When Maureen and Craig first called us, I was very excited. They are family with some really great people I know. I went down to the city to meet them, and just as I expected, they were pretty terrific.
Stepping back into the 1800s
They live in a super old house. It was built in 1890. They have archival images on their walls, the original door to the house. On the first evening we met, I got to the door and searched for a bell. No doorbell. Well, none that I could see anyway. When Maureen opened the door and I mentioned that we could add that into the project, she laughed.
“Here it is!” With great smiles they both explained that the doorbell is 129 years old, the door is original to the house, and they just refused to give it up. You can see in the photo, it’s the circular knob right above the mail slot. They then showed me archival photos they have on their walls, not only of the house, but of a great many important things to them that date back to their roots and their family heritage. I got to know them that evening. Their appreciation for the past. Their emotional attachment to family and traditions. Goals and dreams for themselves and their children.
They told me stories about how they met, and where they travel and how they enjoy life. It was so open and honest, and it be truthful, I could feel the love between them in the same manner that you could feel the table in front of me. Solid and tangible and true. It’s not often I walk into a home and feel that much. It’s actually very rare. And I knew these new clients were going to be special.
The goal was to create a functional kitchen for them. We walked into their existing space, and it was a mess. An old addition done badly. It was tearing away from the house. The floors sloped, it was cold, there was no space to cook let alone entertain. It had absolutely none of their charm, nor fit in with the Victorian home they lived in.
They wanted to increase the size of it. They wanted to double the size of it, and the only way to do that was to go a tiny bit wider and back about 10 feet into their yard.
I won’t bore you with the construction details. And I honestly don’t want to relive them. It wasn’t the easiest addition to get up. But with a lot of hard work by my terrific partner and husband Steven, our trades and our extremely kind clients, we completed right (I mean by the hair of my chinny chin chin) before Christmas.
While we do many kitchen designs and renovations each year, this was the first time a client really gave me the opportunity to do something different. I can remember sending them their design. I was nervous. I don’t ever get nervous about designs, but this one was so different, and I was just praying that I had it right. Maureen emailed me back that she felt I had really listened to them and understood what they wanted. I almost cried.
The Amazing Tile Race
The tiles we had chosen were a new product one of our suppliers had brought in. They had to be ordered from Italy and were to take weeks to arrive. A week before installation, almost 3 months later, they were still in Italy. Not good.
I was at a cottage that weekend, just after hearing the bad news. At 3am (this is the life of a designer), I was lying on the floor (so not to wake my husband with phone light), scrolling through tile options when I came across the winner. But, as you can imagine, at 3am, the memory isn’t at full tilt.
Monday morning, forgetting all about it, I ventured out to find a replacement. I needed something to fit the bill, be in stock and available for immediate delivery. Oh, and be within the original tile budget. You may have seen a video of my tour of GTA tile stores on that Monday morning. There is what my day went like. (hey don’t judge…I wast tired, no make-up and not enough coffee yet)
I sent Maureen and Craig a bunch of photos, and they chose the tile I prayed they would. And scrolling through my photos, I discovered it was the same one I had snipped at 3am Sunday morning. I could have saved the entire day! But it was fun, a challenge, and just the kind of challenge that works out for the best. We love this tile so much more than we did our first choice. Everything happens for a reason.
In keeping with the Victorian feel, Craig suggested copper sinks (I give credit where it’s due). What a great idea! They look authentic in the space and create a sense of timelessness and warmth.
When I posted the green paint we were using, I got a lot of pushback. People felt it was dark, too much colour and a myriad of other complaints. I asked the naysayers to be patient. And the patience paid off. With the white cabinetry and backsplash, the dark Caesarstone countertops and the rustic wood shelving, table and bench, this kitchen came together like a Victorian novel. It has all the character one would expect, with a few twists and turns along the way. A modern, bright red SodaStream adorns a counter nook, providing not only a pop of colour, but a fun twist.
Maureen and I spent an hour trying out different pillow options (see previous Instagram pics) and had a great time coming up with our final choices, which line a built-in bench. You can see the options we had on my instagram page. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bsy4MmTBbjz/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
One of the smartest things we did in this kitchen was add a sun-tunnel. It’s right at the darkest spot, near the entrance to the dining room, and all day, natural light pours into the kitchen through the tunnel and the patio door. Can you imagine working in a kitchen bathed in sunlight when you don’t have any windows? It’s my new go to. I have been using them to brighten up spaces for a while now, it’s been a very easy way to create more sunlight in otherwise artificial feeling spaces.
Kindess, Stories and a few Tears
On the day Maureen and I spent playing with toss cushions, she told me how special this kitchen was to them. I heard about their Christmas dinner, and how their family enjoyed the new space. I heard about traditions they now get to keep alive in their own home, which once they didn’t have the space to do. We cried a bit, getting emotional over family members that were no longer with us, and the joy that a space to gather, to cook, to create more memories, truly brings us.
As I write this, I still get emotional. Maureen and Craig will always be two people who bring a little tear to my eyes. Their overwhelming kindness, and the love one feels in their home is special beyond words.
In the 17 years I have owned my own business, I have met many very special people. But for the rest of my years, I will always remember Maureen and I standing in that kitchen, and the gratitude I felt for having been chosen by them for this project. Because in the end, it wasn’t a project at all. It was a gift.
Have a terrific day! And for heaven’s sake, so make some memories!
For the full portfolio page please go to: https://www.monacointeriors.ca/portfolio/manning-avenue/