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The Master Retreat

150 150 Nisha Muire

The master bedroom in Toronto is the one place in new homes that has grown more than any other. In the past master bedrooms were slightly larger than the children’s bedrooms and had a slightly larger closet as well. Over time this principal bedroom in a house has steadily increased in size while the closet went from a single to a double and then to a walk-in, and now, to actual dressing rooms adjoining the master. The same transformation holds true for the ensuite. The master ensuite began life as a powder room and progressed in scope and function to deluxe, spa-like spaces fitted with everything needed to fully and entirely unwind and pamper yourself.

Master bedrooms today are more like entire suites. The most ambitious in design often take up an entire level or wing of a floor and they include sitting rooms, a sleeping chamber, dressing rooms with walk-in closets and ensuites. At the very minimum, master bedrooms will include a walk-in closet and an ensuite.

The phenomenon of a master suite is relatively new starting to appear in the mid-nineties and growing through the end of the century into what we find in today’s most luxurious homes. In fact, a large majority of homebuyers will cite a master suite as a necessity when looking for a new home. The only people with whom master suites are still relatively not so important are middle-class families with more than two children – in their case, they prefer having an extra bedroom over the master suite.

If your home currently doesn’t have a master with a walk-in closet or ensuite and you are looking to upgrade to one, the scope of the project will depend on the space on your floor. If you have three extra bedrooms, then you can feasibly turn one of those bedrooms into an ensuite with a walk-in. However, this should only be done if the market in your neighbourhood will return your investment when you sell. Naturally, this will not be a consideration if you plan on living in your home long-term.

If you don’t have extra space that you can use, then consider building an extension or building out over an attached garage. Obviously such ambitious projects will come with certain costs that might be more than you anticipate.

However, as we move into a new way of thinking about home and larger numbers of people are moving towards smaller, more sustainable dwellings, the phenomenon of the grand master suite might be on its way out. Only time will tell.

What are the pros and cons of installing a skylight?

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Adding a skylight to your Toronto home can add depth, light and ambiance to a setting. However, there are certain realities to keep in mind before such an addition should be made. In some estimations the cons of of adding a skylight outweigh the pros – but for others the pros tip the balance in their favour. We’ll let you decide what’s best for your situation by presenting the facts.


Skylights are installed in a roof in order to add light to a dark room or to increase a view. The fact that these windows are installed in your roof means that you will have to cut a hole into your roof and the floor of your attic in order to install it – not to mention the creation of a box around the shaft to seal it off. Installing a skylight is, therefore, a major renovation.
Once you install a skylight expect your insurance company to increase your premiums as they are considered high-risk for leaks and other damage.
Expect to pay more in heating and cooling costs unless it is very well installed, sealed and insulated.

Now we’ll get into the pros and cons.


A skylight will automatically make any room look bigger.
A skylight will increase the value of your home.
They are a fantastic source of natural light.
Depending on their placement and function, they can provide fantastic views of the sky and landscape.
They create a terrific ambiance in any room in which they are placed.


Will cost a lot to install.
Will cost a lot to maintain properly.
Have the potential to leak and damage your roof and structures.
Will increase your heating/cooling bill.
Will increase your insurance.

As your can see from these lists, the pros have more to do with lifestyle and quality of life while the cons have more to do with cost. So, if you prefer to invest in your quality of life and the beauty of your home, then accepting that the addition of a skylight will incur some costs is your best option.

Toronto Fall Home Show

150 150 Nisha Muire

Starting tomorrow the Toronto Fall Home Show will opens its doors to savvy homeowners who are looking for inspiration, wisdom and information from a host of exhibitors gathered to share their expertise and know-how. The popular exhibition is a chance to have questions answered, find the professionals of your choice for projects you have in mind and find ideas to vexing problems.

