Raise your hand if you struggle to answer that age old question “What do you want for Christmas this year?”. 🙋
Hey design and renovation lovers,
My last blog post talks all about the changes that we’ve been making in the kitchen at the Amabel Beach House (appliances have since been delivered and it’s looking so good). Today I’m switching gears to walk you through the bathroom progress. I’ve said it before, kitchen and baths sell homes (we all know this), so it’s logical to assume that they rent homes too, right?
The washroom has been an expensive whirlwind endeavor, but it is starting to look and feel spectacular. We have come a long way from yellow-stained linoleum floors and a filth streaked tub surround, but there have been a few bumps and learning curves along the way. The highest costs came from getting the plumbing up to code and installing an expensive water treatment system to remove the iron from the well wate,r which was staining everything orange. I wanted to protect my investment and also provide a clean and inviting space for renters. In the end, this project is all about their experience, and good reviews will help to boost the bottom line of this new business venture.
The biggest change that I planned to make here was to remove the closet from the adjacent bedroom, as it took up a large amount of floor space in the washroom. You only had a few tiny inches to squeeze past the toilet to get to a small vanity. You can see the closet wall jutting out into the washroom in the photo below (to the right of the door frame).
Taking out the closet really opened up the space and allowed us to put in a nice wide vanity from IKEA, with lots of storage and some counterspace - perfect for renters!.
To save money, we didn’t really change the layout other than removing the closet. There was a bump out on the plumbing wall by the door that we removed so that the door hinges could be mounted properly, and moved the bump out to the other end of the tub so we could recess a shampoo niche (this adds a bit of a ‘hotel’ like feel). I would have loved to move the toilet so it isn’t right across from the door (which happens to be dead center in the whole cottage), but budget just didn’t allow or make sense for a rental property. I’m using pretty tile and trying to draw the eye out the window outside to distract from the toilet being in such a highly visible spot.
Because this isn’t a large space, I knew that I wanted to do a really special natural stone mosaic floor. This type of tile is pricier, so if you are on a budget, it’s best for small bathrooms or powder rooms. I wanted it to have this small area to have a high impact, especially since you see the washroom from all angles of the cottage if the door is left open. I chose a gorgeous sunflower mosaic from Toronto tile shop Creekside Tile. For the shower, I again went with inexpensive ceramic subway tile from Creekside (like I did in the kitchen), and spec’d grey grout to hide dirt (it does, however, emphasize just how unlevel my ceiling is, but that’s okay).
One important lesson that I learned here is that in terms of labour, you get what you pay for. I hired an inexpensive tiler, and while he did a pretty good job for the most part, I really don’t love the tiny chiclet tiles in the corners, and he did a very poor caulking job with clear caulking.
I spent 4 hours scraping out the clear caulking, 1 hour royally messing up trying to redo with white caulking, another 4 hours re scraping all the new caulking I just did, and then another hour doing it right. Tip for first time caulkers: Don’t use quick dry silicone, use regular acrylic caulking. It won’t last as many years before it needs to be redone, but it will look perfect. Ughhh please, learn from my mistakes and tears here people! Also funny story, I was using a razor blade to scrape the caulking and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why it was so hard…then I realized I didn’t remove the little metal protector on the blade. * Face Palm *
Finally, I managed to get the white caulking done correctly. The white caulking helps the tile to look like it’s wrapping the corners, so the little chiclets almost disappear. Now I think it looks like a million bucks (without having to pay a million bucks), but next time I might invest a bit more in the labour. Or not, since I’m going to try to tile the kitchen backsplash myself haha!
Tubs aren’t visually my favourite unless they are free standing and a bonus to a walk in shower. I debated doing a walk in shower here, but the cost didn’t make sense, and I figured that renters with small children might need a tub to wash up the kiddos after a day at the beach. I found this very attractive, stream lined tub at Home Hardware and love its lines. Minimal curves, grooves and edges also means a quicker clean up for the cleaning staff, which is key to keeping costs low in a vacation rental property!
Here’s a look (with LINKS!) to some of the items I’m using in the washroom.
