before & after: full home transformation

I sometimes imagine how much fun it must be to purchase and renovate an entire home, but I still don’t think I have the guts to take the risk, nor do I have the perseverance or vision to really spot that great deal, the diamond in the rough. I think I’ll always be in awe of people who tackle full-home renovations, and I am particularly blown away by the results of this transformation by Aleksandra Oleksak, a sales rep in the realty biz and owner of the aptly named blog, Realty Queen.

Aleksandra seems like a seasoned pro at this, as she made some daring but brilliant decisions in this space: gutting the first floor, which exposed the incredible brick walls hidden beneath and opened up the dining and living rooms to the kitchen; building a gorgeous open metal staircase; and installing amazing hardwood flooring in a unique pewter finish. To complement the industrial look, she added rough but modern touches — industrial-style lighting, refinished salvaged furniture and simple fixtures — throughout. The result is awesome; it achieves a beautiful balance between airy, loft-like openness and the coziness of a traditional house. Can you tell I want to move in immediately? Wonderful work, Aleksandra! — Kate

“After” images by Joseph K. Muscat Photography

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Read the full post after the jump . . .

Time: 5 months

Cost: $75K for entire home

Basic Steps: My taste for home decor is vintage/industrial/modern, and this is not my first renovation project, so my mix of experience and influence really helped. I absolutely love exposed brick, so that was a big element to have in this project. I exposed the whole wall on the main floor, the fireplace and the chimney stack in my master bedroom, which I find gives the home a vintage/rustic look. Next was to incorporate the industrial aspect: I always wanted to try floating stairs, so the internet really inspired me to do the steel stringers, along with the cedar posts and aircraft wire.

Lastly was a touch of modern. I decided to do that in the kitchen, but I wanted to tie it in to the rest of the home’s look, so I chose the farmer’s sink and industrial-looking pendant lights that are above the breakfast bar. The accent pieces and furniture tied all three looks together into one cohesive statement. I love the concept of hard lofts, but I’m a house person through and through, so I gave a small element of a loft feel when I vaulted the ceiling in my master bedroom. The ceiling went from 9ft to 16ft. Hardwood floors were a must throughout the house, as I have a dog and allergies and love wood floors!

It was a huge project and the timeline is key! Open communication with your contractor is of the utmost importance, as they have to understand the project and the look you’re trying to achieve. Although the craftsmanship of your contractor really matters, equally important is their attitude and how well you work with them. Also making a list of everything that needs to be done, down to the most minor detail, is a must and setting deadlines with your contractor for each milestone helps keep the project on time and somewhat within budget. Once you’ve made this list, make sure your contractor has a copy. Reevaluate the list with your contractor at the end of each week and discuss any reasons for delays. And remember, be realistic! — Aleksandra


Paint: C-I-L in Pewter gray, bathrooms in gray tweed
Lighting: Ikea, West Elm, Morba, Union lighting, HomeSav and antique markets
Furniture and accent pieces: Most of my furniture either comes from antique markets or finds at my parents’ cottage, and I have Renee Elliott from Re: Creative Works redo/refinish them for me. Some of the projects she has done for me have actually been featured on Design*Sponge (you can see them here). I also love going to the One Of A Kind Show to look for accent pieces. If all else fails, I visit Ikea, Urban Barn or GH Johnson (absolutely love that store!)
Steel Stringers (Stairs): Custom designed from a local blacksmith located in Mississauga, called Ignac Blacksmith
Wood Steps: Home Depot
Flooring: I purchased the flooring from Hamilton Hardwood Outlet. They are actually a pewter colour, which I thought was very interesting, as I’ve only ever seen brown or light coloured hardwood.
Kitchen: Ikea

  1. One of the best home make-overs I’ve seen. I think I could take a lot of inspiration from this one

  2. Erin S says:

    LOVE IT!!!!

  3. Amazing! I’m green with envy. I only wish I could someday transform a space so perfectly. Well done! Thanks for sharing!

  4. matthew says:

    very beautiful. and i’m very jealous.

  5. tucker says:

    As my very tactful grandfather would say, boy, that sure took a lot of work!

  6. Loved how they opened up the stairway & the exposed brick!

  7. Kate says:

    Gorgeous renovation! I’m curious, are those stools fromIndustry West? I’m considering the same ones and am just curious to know how you like them. Thanks!

  8. ali thompson says:

    this doesn’t even look like the same space! well done for sure

  9. ilene says:

    Wow I want to live there! Love the exposed brick and the stairs. I can’t believe you did everything for $75,000! Great job.

  10. Karla says:

    really beautiful make-over… Love it!

  11. Sara says:

    This is gorgeous! I’m really confused about the layout though… wish I could see the before and after plans (see if I can buy an old house and turn it into something gorgeous like this!)

  12. Courtney says:

    This is so cool! Well done. You’ve created a dream home for someone special.

  13. ashley says:

    i could die, i love this house so much. it is so my taste, to a big fat T.

  14. Claude Remains says:

    O.M.G!!!! I LOVE IT!!!!!!! What an amazing transformation.You’ve definitely got a lot more patience than I have! Congratulations!! When can I move in? ; )

  15. Sarah says:

    Beautiful!! I love the colors in the bedroom and kitchen. Any chance you remember the names of them? I’m renovating a house, too. :)

  16. Aleksandra says:

    Thanks everyone for your lovely comments and lot’s of thanks to Kate for the wonderful write up :) It’s going to be hard letting this one go! Kate those stools are from Urban Barn, only $99!!! Thanks again!

