An Attic Atelier Renovation

Tales Of Upper Hillsborough

The photo above shows the profile of the vintage house on Upper Hillsborough in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island which I co-own with my pal and associate James. He found this photo in the Charlottetown archives. Dating from the turn of the century, James and I wonder if those two cavorting boys might be us in a past life. As far-fetched as this might be, James and I both have a strong connection to this property despite no familial ties to the east coast. Isn’t that weird?

In our last installment on the Tales of Upper Hillsborough, we shared with you how we identified and prioritizied all the repairs and upgrades to this tragically-bastardized legal triplex. Using the comprehensive home inspection report we acquired as a condition of our purchase in the Autumn of 2008, we allocated a budget of $55,000 to get the deficient major building components (roof/flashing/chimney, windows, wiring, plumbing, water penetration, heating, and insulation) into Tip Top Shape. Click HERE to read that last post.

Over the past three summers we’ve been systematically executing our upgrade program to get this beleagured weathered property into the best condition possible, both as a means to increase our revenue stream and ease the hassle-factor of owning a property thousands of miles east of Toronto. Originally purchased for $153,000, we’re committing a quarter of a million dollars to turn this into a bespoke luxury rental property and seasonal residence. Below is a photograph of our new metal roof and chimney (using the first black bricks to be imported to Prince Edward Island!) that hints at the quality and calibre we’re investing in this late 1880s home.



As this scope of work was being executed, James and I decided to renovate and furnish the top floor two bedroom suite into our Summer digs, and offering it as a luxury boutique furnished rental from September through May. We allocated $50,000 towards a total gut renovation of this floor and appropriated a further $30,000 towards furnishing it. Note, although we went with a high grade of furnishings to create a comfortable environment for ourselves, we also felt going high quality would attract a calibre tenant while the annual depreciation for wear and tear on the furnishings gave us some leeway to be a bit more indulgent.

This ‘cosy’ two bedroom apartment of around 780 square feet had a small dingy washroom, an enclosed shoebox kitchen with apartment sized appliances, no laundry or dishwasher, and a walk-out to a dilapidated fire escape platform. The carpets were threadbare, the walls had holes punched in them and, to our dismay, water was seeping into two wall cavities causing dampness and mold. Here are a few ‘Before’ pics of the Living Room, Kitchen, Steve’s Bedroom and the Washroom:



Tucked under the eaves, we wanted to give this attic atelier suite a fresh easy-breezy nautical styling that feels both classic and contemporary. We modified the space plan to create a comfortable entertainment zone with open plan kitchen and glass doors to a generous barbecue-friendly skydeck. We took a former hallway that accessed the fire escape platform and appropriated it to the creation of a larger washroom (with walk-out) and added a second glass door to the fire escape platform. We also took a portion of the former kitchen to create a laundry and storage zone. Here ar ethe two floor plans, showing the overall modifications:



Here’s some photos showing the renovation in progress:



One of our more clever improvements was allocating the portion of the hallway accessing the fire escape platform to a larger washroom (with walk-out) and adding a new glass door to the side deck.



James and I both love the details found in vintage architecture (beadboard, transom windows, old radiators, shaker doors) and the ease of modern living (anything that will be clean after a quick spray and mop). We favour natural materials like wood and linen, and we favour earth tones and the colours of the ocean. In addition to the space plan reconfiguration, we installed new flooring throughout, new doors with brushed nickle hardware, new kitchen cabinetry and stainless steel appliances, new washroom fixtures and fittings, new lighting, an abundance of beadboard trimwork, ensuite laundry, installed 2 new operable skylights, four french doors and all new exterior windows, restored the radiators plus purchased new and vintage furnishings.

Here’s our new Attic Atelier bedroom further along:



The casual seating area enjoys a pretty treetop garden vista through glass doors with Juliette railing. As soon as this year, these doors will open onto the top tier of a three storey red cedar deck tower (which will age silver) where each deck will be about 10×12 feet.



The new kitchen runs along one wall of the entertainment space. Deep ocean blue shaker cabinets with vintage style pulls, custom iron-forged brackets holding maple shelvings, and a beadboard fridge enclosure and backsplash give this space a clean-lined nautical look. Stainless steel appliances keep it contemporary. Both pale blue bedrooms with blond wood floors are now sun-drenched with new operable skylights with remote-controlled blinds.



The washroom has a soaking tub with oversized rainshower head, ample storage and features a treetop cedar deck so one always knows what the weather’s like!

Once a dark awkward attic apartment, this sun-drenched treetop wrapped-in-windows atelier is now an easy breezy fully-furnished residence of domestic bliss available for short or long term rentals.

You can read the whole journey in The Tales Of Upper Hillsborough.

~ Steven


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