Historic Charm with a Modern Twist – Whole Home Reno Reveal

We’re excited to share with you the final results of this historic charmer in Halifax! A few weeks ago we shared this sweet Halifax home when it was nearly complete (see before pics and in-progress pics here!).

The home was newly purchased by a young couple, who had fallen in love with its charm and location but knew that it needed some updates. They hired Henhouse to create a full design package for the entire home and once those plans were complete and approved they oversaw the renovation process themselves. The homeowners hired Bromax Construction and handled any changes that came up through the process, but overall they stuck very closely to Henhouse’s design plan.

The homeowners were so kind to participate in an email interview for us! Read on for the full story about their new home and some insights into the design and renovation process.

Tell us about your home — what was it like inside before you renovated, what drew you to it?

One of us grew up in this neighbourhood, so when the house popped up for sale we couldn’t resist. Most of all, we loved the neighbourhood and having family close by was really important to both of us. We have have family who live right across the street — that sealed the deal!

The house was built in 1948. It has really good bones and was well cared for over the years. Before the renovations, the inside of the house had a lot of wallpaper and the hardwood floors had been covered with carpet for years, but the stand-out feature was by far was the barbie pink enamel sink/dishwasher combination in the kitchen! Lol…

We loved the charm of the exterior, the round front door and window, the high peaked eaves; the house had a cottage feel. Even before the renovations, the interior had lots of appeal. The original hardwood floors and staircase, the fireplace and large windows were all great features, but it was clear that we would want to make some updates.

Henhouse designed custom built-ins in the kitchen area for extra seating and storage.

When you were house hunting, was it in your initial plan to buy and then renovate or did you make that decision after choosing this house?

No haha! We weren’t even planning to house hunt until about 6 months later. It was all very spontaneous at the start, but we quickly realized how invested we were. It was unlikely that another house like this was going to pop up in the neighbourhood in the near future.

We had specifically discussed not taking on a complete renovation. At most, we thought maybe we’d purchase an older home that needed some paint and minor updates that we could do ourselves over time. We never intended to search for a complete gut-job. It was a whirlwind walking through the house with various contractors and architects before we made an offer to get a sense of what was possible.

Once you decided that you wanted to tackle a whole home renovation, what prompted you to get in touch with Henhouse?

Our family has experience with renovations and they recommended we get in touch with a designer as they found it very helpful for their own projects. We searched online through Houzz Halifax and discovered Henhouse.

There are many talented designers in Halifax, but looking through Sappho’s portfolio we were super impressed with her range of style. Her portfolio has a mix of modern, traditional, coastal, and farmhouse-inspired interiors. I loved how each one of her projects oozes with style, charm and warmth.

After meeting with Sappho in person we knew it would be a great fit. We initially wanted her help with our kitchen and master bath, but decided to opt for a full design plan for our home.

The main floor powder room features a hand-painted gingham wall treatment.

Can you tell us a bit about the design process? What were some of the steps along the way? Did you have a vision in mind for your home, if so, how did Sappho help to bring your vision to life?

Sappho made the initial design process very smooth. We simply sent her some inspiration photos for each room, so she could get a sense of our style and provided her with the floor plans from our Architect. We then discussed our budget and from there she created a room-by-room design plan, as well as a complete list of selected finishings and fixtures for each room (tile, trim details, plumbing fixtures, lighting, etc). We met with her to review the design plan and went back and forth with some edits until the plan was finalized.

In the front entry way we kept the original door and painted it black to give it a modern look.

We definitely had a vision, but we had such a mix of styles that we liked. Our inspiration photos included traditional, modern, farmhouse and Scandinavian designs, so having someone skilled to ensure it all flowed together was very reassuring. Sappho not only brought it to life, she made it so much better! It’s incredible the value a designer can add to your project.

The mudroom features custom built-ins with loads of storage.

Was the design package what you expected and was the process straightforward? Is there anything you think that could improve the design package or process?

The design package was more than we imagined, it added so much character into our home. Initially I thought we were hiring someone to help us select flooring and finish details, but it was much more than that. We also believe Sappho pushed us outside of our comfort zone, which ultimately gave us a much better result in the end.

Bring on some drama! The second floor bath was painted a bold dark green, creating a modern edge and an element of the unexpected.

