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Tessa Steenstra and her husband Andy Saavedra prove the theory that opposites attract.
Saavedra, 41, immediately dubbed it a “mansion” with a “palatial-sized garden,” while Steenstra, 39, admitted it had good bones. It was the type of house their family — which now includes 3-year-old daughter Emme — could grow into without having to build a third storey or any new additions.
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Plus, the inside and outside of the house had been painted in various shades of purple, blue, red and orange.
The couple, who work for Scotiabank, paid $ 580,000 for the home in 2011. And since money was tight with two maternity leaves so close together, they decided to wait and get out of the baby phase before throwing themselves into costly renovations.
In 2015, they were selected to participate in an HGTV home renovation show called The Expandables, but the City of Toronto wouldn’t issue permits in time because of questions over the previous additions.
Since they had to go to the Committee of Adjustment, get the land surveyed and have all of the drawings completed, it took another year to regroup and prepare for the renovations. The work finally began this past January and was completed 3-1/2 months later.
“That kind of allowed us to figure out what we wanted the space to be, rather than rushing into a reno up front,” says Steenstra. “It gave us five years to just live in the space and dream about it and think about it. I really like the way it worked out.”
“Our contractors were amazing; you hear about all these projects that go on and on and on, and never end; they were right on schedule. Everything was awesome,” says Steenstra, adding they spent $ 10,000 on plumbing, $ 11,000 on electrical and $ 21,000 on HVAC.
Designer Lesley Brookes was hired to turn their reno dreams into a reality, creating a beautiful new open-concept kitchen, dining and living space.
“Renovations in Toronto are very expensive these days, so we had to keep budget in mind,” says designer Brookes.
The kitchen budget came in at $ 27,000, with the family splurging on their countertops so the space would have a more customized look.
“They put in a faux marble quartz countertop, which a lot people are doing these days because it doesn’t stain like a true marble would,” says Brookes, adding the veining in the countertop makes it look like marble.
“One little part is raised so that when you’re in the living room and you look toward the kitchen, you don’t see what’s on the island, you just see these cabinets with the countertop,” she says. “You’re still open, but you’re not really seeing the dishes and what’s going on.”
Steenstra says having the huge island in the kitchen for her whole family to eat together is one of her favourite features of the renovation.
“I love the set up that it’s two and two; we’re not all sitting in a line,” she says. “I can be cooking and they can be sitting there and we’re all kind of chatting. It’s become this real central hub where everyone just kind of congregates and hangs out!”
REGAINING THEIR PRIVACY
In the spring, Steenstra heard about MicroPro Sienna’s Ontario Reno Challenge, which would reward the winner with more backyard privacy. To enter, contestants had to share a photo of their backyard on Instagram or Twitter.
Steenstra’s Instagram photo immediately caught the attention of celebrity contractor Chris Palmer, who co-designed the contest with HGTV’s Home to Win landscape designer Carson Arthur. The duo decided the family’s six umbrellas were just too sad to ignore and declared them the winner.
“Their privacy was the big issue,” says Palmer. “It was right along a main sidewalk on a corner lot, so there’s two sidewalks around their property. People could just walk by and stare at their yard. There was no seclusion.”
Palmer and his cousin managed to transform the family’s uncomfortable backyard into a quiet sanctuary in just one day, erecting a sculptured privacy structure using MicroPro Sienna wood. “It’s a really dramatic change!” he says.
Steenstra was overjoyed when she found out they won, especially since the indoor renovations had already eaten up their budget. “It’s been awesome!” she says. “It’s really become this intimate hangout spot and we love it.”