That catches you up to speed for now. The washroom is actually one of the least done rooms in the house because we still need to trim out doors, windows and baseboards, but it’s tiny so it shouldn’t take too long. If you’re here because you own (or are thinking about buying) a rental property - I hope this inspires you to remember that if your rental’s bathroom is looking less than pinterest worthy, you may be risking bad reviews and unhappy clients.
Have any questions about the bathroom reno? Ask in the comments section below!
Hey readers and fellow design/reno dreamers.
Today I’m going to share with you the progress and plans for the kitchen at the Amabel Beach House. I will go through the ‘before’ - what was working, what wasn’t - and the changes we have planned and executed to maximize the rental potential and dollar value of this space.
If you are thinking about purchasing a short term rental vacation property and fixing it up - this is the post for you! Much like purchasing a home, people look at kitchen and bathrooms when renting a vacation home, so it’s absolutely vital that they are pretty, clean and functional.
I would argue that functionality is most important, and for reviews after someone has spent time in the house, this is most definitely true - they will rate you on how well the kitchen was able to meet their needs during their stay. But to really hook a renter and make them dream of staying in your home, the pictures need to sing, and that requires some good design.
Let’s start with a floorplan.
-opening in wall over the sink (plan to make bigger to add in more natural light)
-door to side deck (increase size of side deck to be able to fit bbq, perfect for prepping and grilling on a summer night!)
-blind corner, almost unuseable
-very small, dangerous gas stove with exposed gas line and burn marks on small adjacent counter (we will be keeping a gas line in the cottage, but putting in an electric oven to avoid open flames and potential fire hazards for the renters)
-fridge covering door casing, looks cramped and ill fitting
-table in kitchen makes space feel tight and traffic flow awkward, can only seat 3
-peninsula makes space feel cut off and small
-very small sink
-dated colour scheme and cheap finishes
-water stained ceiling
In the new configuration, we moved the dining space to the sunroom (where we can seat 6-8 and have a big table for puzzles, games, and family meals) and eliminated the narrow peninsula to really maximize the size of a tiny footprint and max out the number of people who can be in the room at once. This allowed us to move the fridge, incorporate a huge pantry (perfect for renters to store all of their food for the week), and center the stove between the door and side cabinets. Increasing the opening over the sink also made the space feel larger and brings in more natural light.
SIDE BY SIDE COMPARISON:
See how much more open and usable the space feels!?
The plan for the kitchen is to incorporate hard wearing and easy to maintain products and materials, while keeping the costs low.
-simple ceramic subway tile is very inexpensive and looks fresh, using grey grout will help to maintain the clean look
-a mix of metal finishes makes the space feel cottagey and not too serious
-'Montauk’ quartz countertops by Hanstone Canada are a larger upfront cost, but they have a lifetime warranty and will stand up to any careless renters (I will be doing a post about countertops soon!)
-white cabinets (from Home Hardware and Cutler Kitchen and Bath) in a classic profile help to make the space feel larger and airy
-gorgeous brass lighting and convincing wood look laminate flooring to add warmth (will talk more about the flooring in another post)
-open wooden shelving in the corner for display and to keep things light and easy to reach
For the cabinets, I am working with Home Hardware and Cutler Kitchen and Bath, using the Lindsay line of cabinets. These come flat-packed (similar to IKEA kitchen cabinets), where you have to build the boxes and attach the doors. The price point is really excellent for a rental kitchen, and the look is great - the simple shaker style door is a classic that will never go out of style. I will be doing a more detailed post on the cabinets later, but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy they were to build and install, and they look like a million bucks!
KITCHEN AMENITIES TO BOOST RENTAL INCOME:
-Dishwasher (major bonus points! more and more renters are looking for hassle free living, plus, a dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes by hand, so its a win win)
-Pantry (ample storage)
-Quartz Countertops - heat, stain, and scratch resistant, low maintenance, and LUXURY
-High end, well designed look that will photograph well and attract renters!
Also importantly, all mouse poop and gross carpet in the kitchen has been removed - so that’s a major plus too ;)
I hope some of these tips and tricks will help inspire you on your own journey with renovations, especially if you are renovating an income property. I can’t wait to share the final kitchen reveal with all of you!