The level of detail in the design package made it easy for us to work directly with our contractor throughout the entire renovation process. Sappho was there for any questions or issues that came up, always finding a solution to make the process as smooth as possible. Ultimately, during a renovation there will be issues that pop up, it’s part of the process, but having experienced professionals involved who can provide expert advice makes it much easier.

Master bedroom. Painting from Bellissimo, gold vases and euro cushions from Attica

What was one of the most dramatic or exciting changes that you made to the home?

The addition (kitchen, mudroom and above master suite) was by far the most dramatic change to the existing foot print of the house, especially on the main level. It was very exciting to come home on the day that the wall separating the addition and the existing structure was removed, revealing an open concept floor plan. Sometimes it’s hard to know how a space will feel having only seen it on paper, so that was a very memorable moment for us.

The new master bath is a bright spa-like sanctuary.

Do you have a favourite design element or a favourite space in your home? Tell us about it and why you love it so much.

All of it.

Our master bath is my favourite space in our home. I love every design element from the funky mirrors and black fixtures, to the natural looking floor tile. It has a spa vibe that feels relaxing and calming. It’s the perfect place to unwind. We also love the new design elements that incorporated some of the character from the original home.

Thank you so much to the homeowners for letting us back into your home to take these stunning photos. Once again, our photographer Julian Parkinson did an incredible job at capturing this space for us – thank you Julian!

Whole Home Reno Reveal! Modern Lakeside Home in Tantallon.

Hello dear Henhouse friends. We hope you’re all doing well out there during this very unusual and challenging time. It can feel a bit odd to think about home renos and decorating right now, but we want to keep sharing our work with you in the hopes that it will inspire and energize you and bring some lightness into your days. This could be a great time to inject some new ideas into your own space — move things around, do some painting or tackle long forgotten projects, bring some clippings in from your yard and welcome spring into your home!

If you have any larger projects in mind for your home this could also be a great time to start to brainstorming and planning. Henhouse will be keeping busy this spring and summer with ongoing projects, and we will continue working. We are beginning to book new projects for this fall and winter so please contact us if you have renovation plans you’d like to get started on.

Now let’s take a look at the final results of our Tantallon home reno!

Tantallon Whole Home Reno Reveal

In our last blog article we shared two whole home renovation projects in progress (find that article here). We’re so excited to share the final results of our Tantallon project with you!

When Henhouse was contacted by this young family they had newly purchased the home, and construction was slated to begin very soon. The homeowners had fallen in love with the beautiful lakeside location, but the house was quite dated inside and out. They envisioned a fun, modern and sleek aesthetic, with a more open concept floor plan, where they could enjoy the views and entertain friends and family.

With move-in dates on the horizon, and construction about to begin, the Henhouse team got right to work. Designing in phases, and working in close collaboration with the contractors and homeowners, we came up with a plan to take everything right back down to the studs and start fresh with a nearly blank canvas.

Our first phase in the design process was coming up with the new layout. We decided on floor plans including locations and dimensions for the windows and doors, and millwork specifications for the interior built-ins. The second phase was elevations that included more detailed millwork specifications, sourcing materials for flooring, tile, plumbing, off-the-rack vanities and counter surfaces. The final stage was sourcing and installing the more decorative and finishing elements like lighting fixtures, furnishings, wallpaper and paint.

The new kitchen, living, and eating areas are all open to each other now and are the heart of this home. The homeowners love to entertain, so this was an important feature. The cabinetry in both the kitchen and in living area are custom built to suit the homeowner’s needs.

In the kitchen, all of the cabinetry was designed for maximum storage. As a busy young family of three with one more on the way, they needed lots of pantry and storage space. We included a coffee station hidden within the pantry to help keep clutter at bay — an important consideration for a design that is all about clean lines and simplicity.

The custom wet bar is a great place for the homeowners to store and showcase their fully stocked bar and glassware, and includes a keg hookup that runs all the way to the basement where the keg is stored. The cabinetry was custom built in walnut which ties well with the modern aesthetic, and to the woodland views.

Another special feature on the main floor are the large sliding glass doors that open right up to the deck. We wanted to capitalize on the amazing views and make better use of the exterior space. The homeowners were inspired by the indoor/outdoor living spaces that are popular in southern climates, and wanted to have that feeling for their home during the warmer months. We designed a new deck that leads down to a hot tub, offering even more space for living and entertaining.

