our house: one year in

Over the past year, we’ve found ourselves standing on quite a few rugged, West Coast beaches. Felix throws rocks into the ocean, and the two of us ruminate on how lucky we are to live here: What a beautiful place. How peaceful. We’re so glad we made this decision. Etcetera.

We tend to analyze and even rationalize our decision to move to Victoria. (There were quite a few options!) The ocean! The cycling! The schools! Perhaps this is a necessary and cathartic process to go through after one makes a significant life decision. It seems to be for me, at least.

One of my usual run/cycling routes along Dallas Rd.

Becoming a homeowner has changed me. I can’t count the keys I’ve owned, the walls I’ve decorated, the postal codes I’ve memorized. I can’t count the roommates, the grimy kitchens, the lost and left behind coffee mugs, chipped with laughter and arguments.

This time was different. I will never forget walking through the front door of “the pink house” that dark and drizzly October evening, Felix, then only one, launched himself face-down on the 1970s beige carpet and wriggled with joy.

It felt like I’d been given a gift that still belonged to someone else. It was going to take time for it to feel like mine.

This is at the end of our street.

James left for a month-long work trip shortly after we moved in and the house became my retreat. I unscrewed ugly lampshades and scrubbed away past lives; I cleaned and organized what felt like a mansion compared to our 490 sq ft condo in Whistler. The grey November days brought a peculiar kind of loneliness—one that I’ve only felt while solo parenting—and I’d curl up with wine and Netflix in the evening, after those often too-long days.

We hosted family over Christmas and then we escaped. Little did we know that trip to Florida and San Diego would be our last time crossing a border for over a year.

Another shot from the cemetery at the end of our street.

February hit and we were ready to dive into life in our new city. We were lucky that when COVID hit, we didn’t have school-aged children to homeschool nor income that was hit particularly hard. The spring morphed into a cozy, productive time we might not have otherwise had. (I know our situation was not common, and I am grateful.)

And so, we began the long journey of turning this 1913 bungalow on Quimper Street into a home. (I will always, in fact, associate COVID-time with starting this process.) We’re far from finished, but maybe a home, like most worthwhile things, never really is anyway. I’ve learned lessons in creativity and frugality, buried under layers of feeling impermanent for years. I’ve felt unexpectedly energized by staying still, especially for someone happiest in motion.

Part of me wanted to wait to share photos here until we are done done, but instead, I hope this “one year in” post will serve as a testament to the process as we slowly but surely chip away at our dream house by the sea.

Like fashion, home decor/design not my gift. In fact, I often feel overwhelmed trying to express myself this way. Yet, I have been having fun with it, letting myself try things out and make mistakes, all the while trying to create a home that’s welcoming, comforting, inspiring, and joyful.

All paint is Benjamin Moore unless otherwise noted.


Master

This is the room I’m most proud of and feel the happiest waking up in every day. I had no design plan or palette for this room, but more of a feeling. I wrote the words “natural, wood, light” in a note somewhere, and here we are.

This room was a makeshift old-man office painted in mismatched shades of brown/tan/beige, like the rest of the house. It was also our very first project. When James’ parents came in February, we tackled this room first by stripping the carpet, refinishing the original fir, and painting.

With a combination of our own furniture, James’ handmade bed, a few new purchases and a few second-hand finds, we’re almost there. We still need bedside lighting and an interesting headboard, like an old door or textile. And one day, we’ll expand the awful, tiny closet, and maybe even create another pathway to the bathroom.

Hues of beige, pink, and brown dominated this former office.

Before: Hues of beige, pink, and brown dominated this former front room.

After: A "mistint" feature wall and a homemade bed.

After: A “mis-tint” feature wall and a homemade bed frame. Headboard still to come!

Walls: Cloud White (eggshell)
Trim: Cloud White (semi-gloss)
Feature wall: Discounted mistint from the cast-offs at the paint store
Curtains: Amazon
Light fixture: Wooden Eurofase pendant (second-hand)
King bed frame: Handmade by James
Linens: Brooklinen Classic White
Rug: Wayfair
Dresser: IKEA (second-hand)
Lamp: Vintage hand-me-down


Felix’s Room

As the former master bedroom, the previous owner had installed a massive dark wood shelf on one wall and wired it up like some kind of 1970’s switchboard. After that came down, all that was really needed was a coat of paint. We wanted to keep the carpet, which is in decent shape, for a warmer, cozier feel. We could eventually strip this to the hardwood and even knock down the wall (the one at the head of the bed in this photo) to the office and turn this into a bigger room that flows out onto a deck. We dream.

