivation to get to work presented itself when it was entirely impossible to do it! Shouting to each other over the windy resistance of our packed bikes, we both decided the kitchen had squirmed its way to the top of the list.

After we arrived home, the tipping point of the decision occurred when a small rat and I had a staring competition through the hole in the wall where the kitchen plumbing goes into the crawl space. There would be no more waiting, the time had come.

Within three weeks of arriving home, the kitchen was entirely gutted. We took apart the original cabinetry and counter tops ourselves, and hired an asbestos remediation company to uncover original hardwood hiding below 3 layers of vinyl flooring and plywood.

It was a huge relief to find the original hardwood was in good enough condition to refinish – a major undertaking in itself but in the end – definitely worth it!

Other big tasks included switching the location of the sink and the range, replacing a window, and adding a few new circuits for additional lighting and appliances.

We bought our new cabinets and counter from IKEA rather seamlessly with just a few nights spent fiddling on their Kitchen Planner tool and an hour ironing out the kinks with an associate in the Port Coquitlam location. The delivery truck arrived a couple of weeks later, with our new kitchen in literally 127 packages.

Although there were a few hiccups, I’d say installing it was probably my favourite part of the renovation. It’s Lego for adults! I’d get the heck out of the kitchen during an earthquake though.

When we started, we had ambitions to be done in time to throw a Halloween party. In the end, it took us from the first hammer swing in mid-August to the final nail or touch of paint or, more realistically, the ‘that’s it, no more’ moment in early December. What a slog! We were done just in time for family visits around Christmas.


thrill of living kitchen

This has been the largest project we’ve taken on so far and though it is absolutely worth it now, the challenges, patience and learning required to complete it were a test of endurance as epic as biking across the province!  We ate more take out than any budget or belly should withstand.  When we did cook, it was over a two burner cook-top in the living room. Dust was an ever-present and all-encompassing factor we (mostly) pushed far out of consciousness for the sake of our sanity.

Needless to say, we are so, so glad it’s done – but also so glad we did it! Cooking in the new kitchen is now a complete pleasure and it makes us so happy to have a welcoming space to share meals with our family and friends.

A few notes on design choices.

First, let me just say that almost every colour of the rainbow is my favourite colour, yet we chose a totally white colour palette – white for the cabinets, white for the walls, and white for the tile – hardly a palette! It seems like a lot of white, but I love the clean feeling of white, and another really wonderful thing about white is that it goes with absolutely any colour and even makes those colours look better by being placed against it.

I’m happy to bring colour in with other less permanent elements like art, tea towels, and a fun nautical themed fabric I found at the classic local shop the Smoking Lily for our dining chairs! There’s also a lot of wood and even exposed brick from our chimney which add plenty of warmth, as well as a beautiful copper pendant I found at Barn Light Electric. It makes me smile every time I see it – it’s just so pretty!

One of my favourite pieces in our new kitchen is our new/old dining table. Along with beautiful hand turned legs, ornately carved detailing and two super functional slide-out panels, this table carries the story of my family from when my sister was born, through our life on the Sunshine Coast, and now here in Victoria.  It really makes our new kitchen feel like home.

Thanks for reading about our big project!  As always, feel free to comment below or send me an email if you have any questions about anything you see here.




8 tips for surviving a renovation with your sanity intact

We are currently in the middle of the largest, most life-disrupting renovation yet – our kitchen!  Living without a kitchen kind of sucks, and we’ve been living without one for over two months now. The whole house is turned upside down.  Our fridge is in our second room, along with the stack of drawers we removed from the demolished cupboards, and multiple Rubbermaid bins filled with dried foods and pots and pans.  I’ve replaced books on our bookshelves with dishes for easy access, but they’re frequently covered in a thick layer of dust.  Thank goodness we found a two burner electric element on Used Victoria or we’d be in deep trouble!

Of course I’m not complaining – I know we’re so fortunate to be able to tackle a project like this… and it’s going to be amazing to have a clean and functional space we’ll love to use for years to come in the not-too-distant future!  And task lighting!  I can hardly wait.

This project has been particularly challenging – the mess, the scope, the joys of running between three rooms to create a meal – but through it and the other projects we’ve worked on, I’ve learned a few things that stop me from losing my mind while living in chaos.  Here are my top 8 tips for surviving a renovation while keeping at least some sanity intact.

1. Buy a good mask

Totally crucial, please get one before you begin!  I use this respirator-style mask which is rated for asbestos and lead. It lets me breathe easy knowing that I’m not totally endangering myself*, and it lets me breathe without fogging up my glasses.  Oh, puns.

*please hire a professional for asbestos removal and have the material you’re demo-ing tested for asbestos before you begin.

2. And… a pair of work gloves 

It’s the cheapest path to feeling invincible! Plus they help keep your hands from getting destroyed.  At around $5 a pair, you can buy yourself a new set when they get gross (like after you clean up rat poo from your crawl space.)

