Tag Archives: design build


The first reconnect happened this week.  I remember way back to April when power was cut to the house and how symbolic that was.
It really felt like the life blood was cut off from the old place and I found it quite affecting– more so than the demolition.  By demo day, it felt that the important emotional connections were already gone when the symbolically appropriate hollow walls came down.   But when the power got connected back this week, there was no corresponding feeling. It was all quite anodyne– a heart beat, but no heart I guess…  It was a nice little reminder of the difference between house and home that I dont want to lose site of.

But, Home Building will start!  In the mean time drywall is going in and close to 80% of the siding is done!  Also, with the construction fence gone, the place is decidedly looking less like a compound ! With the walls and ceilings being screwed in, it feels more cozy on the main floor and less overly open.  The upstairs never really had that feel to it since the walls were sort of there from the insulation. Its still all quite exciting, and more so as I get close to the finishline!



Kitchen being worked on


Each time I go to the site, it starts to feel more and more like a house as the physical elements come together. But today, as the architect and I were walking and talking through the house about lighting and switching, I could really start to visualize my home and living there.

Today’s meeting was about lighting. and the switches that go along with it.  Another reinforcement as to why I am glad I paid the extra to work with someone who knows what they are doing.  After the fact, it all seems logical, and “sure, of course”, but its a lot of time and experience to get to that point.
The form is really starting to come together now.  The trusses are done, the roof sheets are up and the house is going to be wrapped in typar soon.  Windows are almost half installed. With the flooring sorted out, and now lighting and electrical, the next major decisions will be around furniture.  I suspect for the first bit, there will be a lot of guest Yoga mats to sit on as it will take time to figure out what to buy.  But for now, its looking and feeling really, really cool.

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My giant tub! – aka Mike-in-a-box

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Enjoying the Top Floor

Its really exciting to come by every day and see what is new.  Monday was a bit of a slowdown I am guessing due to the rain and high winds so not much progress. Tuesday however, had the stairs finished and the top floor coming along.  It was quite a perspective up there.  The second floor is higher than the previous house. But I also have windows / views that I did not have before.  From the front guest bedroom, was a beautiful evening sunset.

The black and white day last April when the house came down seems so distant now.  We have had almost all bright sunny days during the framing so it really is a different perspective on things in so many ways.  With May being such an eventful and busy month (physically, mentally, emotionally), stopping at the house by myself and imagining a more manageable pace and a more rooted existence to life, was very timely. It was a needed reminder of what can be sooner than later.

As I was leaving, I also had a good chuckle with an elderly Asian couple who live up the street from me. We nod hello to each other on the dog walk.  They congratulated me on the new house and design of which they approved. They also asked if its for sale (no!) and how much it cost and how much I might sell it for! Haha!  They were also quite gleeful at pointing out the tall house for the tall man and his tall dog.

Top of the stairs
Guest Bedroom view
main bedroom view
first dormer
from main bedroom
From Dawson St.

What a difference a Day makes

Its pretty freaky to see how fast its coming up and taking shape each day this past week.  The ground floor walls are complete.  Late Monday afternoon, I took my first walk “inside” the structure and it really hit me that this was my new house/home resolving in front of me.

I love the flow of it all, especially to and from the front door. This is the architect, Laird’s handy work.  I can remember very well him describing some of the design changes he made and the reasons behind them. Walking through there were many, “Yes, I see very clearly what he meant” moments and am so glad for his craft! Cant wait to see the second floor come together which hopefully will be in just a week from now.

On the decision front, a little break for me. The kitchen is done. Materials, layout, colors etc picked.  The next step is flooring. How much hardwood (the engineered stuff), how much vinyl, how much broadloom…. Then colors. Oh and bathroom tile.  Yikes!  But happy and fun decisions to make.