I researched “best colours for boys rooms” about 100 times and kept stumbling upon people’s love for Woodlawn Blue. Depending on the time of day, the colour does lean green to comforting blue, and with the pops of orange I’m gradually adding, I think it works. We need more shelves for books but that will all come with time. Since taking these pics, we’ve also e added a funky ceiling pendant and a comfortable rocking chair. (Because 2-year-olds still need midnight cuddles from time to time.) 

There's that headboard!

Before: Oh that heavy, brown headboard-shelf!

After: Woodlawn Blue for baby.

Walls and moulding: Woodlawn Blue (eggshell)
Trim: Cloud White (semi-gloss)
Blackout curtains: Amazon
Change table and crib: Hand-me-downs
Toy cabinet: IKEA (second-hand)
Mobile: IKEA
Chair: Second-hand
Crib and change table: Second-hand
Giraffe art: Gift from the artist, Stacy Bodnaruck


Hallway/Bathroom

These weren’t areas I was ready to invest in at all, but when my parents visited for two months during the first COVID lockdown, they stripped the textured beige forest wallpaper and prepped the walls for painting. For the hallway (pics in the gallery below), James convinced me we had enough paint to extend the feature wall colour from our bedroom into the hallway. I thought white would make it seem larger, but I like how it turned out.

For the bathroom, we mixed together leftover paints and samples—blues, whites, and greys—to create this colour that I’m sure would stump all the colour-namers at the paint companies. (“Quimper Mist?”) It’ll do for now. I sanded and painted the dark wood vanity, and we took down the huge flat mirror and replaced it with a vintage one. We removed the awful chrome track lighting, and I re-purposed a junky globe light hanging in our pantry room, and spray painted it gold. I also spray painted the towel hanger, toilet paper holder, floor grates, and door handles. I can’t wait to renovate this room one day. 

Beige beige beige!

Before: Beige beige beige! And lace curtains and a Micky Mouse clock for good measure.

This will do for now.

After: This will do for now.

Walls: James mix
Trim: Cloud White (semi-gloss)
Gold spray paint: Rustoleum Pure Gold
Mirror: Vintage second-hand
Vanity light: DIY/repurposed
Picture frames and fake succulent: IKEA
Toothbrush holder: Handmade pottery from a friend


Kitchen

I’m also quite proud of our kitchen, or “ning-ning” according to Felix. It was love at first sight for the ceramic farmhouse sink. Everything else, not so much. The vinyl faux hardwood however, is turning out to be great for life at this stage, and the potlights are practical and bright.

Highlights: The first thing we did was tear down the scalloped window frame and vertical mirror. Then, James and my dad cut out and repurposed old cabinets to house our new Viking fridge (see gallery), and James turned the funny little ironing board cabinet (center, back of the first picture) into a coffee station. Next came the massive task of removing, prepping, and painting all the cabinets and walls. I updated the plastic hardware with oil-rubbed bronze hardware I found on Wayfair. Lastly, James built some corner shelves and painted in a chalkboard. The used Viking industrial fridge seemed HUGE at first, but I’ve since fallen in love with it. It’s tall and shallow, making it easier to find items. All in all, this is turning out to be a wonderful place to bake sourdough bread and entertain the few guests we’ve been able to welcome during COVID times.

Future: We want to knock out the wall between the kitchen and living room (behind you in both pics, in the gallery below it’s the one with the big painting on it), dismantle the half-island which now houses the stove, and add a massive island right in the middle with a built-in range, stool seating, and lots of storage.

This photo actually makes it look cute, ha ha.

Before: This photo actually makes it look cute, ha ha.

Not quite there yet, but progress!

After-ish: Progress! (I’ve recently added a Ruggable rug in front of the sink. Photo in the gallery below.)

Walls: Simply White (eggshell)
Trim: Simply White (semi-gloss)
Cabinets (lower): Baritone (melamine) by Dulux
Cabinets (upper): Simply White (melamine)
Hardware: Wayfair clearance
Light above sinkHome Depot
Teak extendable table: Second hand
Viking industrial fridge: Second hand
Temporary island/coffee station: Hand me down
Teak table with hiding chairs: Second-hand


Office

This little back room juts off the kitchen and will one day be turned into a sitting area spilling out onto a deck and into our backyard. One thing we dislike about this house is how there’s no access to our awesome backyard through the house–you have to either go downstairs and out a hobbit door, or out the front door and around the house. We haven’t done a thing to this room other than tear down the pink wall sconces and add our own desks and bookcases, but I’ll share anyway!

