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Toronto Semi Detached

The story of this blog really began in May 2007 when we purchased our first house three months before our wedding. It was a two-story, semi-detached house in Leaside in midtown Toronto. We loved the traditional character of the house but when we purchased it, it was  covered in sea of pink carpet (even in the bathroom), cat hair, and floral wallpaper - a real fixer-upper. 

We started tearing out the carpet the day we got the keys and slowly renovated it over the decade of living there.

toronto semi detached, leaside house renovations

Dining Room

Eager to try out the power tools we got as wedding gifts (yup, we had a table saw, a nail gun, and a router on our registry!), we started with the simplest room in our house - the dining room.

Down came the wallpaper and out went the pink carpet. HandyMan figured out the layout for the wainscot which we built out of MDF, hardboard, and a pine chair rail. New plantation shutters and drapery and lighting brought the room to life. We built the first of our radiator covers and added some drapery and lighting to create a stylish space to enjoy our meals.

But tastes changed, and years later, we transformed this yellow room to a bright and airy tropical space.

Home Office / Big Girl's Room

Stuck indoors because of the abundant snowstorms of winter 2007, we spontaneously decided to give our home office a facelift. 

A quick coat of paint added instant cheeriness to the space then the real work started. Some MacGyver-ing of IKEA countertops and bookcases created a functional office for two.  To soften the hard lines of the cabinetry, we added an art gallery wall, drapery, and an inspiration board. The office was a great place to work and create.

As it turned out, we stayed in our house long enough for some rooms to get a second makeover! That home office? It was eventually transformed into our daughter's big girl room. Handyman built a window bench & bookcase in one and we maximized storage in the closet.

And after procrastinating for many months, I finally sewed up a DIY roman blind to complete the room. 


After hosting a few family get-togethers over the holidays, we quickly realized our 1950's kitchen was not going to cut it. With a stove that couldn't even fit a cookie sheet and a serious lack of counterspace, the kitchen needed an overhaul from top to bottom.

Starting in the spring of 2008, we demolished the room, framed out the walls, and repaired the floor joist. We had the pros come in to do the drywall and electrical work, then we painted and laid the floor tile. After figuring out the cabinet layout and selecting appliances, the cabinets, countertop, and backsplash were installed. Small details like window trim, brushed hardware, and reproduction lighting added to the bistro look we were going for. We DIY'd a chalkboard and installed a TV, transforming the kitchen into a marriage of style and function.

Soon after we finished the kitchen, we found out were expecting a baby! Nothing motivates you to get home projects done faster than a new baby on the way. So in full nesting mode, we decided to undertake two renovations at the same time - the main bathroom and the nursery.

Primary Bathroom

The bathroom was the scariest room in the house. I'm not even joking. Not only was it small and cramped, but it had carpet on the floor (ewwww!) and a floor to ceiling hand painted mural of Monet's Waterlilies

HandyMan busted out his architect drawing skills and we came up with plans for the bathroom layout and floor tile design. With two rooms on the go, we brought in the professionals to do the demolition, the drywall, installation of the tub, and the gorgeous floor tile. Going for a Parisian bath look, we picked some sleek fixtures and a mix of simple white tiles. HandyMan installed all the wall tiles himself. New window coverings, artwork, and a frosted door finished off the space, giving us the blissful bathroom we craved.


The nursery was a space that had to be multi-functional. We knew our baby would be staying in our room for a while and grandma would also be staying over and needing a place to sleep so we designed it as a guest bedroom with nursery touches.

The room lacked any personality and storage space. By adding built-in wardrobes and a window seat over the radiator, we added storage and created a real focal point in the room. To keep things soft and sweet, we added plush carpeting, DIY heirloom artwork, and bunting. We decorated with whimsical accessories, creating a room for all of us to enjoy.

Primary Bedroom

With all these renovations ongoing, you would think our primary bedroom would be a refuge from all of the dust and debris. Umm, not really. For three years, we lived a bedroom with dingy yellow walls, a floral border, and ugly blue curtains, all courtesy of the previous owner.

After the baby arrived, we decided it was time to focus on the bedroom. We framed out the wall around the bumpout, leaving a flat wall that would allow for better furniture layout and creation of a dramatic panelled wall. The vintage vibe was enhanced by the custom floral curtains, artwork and lighting.

Now its our favourite room in the house!

Living Room

By 2011, we decided it was finally time to renovate the first room you see when  you enter our house - the living room.

The 1980's wallpaper was removed and we figured out the furniture layout. HandyMan then built the fireplace frame and we spent agonizing weeks trying to decide on fireplace tile, finally creating something both modern and classic. The perfect grey paint was put on the walls, supersized art was hung, and we found and repainted a hutch and dresser to add some vintage charm. Everything came together to create a room full of colour and pattern.

By 2016, it was time for a refresh. We added an accent with removable wallpaper and updated some of the dark and drab furnishings


In 2012, we embarked upon our biggest renovation yet: our 700 sq ft basement

The formerly dingy stairwell became a stylish mini-mudroom with the addition of custom trimwork. The charming original milk door turned mailbox was retained but received a needed update with bright aqua paint and new hardware.

Basement Bathroom

Our second bathroom, the Van Gogh sunflower bathroom (yes, another floor to ceiling mural!), was transformed into a modern vintage stunner. Beadboard wainscot paired with modern graphic wallpaper for an appealing mix. We added storage with open shelving and decorated with vintage touches.

Laundry Room

The large laundry room was functional but severely lacking in storage, counterspace, and style. We came up with a new galley-style layout that maximized use of the space while a glass tile backsplash, Ikea cabinetry, in-floor heating, and stainless steel countertops that we installed ourselves really created the ultimate laundry room.

Craft Zone / Home Office / Playhouse Under The Stairs

And in the main area, the closed off kitchenette and playroom became a large open space that featured a craft area, my favourite spot in the house. Read about the awesome red metal chairs and the harvest table I spent years looking for here.

There was also room for a home office...

and hidden playhouse under the stairs.

Back Deck

While work was going on inside, a bit of work was happening outside too. 

As a first step, we built this bench for our back deck, added some lighting and posts and a handrail to make it comfortable and safe. After a few years, we lightened things up...

and created a beachy escape we enjoyed almost year round.


The garage was another area that had been organized. Adding pegboard and storage nooks in the rafters and between the wall studs has kept our collection of tools and scrap wood organized. HandyMan also added plastic sheets around the perimeter which can be dropped to create an impromptu paint booth for our painting projects.

Front Garden

The front entry of our house has had a bit of a makeover too. Small changes like adding the modern house numbers and removing the storm door helped clean up the look. But it was not until we got a new front door and installed a new overhead light that our house really started to shine, all year long.

In 2015, we embarked upon one of our most ambitious renovations and rebuilt the front walkway ourselves.

All the effort was worth it as we got the curb appeal our house always needed.

It was our hardest and one of our most satisfying renovations in this house. With the final addition of a new front window, the outside of our house finally matched the interior renovations, just in time for us to sell it in fall 2016.