Bonnie Dittrich may not be schooled in interior de-sign, but her keen sense of decorating has been honed by years of experience. At 34 years old, she has already transformed three houses from dilapidated to desirable.
This experience has given her the skills she needs to finish one of the most ambitious “renovation” projects she and her husband, Benji, have undertaken to date: a towering custom-built home on a tiny piece of property that backs onto Paris St. and fronts onto Lake Nepahwin.
“If you have a good sense of colour, then everything just kind of springs from there,” she said.
“I’ve loved colour and design from a young age. I was one of those kids who had a Crayola interior design craft kit. I was always artsy.”
Dittrich is a hairstylist and is the co-owner of Lookin’ Good beauty salon with her sister, Lisa Schryer. The New Sudbury business provides her with a creative outlet for her massive stores of energy and enthusiasm as she gets to play with texture and colour — in people’s hair — all day long.
Texture and colour play pivotal roles in the interior design of her new home. This fall, she and Benji are planning to move into the house that was once a run-down one bedroom cottage.
The couple purchased the site three years ago for a bargain, at a time when the Greater Sudbury housing market was relatively soft.
Since then, the real estate market has exploded, forcing housing prices through the roof. The most highly sought-after homes are on the lake. So one could say they are “sitting pretty.”
Dittrich is the first to admit that realizing their dream for the property has been a challenging process.
As Sudbury is also in the throes of a new housing boom, finding quality tradespeople has been difficult and costly. So the couple has opted to do as much of the work themselves. Benji is a building contractor by trade.
The new home is technically considered a “renovation” as that was their original intent when they bought the property. But after stripping away the building and discovering that the foundation was in poor condition, the original plans were abandoned.
With a new design in the offing, a ton of paperwork was required, and the couple had to apply for numerous building variances, all of which had to be approved by the city’s committee of adjustments.
From the street, all people see is a unique stainless-steel clad home that sits next to its former twin cottage and is nestled between a tall apartment complex and luxury condominiums. But the action is all happening on the inside, away from prying eyes.
“The exterior is very contemporary and industrial. We want to carry that look over to the inside,” Dittrich explained.
Contemporary. Industrial. And low maintenance. Three factors that have weighed heavily into Dittrich’s decorating decisions — a process that is slowly evolving as the couple juggle their businesses, along with completing their dream home. Creating a low-maintenance home has been critical, as the duo long for a time when building renovations no longer rule their personal lives.
Each floor of the three-storey home has been decked with 12” x 24” black ceramic tiles that are reminiscent of slate. Many of the tiles are cut into unique patterns to add interest, including a stunning herringbone design in the master bedroom and bathroom. Small stainless steel tiles and white marble tiles have also been added as accents in different locations, enhancing the floors’ modern day feel.
Two of the building’s three bathrooms (there is one on every floor, not including the urinal in the garage located in the basement) have been outfitted with 1”x 1” glass tiles.
Glass tiles are normally reserved for wall treatments but, once Dittrich laid her eyes on the scarlet red glass tiles at a local store, she envisioned them on the floor of the main-floor bathroom. No one could give them a good enough reason to not lay glass tiles on the floor, and so the dramatic floor came to life.
“I just love the mosaic look,” she said. “It adds such great interest to an otherwise plain bathroom.”
The bathroom on the top floor has been given a similar treatment, except this room boasts iridescent glass tile. All bathrooms have been outfitted with simple white acrylic toilets, tubs and shower stalls, which allow the flooring to really shine.
“The biggest challenge for me so far has been finding bathroom vanities,” she said. “There’s so much choice out there that it’s hard to decide on what’s going to work.”
With such drama going on with the floors, not to mention the spectacular view of the lake, Dittrich has opted to keep her paint palette minimal.
“I’m going with white,” she said matter-of-factly. “We don’t have a ton of wall space (each floor is roughly 600 square feet). Plus with all the windows and the dark floors, we need to keep things as neutral as possible.”
She plans to introduce punches of colour when she furnishes the home. Furnishing the home promises its own set of challenges. The house design (drafted by Guy Delays) incorporates a columnar element that is just as unique in the Lake Nepahwin landscape as it is to interior design.
“The round section was a big learning curve for us, in terms of building it and when it comes to interior furnishings,” she said with a laugh. “You can’t put a straight-backed piece of furniture against these walls.”
Luckily much of the column’s living space will be taken up by a set of circular stairs that will rise up from the basement to the top floor. The steel stairs are being custom cut and welded on site by Benji. The column will be open to all floors, allowing the occupants to view the full height (or depth, depending on what floor you’re looking from) of the building’s interior.
In keeping with the contemporary theme, Dittrich has chosen flat, simple cupboards for her kitchen. The doors will be maple, dressed with long, straight, stainless steel handles. The counter top will be black granite, working in tandem with the flooring.
As for the home’s many windows, Dittrich plans on keeping things practical. The bathrooms all have privacy glass, so window treatments aren’t required.
“I don’t plan on putting up any kind of curtains on the main floor, but I may revisit that in the future,” Dittrich said.
The second floor windows will be dressed with long, flowing drapes to create a boudoir effect. And the windows on the third floor, which will be used by the couple as a den area, will likely have blinds.
“I suffer from allergies, so I try to keep things as low-maintenance as possible,” she said. “I don’t want to be spending a lot of time fussing over my house. I’m extremely practical.”