Disclaimer: This post contains sponsored products from Home Hardware. All opinions are my own. I would never promote or endorse a product I do not fully believe in and wouldn’t pay for with my own money.
To Paint or Not To Paint, That is The Question
While we were having the tile under the shag carpetting tested for asbestos, we also had the vermiculite in the attic tested. Thankfully, the vermiculite came back negative...the tile - not so much. However, due to evidence of mouse activity (and I mean lots and lots of activity), the mess that vermiculite leaves, and the stained, sagging and generally popcorny condition of the ceilings, we decided to have the ceiling and the attic insulation removed, including all vermiculite, at the same time the asbestos containing tile on the floors was being taken out. It was so neat to be able to see the ceiling structure, and a huge relief to see that the construction was solid.
I was left with a blank slate, and knew immediately that I wanted to plank the ceilings in pine. I arrived to the Amabel one weekend to find the ceilings freshly planked and to find myself faced with a decision on how to finish them. My first instinct was to paint. My second instinct was to whitewash. My third instinct was to leave natural. My fourth instinct was to try and match the sunroom. So many instincts, so much confusion! I posted a poll on instagram and an overwhelming number of people voted for whitewash.
Here are some of my favourite inspiration shots that I came across for planked ceilings while trying to settle my internal debate:
It was this last image of the painted ceiling that really sold me. I have had this picture pinned (LITERALLY, not on Pinterest...okay on there too, but printed out and physically pinned) to the wall by my bed since I started dreaming of buying a cottage. The painted ceiling felt so fresh. I ruled out leaving it untreated/natural pretty quickly. The original sunroom cedar ceilings are so much darker and the two side by side did not look good (and I'd like to maintain the sunroom ceiling). I felt the same about the white washed, just not quite right side by side. Trying to stain to match would have been tricky since the sunroom is cedar and the rest of the place is now pine. In the end, I decided to trust my gut and paint the ceilings. The result?! I am obsessed! It feels fresh, cottagey, beachy and clean. So far I've completed the bedrooms but I'm really happy with the results!
I've also primed and painted the sunroom walls and I can't believe the difference! My recommendation is to use Beauti-Tone's oil based primer when painting over pine or cedar, to help lock in those pesky knots. Over time, the knots will bleed through - it is almost unavoidable without coat after coat of primer, but I don't mind that - it all adds to the cottagey charm.
With the white walls, I feel like the angled ceiling is really a feature, as opposed to getting lost in a fully cedar room. Still lots to do in this room (take down fan, paint trim, hang new light, replace closer doors, move fridge style, etc.), but this will give you a good idea of how it's shaping up!. You can see the unpainted new pine ceilings to the left, and now they don't look nice next to the cedar, see what I mean about not looking good side by side?
So what do you guys think? Have I converted you to the plank side?
**This post was sponsored in part by Home Hardware and BeautiTone paints. All opinions are my own.
SEPTIC Stress and what to do when a seller isn't honest
By: Tiffany Leigh
Warning, this post is going to be text heavy - mostly because I don't want to show you photos of my failed septic system and crying face, both are not pretty.
Renovations can be stressful. You run into all of these problems you didn't really know about - but that's all part of a fixer upper and you can take it in stride. When you take measures to protect your purchase, however, and you find out that you've been lied to, it can be tough. I experienced more than a little stress when I realized that my new property had a FAILED SEPTIC SYSTEM (cue the horror movie music - don don don). For those of you who are familiar with septic systems, you know that this is a big and expensive problem. For those of you who are unfamiliar, a septic system is comprised of a tank, where all bodily waste and used water from the house enters. Solid materials settle in the bottom of the tank, and are broken down by bacteria. Liquids are filtered and flow out of the tank, where they drain back into the earth through a leeching bed. A tank in good working order will need pumping every few years, depending on its size and how often the house's plumbing is used.