The overall look for the home is modern and clean with fun pops of personality and colour. We also wanted to infuse elements that feel more natural to help balance the look, connect it to the landscape and create warmth. To accomplish this, we used lots of natural materials in the finishes and a soft, more natural colour palette.

For the flooring and kitchen cabinets we chose white oak and contrasted it with darker tones in the walnut bar cabinetry and the dark soapstone on the kitchen counters. The tiling throughout the home was selected from Ceragres. and has a matte, raw look offering an organic and natural feel.

Most of the paint colours through the home are soft and neutral, except for the playroom/den area. This space was created primarily as a hangout for the kids, so we wanted to make it feel more playful.

The artwork for this space was a jumping-off point. These paintings were created by a friend of the family and we love the bold colours. We went with a dark and dramatic wall colour here which works well with the saturated colours in the artwork, and also balances out the bold blue fireplace surround at the opposite end of the main floor. To tie it all together, we chose an array of colourful toss cushions for the sofa.

Upstairs, the soft and natural palette continues in the paint colours, flooring and finishes. All of the windows through the home are newly installed. Every room of the house now has the most incredible views. The property is so private that window dressings aren’t a concern, and with these views you would never want to cover them! To even farther emphasize the scenery, we went with black panes which create a bold frame to the outdoors and also have a modern feel.

This project was so much fun and a bit of a different challenge for Henhouse. Because of the tight timelines we had to design of the fly, which can be very exciting but doesn’t leave as much time to let ideas percolate. What made this project a success in the end was the unwavering trust of our collective team and everyone’s commitment to a positive outcome. The contractors from Blue Print Construction, the homeowners and I worked very closely together and always had each other’s backs through every step of the way. This was such a great experience, and we’re so happy to see this lovely family settled in and enjoying their beautiful home.

Thanks again to the homeowners for letting us return to your home so we could get these shots. We also want to thank our photographer Julian Parkinson who always does an incredible job at capturing our work.

Two Whole Home Renos, Two Different Approaches

Hello! It’s been quite some time since we’ve updated everyone here on the blog. 2019 was a very busy year for Henhouse, and 2020 is shaping up to be the same. With lots of projects in the works, and several nearing completion, you can look forward to some exciting updates in the coming months!

Let’s kick things off with two homes that were completed last year. Though every project is unique, it’s often the case that projects with similar requirements are tackled in a similar way. Not the case with these two homes! Both homes were newly purchased by the respective homeowners, and both underwent whole home renovations. However, there were big differences in each process. We think that sharing these two renovations side by side is a great way to show how Henhouse is ready to meet our client’s project needs.

Lakeside Home in Tantallon

This home, set in an idyllic landscape, needed a number of updates. The clients are a young family who were looking for a fresh modern style. They had purchased the home and hired their contractors, Blueprint Construction,  just before getting in touch with Henhouse. The contractors were slated to start work very soon, and the homeowners had an impending move-in date, so we had to get started on the design work very quickly.

Even though it is ideal to have more time for the design phase, it’s not always the case that we get that luxury. This wasn’t an issue for the Henhouse team! We worked very closely with the homeowners and the contractors to come up with a whole home renovation plan that suited their needs and timeline.

As you can see, the house had great bones but needed a modern update to suit its new owners. We came up with a full plan for the exterior, some of which you can see in the concept above and plans below.

Henhouse also created plans for the full interior;  including new layouts, new stairwell, new window and door configurations, new kitchen, all new flooring, lighting throughout, bathroom plumbing fixtures and cabinetry, and paint colours. We also created a plan for the exterior including finishes, colours and decking material. Above, you can see the elevation drawings for the exterior, and for the main floor.

In the kitchen, we designed a new layout, all new cabinetry, flooring, finishes, fixtures and lighting. We removed the wall between the den and kitchen, and installed a nice big island with fun modern lighting overhead. The space is now fresh and open to the incredible views, thanks to two huge new 10-12ft sliding glass doors. It’s a great spot for gathering and entertaining. Above are some images of the kitchen and den before and in-progress. 

