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Oh hi there! This is Laura....for once. We’ve kind of delegated Sarah to be the blog portion of Velvet Sweatpants, because, well, I don’t right good. Okay that was a joke, I generally am okay at grammar (I do realize it’s “write well”), but I don’t consider myself a “writer” by any stretch. To be completely honest, it’s never been something I enjoyed. I was the kid who spent 6 hours carefully crafting the title page for my essay project with springs, pull out features, and carefully colored images, then a hot 20 mins on the essay itself. Sarah has such a gift with story telling and words, and I adore reading about her thoughts and giggling at her wit. However, I do occasionally feel the need or desire to write about something, and this is one of those brief moments in time. I’m going to share with you all about our, (my boyfriend Benn and my), first home renovation project. We will start with the Main Floor for today as it was kind of a two part process. I’ll start from the very beginning and give you a run down of why, how, the ups and downs and if we would consider doing it again....

From the beginning:

...and we are going way back here. The desire to renovate and build came from a young young age. It's really been a dream of mine for a longgggg time...

- Trading Spaces circa 2000...who else was obsessed with the show as a youngin'?? I can honestly say I haven't really watched any home improvement shows since, but this was my jam as a kid. I'm fairly sure this is where the inspiration began. I used to want to repaint my room every few months, (this was not allowed, but I did it as often as permitted), move my furniture around weekly (dragging dressers on blankets up and down stairs by my 11 year-old self), and get my hands on the rest of the house if I could. (My parents graciously allowed me to ”Design” and help redecorate the living room once - it was very “trading spaces” with some pretty kitschy ideas. I wouldn’t say it was great, but they were kind and impressed because they were just that type of supportive parents.)

-My dream as a child was to build a house from the ground up. Like, literally I wanted to frame it all, finish it all, build my own furniture - do it all. I recall my mom telling me my cousin had built his own house and I really thought that was something I wanted to do as well. At the time I didn’t know what that all entailed, but I just thought that would be the coolest.

Fast Forward 10 years...Interior design school, graduated, started my career...blah we are! So in that ”blah blah” time, I learned a lot about residential construction, interior design, etc etc and started to understand truly what it all entailed. I’ve always been passionate about residential building and design. I realized how huge it would be to actually build a house all by myself, so the dream turned into wanting to renovate a home by myself, but actually by “ourselves” because I have a handy partner now who just so happens to be a journeyman trades person (Benn). Anyhow, fast forward a bit, and Benn and I bought our first house just under two years ago, and this is where the story really begins...

Phase 1: Finding the house.

It took us about a year and a half to find the house we ultimately bought. We were picky, not about finding our dream home, but about finding a home on a good lot, with various development potentials, in an area we thought would be great for investment, and for a smokin' good price...smokin' good price being high up there on the list. It was tough and time consuming, but when the “one” popped up on MLS, (I would scour the app multiple times a day, every day), we jumped, and due to mostly luck, we got it for a steal. It was a PROJECT. I was PUMPED. Benn was down, but much less pumped. His sense of reality is admittedly greater than mine. Being the frugal go-getters we are, we knew we would do everything we possibly could on our own and only hire out trades when super necessary, (taping and mudding drywall). Benn saw two people working full time, and coming home to work full-time for months on end...and I just saw the beautiful end product and a dream come true...with quite a bit of work. Both good perspectives, and I think both are needed in this endeavor. This picture perfectly depicts our differing emotions on day one of renos:

Laura: feisty and ready to slayyyyy Benn: “oh god, here we go”

And this was our starting point. . .

Main floor before photos:

I do love me a banquette, but it could use some love.

Salvaged the copper plant hangers for Sarah.

Layers and layers of paneling removal is what I remember.

I envisioned ship lap.

New idea: window coverings in the shower.

Mmmm the hue in this space.

This space smelled a bit funny - and had a mean slope to it.


Phase 2: The plan.

The planning part is the fun part for me, it’s what I do. I did up the design drawings, planned out all layouts and picked all finishes.


This was the vision I had for the space...



