Seven-year itch: Creating contemporary characterPublished on May 8, 2014

  • left to right, Paul and Karen Mason, Gerhard Linse, Tausha Hellyer

  • turning two bedrooms into one allowed for a luxury ensuite bathroom

  • the foyer incorporates clever use of space for a closet

  • Kitchen cabinets from Karhu Woodworking

After seven years of living in Westboro, Paul and Karen Mason had grown attached to the popular neighbourhood and their two kids ó 12-year-old Kate and Liam, 10 ó were established in local schools. But their home was built for life in the Ď50s and they desperately needed a major overhaul of the dark, cramped spaces.

Their wishes were granted by Gerhard Linse, the architect who designed and managed the almost "strip and gut" renovation. His team included project co-ordinator Tausha Hellyer and Signature Builders, who all received rave reviews for excellent work in a friendly, client-first environment.


According to Gerhard, the original clapboard house had been brutalized over time with poor quality renovations and construction work. "The owners wanted to update, primarily with a better kitchen, and create more space. They also wanted to redesign the small front entry, create a proper master bedroom with an ensuite, increase closet space and build an outdoor eating area with a deck."

Discussing everything with clients from architectural plans to budgeting and interior design details, Gerhard says it's important for them to understand why things are done a certain way, the cost and implications. He notes that the Masons were cautious at first in some areas and about a few of their ideas. "Their tastes were contemporary, tempered with a bit of tradition, so we mixed in some clean, ultra-modern aspects with Shaker elements."

The home was bumped out front and back to expand the kitchen and enlarge the entrance. A powder room was added to the ground floor, and two bedrooms became one stylish master with an elegant ensuite and walk-in closet. Outside, work included a striking front porch addition with a Shaker-style canopy, new coloured shingles and grey siding, as well as a covered deck area off the kitchen. Gerhard describes the new home as an upscale Arts and Crafts style with a Cape Cod look.


The four-month renovation gave the Masons everything they wanted and more - as the project was finished five days ahead of schedule!

"Without increasing the footprint by too much, we now have more efficient space, improved light and flow," says Paul, who is also impressed with the bigger, open-concept kitchen where the whole family can cook and eat together.

Karen particularly liked how Tausha guided them (occasionally using gentle persuasion) on many decision details, material choices and finishes. The designer went to Karhu Woodworking for the cabinetry and picked out maple wood in a stained-grey colour for under the large island. It gave a rustic feel to the bright, clean lines of the kitchen, together with the subtle texture of customized subway tiles for the backsplash.

"This is where Tausha was the master," says Karen, who initially considered dark brown cabinetry, but couldn't articulate why she didn't like it. "Then Tausha came up with the grey maple samples and it was exactly what I wanted. She is excellent at listening to us and interpreting what we mean and finding the solution."

By extending the kitchen by only about four feet, adding big patio doors and removing a wall to the dining room, there is an open flow of movement both inside and out to the backyard. More natural light enters through installing bigger transom windows and adding craft-style highlighter windows in the dining area.

"We put two large openings in the combined dining and living room that replaced doors and walls," explains Tausha. "The design took into account how furniture was arranged to make maximum use of the space and to give flexibility for a variety of seating arrangements." The concept of creating clever, usable space with innovative approaches was continued throughout the house.

Not only were the Masons thrilled with the renovation results, but also the entire process. For this they give full credit to the construction work of Serge Gauthier and Luc Faucher, in addition to Gerhard and Tausha. "It was such a great team effort," says Karen. "They always acted with integrity and put our needs first - they were really outstanding."


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