When I bought my house, the property was noted as 'septic' on the listing. Knowing that septic systems are extremely costly to replace, my agent and I were diligent about putting conditions relating to the septic into my offer, with a line stating that "to the best of the seller's knowledge, the septic tank and all related equipment are in good working order". The seller signed off on this, as well as provided a receipt to show that the tank was recently pumped and therefore empty for me, as well as a report from 2015 showing a system inspection that had passed. I was satisfied with this - even though it was an estate sale, the niece had lived in the house for several years and would know if the septic had any major issues, yet was signing off that everything was fine. I proceeded to close on the sale of the house.
The day that I got the keys, I began to clean out all of the left behind belongings (see last post!). I found a stack of paperwork (would you believe me if I told you I found it right next to a SHREDDER?!) which included six receipts showing the septic being pumped six seperate times last year, all with the seller's name on them. This couldn't be right - could it?! A septic should never have to be pumped this often. I called my realtor who advised me to call my real estate lawyer right away, and this is when I started to get worried.
On the advice of my lawyer, I got a septic inspection done, and it flat out FAILED. The tank was not draining at all, therefore filling at a rapid rate. Not only that, I was advised that I should stop use of all water in the house immediately because the tank was so full that it was in danger of backing up raw sewage into the house! Do you see what I mean about a 'crappy investment' now? The next step was to get a quote to replace the system, and to my dismay, the quote came back at an alarming $16,000. Luckily, my lawyer is a complete boss and took all of the evidence plus the quote to the seller, with an offer to settle for $14,500 (or we would have to take them to court for their deception on the sale).
To my complete and utter disbelief (and major relief), the seller's agreed, and the money was in my account within 2 days. This whole process took about 3 weeks, and it was an extremely stressful 3 weeks! The replacement quote was dangerously close to my original entire reno budget - so you can imagine my panic! I've since gotten a second, much lower quote, and found out today that the building permit has been improved for the new, easier to install septic location. In the end, this actually brings me through with a little extra cash, which I can put towards to asbestos we found under the carpet, and the other mounting reno costs. The truth is that if the sellers hadn't left the receipts behind, I would have had no proof that they knew the septic was not working, and I would have been SOL. With a lot of luck and by keeping my eyes open to anything suspicious, everything worked out okay for me this time.
Through this, I learned some very valuable lessons. My key take away points for my next venture are:
-Arm yourself with a good real estate team, both your agent and your lawyer. I really believe this is what saved me!
-Have an iron clad agreement, with careful wording to protect you from any deception! Again, I have my team to thank for this.
-If you are buying a property with a septic system, include this as part of your conditions during home inspection. In hindsight, I wish I had hired an inspector who also investigated and ran an independant septic inspection.
-Don't be afraid to stand up to yourself! Okay, I admit that I was a bit afraid. It's scary to risk mounting legal fees, a lawsuit, a stubborn seller, etc. I know I got off easy, but the truth is that you need to stand up for your rights and what was agreed upon during the sale. If you are being honest and careful, the law will be on your side!
Even though the house is a lot more work than I initally anticipated (wiring to replace, plumbing to replace, asbestos, bum septic), I know that it will all be worth it in the end!
HOW A YOUNG TORONTO WOMAN WAS ABLE TO GET ON THE PROPERTY LADDER BY THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX - AND OUTSIDE THE CITY
On May 11th, I purchased my very first home. This is huge for me - I never thought I would be able to live in Toronto and be a solo home owner by the age of 27.
In 2012, I moved to Toronto and risked all of my money on the tuition for my Bachelor of Interior Design degree. I lived in a home with five other renters, and made my room into my sanctuary, treating it like a tiny 'studio apartment' sans kitchen. If you've been following me since the beginning, you may remember that little room, which was featured on The Everygirl.
Before graduating, I landed my dream job at Sarah Richardson Design. I moved downtown into a beautiful old one bedroom apartment to be closer to work, again taking a risk by stretching my finances to pursue my career goals. This apartment has served me well, and will continue to do so for at least another year. It was featured on Style Me Pretty Living, and it is still a major a source of joy in my life. During my first 2 years in my new apartment, I scrimped and scrounged was able to pay off my student debt and begin building up my savings account again.
And last month, I took those savings, threw caution to the wind, and bought a house all on my own.
