The Yucky Part Of Renovation

College Street / Little Italy

So it’s been a month since we vacated The Movie House and the reno is well underway. The space is empty of almost all the ubiquitous builder-grade fittings except the solid maple floors which will be refinished, the soaking tub, and the ‘rainbow slate floors’ in the washrooms which I gotta admit I’m having second thoughts about keeping. Have you ever been in the midst of a renovation to find yourself questioning whether you should keep elements you’re not terribly crazy about, all while struggling justifying the expense it will cost to replace? I’m in the mental crazies trying to reconcile this right now. How much money is too much money to invest?

As I struggle with the aesthetics of 1998 ‘rainbow slate floors’ in a 2011 reinvention, the loft is very much a shell undergoing all the higgly-piggly aspects that will ultimately make it shine. Unfortunately these changes aren’t reflecting the ‘visual transformation’ I crave, making this stage of the renovation process the least rewarding. The electrician is fishing all the wires through the wall cavities and ceilings for the new recessed lighting and outlets, the plumber is redirecting the pipes to allow for a rain shower head, a fancy temperature valve and an inset mirrored niche by which to shave (an absolute must!), while the carpenter does the framing and drywall. Right now it’s the stage of the renovation process where one (that would be me) is hemorrhaging money with no ‘real progress’, and by that I mean the kind of progress where one gets to “ooohh” and “ahhhh”.

Despite my struggle deciding whether I pony up an additional $3000 to replace the rainbow slate floors in the washrooms with something more current, there are other perhaps more questionable changes underway. These are the changes that give this bona fide housing junkie designery goose bumps while potentially failing the more financially prudent ‘return on investment’ perspective. One change underway is the removal of several ‘drywall knee walls’ on the mezzanine level which overlook the living room and surround the stairwell, and replacing them with glass sheets. The cost is nothing short of outrageous but the look is decidedly contemporary, making it a stylistic ‘must have’. The other significant and costly change is architectural. At the top of each demising wall 19 feet up are two venting bulkheads which run the entire length of the ceiling. These mismatching drywall bulkheads skew the proportions and create a visual imbalance which, to the unobservant are barely noticeable, but for the uptight and symmetrically obsessed represent an interior design nightmare that must (arms waving emphatically) be corrected. Ok, I’m being a tad dramatic but, after much reflection and a complete disregard for the expense I’m correcting this flaw. As a lover of classical and modern architecture I appreciate the beauty of scale, proportion and balance. I consider such perfections hallmarks of good design. And I am housing-obsessed.

As I type said bulkheads are being matched in size and, borrowing cues from the vintage architectural elements on the building’s exterior, will soon be adorned in a symphony of elegant trim and crown molding. I will also be paneling some walls. This reimagining of a turn-of-the-century interior offers the opportunity to imbue the space an elegant architecturally-crafted flourish appropriate to its 1911 vintage. This embellished shell will be a decided contrast to contemporary fittings that are currently being manufactured with streamlined precision. I’m super excited for the reinvention of this space. Despite an eclectic renovation and conversion portfolio, this will be my first time creating a faux vintage envelope to accommodate some rather extraordinary contemporary jewels – like sexy glass panels, custom wood and lacquer cabinetry, and a whole lot of shiny bling that will make the space sparkle. I envision the space to be a live/work jewelbox. And I’ve always wanted one of those!

On a ‘housing and psychology’ note, this renovation continues my exploration of the Yin and Yang of space. I’m trying to balance the space in its feminine and masculine energies by tempering the weight of different styles with others, along with the relationship between space, fittings, finishes and contents. I previously wrote about this during my renovation of The Button Factory where I added draperies and wallpaper to balance the hard masculine edges of my brick and beam factory loft. At The Movie House, the adornment of the architecture with fancy trim, crown moldings and paneling will contrast the clean lines and shiny edges of the contemporary fittings. I’m really looking forward to the result. Will it be visually pleasing and ultimately profitable? The endeavor to take a builder’s grade apartment into a luxe lofty towne has a hefty price tag, but my intuition says the investment will elevate the space from ho hum to wow and provide a pay back. Am I correct? Is the public willing to pay the premium associated with doing a renovation ‘right’? This is my conundrum and my lesson.

If you look at the photo below you will see the drywall kneewall still intact and my amazing contractor, designer and drapery expert reviewing the bulkhead imbalance. In the following photo you’ll see, in the top left corner, the new steel framing being installed to match this bulkhead with the one opposite it in order to create two ‘vintage beams of architectural merit’. Will this successfully fool visitors into thinking the character retained on the exterior of this century-old conversion has been senstively restored on the inside too? Stay tuned!

~ Steven and the urbaneer team

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Renovating The Movie House Loft

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