Dundas is a city of character. Oozing with ambiance, its quiet tree-lined streets play host to historic 19th century buildings and houses. Nestled near the downtown core, is a walkable community of heritage homes. Some are aching for a little TLC, while others have been tackled hands-on by a generation of DIYers. And then there are houses being gutted and restored by professionals…to breathe new life into history.

Home renovation is on the rise for obvious reasons; so many architecturally well made and geographically desirable homes are reaching the age of needing a serious face lift. When buying an old home, you are purchasing with it the layers of history the house owns. A century of love and lives that have come and gone. Restoring it not only makes it your own, but landmarks the date and time that the house was yours.

Dr. Pat Smith and her partner Elaine Burgess purchased such a house two years ago in Dundas. With Smith’s ardour for century architecture and Burgess’s penchant for downtown living, finding their heritage home in the perfect location came to them easily via word of mouth. Moving in “as is”, they acquainted themselves with the space while awaiting the availability for their design team of choice.

Barnard Speziale Design Associates has been turning dreams into functional reality for more than 25 years. Familiar with their work, the homeowners had retained the Waterdown firm for projects on their previous home in the suburbs of Dundas.

“There was no doubt who we would choose to renovate our new home,” says Smith. “They are a delightful, energizing, and creative team. They respect your ideas and listen to how you want your space to function.”

Sometimes the fact that a house needs so much done is part of its appeal. Such was the case for not only the homeowners but their design team. “The house, a ‘cottage-like’, red brick one-and-a-half storey had great bones but required extensive renovation on the main level,” explains Senior Designer, BJ Cadman. “We wanted to open up the space yet still respect the classic architecture.” While working closely with Morley Barnard on this venture, Cadman also brought on board her right hand designer, Stephanie Bigger, for the task at hand. “The house was dark with small rooms, and there was one large centre hall that offered very little natural light to the interior space.”

Homeowners, Pat and Elaine had definite ideas about their vision, that often caused reason for debate. “These are very informed clients and they were apprehensive about certain ideas. There was much deliberation about opening up the space as they were initially very drawn. to the centre hall. And we had hard times coming to grips about the extension at the back, whether it should serve as a large family room or sitting area with covered porch.”

In the end, the homeowners agreed with the plan to do away with the hall, and decided they preferred the idea of a versatile outdoor space that could be utilized throughout most of the year.

The overall goal of the Smith-Burgess home was to update and renovate the house to modern day standards. As the upstairs master and bathroom only required paint and minimal décor, the majority of work was the main level of the home and the extension.

A major undertaking, the project required incorporating an open floor plan while maintaining the integrity and character of the home that the owners fell in love with. To achieve the desired result, the “dream team” removed the wall between the long narrow hallway and the living and dining room area. Two large arched entry ways were created from the main hallway to these principal rooms, giving the illusion of a much larger living space. The addition of custom built-in cabinetry in the hallway opposite the dining room, gives the impression that the hallway is an extension of the dining room, and creates a visually appealing cabinet for display, storage and a surface for serving. A small opening was made between the kitchen and the dining room and acts as a pass through. It not only serves a functional purpose, but allows for sunlight to filter through to the naturally dark dining room, giving the whole home a much warmer and inviting feeling.

The final renovation consists of a small extension to the rear kitchen wall, along with the addition of a large covered porch area. In the kitchen the added space is utilized as a casual eating area, great for reading the paper and having a morning coffee. Large sliding doors, by Kolbe, open onto the covered porch where the tongue and groove ceiling, wood floors and colour palette fit seamlessly with the era of the home and coordinate with the detailing of the existing front porch. The peaked roofline and large staircase leading out onto the yard beyond gives a great airy feeling. Several large sliding glass doors open between the two rooms creating a great space for entertaining and mingling.

As some say, the devil is in the details. Upon completion of creating the space, the success then rests with the final finishing; the play of colour, light and textures. From every fixture to furniture and appliances, this is no time to undermine the home’s integrity by not paying attention to décor. Every article used inside the house will play a part in creating the style, comfort, and feel of the rooms. From the floor to the roof, each element has to be used to make it as beautiful and appealing as it can be.

To create a clean modern home renovation, coordinated furniture and accessories were purchased to adorn the finished product. The living room sofa and chairs is Whittington, with fabric and tables from Hickory Chair. The clients’ own dining room suite is adorned by a distinguished chandelier from Visual Comfort. And to add a modern touch to the traditional set are two Van Dam International cream leather host chairs.

Initially, designer and clients thought the original flooring could be resurfaced and suffice. But in the end, taking the cost of labour into account, laying a new floor made sense. The end result; gorgeous. Mercier red oak hardwood in a rich chocolate brown that complements the open floor plan as if a breath of fresh air. In the kitchen a majestic custom-made island of cherry wood has been stained to match the flooring. The surface is in keeping with all the countertops, luxurious antique brown granite with a “leathered” finish. Cabinetry and built-ins are by Jan’s Cabinets and add depth, storage and character to the kitchen and dining room. Stainless steel appliances and contemporary lighting fixtures strategically placed finish the desired effect of past meets present.

While Cadman readily admits the team had some challenging moments, she says, “I have to say in 25 years this was my favourite project. I simply love the way it turned out. It’s warm, cozy and comfortable yet has certain sophistication, and is great for entertaining.”

Entertaining is what Pat and Elaine love to do. A doctor and teacher, respectively, theirs is a life of work, and being together at home with friends and family. “It is perfect,” says Smith. “I would now describe our house as casual-elegant. It has a warm appeal. I look around and see our pictures, books, and pottery and it is all beautiful and elegant.”

Living in a century home within a pedestrian friendly community, has made this happy couple feel a part of the history of their town. “After a long day, the first words that come to mind when I pull up outside our home are that I have come back to where I belong, a regenerative place that will go on and on.”