a peek inside the fishbowl

06 Mar, 2011

Official reno post #001: Heeeere we go

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Home/reno

I am not sure if I should apologize for the Tide of Home Reno Posts I am about to unleash here. Although the Fishbowl is a pretty clear representation of what’s going on in my head I promise not to let it take over… too much.

I thought it might be interesting to see how many posts will add up over the next year or so, hence the numbering. :)

And since this is the first one, I thought I should post this again:

wartime home - ottawa

The big news is this: we have decided on an architect…

… his name is David Mailing and I actually have permission to talk about him in this space. :)

This is a guy who, I’m sure, has heard absolutely everything. He’s been working with families like ours for many years and knows all of their secrets. But I think he was a little surprised to hear about the blog. Bringing it up to him at our last meeting was a little bit awkward. I am keenly and painfully aware that people who don’t read blogs don’t really know what the fuss is all about. They probably think that it’s really just a website with a weird-sounding name… blawg, which sounds uncomfortably similar to blarg, an expression “used to express aggressive feelings of frustration, anger, or disgust.”

Yet there I was, talking about it and asking permission to write about him and the reno. (Thank goodness Mark was there, my cheerleader!)

Anyway, yes, David. Here’s his website!

First of all, I want to talk about why we decided to go with an architect instead of skipping it and drawing something up on a napkin and delivering to a builder. David suggested that if our addition was going to be a simple box off the back he’d skip the architect too. But this is not a simple addition. Also, as an information professional, I barely know how to swing a hammer and hit a nail, much less plan out the best possible solution to our needs. We need someone on our team.

I don’t think we need a huge addition, I think we need smarter planning. We need to use our space in the most efficient way we can. And I know he’s the guy to do it, ’cause he’s smart like that.

I found a really good explanation of the difference between architects, design/builders, and builders on an Ottawa home reno blog. If you’re keen to read more about it you can check that out here. The author also posted a handy list of questions to ask your potential architect.

We asked David a LOT of questions and got great answers in return. I spoke to a few references and they confirmed what I was already thinking. (Which was that he was very good at what he does.)

All the “expert” articles talk about how important it is that you click with your architect. I would say that’s very true. After all, you’re going to be saddled with each other for a long time. We really like David, and I think he likes us too.

They’re coming to measure the house on Tuesday, which makes everything seem real all of a sudden (as if our meeting with the bank wasn’t real enough). (!)

I’m glad you Fishies can join me on this journey. I’ll continue to crowdsource ideas. I’ll be asking you all for your feedback and recommendations … as well as your insider knowledge of spectacular deals on family room furniture, a dream stove, and landscaping. ;)

Thanks for being here. Off we go!

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12 Responses to "Official reno post #001: Heeeere we go"

1 | bushidoka

March 6th, 2011 at 11:12 am


Good luck in the months to come. I’ll be interested to keep track because we really need an addition too. 5 of us in 1000 sq ft is getting tight!

2 | Cleo

March 6th, 2011 at 6:01 pm


Congratulations! So exciting!!

3 | lala

March 6th, 2011 at 7:31 pm


i LOVE his font

4 | Mary @ Parenthood

March 7th, 2011 at 7:34 am


We joke that renovating is our hobby so I will follow yours with interest! Great blog you linked to btw!

5 | Jen_nifer

March 7th, 2011 at 8:56 am


Please don’t hold back on the reno posts, I’m very curious to find out how this will unfold for your family!

6 | Jane

March 7th, 2011 at 9:24 am


I check your blog every now & then and have read with interest your comments on the changes in your west-end neighbourhood (which is where I live too). In the past year it seems like we can’t go on a walk in our neighbourhood without seeing that another house has been knocked down–and what goes up in its’ place is not always pretty, nor is it without controversy. Often the knock-downs are seemingly good homes which are in need of a good make-over rather than a bulldozer. Not to say that sometimes a tear-down makes sense and not to say that none of the new homes fit the neighbourhood. I quite like some of the new infill homes, and in principle I don’t have a problem with dividing a single lot into a double (we lived in a housing co-op and then a duplex which we bought with a friend, for many years, and enjoyed the benefits of living in “community”–both personal and financial).

I’ll follow your reno with interest. I must say renos are a constant topic of conversation in our household, as my husband is in the business–and there is a lot of it these days in Ottawa! He loves building, but also has a degree in architecture. His small company will build from someone else’s design, or design only or design and build the entire project. His greatest pleasure is in rejuvinating old houses, such that new additions/spaces blend in and also enhance the original house and the neighbourhood. While I’m sure he’d agree that some houses, or parts of houses should be knocked down, he’d probably say that there is usually some inherent quality in the design or materials of a house that are worth preserving. Finding that quality and enhancing it is what he enjoys.

Our personal philosophy is of the more with less sort. Our family of 3 live in a 750 sq.ft. home, which has its challenges but also great benefits. In addition to the lower maintenance & upkeep costs, when it comes to renovating a small space you can better afford higher end materials since you won’t need so many of them! It’s a challenge to stay small when everyone around you seems to be expanding living space, but trying to keep a global perspective is helpful. Most folks in the world would consider our small home an unimaginable luxury. We do our best to appreciate our good fortune to have it!

7 | Natalie

March 7th, 2011 at 9:38 am


I found Jane’s comment refreshing : ) Our family of five lives in 1400 sq. ft near downtown and we also feel blessed.

I will follow your reno adventures with great interest and try not to catch the bug! We’ve done a reno before and we’d probably do it again if the opportunity presented itself.

8 | Sasha

March 7th, 2011 at 8:32 pm


Looking forward to your posts – I have dreams of a kitchen reno, but now is not the time for it (with a toddler and a baby). Then there’s whether to go whole hog with the grand plans or fix some of the glaring issues in stages… hoping to learn from your experience! (Less painful than learning from my own ;)

9 | James

March 7th, 2011 at 8:46 pm


You won’t regret the architect decision. Over the 12 years since our first major reno (#2 is almost finished) we’ve received many compliments on the work, and as nice as the carpentry is all the compliments are directed to the “thinking” our architect did in advance.

10 | Tidy Up Tuesday: What’s NOT in the Kitchen | The Rambling Stroller

March 8th, 2011 at 8:02 am


[…] a big kitchen, although a lot could be done to improve the use of space (I’ll be watching Andrea’s reno pretty closely.) In the meantime, I’ve tried to migrate some of the less-often used stuff […]

11 | Krista (@kristahouse)

March 8th, 2011 at 4:06 pm


Oh wow! I am excited to read your posts about your reno!!

12 | gemma@thesweetestdigs

March 9th, 2011 at 3:11 pm


What exciting news. Good luck!

I look forward to watching the progress..

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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