Before and After: Sabrina’s Open-Plan, Game-Changer Renovation

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Since I bought my 1950s bungalow in Milton, Ontario two years ago, a lot has changed. As I touched on in my D*S home tour, when mine was the winning bid at an estate auction, I was both proud to own anything at 22, and fearful of the huge commitment I had just made. At the time, I’d just left the advertising world and began freelancing, and I didn’t own a lick of my own furniture.

In those first few weeks of homeownership, I tackled some aesthetic issues (wallpaper, paint, etc.) and began moving in. I bought furniture at auctions, purchased housewares with gift cards I had never had a use for prior, and received many donated pieces from my parents. It was fun, but also scary. Could I really afford a whole house as a freelancer? To ward off the uneasiness and help me feel more secure in my decision, I rented out my basement and all was well with the world: I had a home, a garden to tend to, some security (thanks to a tenant), and my career was taking off.

Fast forward two years, and even more change took place: Shawn began working from home full-time as well, I became busier with my own work, and we re-arranged our living/dining/kitchen space countless times. Layout and space became a sore spot, and we started to feel the effects of a home that didn’t function as we had initially anticipated. Our living/kitchen space needed to serve many purposes — that of an office, a rec room, a dining room big enough to fit friends and family, and our entryway, to boot — and it was failing to do so. The excitement of buying a home had worn off, and on top of our space issues, the reality of living in a small bungalow above someone else started weighing on me, probably more than it should have. I wouldn’t make a peep after 10 pm and before 10 am, waiting for hours most mornings before making a smoothie or grinding coffee beans; if we had guests over, I’d shush them if our dinner party went late; with a single driveway, we would succumb to staying in most nights when the car got blocked in. It may sound trivial and perhaps even petty, but for all of the financial security I gained having a tenant, and for as hard as I worked to save enough to even buy a house, I completely lost the feeling that my house was my home and sanctuary. I found myself sacrificing my own personal enjoyment, and it didn’t even hit me until earlier this year when the biggest change in our lives happened: the addition of a silly little cattle dog named Piper to our family. Cue many sleepless nights compounded by feeling terrible every time she barked! We needed a change.

At the time, I thought the best solution was to rent out the entire home and move, but when that failed, I made it my personal mission to take our happiness into my own hands and make what I already had work. We made the tough decision to evict our nothing-but-nice tenant, and I decided to use some of my savings to renovate the heart of our home to work better for us: the open kitchen, dining and living space. Before, the space was oddly segmented: our TV/media area was placed awkwardly across the walkway to the kitchen in a corner, and we had to crane our necks to watch TV; our kitchen was poorly laid out and lacked storage and counter space; our fixed island and overhead storage (while a neat feature) meant we could only fit two people over for dinner at a time — the list went on. In October, I set out to single-handedly remodel our home in collaboration with Leon’s Furniture and Frigidaire Professional, every step of which I publicly shared on Instagram.

Working within a strict, four-week timeline (to my body, I apologize again!), I completed most of the demolition and renovation by myself with help from my dad and Shawn when he wasn’t traveling for work. Although it felt impossible doing it all on my own while raising a puppy and still working — and I even spoke of regretting it at times — I could not be more proud of the result! Our space is now completely reconfigured and functions so much better. In many cases, I didn’t realize what I was missing out on; things like having professional-grade appliances, and the room to prepare food, has been such a treat. All of the hard work after two years of sacrifice has been worth it. Now, we’re thrilled to call this space home!

I used to browse realty sites in my down-time, and now, my down-time is spent enjoying my home and life. And the best part is that now we’re finally able to share our space — I’m even hosting my family dinner this Christmas! More than nice countertops, pretty plates and a larger TV, this renovation has impacted our lives in more ways than I can count, and has been a huge lesson in taking responsibility for your own enjoyment and making it work with what you’ve got. –Sabrina

  1. Michelle says:

    What a lovely remodel – so light and bright! It’s amazing what you’ve done in such a short period of time. Bravo!

  2. I love the transformation, especially the kitchen. I love the pops of yellow. Super cute pooch too!

  3. Natalie says:

    What a beautiful, bright & lovely home! So warm and inviting! Great job!

  4. Laurie says:

    Love it! All of it!! So bright and beautiful! Be doubly proud of all of those great thrifted finds and the eye and patience needed to get them!

  5. The After looks great! Really did wonders to open up the space and add some bright/warmth. I’m also a big fan of having dishware in the open — it’s too beautiful to hide behind cabinets! And hats off to a nice kitchen rug :)

  6. beks says:

    “evict” is a rather strong choice of words!

  7. Pippa says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your home…it looks great–very cheery and bright. Love the way you’ve made affordable stuff look much more expensive.

    I too have a white kitchen with white quartz countertops so I was curious as to how you are maintaining the quartz. I was previously under the impression that quartz is difficult to stain and scratch but that has not turned out to be the case, at least for white quartz. Any tips on how to keep it nice and white?

  8. Ilah says:

    That looks so lovely! Amazingly done as always!

  9. Kristina says:

    Gorgeous! I love it!

  10. Vanessa says:

    Sabrina, you did a wonderful job with that AND you write beautifully!

  11. Lynn says:

    yes! those reverse blinds ROCK!
    not sure why we don’t see more of them in use
    I have them in my bedroom and wouldn’t have
    any other kind now
    they are so great at letting the light/sky in and
    blocking the bottom of the window, or completely
    covering at night if those nasty street lights happen to be
    right outside the window

    great choice
    lovely job on your home

  12. Robert Satir says:

    It’s very bright and crisp. So much more open area to enjoy. Nicely done, love the floors too!

  13. Beautiful redesign and those blinds are so awesome! I’ve never heard of them but will definitely keep them in mind for the future!

  14. Wendy R. says:

    Beautiful redo!! Where did you acquire the bench with the flower on top? I’d like to use that to store a printer and paper.

  15. Krista says:

    What a beautiful reno! Great job, Sabrina! I also just want to point out how lovely it is to have a Canadian writer contributing to D*S; I really enjoy Sabrina’s posts because she provides great resources for Canadian readers (not always being able to access all of the amazing stuff that’s available in the U.S. is a constant struggle for those of us living up north). So, thank you, Sabrina and D*S!

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Krista

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying Sabrina’s posts (I am, too) and I’m happy they’re helpful for any shipping/sourcing issues :)

      Grace

  16. Eve says:

    I remember seeing your D*S home tour a while back, and I loved your place then. It’s even more beautiful now! You’ve done a wonderful job with the renovations – that kitchen is to die for!

  17. Marcelo Gama says:

    If I would live back in my homeland (Brazil) this would be he perfect setting I would wish to be in. Love it!!

  18. Loved this Sabrina! You and Shawn did such a great job. Was so lovely to read a little bit more about you and I am so glad you’re Canadian too!

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