Thrill of Living

A lifestyle blog from Canada's West coast

Tag: diy (page 1 of 2)

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.




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

The back gate finale!

We started the back gate project with much gusto last summer. One day I came home from work and Irvin was attacking the original gate that came with the house like he was defending a child from a monster under the bed. The word eyesore could not capture the essence of this gate. It was so ugly and decrepit there was never cause to photograph it (which I regret now because this post really deserves a before and after.)  Picture two pieces of manufactured fence boards, broken lattice on top, parts of the frame missing.  A piece of mishapen plywood nailed to the bottom of each door – though they wouldn’t keep a dog in or any urban creature out – just for looks I guess. Gravity forced the two doors to make a deep v shape toward the centre of the driveway – rusting hardware, and a faded bungee cord held them together.

Somehow we wrangled our friend Bryan into helping us.  We picked up a gate hardware kit and wood from Lumber World in the morning.   As the day went on we realized even this simple project had its own challenges – tediously ensuring all the face boards were lined up and spaced evenly across the frame of each door.  Although he may have regretted it, Bryan stuck around until almost 10 pm to help us finish and get it hung in one day.  We were all proud and relieved to have, for once, completed something in one day.  A few finishing touches were still required, but nothing we couldn’t finish in a couple of hours.

Cedar Gate Construction
Well, many hours have passed since that first, full-steam-ahead day. Actually about 200 days.  It’s taken awhile, but since then we’ve attached latching hardware, two driftwood handles…
Inside and Outside of Cedar Gate

And check out this cool driftwood house number sign Irvin made with a Dremel tool and some white acrylic gesso and paint.

driftwood house number sign


driftwood sign

Finally, over the Easter long weekend, Irvin added the final feature – a piece of cord attached to the gate latch so we can actually open the gate from outside the yard!  No more getting stuck outside!

Finishing touches on cedar gate

I’m trying to come up with some famous quote like…’great haste makes waste’ – some truth which might justify why it took us so long to complete this project.  But, really there is no excuse and there doesn’t need to be – it just wasn’t the highest priority.

Sometimes I catch myself feeling anxious or guilty for not spending every waking minute working on the endless list of home projects. But, when I do, I tell myself to relax!  The changes we want to make are mostly aesthetic that, yes, will be nice to enjoy someday.  In the meantime they are not a necessity – not worth sacrificing personal goals or our social lives for and certainly not worth stressing over.  I think this quote sums it up nicely.

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday. ~A.A. Milne

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