Above, we have some more before images of the interior – we replaced the existing stairwell, and installed all-new flooring throughout. The transformation is pretty remarkable! Because of the tight timelines, design and construction were happening simultaneously. Close communication with the contractors and the homeowners was very important throughout the process, and we had many on-site checks. It was a very hands on and personal approach, we really enjoyed it. 

The final stage of this project is furniture and decor accessories. This phase has also been a collaborative effort. Henhouse has been sourcing items, and consulting with the homeowners as they source items themselves. It’s nearly complete and almost ready for the big reveal. We’ll have some after photos coming soon!

Historic Charm with a Modern Twist in Halifax

Our second whole home renovation was quite a different process. This sweet charmer in the South end of Halifax was also newly purchased, but in this instance the homeowners contacted Henhouse at the very start of the process which gave us lots of time to create a plan before construction. The homeowners had already hired an architect to rough out plans for the addition, and hired Henhouse to design all the interior details and specifications.

For this reno, the homeowners were keen on managing the project themselves. Once Henhouse’s design plans were completed and approved, the homeowners purchased the plan and executed it themselves. They hired Bromax Construction, and handled any changes that came up through the process themselves. Henhouse had minimal involvement during the construction phase with only 3-4 site visits.

In the images above you can see some of the concepts that we created alongside the before pictures, and various stages of progress on-site. The new look has a modern farm house feel. It’s cozy with lots of charm with a bit of modern edge to keep things feeling fresh and young.

We are really excited about both of these projects, and we will have some great images to share of the final results in the coming weeks. If you’d like to keep up with us on all of our design adventures be sure to follow on Instagram @sapphohenhouse.

An Historic Home Transformation in Prospect

We have been busy working on a special project in Prospect Village, Nova Scotia. Homeowners Hilary and Chuck contacted the Henhouse team about renovating the kitchen in their historic Prospect Village home. After an on-site visit from our designer Sappho, it was clear that the house needed much more than a kitchen update.

Over the past 170 years since it was built, this beautiful waterfront house has been used for many purposes, most recently as a Bed and Breakfast. After years of renos and reconfiguring, the house felt very chopped up, and the main floor layout didn’t work for the current homeowners. It was also in need of major systems and structural reworking including plumbing, electrical, heating and levelling.

Pebble Cove Construction was brought on board to tackle the extensive construction work that was required and the Henhouse team was hired to take on the redesign of the main floor interior and the exterior.

We interviewed the homeowners Hilary and Chuck as well as the contractors, Domas and Stefan of Pebble Cove Construction, to get the full story on this very big, very unique project!

Hillary and Chuck
Can you tell us about the history of the building?

The previous owners told us that it was built in 1849 by Nova Scotia premier James Johnson as a private home. In 1854 it was purchased by Patrick Power who was a member of Parliament. Later on, beginning in 1876 the Sisters of Charity repurposed the home into a convent with a school located in a separate building on the property. We were told that children who were orphaned as a result of the Halifax explosion were cared for here.

In the 1930’s the sisters moved to a new convent, and in the 1940’s the building was operated as a hotel and a fishing club. The house was renovated into a B&B in 1981 by Stephen O’leary, and further renovations later by Alan and Rosalee Lockyer. It has been featured in many movies over the years including Hallmark’s  “Christmas for Holly”.

Before photos of the main floor. Part of Henhouse’s design plan involved reconfiguring the entire main floor including taking down walls, removing a bedroom and full bath, and adding windows. We wanted to create a family friendly space with a connection to the outdoors.

Why did you choose to take on this project? What drew you to this house?

We were drawn by the historic charm and water views. There is something very soulful about the place. We love Prospect and had enjoyed spending vacations in a charming fisherman’s cottage there for the past 25 years.

When our son married a young woman from the village, we rented the house for our guests. The owners were using it as a B&B, but it turned out that they were looking to downsize. We ended up swapping houses with them!

Were there any particular elements of the home that you fell in love with and decided to keep or incorporate into the design plan?

We assumed that the turret was original, but our contractors discovered that it was added in the late 1800’s and that the original staircase was in a different location. We loved the staircase and Pebble Cove Construction was able to prop it up while completely rebuilding the foundation beneath it.

