Alison Milne is well-known for her contemporary rehab of Toronto interiors. Whether it’s a farmhouse-meets-modern family home or a converted church condo, she’s got an eye for respecting the past and blending it with the present. Her latest project is her best yet: Her own home. A detached brick house from 1910 in Toronto’s west end, she scored a deal (relatively speaking within Toronto’s recent “downturn”) after searching for the one for over three years. In an odd twist of fate, “one of the houses we bid on eventually became a client of mine,” says the pro. “She hired me because I already had an understanding of what her house needed.”
Her design spidey-senses are in high frequency as she gets started on her renovation. “I can’t sleep at night. I’ll sit in the tub drawing up plans. I think I’m driving my husband crazy,” she says. The biggest challenge is scaling down her ideas so the house isn’t so customized that it becomes difficult to resell one day, after all, good design is mindful of a home’s potential for appreciation. “I know what’s possible. For example, I was thinking about adding a second-floor garden off my son’s bedroom and my husband reminded me that it’s not something everyone would want.”
Being a seasoned designer, she had her new home’s plans drawn up and the first phase approved by the city within a month after getting possession. Alison’s most thankful for the home’s good bones.
- A happy basement. “That’s where the electrical panel typically is. Take a look to assess its condition and how much amperage it has. Also look for any cracks or sagging spots in the foundation that might be affecting the exterior and if there’s any mold, dampness or evidence of water leaking in. Plus check if the floor joists are sisterned.”
- A clean pipe. “Confirm that the pipe coming in from the city is copper (versus lead) and it’s nice if it’s bigger (that’s ¾’ instead of ½”) so you can get better water pressure for your kitchen and bathroom renovations.”
- A good roof. “I’m doing a complete reno, so I know I’ll be replacing it anyways. I just needed to know it’s keeping the house dry.”
“Aesthetically I do like the brick’s curb appeal. That’s something that will stay to help keep the home’s history, but I’ll definitely freshen it up with new windows, a well-designed front porch and woodworking where needed.” See a snapshot of her plans below.
Alison is moving from her 1200 square foot loft into this 2400 square foot home. “I couldn’t believe it when we got it. To be honest I barely remembered the house. It wasn’t the one I wanted, but now I can picture it for my family. When you have children, you can’t help but get emotional about your dwelling.”
Alison is respecting the home’s heritage personality while adding modern upgrades and design must-haves like a roomy family kitchen.
While walls are coming down for a more open-plan layout, Alison is going to keep this fireplace and any stained glass, original door knobs, hardware and light fixtures that will shine in her design.
A traditional garage was nixed to make more room for playing. Instead, a garage that houses one car that’s parallel parked will be added. This is what’s called smart space-saving.
On the second floor, tiny rooms, a water closet and even a kitchen are being traded for spaces and ensuites with more wiggle room.
The designer admits she has plenty of ideas for the home, however she’s also thankful she has her husband, and the bones of the house, to say no when it’s just too much. “My husband is my sounding board and with some ideas, when I want the walls to tell me no, then I trust it’s not the best idea.”
Th third floor has a large footprint ideal for a master suite and spa-style bathroom.
*Stay tuned to our next post when we catch up with Alison after the walls come down and see what she’s planning next.