The show is hosted at the:
Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place
195 Princes Boulevard, Toronto, ON M6K 3C3

The show hours are:

Thursday, October 1
10am – 8pm
Friday, October 2
10am – 8pm
Saturday, October 3
10am – 8pm
Sunday, October 4
10am – 6pm

Boasting a number of interesting features, this year’s edition of the Toronto Fall Home Show includes City Smart Living, which is geared toward providing smart solutions to city living – from maximizing small spaces to creating zen areas in an urban environment. Also featured this year is a Design Intervention, Upcycling of Furniture and a seminar on Renovating with Confidence.

The show is a favorite among real estate professionals, design enthusiasts and those wanting direction with their home projects.

So, don’t wait to buy your tickets! For more information on the show and what is being offered, you can visit their website.

Prep Your Garden Beds for Winter

150 150 Nisha Muire

Once the last flower has faded from your Toronto garden and a chill can be felt in the morning air, it is time to start thinking of closing up your beds and preparing them for the winter months. While it is true that you can simply leave everything as is and wait until spring to tackle the clean up – it is best to get it down in the fall so that your garden and your plants are able to rest properly and so are better prepared for spring when it arrives.

If you have flower beds, then what needs to be done will depend on whether you have perennials or annuals in your Ontario garden. Annuals need simply to be removed and discarded once they have finished blooming and start to die. Perennials are a different story altogether. Depending on the type of perennials in your garden you will want to treat them differently.

Ornamental grasses: Although tradition says that they need to be cut back in the fall, some of these grasses are so pretty and keep their shape and colour all winter long, that some gardeners won’t cut them back until early spring – and some just prefer to keep them all year round to enjoy their wheat-colored beauty.
Flowers with seed heads: Some flowers with seed heads can be left through the winter even if you cut back the foliage. The seed-heads feed wintering birds through the cold days and even provide a sort of shelter from the snow for the garden bed. So, the seed heads can be left intact until the spring time.
Other perennials: The rest of the perennial flowers can be cut back in late fall to prepare them for the winter.
Evergreens: Resist the urge to prune your evergreens until the spring. If they are large then consider covering them with a burlap wrap and securing them with a tie to help them keep their shape under heavy snow.


Preparing your vegetable garden for winter is rather straight-forward. Simply pull up your old plants, fertilize your garden (after checking to make sure you have the right pH balance), work the soil by tilling and then protect it by covering with mulch or by planting a cover crop that you don’t intend to harvest. Cover crops are simply crops that will protect your topsoil from eroding or washing away. Furthermore, it can be tilled into the soil in the spring for added nutrition. If you have perennial crop plants, cut back old stalks and then cover them with mulch to protect them through the winter.

With just a little time and effort you and your garden can rest easy knowing that all will be ready for when springs rolls around again.

Toronto Backyard Oasis

150 150 Nisha Muire

Backyards are no longer considered just a patch of land for growing grass and putting out a couple of lawn chairs. Backyard designs have evolved to turn these private spaces into personal havens of enchantment and escape. With just a little bit of imagination you can transform your yard into a resort-like retreat for enjoying year-round.

There are a few elements to incorporate into a backyard design that will take it from ordinary to extraordinary.


Using materials such as wood and stone in your design for patios and decks will add a nice natural look and feel to your creation. The materials blend beautifully into the surroundings and don’t look out of place. However, if you choose to use concrete or composite materials for patios and decking, there are ways of incorporating them without having them stand out too much. A good plan will help you blend these materials into your overall concept for a more seamless look and feel.


Nothing is more soothing that the sight and sound of water rippling. Whether you have space for a large pond or swimming pool, or just enough space for a fountain, having some sort of water feature will go a long way towards creating a relaxing yard.

A touch of Romance

Whether through the use of candles, lanterns or fairy lights, adding a touch of romance to your yard will soften the environs and make it even more inviting for family and guests – especially in the evenings after the sun has set.


