Calgary Herald  |  Andrea Cox  |  June 10, 2015  |  Link

Bringing the glitz home

As Alberta’s economic tide gurgles and shifts, many homeowners are putting the brakes on upscaling to the multi-million dollar brand new luxury home, choosing instead to stay put and go all out on home renovations.

“The real estate market is slowing down; people aren’t able to sell their home and do something different. So if you can’t sell, then it makes a lot of sense to renovate and turn your existing home into something that you really want,” says Shane Rennie, designer and principal at Rectangle, a home renovation and new build company.

He adds that Rectangle has traditionally seen a balanced blend — typically about 50/50 — between renovations and new builds.

“But this year, I would say that 60 or 70 per cent of our work will be renovations.”

But the trend to renovate isn’t just fuelled by the economy, it’s also spurred by a sense of place and of connection, initiated by a strong and vibrant community.

Older established communities offer an amenity-rich environment, one that has been cultivated over decades.

“As homeowners become rooted in their neighbourhoods, with good friends, schools and their kids’ extracurricular activities, they will opt to stay put and renovate their outdated home,” says Kirsten Gingras, designer and founder of MACK Custom Homes.

These homeowners aren’t just looking for a slapstick cosmetic refurbish. Their wish lists include thoughtful design with an open-concept theme, lots of beautiful finishes and plenty of natural light to define, showcase and nurture their spaces.

“People are doing their homework, more than ever before, and they really know what they want,” says Mark Cayen, design consultant at Empire Kitchen & Bath, noting that unlike days gone by when money flowed like Champagne fountains, people today are exercising more restraint.

They are, however, willing to pay for a few extravagances that will elevate the look and provide an element of luxury.

Melding form, function and art is becoming a driving design impetus.

Built-in sculptural stainless steel espresso machines are hugely popular, as is anything that is custom-designed using rich, textural materials — metal, stone, tile or wallpaper.

Beautiful organically shaped free-standing tubs, sculptural hood fans and artistically rendered tile work are just a few examples.

“We are really seeing a lot of glamour — think old-school Hollywood — lots of marble and stone; finishes are becoming much more rich and luxurious,” says Rennie.

Cayen suggests using high-gloss flat-panel cabinetry as a backdrop.

“It’s sleek and contemporary, but can be paired with more traditional elements like rich woods.”

So where do you start when it comes to renovating: with the entire home or just a few key rooms?

Obviously, budget will dictate some of the choices, as will family dynamic — how you live and move through the home — but the eventuality of resale should also be top of mind.

“The kitchen and the master ensuite are two of the biggest return-on-investment rooms in the home,” says Gingras.

Naturally kitchens, as the heart of the home, will usually drive a renovation. Once the decision is made to rejig a home’s culinary centre and command station, the rest of the spaces usually follow suit.

Often it is a domino effect; after the kitchen, the focus revolves around the main floor public spaces — the living room, dining room and the powder room are all part of the equation.

“I can’t remember a project where we did a renovation and it didn’t include the kitchen,” shares Rennie, adding that homes designed in the ’70s and ’80s are great to work with because they have ample square footage.

“The structure and the bones of these homes are in great shape, so we are able to put all of the budget towards the good stuff,” he says with a laugh.

The good stuff would be something like the new boudoir, an innovative and eye-catching design trend that’s turning heads. It’s essentially the transformation of the ensuite — turning it into a sexy, chic space to hang out, relax, even entertain.

“It isn’t just for bathing and brushing your teeth anymore. It’s really becoming an extension of the master bedroom
with that same feeling of luxury,” says Gingras.

The new design esthetic blends the ensuite and the walk-in closet into an open, luxurious space, with chaise lounges, comfy club chairs and even wine fridges, creating a glamorous space to bathe, chat, enjoy a glass of wine and dress for the evening’s festivities.

But if a major renovation sounds like it might be a little too pricey, don’t fret. Rennie says that right now there is an abundance of value in all areas of home construction.

“It’s a great time to renovate. You can get things a little more affordably and we have some very talented local tradespeople who now have more time to spend on a project to turn out some really fantastic, quality work.”