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Walking Into The Plans

Had a quick coordination meeting with the General Contractor today.  It was a pretty cool to be there to see the first wall come up in front of me as well as stand in my building for the very first time. Chalk outlines There is a lot of visual progress right now. Once the framing and roofing is done it will seem as if not much is happening, but thats only because its all behind the scenes at that stage. But for now, its quite exciting to literally see it happening before my eyes.vStanding in my house was really cool too.  We were looking at the full sized drawings taking about rough ins and plumbing etc  and then walked into the structure where the elements were all chalked in.  Walls, support columns, doors etc. It really felt like this cool middle ground between initial concept and final reality.

I had this strange flash of realization yesterday when coming back from the mortgage signing and final Kitchen meeting. I remembered back to last August when I began in earnest to contemplate rebuilding my house/home. It all seemed overwhelming and improbable, vague and insurmountable. What would I build ? Who would I talk to? How do I do all the financing? How would I find a place to live with Orville while its done ? It really was a bit by bit process that I chipped away at. Those initial days were WAY harder than now. It really felt like I was pushing a giant boulder up a hill. Now that its pushed over the top, I am just running (sometimes staggering) after it as it rolls down with its own momentum.  Still many, many things to do, but they are now a series of bite sized details that all seem individually doable and solvable.




One of Orville’s windows that he will look out of to watch all the entertaining foot traffic 🙂



Lots done in one day!

“Look Out Honey, Cuz I’m Using Technology”

Its remarkable the momentum that has been carrying the house forward.  Mentally and physically, I had kind of checked out from the build to attend to my mum and the details around my father’s passing.  I still would come by to take a look at the site pretty well every day.  My mum enjoyed coming as well.  She too likes the symbolism of the “Tancsa castle” as my father felt success as a father in my success.

A little shout out to Iggy Pop in the title of today’s post from the song Search and Destroy…. I was thinking about it last Friday when the foundation was poured. hqdefault Gone are the days of pure human brute force building things.  Sure, there has always been technology involved, but its just that much more advanced.  Instead of wheelbarrows and human raw power, giant concrete pump trucks with snaking articulating arms to hose in the foundation. It was done in an easy 2 hours. Routine for the construction workers, amazing for me to watch.
It cured over the weekend and the forms were removed on Saturday and vanished leaving what felt like the legs of a creature slowly materializing in front of me.
It was really cool to watch it all just appear like that in such a short period of time.wp-1461939751835.jpg
Meanwhile, on the inside stuff, I bought a new stove and, Ooooooohhhh Luxury…. A Dishwasher!!!! The old house had no room for one. Also, more design work on the Kitchen. Progress. And next week starts Framing already.  Some services were already roughed in as well.  Technology, its amazing!


Click on the images for larger versions
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Footings– Not just a Hole in the Ground

The first day of something new– footings.  The concrete foundation is being poured.  The forms and slab will come next.  If all goes to plan, it will be done early next week and the basement will start to really take shape.  wp-1461019762109.jpg


It was pretty neat to see the slush of concrete actually being poured and formed.  Properly constructed and barring any accidents over its lifetime, they will be hidden from view until the next property renewal, hopefully another 100yrs from now.   I was imagining walking over them some time in August and doing a little jump into the air.  In the old house, I could never stand up straight in the basement.  I will be able to exercise in this one.

I like dropping in to see it all.  Over the weekend I passed by both days even though I knew no work was scheduled.  I still cant believe this is my house being built.  After all these years, all the talk and planning and saving.  Its actually happening now.


I also got a colored rendering of the design.  Its bright! It looks a bit cartoon like with the bright white.  But thats the idea.  The WhiteHouse on  Menno St.  1600 Pennsylvania Ave ?

The Whitehouse

Some earlier pics from the day courtesy of Ben, the General Contractor.