No one can fully relax if they feel their neighbours staring down at them from beyond their fence. To ensure privacy, a good fence is necessary. Although wood slats is the standards, planting some tall evergreen or even some seasonal shrubbery to further close any gaps is a good idea. Not only will it create a sense of isolation from the world around you, but greenery will also contribute to your sense of being ensconced in nature or at your own private get-away.


If at all possible, create several different seating areas – one for dining with a larger group, one for sitting alone and contemplating life, one for a discreet tête-à-tête – and whatever you do, make sure that the seating is comfy and inviting!


What’s a backyard without a fire pit? Ideal for roasting marshmallows, sitting around and talking or keeping you warm on a chilly night, a fire pit is a terrific idea for adding a fun element to your overall design.


Landscaping plays an integral role in what your backyard design will ultimately look like. If you are not savvy with flowers and plants, then get input from your local horticulturist to find out what plants best suit your needs. A mix of annuals and perennials is the best way to go so that you have your foundation plants and your splashes of colour all year round.

Using Repurposed/Recycled Materials in Your Green Toronto Home

150 150 Nisha Muire

When it comes to green home construction or renovation, there are a number of innovative ways to lower your building’s footprint. Using recycled, reclaimed or repurposed materials is among the best ideas. Not only is it an eco-friendly way of using up materials that would otherwise end up in landfill but, in many instances, the materials themselves are more robust and durable that regular construction materials. Here we will look at a few of the most commonly recycled/repurposed/reused materials – and as we are not experts ourselves, we have included links to articles that discuss each material more in-depth.

Reclaimed/recycled, low-grade timber is a good place to start. It is much less expensive than finished wood, but it is just as effective in construction projects. There is an excellent article over here //bit.ly/1Jy1PN2 that talks about using reclaimed wood in your home.

Tires filled with earth or sand are actually one of the best materials around for creating sturdy walls that also help insulate a home very well. The science behind the use of tires is discussed in depth over here //bit.ly/1JOPz7t. Tires can also be used as flower boxes in your garden.

Shipping Containers
Shipping containers have emerged as a viable alternative to traditional framing. The actual container can be used as is or modified for a larger structure incorporating various green-home technologies. Wikipedia has a very good overview of how shipping containers can be used to build a home. You can read more about it over here //bit.ly/1bar5Kf.

Tin Cans and Plastic/Glass bottles
Other materials that make excellent interior walls are storage cans and/or plastic/glass bottles, such as wine bottles. The cans and bottles are great as non-structural walls and are usually plastered over with either plaster or concrete depending on if they are interior or exterior walls. Bottles have the added benefit of filtering light into the rooms and throwing a lovely rainbow of colours on the walls depending on the colours used. Wikipedia gets detailed with the explanation over here //bit.ly/1P32YKE.

For the Interior

The actual fittings inside your home can also be made from recycled items including sinks, bathtubs, door knobs, etc… Depending on your inclination, your style and your budget, the possibilities of using recycled and reclaimed items in your home are endless. As long as you approach your project holistically and you take into consideration your building site, your local climate, your neighbourhood’s constraints and any local by-laws governing construction, the sky really is the limit.

Green Home Architecture

150 150 Nisha Muire

Green architecture are buzzwords that are gaining in strength and credence as more people begin to understand what the craze is about. In the not-too-distant past, people were understandably wary of green home architecture as the eco-friendly buildings produced in that category were not as comfortable or inviting as standard homes. However, big strides have been made in this area and today’s eco-friendly properties are very much the way of the future.

What is Green Architecture? Green architecture really encompasses anything designed for sustainability, durability and efficiency. Usually green home designs include one or more of several elements, such as:

passive envelopes
renewable energy options
water capture features
natural waste water treatment for reuse in non-potable functions
living, reflective or adobe style roofs
repurposing existing materials
using recycled materials
compostable sewage options

The goal of green architecture is to build structures that give off zero emissions and that generate their own energy.

