Four years ago Amber Salach and her fiancé, Matthew Schultze, purchased a downtown home in need of some tender loving care for $90,000. They could sell the house for several times that amount today, but they’re not selling.
Their home is priceless. It would be hard, if not impossible, to put a dollar figure on the cost of the labour the couple and their families put into renovating the home from top to bottom. The DIY project took two years to complete.
Salach, an architect—the only woman architect in the city—works for Yallowega Belanger Architecture. Schultze is a carpenter with the eyes and hands of an artist. So it makes perfect sense that they would take on the challenge of transforming a dowdy 80-year-old house with a mishmash of small rooms into a modern open-concept living space that would showcase their talents.
Like many young people, the 30-something couple wanted to live downtown because of its central location. They are 10 minutes from almost anywhere in the city, and some days they have the luxury of coming home for lunch.
“We wanted something affordable. Something with character,” says Salach.
The two-storey brick home, built in 1927, looks so perfect that photographs taken before and as the walls came tumbling down are shocking.
“We’re happy we did it, but we would never do this again,” says Salach, as she sips white wine in the living/dining area that would not look out of place in any home decorating magazine. The contemporary room shines with strong lines, smooth surfaces, shades-of-white walls and minimal accessories.
The house was stripped to its foundation. R40 spray foam insulation, and new electricial wiring and plumbing were installed. The couple took advantage of Ontario home energy eco-retro fit rebates for home energy-saving renovations.
Schultze built a new front porch, and raised the ceiling in the second-floor master bedroom by extending the roof.
The couple went on a treasure hunt to find good prices on surplus hardwood flooring and retro lighting fixtures. Salvaged wood from old Sudbury Secondary School gym bleachers were sanded down and refinished then installed as a counter ledge in the dining room. A collection of antique door knobs in foyer make a whimsical place to hang hats.
The bargain-hunters “splurged” on the porceclain tile used for the fireplace, countertops, walls and floors. Then the DIYers salvaged what they could from the home’s original wood trim and stripped years of paint off the original wooden doors upstairs.
“Original brass hardware on the doors,” Salach proudly points out.
Schultze crafted a bookshelf out of the original Douglas fir stairs leading to the second floor. An old wooden door now has a central role as a desk in Salach’s home office, which is located off the kitchen.
“We couldn’t bear to throw anything out,” says Salach.
Unfortunately, the claw-footed bathtub could not be salvaged and was replaced with a walk-in shower.
The master bedroom also hold treasures. A handsome wood church alter is used as a headboard. Salach decorated the room with fabrics and memorabilia from her travels while she was studying architecture in Spain.
The couple met when Salach was attending architectural school in Ottawa. They had a long-distance relationship for a number of years, and recently became engaged.
They have plans to renovate the basement to give them more living space, and they want to finish the mud room at the back entrance that was added during the renovations.
In the meantime, Salach and Schultze are happy to relax by their gas fireplace knowing there is no place like their home.