Anxious to get going on a major home reno project? Before you start calling in the pros (and be sure to call in the pros!) learn about the latest trends and the reality of what it takes to do things right.
For expert insight, we went to OakWood, Ottawa’s largest renovator and one that has earned Ontario Renovator of the Year honours. Deirdre Jorssen, OakWood’s showroom design manager, answers questions.
What are the latest trends in renovations?
Kitchen and bathroom renovations are still the most common and high-impact types of renovations we see. The trends for the kitchen are being drawn from a combination of refined and polished finishes, such as shiny backsplashes and cabinet textures, juxtaposed with a rustic barn-board ceiling detail or a shabby chic, furniture-inspired island. Mixing finishes in a kitchen gives the space a more high-design impact when properly located and executed. We are taking the idea of the two-toned kitchen to a whole new level when introducing different textures and depth.
Bathrooms are still taking on the spa-like quality, and the “clean and organic look” remains very prominent. What is quite popular and sought-after is a layout that combines the spa feel with high-function, multi-purpose spaces; this incorporates a wet area for both the tub and shower, plus walk-in closets directly off the ensuite for a full dressing room effect.
Basements, or “lower levels” as we like to call them at OakWood, provide additional square footage to a home; in cases where the home is a bungalow, they literally double the square footage. Clients are retiring to these areas and seeking a more formal and dressed-up design; they’ve moved beyond the 80’s and 90’s era of the “rec room,” where bad furniture and video games went to live. We are bringing a lot of the same finishes you would find in the living room and master ensuite bathroom to this level and giving warmth to what would normally be a cold space.
What is the one renovation element people are asking for most?
More space and improved functionality will always be on the list of “musts,” regardless of the time period of a kitchen. It’s an ongoing battle that can sometimes easily be resolved with great custom cabinetry and accessories that allow for better use of a blind corner, for example, or a cabinet that would normally be hard to access.
When we design kitchens at OakWood, we present a solution that sometimes offers a similar footprint due to space constraints; but when properly designed, conceived and executed, this can turn out to be twice the kitchen because of how each cabinet is thought out and used. It all comes down to listening to what our clients need, want and wish for.
Is there a trend in materials?
Our climate influences a lot more than our wardrobes. Because we really do experience all four seasons, Ottawa clients tend to have a mix of preferences, wanting cool spaces with stark white kitchens, dark spaces to set the mood and warm spaces to create a feeling of warmth. We see a lot of different choices, though we are not quite there yet in embracing the bright, avant-garde colours in cabinetry you would see in Italy or sometimes New York. Rather, we look to unique lines and ways to design a kitchen that doesn’t feel so “kitcheny;” it feels more like an extension of the living space, and less utilitarian.
What is the most important thing homeowners need to realize before renovating?
Homeowners need to realize that television is fantastic for pulling inspiration and getting ideas; however, when you watch a show that discloses the price of a kitchen renovation in Iowa (for example) versus Ottawa, you must understand these are two extremely different price points. Even programs aired in Toronto with well-known designers show the designer finding deals on accessories and fabrics, but they very seldom take the cost of labour into account. A lot of the design shows are fantastic, but viewers need to realize the homeowners on a show don’t always pay for the full renovation or all the goods; a lot of vendors will donate their products for a name drop on that particular show. Perspective is very important. Speaking with a qualified home improvement expert, particularly one such as Oakwood—with a full, transparent quote and proposal, is the way to address the reality of the price and value of a renovation.
*Answers have been edited.