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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 Hammond’s Plains

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!

A Cozy Urban Cottage in the Heart of Halifax

We are so excited to finally share this project in its entirety! This sweet Halifax home is one of our favourites. Working with this family over a period of a year and a half truly was a pleasure every step of the way. They appreciated and were excited about every part of the process. It brought a special warmth and mutual trust to the project that let the process evolve organically – the end result feels like an escape right in the middle of the city.

A few weeks ago our clients allowed us back in to take some photos of this beautiful home. They were so kind to take part in an e-mail interview so that we could share their story and their experience working with Sappho at Henhouse. We hope you enjoy!

What was your initial reason for getting in touch with Henhouse? 

When my husband and I first moved to the west end of Halifax, I was desperate to find furniture and décor that would tie in with our nearly 100 year old home. A friend told me about the Henhouse shop in the Hydrostone Market. I fell in love and wanted to take everything home! I was absolutely devastated when the shop closed, especially because I had planned to decorate my entire home with the treasures I would find there over the years. 

Fourteen years later, my husband and I decided that it was time to undergo a significant renovation. I knew I would need help with light fixtures, window treatments and paint colours for our kitchen and bathrooms. When I found out that Sappho had continued Henhouse as an interior design business, there was no question in my mind as to who I wanted to hire. I never even researched other designers. I knew that Sappho’s style was exactly what I wanted in our home.

How did things progress from your initial plans to where you ended up (with a whole home makeover!)

I truly believed that all we were going to do was renovate our kitchen and two bathrooms. Well, come to find out…that was just the tip of the iceberg! It became apparent during the demolition phase of the upstairs bathroom that we had old electrical and plumbing infrastructure that had to be replaced. We quickly found ourselves with a whole home makeover on our hands and significant work to be undertaken in the basement – a space we had not planned on tackling at all.

My husband and I have a daughter on the autism spectrum who presents with significant delays in development. We had always thought that one day we might raise the house and convert the basement into a legal apartment for someone to help us with in-home support for our daughter. ‘One day’ all of a sudden became ‘now’!   

Sappho came on board to help us design a beautiful living space on the main floor and the upstairs where the bedrooms are located. Once the house was lifted, and the foundation was demolished, Sappho then helped us with the finishing touches for the basement apartment and the exterior design features of our home. She literally helped us transform 90% of our home over a period of about a year and a half. We only have a main floor guest room that has yet to be redesigned. No doubt, when we are ready to tackle this final room, we will be calling Sappho! 

What would you say were the benefits of hiring Henhouse vs. trying to tackle it on your own?

There is no way that I would be nearly as happy with the results had I tried to tackle the design process on my own.

Before Sappho and I began working together, I had tried to choose light fixtures on my own. When Sappho asked me if she could see what I had chosen, she told me (very diplomatically) that every fixture looked the same. She was right! She put together a plan for light fixtures that offered more variety, but still all worked together. I was so impressed with her vision that I ended up hiring her to redesign our entire home.

Sappho also has a true gift for figuring out which patterns and textures work together in a space. Whether it’s throw cushions, draperies, wallpaper or bedding – she can piece everything together so that the space is layered perfectly. This is something I could have never done well on my own. 

Do you have any advice or insights to share with folks who are considering hiring a professional designer? 

Yes – hire one! I know we would have made many mistakes had we chosen to undertake the design and décor process on our own. I truly believe that going without a designer can cost more in the long run.

Sappho knows what is worth investing in and what’s not. Knowing when something is fleeting or if it will last the test of time can save you money. She also has access to suppliers that you may never even realize existed, and can often pass along cost savings to you.

Were there any aspects of the process or the results that went beyond your expectations? 

All of it! I really had no idea what to expect. I knew that I really loved Sappho’s style from what I experienced in her shop and from what I saw on her website and in magazine articles. What I didn’t know was how exciting and rewarding it would be to work with a designer of Sappho’s caliber.

Sappho helped me to see how my home could be even more of what I wanted. She really knows how to incorporate and pull together all the details. She sourced so many unique décor items and encouraged us to refinish family heirlooms to bring history and warmth to our home.

She even provided us with an education in art! We now have works hanging in our home from many talented local artists. Even though the renovation and design plan are complete, thanks to Sappho, we continue to have date nights visiting art galleries around Halifax and in the Annapolis Valley.

