It was March of 2013 when I received the call from a young couple, referred to us by a great client. They had just purchased a semi-detached home in mid-town Toronto that was in urgent need of a renovation. Urgent, you see, because their baby was due around July 26th, and they wanted to move in at least two weeks before the little one was born. That meant, that we had to be done the renovation within about four months, and we hadn’t even met yet!
I rushed over at my earliest available opening, and took a look. The real estate agent let us in, we didn’t even have the keys yet. The place was a disaster. The kitchen was basically rotten, with old cigarette buts in the cupboards and peeling floors. There were walls everywhere. The refrigerator was even built on a step, inset to a wall with a hidden cabinet on the side. The stair rails were not to code. The floors were an ancient mess. The bathroom…let’s not go there. I cannot believe they had such trust in us, that we could turn this place around in such a short amount of time.
Within weeks, the cabinets were chosen, appliances were purchased and contracts were signed. We were on our way. Let’s remember, ittakes 12 weeks to product kitchen cabinets during busy season. We had promised them 10! And this was our BUSIEST season ever.
But, with such nice clients, one can only do their best to get it all done as quickly as possible. And we were in the middle of a huge renovation elsewhere when they had called. A renovation, that, with its own obstacles, set us back two weeks. That almost never happens. But as Murphy predicts, if it can happen, it will happen.
We started in June. Giving ourselves about six weeks. Tear out day was a nightmare. My contractor, Ron, called, letting me know that the plaster walls had no intention of coming down easily, and if we had any hope of getting back on schedule, they needed my extra set of hands. So I threw on some work clothes and met them down there. Tearing out kitchens and bathrooms can be very therapeutic, and with the week I’d just had, I really needed that therapy. Let’s just understand, that in the almost twenty years that I have been working in this industry, I have never lifted a hammer or a drill. That’s just not my job.
Photo Below: BEFORE: Standing in the living room looking into the kitchen through the tiny doorway.
Photo Below: BEFORE: Standing at front door looking towards dining area (note crazy little wall with wood posts!)
Photo Below: Me working (sorry, bad quality pic – but evidence nonetheless) – blasting through that tiny doorway!
Photo Below: Before Kitchen
Photo Below: Before Kitchen – note location of fridge!
Remember how I just wrote that we were on our way? On our way…to finding knob and tube wiring all over the place, add a week. On our way to finding old lead piping add a few more days. On our way to many, many more obstacles add another week, two weeks…
As the walls came down, and the electrical nightmare began to clear up, the house began to take shape. And, thanks to a crazy designer who’s willing to get a little dirty, and some seriously devoted contractors working well into the twilight hours, we made up for lost time. But, with every step forward….
It was painting day. My good friend and decorative artist Suzanne came to join me in helping out. Painting I can do. I am a designer after all. So there we were painting away, while Ron and his assistant Jason spent some time upstairs plaining doors to fit into crooked doorways and putting plumbing fixtures into the bathroom.
Suddenly, Jason came barrelling down the stairs! “Ron cut himself. It’s really bad.” And, he bolted out the back door to get the emergency kit from the truck. Suzanne and I ran to his side. He stood there, hand squeezing his finger as blood fell to the drop sheet below him.
“I plained my finger.” He sounded faint.
Ron and I spent the rest of the day in the hospital. The only reason I am telling you this is to show you what a really devoted contractor looks like. A bunch of stitches and pain killers later, Ron went home to bed. And the next morning, with his finger (dubbed Minced Meat) in a huge bandage, came to work. Not one hour wasted.
The kitchen was slated for installation the first week of June. It was supposed to take two days to install. It took a week. The roof-line, is, let’s just say, a little crooked! So the installers spent almost seven days working on it, to make sure it looked just perfect. More dedication.
The counters went in. The backsplash went in. The plumbing and appliances were installed. But, of course, the bathroom vanity…the bathroom toilet…see the next blog.
Photo Below: AFTER
Photo Below: AFTER
On August 1, 2013, a baby boy was born. 5 days past his due date. We finished up the essentials, the night before. They called, they sent photos, we all stood around and cried. We had become so close with our clients, and we had tried so hard to finish on time. There were some things that still needed to be done, but at least that little boy could come home to his new room, in a painted house, with a kitchen and a bathroom (albeit not yet a perfect bathroom). There was still the basement to complete, and still some minor touch ups, but the place looked great. We sent flowers. And they came home a few days later.
In the words of our Client:
Dear Revi, Ron, Jason, Dan, and Suzanne,
We wanted to thank you all for the beautiful flowers you gave us. We were so touched to arrive home and see them.
In addition to the flowers, we wanted to thank you all for the absolutely amazing work you have done. Having not seen the house in a few days, when we came home with our baby and took a tour I was in tears. It’s so beautiful and is truly the house of my dreams. I think we realized we both needed to take the time to really thank you all for the amazing work you have done thus far. I know it has been a challenging project and we are so grateful for all you have done to get it to the point where we could live in it and bring our baby home to it. You all are so amazing at your work and are talented artists in your own domains – and are also such a nice, kind team to work with!!
So thank you!! We can’t wait to introduce our baby to you!!
I have kept this email, printed, and on my office wall ever since. It was an amazing moment in the history of Monaco Interiors, and would not have been possible had our team and our clients not been so amazing. So this post is dedicated to all of you who are considering a renovation. As it turns out, great people get great service. Trades, Designers, Artists and even Kitchen Installers will go far beyond the call of duty for clients they feel respected by. I will always remember this home. It turned out beautifully, and no where near on time. But our clients were gracious, understanding, and even at their wits end, respectful. And for me, we made our clients smile. And that’s the greatest reward of all.
A few weeks ago, I went for a visit. My client gave me some before and after photos and a bottle of Champagne. But the best part of it, was to see that little guy as he was learning to walk. Walk on those floors that we installed, in the home that they created.
Photo Below: AFTER
I would have loved to include some family photos, but confidentiality is important to all of my clients, so you’ll have to just adore our kitchen. Cabinetry colour was light grey. The walls slightly darker. With shaker doors, and a mixed backsplash of glass and marble. The Caeserstone counter top was a hit as well.
Part 2: The Bathroom, will be posted soon!
Have a terrific day!