If you are interested in building a green home, then it is very important to hire the right people to help you design it. Hiring an architect or an architectural firm well-versed in eco-friendly design and construction will ensure that you have the proper planning, certification and studies done prior to the actual building of your project.

It is important to have a thorough assessment of your building site to determine the proper placement of your property to maximize passive heating and cooling options, the feasibility of renewable energy sources and the impact of the construction on the environment. Once all of these things have been determined, then a proper eco-friendly design can be proposed and the right materials can be sourced.

Green architecture might cost a little bit more than regular architecture, but costs are improving every year and the savings that you will see from better insulation and a lower footprint will more than compensate for the initial expenses.

Hiring An Architect in Toronto

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There is some essential information you need when hiring an architect in Toronto – or anywhere else for that matter! Asking the right questions will ensure that you pair up with an architect who best suits your needs, your style and your budget. Although you might imagine that all architects provide the same kind of service, the truth is, every architect has their own vision and their own unique style. Knowing what to ask will definitely help when making a choice that will influence your project, your build and your future more than you would expect.

1) What is your style?

Ask to see different projects that the architect you are interviewing has worked on to see if their style of design matches your own sensibilities. If you prefer a charming, traditional style of home and the architect specializes in sleek, modern buildings, then you will not be happy with the outcome.

2) Budget?

Architects are paid a percentage of the overall project budget. How large that percentage is will depend on the renown of the firm/architect and the services that are included with the price. Usually the total cost of a project is hard to determine up front, so many architects will charge an hourly rate or a flat retainer fee to be paid monthly. Once the project is completed, then they will adjust the fee according to the overall cost. Expect to pay between 5-20% of the project’s cost.

3) Will you be designing my project?

Unless you are working with a small, proprietor-owned firm, the person you meet with to hire the firm will not be the same as the person designing your project – this is a very important consideration. Designing is a fluid process that will require a lot of communication between yourself and the designer, so be sure to find out how accessible the designer of the project will be to answer your questions, make revisions and to make suggestions.

4) Ancillary services

Find out what kind of ancillary services your architect offers. From getting the right work permits to hiring the contractors to checking up on the work happening at the job site – some architects will do it all and some won’t. If you want someone who will take care of everything for you, then be up front about your requirements. If your architect cannot provide this for you, then you can move on to a firm that will act as project manager.

5) Can they provide 3D renderings of your project?

Some people might be able to visualize a finished project by simply looking at blueprints, but if you are not such a person, then find out whether the architect can provide 3D renderings of the finished project. Larger numbers of firms are using such software to better illustrate their plans. It is a good way to see whether you and the architect are on the same page stylistically and architecturally.

Some other information to obtain from an architect is whether they can suggest good contractors for the work you need done. Architects usually have access to a few contractors with whom they work well and who are reliable.

Finding an architect can be done by consulting Architecture Canada’s directory found here https://raic.org/members-directory, talking to local contractors, asking friends and family and looking them up online.

As long as you do your due diligence, you will find the architect that suits you best – both stylistically and financially.

Building your Own Home in Toronto

150 150 Nisha Muire

Building your own home can be a very exciting project to take on – it can also be very stressful and expensive if you are not fully prepared for it. Knowing your costs up front and budgeting more than you expect is a good place to start. However, if you know that you won’t have time to go to the job site every day, to oversee the contractors and to ensure that the work is going according to plan, then it is best to hire a good project manager to help you out.

There are two kinds of costs involved with the construction of a house – the hard costs and the soft costs. The hard costs are the prices given to you by the contractors for their work, the cost of the materials, land, etc… The soft costs include legal fees, architect or engineering fees, building application fees, soil testing, etc… While most people know about the hard costs, the soft costs can easily tack on an extra $20,000 to the price of your new build. The soft costs are very similar to the closing costs associated with a resale home purchase.

