Western Living Magazine
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An unexpected full-home renovation celebrates both the past and a beautiful future.
The first rule of starting a simple reno? Don’t expect it to be so simple.
When design duo Kelly Reynolds and Chad Falkenberg of Falken Reynolds Interiors took on a routine kitchen makeover in a 110-year-old South Granville home, they weren’t expecting it to be a 10-month-long operation. But the demolition had revealed some serious structural flaws in the building—an electrical system in need of a full overhaul, brick walls being held together with dust—and their homeowner clients could see that they’d need to tackle more than just the kitchen. Luckily, they were in good hands as the project evolved into a full-fledged home renovation. The designers—along with contractor Warren Lightfoot of Terris Lightfoot Contracting—leaned into the challenge of bringing an old house into the modern world.
The first step was to move the kitchen out of a cramped wing it had been relegated to in the ’50s and back to the centre of the home. “It felt like you were cooking in a shed before,” says Falkenberg. “It was very removed from everything else.” This was a big problem, given that both homeowners are avid home chefs and entertainers. So, to accommodate dinner parties, the larger of the kitchen’s two custom-made islands was built on wheels, making it easy to roll out of the way of the expandable dining room table. The second island acts as permanent prep space, as well as a clever design solution that houses the entire room’s electrical panels and switches. And because of a quite drastic height difference between the two homeowners, the designers played with a mix of levels, shapes and finishes to block out the space in a way that remains calm and consistent, but functional for both partners. They elevated the intersecting natural oak cabinets and ventilation above the charcoal-stained ash cabinets and Gaggenau gas cooktop while slightly lowering the height of the cooktop itself a few inches from the level of the Caesarstone counters, allowing the shorter of the two cooks to stir a large stockpot without an uncomfortable reach. “It was quite a puzzle to put together, trying to make it balance visually as well as functionally,” says Falkenberg.
In order to bring a renewed feeling of open cohesion to the space, the designers raised the floor of the kitchen—previously a step down from the rest of the living space—and united it through a gorgeous oil-finish herringbone hardwood that runs the length of the main floor, the classic pattern a nod to the building’s turn-of-the-century roots. “With herringbone, you get that envelope of old among all the new,” says Falkenberg. “It blends beautifully together.”
Once the bones of the renovation were in place, the homeowners’ eclectic collections became statement pieces throughout. An ornately painted antique chest found while living in China sits comfortably next to the home’s original staircase, while the transparent Bocci light cluster above hints at the modern design waiting beyond the entryway. A framed Yue Minjun screenprint pairs with a sleek cowhide-finish Patricia Urquiola chair in the living room; above the dining room table hangs an original Fred Herzog photograph, along with a Skygarden pendant light fixture from Marcel Wanders. “We really lucked out,” laughs Reynolds. “This is the only time we’ve done this much work in a house and then really didn’t have to buy any furniture when the project was done. They just have great taste.”
For both Falkenberg and Reynolds, though, the pièce de résistance of the project lies with the double-sided Bidore 95 glass-front fireplace by Element4, visible from nearly every point in the home. “It was really the clincher for the whole design to turn it linear to the space,” says Falkenberg. Reynolds agrees, remembering the last dinner party they attended: “It’s become a meeting point. Unlike in most houses, where people tend to gather in the kitchen at parties, we were all standing around the fireplace, having a drink. It was calling out to us. It really grounds the space.”