Working with Sappho, our goal has been to honour the history of the house. We were on board with Sappho’s plan to add transom and keep the high ceilings, as well as relocate the front porch back to its original location.

The stairwell is original to the home and was incorporated into the new design. On the left you can see how it was propped up and covered during construction.

What were the exciting things about this project and what were some of the challenges?

It was exciting to find Stefan and Dom, of Pebble Cove Construction, who were eager to take on the project. Their enthusiasm, problem solving skills and attention to detail and quality went beyond our expectations.

Likewise, discovering Sappho and working with her was a dream come true. She took our concepts and interpreted them with creativity and practicality. I absolutely love the kitchen design with its sweeping views of the water.

The challenges were the weather, which inhibited work on the exterior through the winter, as well as the inevitable “surprises” that were uncovered behind walls.

The cost of doing a project of this scale was beyond what we had originally planned, but we were committed to the end result. It’s rewarding to know that the renovations are thoughtful and high quality, and that the house will be safe and secure for generations.

Pebble Cove built custom forms then poured a new foundation for the house.

What is your vision for the house? How do you imagine your experience of living in it when it’s all done?

My vision is for large family gatherings, cooking, boating, swimming and sharing this special place with our friends who visit from the U.S. I envision our granddaughter, Juniper, running back and forth between her grandparent’s houses. In retirement, we might offer it as retreat center for artists and musicians, or offer space for meditation and yoga. Sharing it makes it all worthwhile.

Exterior construction in progress. The existing front porch was torn off and rebuilt, and new shingles will be installed over the entire exterior.

Domas and Stefan – Pebble Cove Construction
The Prospect Bay house project is a big undertaking! Why did you decide to take on this job?

It’s a very special building that holds a lot of history. It’s a community landmark, so the opportunity to be involved in the project excited us. We feel that the the most important motivator was the client’s support and understanding of the complexity of this project. The building is beyond just a standard renovation. There were many complicated structural repairs that had to happen and the homeowners were on board with it from the start. 

It was also reassuring to know that there was a strong design team involved. This allowed us to focus fully on technical issues and feel confident that the new layout, proportions, lighting, finish elements, etc. will work and make for a beautiful result. 

Progress shots of the new custom kitchen designed by Henhouse.

What were some of the major jobs that you had to do to get the house ready for rebuilding. 

The biggest job was to replace the entire floor system under the house. It was in critical condition after prolonged exposure to moisture. Additional foundation walls were poured in the basement and the new floor system was built on top. The entire building weight was then transferred onto new floor system.

The turret, front porch, and two side bays were originally built on failing rock sills, leaving the house vulnerable to frost heave. To remedy this, the porch got a foundation wall and the bays now sit on the new floor system. The building had seen many renovations over the years, some of which was failing from the exterior and some outside walls needed rebuilding.

The custom kitchen nearly complete! Transom and all new oak flooring recall the house’s history, while the bright and open floor plan offers a fresh modern feel.

What are some of the challenges or interesting things about working on such an old home? 

The most impressive thing was seeing the old craftsmanship and engineering, which we believe is what has allowed the building to endure. It was very interesting to see how old and new engineering fused together during the build.

One of the challenges was removing layers of material accumulated from years of past renovations. It took over a dozen 40 yard dumpsters to dispose of all the waste. Working so close to the water made site cleanliness and preventing debris from falling into the water a top priority.

The kitchen now opens up to a den with plenty of views of the landscape. A great place for family gatherings.

What was it like working in Prospect over the winter months? 

Working outdoors at Prospect was pretty much impossible during the winter months. With the cold weather and the extreme wind that came off that section of the Atlantic any work out doors would have made little to no progress for the amount of effort required. The indoor work was quite enjoyable actually. The house was so well insulated that it was the perfect place to work and storm watch at the same time. Winds could be going 70km an hour and you wouldn’t have noticed if it wasn’t for all the large windows. 

What work do you still have left to do? 

The interior is pretty much 99% complete. Most of the remaining work has to do with the exterior. We  have 6 windows on the upper floor to replace, the back deck and wrap around staircase to complete, as well as the front porch decking and railing.

Thank you so much to Hilary, Chuck, Stefan, and Domas for taking the time to share your stories with us! Be sure to stay tuned for more updates when this project is completed!

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