Here is the catch - the Toronto housing market ain't cheap (understatement of the year), and instead of going the traditional route, I decided to purchase a vacation rental as my first home. I began looking for cottage listings in the Muskokas and Kawarthas, but soon realized that most waterfront properties were out of my single income budget - and non-waterfront cottages in these areas would be far less appealing to renters. Then I got an idea. Growing up, my family rented a cottage down the road from a big beautiful beach. My boyfriend's uncle owns a cottage that we all love visiting about a block away from clear waters and sandy shores. Our good friends have a cottage in the woods close to that same beach. It didn't take me long to narrow down my search area to Sauble Beach, a pretty, family friendly beach town on Lake Huron and near Owen Sound. Here, although freehold properties are scarce (much of the land is leased Native Land), I noticed that the prices were reasonable within a very short trek to the beach. The beach is large, calm, and boasts some of the best sunsets in the world. Who doesn't love packing a cooler and heading down to the beach for a day of fun in the sun? I did some research and saw that summer rentals in the area were going fast, and were going for rates that would help to cover most (if not all) of my mortgage.
I looked for about 4 months, relying on my very helpful realtor Donna (DM me for contact details if you are looking!), and finally found the cottage of my dreams. It is definitely a fixer upper, but it has the potential I was looking for and I wanted to sink my teeth into a healthy project. Most importantly, it was less than a two minute walk to the beach and a seven minute walk to the main drag in town. The property is freehold and was listed for $260,000. It had been on the market for only one day when I submitted my low ball and conditional offer of $240,000***.
My saving grace - I said I would clean out everything that was inside it. It was an estate sale, being sold by an older niece and nephew and was full of the former owner's belongings. This is what sealed the deal! To my surprise, they accepted my offer within an hour!!!
**Yes, I am sharing my real life numbers with you guys in an effort to be transparent and to inspire people who may be thinking about doing the same thing. I want you to have a true understanding of what is involved!
Today, I'm sharing the before pictures. Be warned - they are a bit scary. This is a no holds barred look at how the house looked when I got the keys on May 11th, 2018!
The sunroom was an addition and is actually in really good shape, although it's a little overly 'pined' for my tastes. I think I will keep the pine ceiling as is and paint the walls. I'm so excited to announce that I've teamed up with Beauti-Tone Paints by Home Hardware for the beach house and I can't wait to show you all of the beautiful tones I've selected for the whole cottage. This area will act as the entry as well as the dining space on the end near those mirrored closet doors (which will be swapped out for something a little more classic).
Wait...is this a set from That 70s Show? Nope just my new living room! It's on the smaller side but has lots of potential, and I love the open concept. It needs some serious lipstick.
Yes, that is carpet in the kitchen...ick! Don't worry, this whole space has already been gutted. Also, what is that teeny, tiny range?! We are completely redesigning this space to a much more functional layout- I can't wait to share more.
The bathroom is tight, and let's face it - just plain gross. A closet from the bedroom was jutting into the space, leaving almost no room for the vanity. We've ripped that out already too and I can't believe how much bigger the space feels! Also, stained linoleum (from the glue, but it looked like urine), and a very dirty tub means that this space is being completely redone.
The two bedrooms are small but simple and functional, new furniture and paint will go a long way in here. There is literally retro wallpaper on almost every wall in the cottage!
I know we have a long road ahead of us (and by we, I mean myself, and my amazing family and boyfriend who are being dragged into my crazy adventures - I lure them with the beach and then put them to work). Asbestos tile was found under that lovely shag carpeting (but beautiful original pine underneath that!) so the asbestos abatement is happening this week, and while we are at it we are ripping out all of the old peeling ceilings. There was a significant amount of evidence of 'mouse' activity as well, so we are starting fresh with the attic insulation too. After this week - I'm hoping it will be full steam ahead!
If you aren't already following along, check out my instagram @tiffanyleighdesign, and the beach house's new exclusive instagram page @amabelbeachhouse, to follow along with the renovations! I also hope to be sharing weekly updates here on the blog! I've missed you guys.