Before: Awkward bedroom off the kitchen.

Before: Awkward bedroom off the kitchen.

Home office.

After: Home office/Jen space. (Complete with Brio trains on the window ledge.)


Living Room

This room is my biggest challenge. We’ll eventually take down the wall between this room and the kitchen which will then dictate the choice and even style of furniture we choose. So for now, it’s makeshift.

When we ripped out the carpet, we were surprised to see that fir underneath was in pretty good shape. We lived with James’ old couch for quite some time, until I found a decent and comfortable freebie on the side of the road. He promises me that the big chair and cabinet under the painting will be moved to the studio when it’s done. Alas! my living room redecorating hangs in the balance. But truthfully, it’s been fun slowly replacing stuff with freebies and second-hand finds, like the new West Elm rug I just installed today.

Figuring a paint job would be the easiest quick fix for this room, I delved into the Benjamin Moore palate hoping to modernize the Craftsman vibe without ruining it. I leaned towards white but went crazy with the varying options/opinions on the best shades for a low-light room, and whether it works with dark trim. I eventually went with one blogger’s advice who said muted neutrals work better in a room like ours, and so chose a soft green. I’m not thrilled, however; I keep wanting to go back to a warm white, and am even considering painted the coffered ceiling. We painted the fireplace with high-temperature black spray paint and the brick around it white. An improvement for sure, but I still have big dreams for this room.

Before: Cozy, but dark and cluttered.

After-ish: A work in progress.

Walls: Wind Chime (eggshell)
Fireplace and wall: Chantilly Lace (eggshell)
Both mirrors: second hand
Sculpture table and entryway bench: second hand
Rug: West Elm Jute Bauble (second hand…oh I did I ever wait for this one!)
Couch: Curbside, free (!)
Sculptures: James Stewart Sculpture
Prairie painting: Matthew Sievers


Exterior

One of the first things James and his dad did was cut down most of the old, overgrown bushes shrouding our house. When my parents visited, the four of us painted almost the entire exterior. I’m currently working on a landscape design we hope to implement this spring, but for now—let the sun shine in! We’re also social people, and enjoy chatting with the neighbours while we’re out on the porch having happy hour.

Soon after, a neighbour told me that she had no idea that a cute Craftsman home was hiding behind all those bushes. This warmed my heart. I love Arts and Crafts architecture and philosophy and I’ve long dreamed of owning one of these beauties.

Before: Shrouded in bushes.

After: I had fun with veggie gardening last summer, and full landscaping will be this year’s project. Oh, and that awful front door…

Siding: Polo Blue
Trim: Apparition (heavily modified!)
Inner trim: French Canvas
Craftsman porch light: Second hand
House numbers: 3D printed (James)
Garden boxes: Built by James


Addition (studio/garage/bike house/pain cave)

In October, with our permit finally secured, we broke ground on James’ studio, and one of the main reasons we bought this place. It wasn’t long before the slab was poured and the frame and roof finished. It was fun watching it all unfold from the comfort of my office.

As someone who nailed in maybe 100 cedar shakes, it’s easy for me to say the studio has been an absolute labour of love. From the design to every single tiny detail, James has done this almost entirely by himself. I am so impressed by his commitment to saving money: we’re talking getting almost everything second-hand, from cement mixers to drywall lifters (who knew?!?!) to marble countertops. He’s come so far and I cannot wait to see him get back to work in there on what he’s meant to do. (I won’t lie, I’m looking forward to having a home for my bikes and a personal Peloton studio, too!)

I can’t talk about the studio without a tip of the hat to the incredible team James has had along the way. This building is the work of many hands, including many of our new neighbours who generously offered their time and labour. Jame’s 70-plus-year-old dad visited a number of times to help, and I am still impressed with his work ethic and stamina. Our neighbour two doors down, Doug, has been an absolute workhorse, as well as my dad, another neighbour Brent, and yet another, Richard. There are some serious skills in our ‘hood, and there isn’t enough Scotch in Scotland to thank them enough.

Before: The “beauty shot” from the MLS listing.

After-ish: I hate to share until we’re finished, but we’re getting close!

If you got this far, you deserve a medal. Or at least a bed and a meal when COVID is just a memory. It was fun sharing our first year’s project here on the ol’ blog, neglected as it has been as I pour myself into other things, like finding that perfect light fixture or rug on Facebook Marketplace. Next February, I’ll post about what year two brings. 


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