Lessons from a Renovation

Posted by Katryna Y on

It's only weeks away from LUX's big move. Our new store is being constructed as we speak, and we have become all too familiar with navigating a space that has been torn up, sanded down and waiting to be revealed to the world.

With this in mind we decided to seek an expert on the subject of living amidst a reno. For the last few years, Justine has been meticulously designing and renovating her heritage home (known as The Madame) and documenting the transformation on her blog With Justine. A shared love of garage sale scores and vintage gold decor made for easy conversation as Katryna sat down with her over a warm cup of tea to learn more about the ups, downs and lessons only a carefully crafted build can give.

Katryna: Your home is absolutely stunning and has so much character. What sparked your decision to live in a heritage home?

Justine: I think the dream of renovating an old started when my fiancé, Ian, and I travelled to San Francisco and New Orleans. We were inspired by the architecture and heart & soul put into the little details. I distinctly remember driving through suburbia on our way home from the airport and feeling my heart ache for originality and century old trees. At this point, we had just finished renovating our condo and decided it was time to move on to a bigger project. At first, we looked at some mid-century modern homes, but nothing felt right.

Our home, also known as The Madame, had been on the market for a while and when the price dropped within our budget, we went for a viewing. It was like walking into a home in Fort Edmonton Park. The second owner of the home was making the sale and he did next to no work on the house. From the musky old smell to the layers upon layers of wallpaper, it was love at first sight. For me, it was the details. For Ian, it was the un-renovated state to make sure things were done properly and in our style.

What is the process of renovating a home like this? It seems like it would be quite the task to maintain the original character of it all. Are there certain influences or designs that you are inspired by?

Our process is to do everything with love and care. We respect our old home for surviving 102 years and owe it to her to do things right. The overall aim is to restore The Madame to her original state with modern luxuries. We tried to save every piece of wood that was removed during the electrical and insulation update, but it was so old and dry that it more or less shattered. Ian is a carpenter, who is apparently quite skilled in millwork (a skill he waited until now to reveal). Together, we recreated the exact trim that was removed and refinished the original doors and staircase.

My goal in designing The Madame was to avoid all trends. In choosing the finishing details, the era of the house was kept in mind. I shopped for antiques and reintroduced original details to keep the character. My favourite vintage finds are the washroom mirrors and master bedroom ceiling lights. I also think that deep down since this all started in San Francisco and New Orleans, elements have been drawn from Victorian and Colonial homes.

Gold mirrors are a great find! If you've been to LUX, you know we love ourselves some vintage mirrors haha.

How has your life changed since you embarked on these renos?

Ha! I started graduate school and got engaged to Ian at the same time that we took on the renovation, so everything seemed to change at once.

The biggest lesson for us as a couple has been in communication. We bounce ideas off each other all the time, so we had to learn to check-in with each other to make sure the other person was free to offer renovation input or listen to design plans. There are some days when life is too much and renovation talk just has to be put aside. In putting our own needs above The Madame, we have kept the journey enjoyable. Oh, and no renovation talk before bed to avoid a busy mind and restless sleep.

For me personally, the biggest lesson has been in my ability to adjust and embrace a messy, chaotic life. Despite my excitement about this project, it was hard to leave the modern luxuries of our condo, such as air conditioning, an ensuite, clean un-carpeted kitchen floors (yes, our kitchen has carpet!), working sinks, and so on. Regardless, I am glad I did walk away from those things because I now see every “hassle” as an opportunity for character growth. In this sense, The Madame and I are helping each other. I like to think that through this renovation we are both being shaped into the best versions of ourselves.

That's so lovely, it seems the Madame has lots of wisdom to impart. How has she impacted your beauty routine? Has anything changed?

It has changed drastically! From the age of 14, I always had a make-up dresser or station in my home. When we moved into The Madame, this was another luxury lost. The tiny basement bathroom we use does not have the space to hold all my beauty products, so I was forced to live out of one make-up bag that held the bare essentials. Everything not crucial to my daily beauty routine got thrown in a box and disregarded. Out of this grew a minimalist beauty routine.

I can imagine that being a challenge! I admire your adaptability. Is there anything you've learned during this shift to a more minimalist routine? 

The renovation has really taught me to love my face in an au naturale state. I used to spend more time masking and I now I spend more time preserving + enhancing. I focus my attention on products that allow me to wear minimal make-up and that enhance my natural features. Ultimately, my beauty routine is driven by skincare. I think it is very important to listen to how your skin reacts to new products and lifestyle changes.

As you know, we're in the midst of our own renovations and are sure there are many others out there embarking on their own ambitious projects. What tips could you give to someone who is also living in some sort of transitional space?

In terms of beauty, I would say purge the unnecessary and invest in a few high value products. A renovation space is messy enough without the extra clutter. In terms of happily surviving a renovation, I would say re-conceptualize the project as an adventure and engage in regular self-care. This will help you welcome the unexpected and keep your renovation stamina.

Thank you so much for sharing your home and wisdom with us, Justine. We can't wait to swap renovation stories and delight in new vintage finds. We love seeing your new updates on your blog, and you can follow along with our renovation journey on Instagram #LUXonthemove.

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