When eatdrink photographer Bruce Fyfe bought a traditional and classic, centre hall, two story home in London’s Sherwood Forest neighbourhood five years ago he was excited to be moving closer to his job at Western Libraries and to Banting Secondary School where his daughter would continue her French Immersion education. He knew it would be a good investment for his family to be located in one of London’s neighbourhoods loved for its trees, large lots, nearby parkland and quiet streets.
However, Bruce was also taking on a 1970’s home which had never undergone upgrades or renovations. The house had been lovingly maintained by original owners who didn’t care to change the layout which included a small and well-worn set of kitchen cabinets, a narrow hallway between the front door and kitchen and a separate dining room.
The dream for Bruce, an enthusiastic home cook who was single-handedly raising teenagers, was to turn this traditional but somewhat dated home into a modern space where he could gather with his family while enjoying cooking. He had renovated a kitchen in his last home as a do-it-yourself project. This time he knew he had to call in the professionals to take down walls, install flush support beams, remove windows and guide the project. It would be a complete gut, chuck and rebuild.
“It all started when my daughter said she wanted an island in the kitchen,” recalls Bruce. “She wanted to hang out with her friends in the house and we didn’t have the right kind of space for that.”
Enter Bonnie and Craig Hardy of Covenant Construction, a family owned company based in London for more than 20 years and operated by a husband and wife team, which connected well with Bruce’s hopes for family space.
Bruce was clear he wanted the walls to come down creating a 500 square foot open kitchen with dining space. He also wanted a gas stove and lots of cupboards for his large collection of cookware, spices and bulk food purchases. The project would also include a main floor bathroom renovation.
With Bonnie as designer, the island was made the focal point of the new space. It has seating for four and a built in butcher block. A pantry was built around the fridge while a second beverage centre was added to ease pressure on the fridge and provide easy entertaining. Two windows were removed and a new one added across the back of the house, along with a large window in the back door, bringing in natural light from the back yard.
“The key to any great design is listening,” says Bonnie Hardy. She quickly picked up on the family’s needs and added some flair.
“Bruce talked about his cameras and photography passion and I immediately knew we needed a place to display both his cameras and his art. We mirrored the floating shelf theme from above the bar area, to the bathroom vanity. Bruce loves to cook so a butcher block was a natural item to include in the renovation. Dogs, kids and busy life meant that very durable flooring was important. Lighting is especially important for open concept multi-purpose spaces for homework, cooking, entertaining.”
And, raising teenagers herself, Bonnie knew that cellphones, iPads and chargers were the kinds of things that get dumped on kitchen counters. So, a narrow cabinet with access to power was added to keep everything charged and away from cooking areas.
“If you have teenagers to communicate with then you need a command centre. It all comes out of the conversation with the client,” says Bonnie.
Wanting low maintenance, Bruce opted for Hanstone quartz countertops by Coni Marble. “When I first visited the Covenant showroom it was all about white cupboards. But I was nervous to have white because it seemed too stark,” he says. They settled on a combination of lacquered and stained cabinetry by Inspired Woodworks with raised panel doors. The lacquered cabinets are Benjamin Moore White Down and the island/bar area/stair railings are Chestnut on Maple. The butcher block is natural end cut maple.
Working on an original home, untouched by previous renovations, was actually a dream for Craig Hardy. He had done other houses of the same vintage so he knew he had to give allowances (keeping a five to ten percent slush in the budget) “for those unforeseen water stacks, or HVAC issues that no one could see. Houses hide their secrets well,” says Craig. Luckily, for Bruce, his well-made house hid no secrets! Led by Covenant foreman Graham Bice, the team did fix some creaky stairs and a small leak, but otherwise it was a straightforward job allowing them to finish on schedule and on budget. Bice was on site daily for over 10 weeks, co-ordinating service providers, doing clean-up and even hanging pictures!
Finishing touches such as a glass and slate mosaic backsplash provided through Greco Tile, a new staircase railing by Heritage Stair & Railing, and a splash of colour on an accent wall (Bonaparte by Benjamin Moore) tied in well with black lighting fixtures from London Lighting. Plumbing fixtures were also sourced locally, from London Bath Centre. Stainless steel GE profile appliances were purchased from London Major Appliance.
Bruce is now enjoying the benefits of a modern main floor combined with the structure and setting of a traditional home in a great neighbourhood. “I really love living in this area. It is great to have modern touches combined with a classic home, and lots of room for my family.”
The Covenant team has done many large renovations to traditional homes, providing seamless changes even when walls and beams are involved. “Building science is changing so much, and design has come such a long way. What wall? Where’s the plumbing? Electrical – no problem, it can all be moved. It is time to be creative within the footprint of the home,” says Bonnie Hardy.
BRUCE FYFE gladly photographed his own kitchen renovation for this assignment. Often he can be found on the road for eatdrink as a contributing photographer. Bruce is also Librarian, Weldon Library, Western University.