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Design Help

There are lots of people who spend every waking moment designing every last detail of their dream home.  They read magazines like “Better Homes than Yours” and “Gardens you will Never Have” and watch endless shows on the tele about home renovations and innovations in home design.  Thats not me.
My main goal in this was really first and foremost to build a NEW house.  The old one as I had said before was falling apart.  The hot water heater went. The furnace was about to go. The roof needed to be replaced. The windows were falling.  The main house beam was turning to sawdust and the foundation which was rubble to begin with, was crumbling.  The plumbing was added after the house was built…. and so on.  I find it rich when people say, “Oh, you should have saved it”… It would have cost more, taken longer and the results crappier in every way.  And for what end ?  Nostalgia ? Nostalgia for what ?!?!
But beyond just a new house, I had to decide what features I would enjoy without breaking my budget.  This is where design advice came in really handy. With the Architect, all those little things like site lines, angles of sun, flows inside the house, balance, functionality etc — things we are generally aware of when they dont work, were designed to work by someone who understood these concepts. I remember starting from a plan that looked ok, but when we talked about it and my life style (No, no sex dungeons, but HIGH ceilings!) it was amazing how so many elements in the original plan didnt work, were dumb or just didnt match my lifestyle.   It was a real pleasure working with Laird who really helped my come up with a design that made good use of the space, was artistically pleasing and not too large AND, met my lifestyle goals.
I had a similar experience with the Kitchen design as well today. How do I like to eat? Where do I eat ? Do I cook a lot? What does my Kitchen look like now ? Bright ? Dark ? Practical ?  It was a really great process and I was extremely pleased at the end of it.

On the construction front, we are still waiting for the build permit which hopefully should be ready for Friday. If so, footings get poured and my house starts to grow!looking at kitches

Digging Deep, to Grow Well

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It was pretty cool to see the big hole in the ground and the incredibly big pile of dirt! The foundation is not going to be that large of course, but they have to dig bigger in order to do the backfill once the concrete is poured.  The paperwork is taking a little longer than we hoped, but the building permit should be finalized by Thursday and the concrete guys can start pouring Friday. I was thinking a lot about when I worked on the farm some 27 yrs ago standing before the pit in my yard.  It reminded me of doing tangible things– growing things and not manipulating symbols and routing bits of light.  As my professional world is utterly intangible, it was a cool experience to grow things which were of course incredibly tangible.  Although I am not doing any of the labour and crafting, I am putting my savings into the physical building so it reminded me of that creation feeling that I felt part of while farming.  At the end of this will be something physical/tangible– for me to enjoy, to be part of the neighbourhood in a hopefully positive way and for someone in the future to enjoy after I am gone.


The cool thing about building a house from scratch is that you get to pick everything.  The shitty thing about building a house from scratch is that you have to pick everything.   My good friend Keith Winter pointed out, we only seem to have so much energy every day that we can allocate to making choices.  Too many choices and you just get burnt out and stop caring and look for the easy way out.  This was one of the dangers that took effort to navigate around in the lead up to demo day. Picking a rough plan to start from and then modify from there– its exhausting mentally.
Also, for all of our adult lives, Kathleen and I kind of lived like university students.  So I am coming from zero.   I almost feel like I am coming at this like a HillBilly. My Kitchen Island was my Corelle Plate I bought from the Bi-Way 20yrs ago that I would balance on my sink’s edge.  I love good design. I think good design like good art enhances our lives and is a necessary part of it.  But prices?!?! Holy cow, you can blow your brains out on stuff.  Bathroom fixtures were a real eye opener.  Somewhere between a garden hose and a $2,000 set of shower fixtures must be a happy medium for me.  I am just not sure where.


One luxury I know I will go for is an oversized bathtub.  As a kid I used to LOVE to soak.  But by age 15 or so, I could no longer fit into a tub without feeling like I was sitting in a bucket.  As a recreational long distance runner, having the ability to do an ice bath post long run would be very, very nice indeed. So to me, spending $500 on a normal tub does not make sense. I wont use it.  $1800 for one that I will, does seem like an investment in my enjoyment of life.