GOAL: To create a two suite home: the main floor being for me and Benn until we decide to rent it out one day, and the basement was always intended for rental. We wanted the spaces to be super attractive and functional so they could be easily rented, but wanted to do it as inexpensively as possible. We spent where we needed to and found ways to save where we could ..... and always found deals of course on everything. (Side note: we call Benn the Kijiji King - 'nuff said).

STYLE: Cottage chic with a touch of boho - a space that would be cozy, welcoming, feel like you weren’t in the city, and be bright and fresh.


-Remove wall between living room and kitchen to create a more open, bright concept and replace with a rustic wood clad engineered beam and posts.

-Add a 2nd bathroom (powder room) to the master bedroom, (handy to have my journeyman plumber).

-Create a flex room with Murphy bed in the current dining room. (More bedrooms = better rental)

-New Kitchen, flooring, plumbing, plumbing fixtures, electrical, ship lap to cover up the mess of plaster textured walls everywhere, trim, light fixtures, ..... so basically everything.


WALL PAINT - Benjamin Moore: White Dove and Gray Mist / Finish: eggshell

TRIM PAINT - Benjamin Moore: White Dove and Gray Mist / Finish: satin

FLOORING - Beaulieu - Engineered Luxury Vinyl Plank - Journey - Malaku

CABINETS - Ikea off white Grimslov door

KITCHEN COUNTERTOPS - Caesarstone - Quartz - London Grey

BATHROOM FLOOR TILE - Dal Tile - M753 Black/White Blend Hex Marble Tile

Phase 3: the Renovation.

Alright, so here was the plan: 1 month to renovate the main floor, move out of our rental and into the new house, and then 1 additional month for basement. Cute right? I was quite sure it would take much longer due to my experience in the field, but we just wanted a huge push to see what we could accomplish and we didn’t want to pay rent and mortgage for long. The reality? It took us 2 months to renovate the main floor by ourselves while also maintaining full time jobs (hired a friend to do some finishing work and one to do our drywall taping and mudding, and my dear mother helped so much. She made multiple trips down from Edmonton and built our entire Ikea kitchen). The Basement time from from start to finish? 1 year, 7 months, finishing it just a couple weeks ago.

The truth is, we were burnt out after phase 1. It’s important to note we were stretched as far as we could go and friends worried at our increasingly haggard appearances (haha). I joke that I had to 'check myself in', but for real, I took myself to counselling because my anxiety was through the roof! (Huge proponent of counselling and taking care of your mental health - another post for another day.) It was hard. Benn and I, as stereo-typically expected, fought more than ever, and really had to work through the whole, designer working with trades person, struggle. Now, I am a firm believer that trades and designers should work symbiotically and have respect for each other and each other's differing knowledge and experience...but it was the two of us, a couple, under significant stress doing our first renovation together. Benn respects my knowledge, I respect his, I'm not a fantastical thinking designer with crazy unattainable ideas or anything, but Benn and I just have different ways of thinking and different ways of doing things. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is - WE. MADE. IT. We came out of phase 1 stronger than ever, but not without a lot of cursing (not at each other, but rather trying to install LVP flooring by ourselves. Folks, mad respect for flooring installers. A lot of tears and tough conversations, late nights and early mornings...and tons of Vietnamese take-out. All this to say, we don't recommend doing a full gut reno in 2 months with full time jobs, but at the same time, I'm so proud and so happy we made it...and did it ourselves! (Shout outs still to the help we received from friends and family in our desperate times.) Moving day was a whole other event. With no time to pack and the new house still needing finishing touches, all I remember was a sea of Ikea blue bags (Godsend. Best moving tip I have.) and unreal friends who just made it all happen while I was frantically renovating and moving simultaneously.


Phase 5: How we feel about it and what's next?

We are proud. It's an incredible feeling to build something from near scratch and go through all of the blood, sweat and tears to get to your finished product. However, during and after the main floor we said we would not be doing a reno this big for a longggg time, or ever actually...

What we are up to now? .... bought another house down the street a month ago and working on reno number two...(more to come about this in future weeks).

— Laura

Next blog from me I will dive into the Basement of reno number 1.


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