Forever Home: Home Renovation that Stands the Test of Time
Cathy Tonks’ passion and love for design, color, fabrics, and texture stems from her first career in the bridal industry. That love translated to interior design after she and her husband launched a construction company.
In 2005, after obtaining a degree in interior design, Tonks opened her firm Designs With You in Mind Inc. (designswithyouinmind.net), specializing in design-build projects. The Granite Bay-based full-service custom luxury interior design studio guides clients through the interior design journey to bring the perfect look to their home. “With our turnkey custom design solutions, clients don’t have to worry about finding or dealing with contractors or movers. We take care of all the details,” she says.
Kitchens and baths are her passion and she’s been able to use her experience in the construction industry to her advantage. Tonks partners with VA Construction’s Vitaliy Shvets on most construction projects and the outcomes are always impressive.
Homeowners Laura and Fred LeBlanc hired Tonks and her DWYIM team after they had to dismiss a contractor-designer who did not share their vision. “It all started when our built-in wall microwave failed; it shared a common control panel with the wall oven,” they share. “These units were original to the 30-year-old home and parts were not available. Given that the oven was a 27-inch unit, we wanted a larger double-wall oven.”
As the LeBlancs considered how to renovate their kitchen, they realized they didn’t want to make the changes the designer was suggesting. “He wanted to blow out the exterior walls and increase the square footage of the home, which was something we did not want to do,” they recount.
Upon meeting Tonks, they knew it was a perfect partnership. “Cathy listened to our ideas and asked us what worked and what did not in the existing space,” they share. “Since extraordinarily little worked and we wanted a more open plan, it was decided to remove several interior walls and achieve the open floor plan we had dreamed of. Cathy was able to achieve our dream space!”
The LeBlanc’s wanted a full gutting of the kitchen and master bathroom. In the kitchen, they wanted an updated space featuring an open concept, using high-end appliances and materials. They asked for increased functionality and use of space, and more functional storage. In the master bathroom, they wanted an updated space with high-end materials, including a free-standing tub, makeup vanity, and curbless shower.
GETTING TO WORK
Once the plans were made, Tonks and her team jumped into action. “We broke the project into two parts, with the kitchen being the first priority and then the bathroom,” says Tonks. “The kitchen renovation took our construction team around four months from demo to completion.” When DWYIM completed the kitchen, they started the bathroom a few months later to give the LeBlancs a break from construction. The master bathroom project took around eight weeks to complete.
The kitchen renovation started with a complete gutting, removing all walls surrounding the kitchen. They added an easy-to-access wine fridge which is also a great option for storing snacks so the kids can grab something without interrupting the flow of a kitchen. “Having an open concept allows views across the main living spaces from the kitchen and dining to the living room, and is especially great for those with young children or for entertaining guests,” Tonks says.
They removed the existing windows in the back of the house, replacing it with a large 12’ French door slider, providing easier access to the backyard and created a more indoor-outdoor feel to the space.
The master bathroom was also a complete gut. It now features a petite tub. “Laura had originally wanted a very large tub but after I suggested the ‘sit test,’ she got in and quickly realized the larger tub was not for her!” says Tonks. Enlarging the water closet and adding the curbless shower creates an aging-in-place environment, along with the addition of appropriate bracing for grab bars and future grab bar needs. “The beams brought in a warm feel to the space that we repeated from the main living space,” Tonks says. “The bathroom was originally designed with no door to the space. So, adding a custom barn door painted in a fun color brought character and function to the room.”
With a stroke of luck and well-made plans, the project did not encounter any major setbacks. “I always say you know when a plan is meant to be,’” says Tonks. “Everything for the most part went very smoothly. The only snafu was the client trying to run low voltage wire himself and falling through the ceiling when we were not there. Luckily, he was OK—thank goodness! I had to set boundaries and he had to use the team to help with those tasks.”
Most of all, the clients love their renovated home. “The DWYIM team is more than just the designers. Cathy brings top-of-the-line craftspeople to the job. Construction, plumbing, electrical, tiling, and painting—all are experts in their fields. The crews worked neatly and quickly. We were kept in the loop and we would use the craftspeople again any day,” the LeBlancs say. “We love our kitchen! And we now have a master suite that is just drop-dead gorgeous—one that will allow us to age gracefully in place.”
by Kourtney Jason