I recently had the pleasure of working with a young family to redesign their dining room. The client, Laura (of
), had some great pieces to start with, but was having trouble pulling it together into a cohesive look. For me, the big challenge was making the different wood tones in the room work. The floors were quite dark, the table was a rustic pine, and the console was a mid-century modern teak.
I knew that the room needed a lovely, natural rug to neutralize the competing tones.
The room also had great ceiling details, but the walls were quite plain. We added some simple paneling to give some more architectural interest. I knew I wanted to go with white walls, so paneling is also a great way to add interest to walls rather than doing it with colour. This also allowed for us to do some very bold drapery on their huge window looking into their front yard. The drapes are my favourite feature in the room!
To add even more colour, we found an inexpensive hutch and had it sprayed the prettiest blue. It was a happy accident that the colours that I proposed for the space in the initial design meeting went perfectly with Laura's vintage china. It was a design match made in heaven.
It just goes to show you that you don't need a massive budget to have a huge design impact on a space. I love how this room turned out. It feels fresh, young, and hip - perfect for the family who lives there!
See the Before's below!
The guest bedroom at my parent's house was in sad need of a facelift. This room was actually my childhood bedroom, and it still had the same bright yellow walls, purple border and matching bedding that I picked out in sixth grade (I've come a long way). On top of that, it had become the 'catch all' space for old Christmas decor, old furniture, and some plain old junk.
approached me to try out their new
colour of the year 'You Look Mauvelous', I was a bit hesitant, because as we all know, I am a white walls kind of girl. About as adventurous I like to go is a shade or two off from white. But my parents love colour so I knew this was the perfect opportunity to push myself outside of my comfort limits. I have to say, it is a gorgeous shade- a mauve tempered with enough grey to not be offensive. It looks particularly good against brass, so we accented the room with small brass details.
A sweet little white and gold starburst mirror over the bed frame adds height and whimsy.
For the accent pillows, we loved this sweet mauve floral fabric that I had left over from another project. From here, we pulled the teal blue hues to make the scheme more dynamic and lively.
by Sarah Richardson Design worked perfectly and added some necessary texture.
I think that the guest room is such a great space to use a bolder hue, because it is not a room that you see all the time and it offers a nice departure from the usual for any guest staying over.
Oh, and in case you are curious about the 'before' (who doesn't love a dramatic transformation?!):
Check out the full feature over at Style Me Pretty!!
(Some sneak peeks below)
With Labour Day over, it feels like the summer is coming to a close (although, full disclosure, I'm heading to a cottage for the week to try and stretch out every last bit of summer fun I can). While feeling sad about summer ending (it's been such a blast!), I'm also accompanied by that old, familiar September feeling of wanting to renew my energy and pour my efforts into work and progress. So here I am, writing a post.
I recently (okay, not that recently...in January - eek time flies!) wrote an article for Flare.com outlying
One of my top tips is to change out your light fixtures. Let's be honest, Light fixtures in apartments are notoriously bad (hello boob lights!) and this is a pretty easy fix.
The fixture over my dining table actually wasn't horrible (although it was quite dirty) but wasn't right for the rest of my decor. It has more of a mid-century vibe, and my furnishings, and the bones of the apartment itself, are much more traditional.
While out antiquing at the Aberfoyle Flea Market last summer, I came across this vintage brass and crystal chandelier that I knew would look perfect in the space. After a good cleaning, it was ready to be hung.
Tip: Chandeliers should hang about 30" above your dining table.
I also switched out the ceiling fan in my living room. Although it provided a nice cool breeze, it was an eyesore, especially since it reflected double in the large mirror over my fireplace. The vintage wheat sheaf chandelier (found for me at the St. Lawrence market by my friend Tim of
) is the perfect scale and adds texture and interest to the room.
I often find people neglecting the power of attractive lighting - it's too often an afterthought rather than a showpiece. Good lighting really makes a room feel complete from top to bottom. Keep the original fixtures in a rental to reinstall when you move out, and take your new, attractive lighting with you to your next place!
To read the rest of my tips for Making a Rental Feel like Home, check out my article with Flare.com