Another aspect you need to include in your costs will be the cost of preparing your land to be built on. If it isn’t cleared you will need to clear it, then add a septic tank or pay to have it hooked up to the local sewer/water supply. You will also need to pay to have it hooked up to the local electrical grid.

You can find a good building costs calculator over here //bit.ly/199wCAK.

Architect or Prefab
Knowing your costs can only be done if you have a plan from which to build. There are two options when it comes to a plan – buying a prefab home where the plan is already included in the housing kit or hiring an architect. An architect will be able to help you design the house of your dreams and will also, in the majority of cases, be able to provide you with the cost estimates for the project as well. Larger architectural firms will also act as the project manager for you. If you go with the prefab option, then they will give you the choice of building it yourself or having them build it for you.

Proper Permits
Building your own home will require the proper documentation at the local and municipal level so that you don’t get fined subsequently. You can read more about Toronto building permits over here //bit.ly/199vxc3.

Finding the right contractors for your project is also crucial to ensuring that costs remain on target and the project moves along as scheduled. It is important to find reputable contractors who will be present for the entirety of the project and not sub-contract the work out to someone else. You can find a list of contractors at the Ontario Contractors website at www.ontariocontractors.com.
Building your own home can be a terrific experience as long as you are financially and mentally prepared for it.

First Time Fixer-Upper In Toronto

1024 683 Chris

First-time homebuying in any city can be stressful, when it’s in a city like Toronto where the property market is sizzling, the pressure to find a good deal is even greater. Many buyers who want the best value for their money opt to invest in a fixer-upper. Here are some answers to the concerns you may have as a first-time home buyer of a property with potential.

The number one piece of advice for anyone buying a fixer-upper is to find a good inspector in your area qualified for the type of house you are buying. If you are thinking about buying an older home, make sure you tell the inspection service that you are in need of someone who is knowledgeable about homes of that age. If you suspect that there are structural problems, then calling in a contractor to check out the property is a good idea. In fact, having a contractor take a look at the house will also get you get a better estimate of what you might expect to spend.

When it comes to renovating a fixer-upper, be sure to know your budget and how much each project will cost. The very first thing you should do is to ensure that your infrastructure is solid. If there are any electrical problems to address or plumbing kinks you want to work out, then that is what you should tackle first. Once your infrastructure is good, then you will want to start with the projects that are most important first. Kitchens and bathrooms are where the bulk of your money should go after infrastructure as these two areas will immediately boost the resale value of your home. Budget according to what each project should cost, but allow room for unforeseen problems that might arise.

While renovating a home may seem like the easy route to your dream house, you have to be aware of your financial boundaries. Over budgeting or cost overruns can creep up on you and can cause major dilemmas. Making sure that you do not face these potential problems can be as simple as planning for contingencies, paying a lot of attention to project planning and constantly tracking your progress. If you do get in over your head, take a deep breath and consider the following options: seeking more funding, reducing the project scope, and reassigning your resources to lower cost ones.

The next crucial piece of advice to remember is to be realistic about how long it will take to renovate – usually double what you estimate as most projects will take longer than anticipated. Deciding if you want to live in a house under construction or want to find somewhere else to stay while doing major work is essential to maintaining your sanity and relationship (if you are in one) intact. Unless you’re okay with sleeping in an unfinished house with sawdust and power tools hanging about, finding a place to recharge comfortably every night would be a good idea.

For some couples, rebuilding a home is a fantastic bonding experience, for others it can cause tension and tears. Couples often forget or may not even know that remodeling a home is extremely taxing on a relationships and can put a huge strain on the people involved. Your tolerance will be put to the test through the demanding and strenuous work in renovating your first house together. Making compromises, communication, picking your battles, knowing your limits and not being afraid to ask for help are some key factors in having your relationship survive a remodel.

Choosing to buy a fixer-upper has its rewards; while it may involve hard work, careful planning and patience, it will all be worth it in the end when you have the house of your dreams at the price you wanted.

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