  17. Igor says:

    The exposed brick wall makes such a design statement. I guess it’s a faux brick wall? I was thinking of doing this one day, too!

  18. ed says:

    Open plan is soooo impractical! A killer to heat and smells and sounds travel everywhere. Give me cosy individual rooms any day :O) Nice colours though :O)

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      i don’t think open plans are impractical for everyone. it depends on what your goal is- if you’re looking to cook, talk and be with your guests while you entertain, it’s perfect :)


  19. we’ve been “renovating” our house for 4 years…one room at a time. I wish I had a 75k budget to do it :)

    the space is really lovely–especially the staircase

  20. Aleksandra says:

    Ingor, it’s not faux brick, it’s the original brick wall of the house and I uncovered it, same with the fireplace

  21. A lot of work but victorious. Wonderful and inspiring, there is a good example in each picture. loved this. Staircase is a master piece.

  22. Elizabeth says:

    I mean this as a good-naturedly sentiment–promise!
    It seems kind of Beetlejuicey, doesn’t it?

  23. monica says:

    Hubba Hubba, lovin’ all the exposed brick!

  24. Tiffany L says:

    Wow, absolutely breath taking, and such an inspiration. I fully agree with your decision to expose the brick (the more the merrier) and your finishes are adorable, I am defiantly really excited about this before and after and I’ll be integrating a lot of the design aspects into our family home Reno Thanks!

  25. Chris B says:

    Can the person please say a little about how they selected the aircraft cable hardware/supplies, and where they purchased it from? I’m shopping for a similar project and want to know if there are a “go-to” place online for this kind of hardware. Finding a lot of small suppliers, nobody has much guidance info or that big a selection. Thanks!!!!

  26. Camie says:

    I love the exposed brick!

  27. Laura says:

    Where is the light fixture over the living room coffee table from? I’ve been looking for fixtures for my own renovation and that one is perfect! Beautiful job!

  28. rachel says:

    really nice but so tired of hearing the words ‘vintage’ and ‘exposed brick’.

  29. I really like how the upper cabinets in the kitchen are held off the wall a little. Great idea!

  30. Aleksandra says:

    Chris B, I bought the supplies for the air craft wire and the wire itself at Home Depot. I told them the idea I was going for and they showed my everything I needed.

    Laura I bought that light fixture from West Elm, isn’t it awesome?

  31. Pen Morrison says:

    I love most of it but why would you cover up floors that are 80 – 100 years old with composite, when the floors looked in great shape? Otherwise very cool.

  32. jski says:

    Great transformation! I love homes with individual rooms, but I can definitely appreciate a nice open concept home. Aleksandra, you are so lucky that the beautiful brick was underneath when you uncovered the walls!!! I often find faux brick to look a bit cheap/obvious. I absolutely loveeee the original fireplace!!!! While I like the original staircase, your new one is amazing as well. Awesome railing and beams! Enjoy your beautiful home! =)

  33. tmp says:

    It looks like the renos my dad was doing on the upper west side in the 1970’s. Everything comes around, I guess.

  34. Amy says:

    Looks great. I just say those grey lacquer cabinets at Ikea and it is hard to visualize them in their little “demo kitchens” in the store – but they look great here. Nice job!

  35. The kitchen is by far the most amazing transformation. I just love the floors as well.

  36. jac bishop says:

    i love this remodel. its amazing how the roots of the home became a huge asset. brick walls, exposed stair case, the flooring. really beautiful.

  37. Bobbie says:

    This is absolutely incredible! How in the world did she know that prince was in that frog!!!
    It was so claustrophobic before, and she has completely released it ! Amazing vision!

  38. oh my goodness, what a beautiful renovation! I love the new floors in the house and the exposed brick. What a great job.

  39. Nikki says:

    is that a garage door headboard. Did you make it yourself if it’s not. I LOVE.

  40. Fantastic! Love the brick wall / staircase combo. Delightful design.

  41. kendrah says:

    Hurray for your exposed brick. So wonderful. Makes me want to take a sledgehammer to the walls of the row house rental I live in.

  42. Aleksandra says:

    Thanks again everyone for your awesome comments :)

    Nikki, that is a regular french door that I found on the side of the street. I brought it home, cut it to the size of my bed, gave it a fresh coat of paint and mounted it on the wall above my bed….inexpensive way to have a great headboard

  43. sherrie says:

    Love the clean lines. The uncluttered feel. Everything seems to have purpose and balance, not over the top decorated.

  44. Eileen 2 says:

    Love that headboard! Brilliant.

    It is impressive that so many people mention recycled items that they spotted “on a sidewalk” or “at the curb.” What exactly do you mean? Are these items placed beside someone’s trash bin on a residential street, or behind an apartment building by a big dumpster?

  45. Tia says:

    This is incredible! We just purchased a house and are doing a full reno of the main floor before we move in… and this place is basically all of the design pieces I love in real life! I’ve had many of the same ideas while planning: we’re doing our hardwood in a pewter stain as well, with grey kitchen cabinets and painting everything in a light grey. I even want to do a coffee table with the pallet look like this one. It’s so exciting to see all of this and affirm my original thoughts because I’m still nervous about how everything will look together. Beautiful space, Aleksandra!


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