D.I.Y Design - Avenue Magazine
By admin | September 22, 2008 | Categories: Custom Homes Luxury home builder Design
A article from Avenue Magazine by K.D. Attwell
Courtney Willson is not a designer, but she does appear to have an eye for the finer points of the craft. Armed with a background in education and accounting, this single mother of two has just finished building an ultra-modern haven, which the family shares with Sparky the cat.
A long-time fan of modern architecture, Willson was living one street over when she found a better lot in Parkhill.
“I love this area, I wasn’t willing to leave, but I had no yard and my house was a lot smaller.”
She developed a plan with her brother and father to sell her old house, build two 2,400-square-foot attached homes on the new lot and sell off the other half.
“It’s the only way it could have been manageable, cost-wise,” she explains.
Then Willson and her brother and dad sat down with Chito Pabustan, formerly of Sturgess Architecture, to create the structural design.
The yard was the only other place where she tapped another design mind. Shaun Ford Design created the relaxed outdoor space, which features a fireplace, a spacious yard for the kids and a backlit resin insert at the edge of the heated patio.
Willson did all of the interior design herself to keep costs down, but mostly because she knew exactly what she wanted.
“We wanted to put our money in the materials,” she says.
She also started out managing the 12-month build entirely on her own. When that proved too much, she hired Philip Rusch of Rusch Projects to oversee the construction.Willson says that decision saved her sanity and, as it turns out, more than a few extra dollars.
“He pays such attention to detail that he catches things before they happen. Philip made all the difference in the world, because the trades love him. When no one [could get] trades, I had 30 people in here.”
Now complete, the home is an earthy palette of grey, russet, burgundy and green with the occasional knock-out punch of red. Many of the materials, like the granite used in the kitchen and bathrooms, were found by visiting suppliers recommended by family, friends and her project manager.
Willson also says the Internet and magazines figured prominently in her search for decor items and inspiration.
One of her more unique finds was the 500-pound stainless steel front door with red-glass inset. A special delivery from California, Willson says the door took six hours to install. It also casts a red stripe of light into the home that shifts with the movement of the sun.
Inside that door, visitors are greeted by a soaring glass-sheathed stairway, which runs from the finished basement all the way to the skylight in the roof.
A frosted glass floor on the second level allows visitors to see all the way up. While Willson says her children love the feature, and spend a lot of time lying on it, she was amused to see people trying to walk around it when they were working on the house.
“Each glass panel can hold four times the weight of an average man,” she says. “That’s about 800 pounds.”
Using glass for the stairwell and floor allows natural light to filter through the centre of the home, but it also offers another benefit in the narrow build — extra breathing room.
“The whole idea was to make it feel bigger than it actually was, and it really does,” says Willson standing between the glass and the long, granite-topped island in her polished kitchen.
Behind her, lacquered cabinets in a deep rust colour line the walls, concealing pots, pans and appliances.
“A lot of people don’t even notice I have a fridge here,” she says pulling open a cabinet door to reveal an integrated Sub-Zero refrigerator.
Willson says she wanted the focal point to be the Wolf range and custom hood fan. She adds that the simple layout creates a place for everything, including a built-in chopping block with countertop slits to accommodate off-duty knives.
At the end of the kitchen island, the room opens up to a cozy living area anchored by a six-foot Spark fireplace. Willson says the space is particularly well suited for entertaining.
“There are always people sitting here at the bar stools and there is always a group by the fireplace.”
The room is connected to the patio with a set of stacking glass and fir doors that extend the room when they open. Willson says without hesitation that the home’s doors and windows were her biggest splurge and adds it takes a crew of three or four one full day to clean them all.
Tucked up above are the bedrooms. The entire top floor is a master-suite, complete with ensuite and walk-in closet.
The second floor is Kid Central. Bedrooms for eight-year-old Gannon and six-year-old Locklyn occupy opposite ends of the hallway. Their shared bathroom features separate vanities with rock-pitched edges and a graphic red, cream and dark grey colour scheme.
“I picked the red in here and everyone was like, ‘Oh. Really?
Oh, my.’”But, Willson says, once the colour was on the walls, the doubters came around.
However, she admits her first attempts at choosing a colour for the main areas of the home were not so successful.
“I painted this house four times before I got the colour right.” Willson started with a yellow, then tried a dark grey. A lighter shade of grey came off as blue, but her fourth choice was the right one. The final misty grey blends so well that it doesn’t compete with the home’s other features.
“This is a huge space for paint,” she says. “You see it everywhere. So if it’s the wrong colour, it’s overwhelmingly wrong.”
Painting aside, Willson says her first instinct was usually the best.
“I made quick decisions and I didn’t dwell over them because there are so many decisions to be made with a house this size. I could have just absolutely driven myself insane. I was totally on my own picking everything and I really just winged a lot of it.”
Given the size of the project, Willson says she feels there really weren’t that many problems and she definitely hasn’t been turned off design by the experience.
“I might do it again,” she says. “I really enjoyed the process.”