Do you have a new favourite space or something else about your home now that you are especially happy about? 

This is such a tough question. No kidding, I come home each and every day and think, “I can’t believe I live here!” The entire house is just so comfortable and inviting. It’s cozy, yet it has such amazing style. I feel like I live in my dream cottage in the middle of Halifax.

The kitchen/family room is definitely the ‘hub’ of our home. Our daughter loves spending time in the family room while her father and I putter around in the kitchen. I must say, however, there is something about the living room that I find so special and peaceful. All week, I look forward to the weekend to curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee and a book. Sometimes I don’t even get into the book as I am distracted by the wonderful living space – I still just love looking at all the design details in the living room and the adjoining dining room.

Both bedrooms are such calming and serene spaces. Although our daughter has very little language, when she saw her newly decorated bedroom for the first time, she could not stop smiling, swaying her head from side to side, and flapping her hands. It was her way of giving Sappho two major thumbs up! It made my heart so happy to see her so excited about her new ‘teenage’ bedroom.

Though I’ve been living in this space for over a year, it continues to delight each and every day. I’m truly so grateful for Sappho’s effort in making my home my ‘happy place’.

We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with these wonderful clients. It was a pleasure and it means so much to us that they love the results! Thanks also to Julian Parkinson for photographing this project.

How to Create a Cozy Boho Mood with a Minimalist Style

We are loving the pared down minimal inspired looks that are trending right now. We’re seeing a mixture of styles coming together that combine minimalism’s emphasis on simplicity and function with rustic and natural elements that have a cozy boho feel. This look feels fresh and liberating – a feeling we are so ready for as we welcome in spring!

Just in time for your spring cleaning and decorating projects, we’re sharing a few tips and some inspiration on how to create this look.

Pare it down
home decor Halifax, interior decorator Halifax, home renovations

Alyssa Rosenheck, Studio McGee, Lauren Liess

Minimalism emphasizes cutting out anything that’s extra. Step number one is to take a hard look around the space you are working with and sort out what items are no longer serving you or aren’t essential. This is completely subjective, and of course some items serve utilitarian functions while others might serve you emotionally. But anything that’s bringing you down or that isn’t working for you or the space anymore can find a new home or be stored out of sight.

home decor Halifax, Interior design Halifax, home renovation, custom kitchens

Emily Henderson, Studio McGee

Though these images might have you thinking otherwise, we all have varying degrees of clutter going on in our homes. To pull of this streamlined aesthetic good storage is key! You can hide everyday items in decorative boxes, baskets and bins, and make use of furniture items that have storage. Another option is to create an artful and tidy display – we love the neatly stacked wood, and the funky wall hooks in the images above.

Add personality with collections, art, or an unexpected element

Emily Henderson (bottom right)

While true minimalism banishes any items that aren’t serving a function, the beauty of this style mash up is that there is room to add some personality. Collections, cherished personal objects, photography, and art are all welcome and are what create a warmer feel. Because other elements of this look are so simple, a well displayed collection or an unexpected item will really stand out and add a punch of personality.

Choose a subdued palette


Working with neutrals is a fun challenge and creates a calm, minimalist foundation for the space. We recently created a master bedroom concept for a client that has a very restricted palette. For this look we mixed shades of grey and off-white through the entire space, creating a unified and simple look. The trick is to choose a neutral palette and layer varying shades throughout the space.

If you’re dying for some colour you could absolutely get away with adding a few pops to liven things up. A fun occasional chair in a bright upholstery or a funky toss cushion or throw on the bed can shine against a pared down palette.

Play with texture, pattern and scale
interior design Halifax, interior decor, home renovations

Alyssa Rosenheck, Winkie Visser, Emily Henderson

When you’re working with limited colours, you have to work with other elements to create interest. We love the use of rustic woods, leather and hide, wool, stone and other natural materials to bring in lots of texture. Pattern can be added in many ways – through artwork, rugs, toss cushions and bedding.

One of our favourite elements to play with is scale! The giant stone container in the image above makes a beautiful statement, and is right at home blending with the soft colour palette and organic feeling of the space.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our tips and are feeling inspired and refreshed! We have some exciting new Henhouse projects to share soon so stay tuned for our next post!

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