3.  Downgrade your old favourites to your work clothes pile and invest in cover-alls

  • A toque.  A ‘work’ toque saves the (hair) day when you’re making a renovation-sized mess.  Your shower drain will thank you!
  • A pair of pants that you like, and fit well.  One sad day my favourite pair of cords got some bleach on them at work.  Even though they aren’t ‘fit’ for the office or much else, they’re still a well-fitting, comfortable pant that I enjoy putting on.  Turns out it’s made every renovation day since a little more enjoyable.
  • Cover-alls.  Want to feel like a super-hero? Wear cover-alls.  They’re a girl-going-in-a-crawl space’s best friend.

4.  Allow yourself a reason to stop working

Just because you’re renovating doesn’t mean you need to decline every invitation on the horizon.  Is your friend having a birthday party? House-warming?  Don’t say no, say yes!  It’ll give you a reason to shower, eat something and get out of the house  – you’ll be ready to go the next day and you won’t hate your life.

5.  Include take-out in your budget

It doesn’t matter what you’re renovating, you will find yourself starving at the end of the day with no will-power to cook for yourself.  Include take-out in  your budget and you won’t have to feel so guilty about it!

6.  Give attention to your relationship

If you’re doing this project with your boyfriend/partner/spouse/friend/whatever, don’t forget that they’re under pressure, too.  If you’re not careful, renovations can be as destructive on relationships as they are on your house on demo day!   Be aware that your partner likely feels stress for different reasons than you, too.  Talk about it.   If you want to relieve some tension (or stop it from building in the first place), say thank you frequently – show you appreciate the work they’re doing.  Lastly, try not to fall into ‘gender’ specific tasks – do what you can to keep the workload even.

7.  Don’t stop cleaning just because it’s going to get messy again

Throughout this renovation we’ve had a few friends and family come to visit which has forced us to clean the bathroom and other rooms throughout the renovation.  You wouldn’t believe how good it feels to have a clean(ish) house even if it is short-lived.  It’s definitely a sanity booster – kind of like how you feel after showering when you’ve been at a music festival for a few days… so fresh!

8.  Have a clear vision of what it’s going to be like AFTER the renovations.  This will keep you motivated better than anything else!

8 tips for surviving a renovation with your sanity still intact | Thrill of Living - |

Halli, amid the kitchen floor refinishing fun.

The Woodshed Project… creating space!

The woodshed project was on our list of things to tackle this year, not because we had no place to store firewood (we did, though I doubt our neighbour loved looking at a scraggly blue tarp strewn haphazardly along the side of our garage, not entirely succeeding at covering the pile of wood) but because we have big plans for the inside of our garage. And if we want to make those dreams come true, there’s a towering list of other things we need to do first to make room… the wood shed being the one nearest the top right now.

On a side note, it also feeds Irvin’s addiction for organizing everything…that’s a story I’m sure i’ll get to later.

What surprised me though, was how much fun this project turned out to be. It’s very rare to feel 100 % creatively uninhibited and motivated without even trying… and I usually need a couple glasses of wine to get there! Not the case with this project (which is good as many spinning blades were involved.) We both found something deeply satisfying in taking (in this case, a ton) of wood, cutting, it, putting it together, and creating something. I kept catching myself feeling like I did as a kid, when I built forts out of driftwood on the beach, or when I used my Dad’s leftover wood scraps to build a hideaway in a forest of trees in Fernie.

Here is the space ‘before.’ It is at the back of our yard where we have a driveway that comes in from the road. You can see it’s not pretty. We typically used it as a place to pile unwanted things, in other words, a dumping ground. First we removed some dirt from the area to make it level with the rest of the driveway.

Woodshed Before

Woodshed 2 - Clearing space

We were very fortunate to have my dad and mom visiting during the early stages. Irvin and my dad spent a day together laying and leveling the footings, laminating a beam, and bracing the posts in position. We had no idea how to brace posts, so having my dad here to lend his lifetime of building experience was absolutely key to getting us started on the right foot.

Woodshed 3 - Dad and Irvin Day 1

Woodshed 4 - Bracing 

Using what Irvin learned from the day with my dad, we were able to build the front wall frame ourselves and laid some pressure treated wood for the floor. Cutting a birdsmouth into the rafters was a challenge I wasn’t ready to tackle yet, so we used these hurricane ties to attach the rafter pieces to the beams. It’s not the intended use of this hardware, but it worked for our situation.

Woodshed 5 - Roof and floorboards

Woodshed 6 - Irvin on the roof

We used 7/8 corrugated metal for the roofing and also for some of the siding because we love the way it looks. We used cedar 1 X 4’s and 1 X 6’s to finish the siding. We chose to close in the right side to create a space to store our gardening tools.

Woodshed 7 - Metal and Siding

Woodshed 8 - Metal and Siding full view

I have fallen (like the rest of the internet) for herringbone pattern everything… which gave me the idea to create the garden shed doors like so. I love them!

Woodshed 9 - Doors and feet

And here it is, finished, and stacked with wood! As with all our projects, it took longer and cost more than expected… but we are totally thrilled with how it turned out and I know we’ve learned a lot of little things that will help us be smarter and quicker with the rest of the projects on the list.

Cheers to making space! And thanks for checking it out 🙂

– Halli

If you are creating something similar and have questions about anything you see, leave a comment and I will happily offer my assistance.

Woodhsed 10 - Finished product

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