Times Colonist Feature: Renovation in just 7 weeks

Photograph by: Debra Brash, Times Colonist

Read the full article at the Times Colonist website

Shirley Clare and her builder Mike Knight know how to make tracks.

In just seven weeks he managed to rip out all her townhouse’s carpets, cabinets, tile, plumbing and electrical fixtures, appliances, fireplace, baseboards and crown moulding — then totally renovate her 2,300-square-foot home, and put it all back together again.

“It was quite amazing,” said Clare. “Watching Mike’s crew get things done was like watching one of those reality home shows. All his guys were absolutely wonderful, happy, charming and good workers.”

She happened to mention one day that she likes Mars bars, and from that day forth, one of the guys would reach into his pocket and present her with one each day — although sometimes she admits they forgot until late in the day and she ended up enjoying a slightly melted version that had been in someone’s pocket a little too long.

The rush job was necessary because Clare had sold her other house and the people were moving in. Luckily, she found a new home in record time, but wanted to completely remodel the Ten Mile Point house, which had been built in 1989.

Within five minutes of taking possession and handing Knight the keys, his crew was tearing it all apart.

“I had to run around like crazy too, because I had to pick out everything and get it all ordered so it would arrive on time. Everything in here is new now, right down to the hinges. Everything except me, that is.”

Clare’s decisions came easily because she is an experienced decorator, although not a professional. She did take a course years ago, and worked on a few show homes as a sideline when her children were young, but mostly her experience has been hands-on.

Clare has moved 26 times and admits design is in her blood.

“I was forever coming home and announcing to the family, over the dining table, that we were moving again.”

The Alberta-born dynamo first owned a few houses with her mother, and then with her husband in Arizona, Quebec and Alberta. Then, after she was widowed in 1998, she had a place in Maui and a series of five homes here in the past dozen years, in the McKenzie area, Cordova Bay, Sidney and Gordon Head.

“But it started long before that. When I was a kid, Dad would rake up the leaves and I would rake them apart again and make a house. I was always rearranging the furniture at home.

“Real estate is my thing and I’ve always done well with my investments. I enjoy renovating and decorating — but I’m never leaving here because I could never replace this view.”

She fell in love with her new property, high on the point, because of its sunrise-to-sunset vistas and because it had a perfect alcove for her piano. The location was beautiful, but the home needed freshening up.

“There were different colour carpets in every room, old appliances in places that didn’t work well for me, and a lot of old, dated tile everywhere. The baseboards were very narrow, as was the crown moulding.”

Her kitchen is a much more appealing workspace now, thanks to a widened doorway, quartz counter and glass tile backsplash.

“I moved the sink so it would be by the window and moved the stove to the same side.” She expanded the countertop at the dining-room end, and had legs attached underneath so it looks like a piece of furniture.

Brightness was enhanced with the installation of 47 pot lights and she had all the skylights replaced with tinted glass, to protect her furniture and new Brazilian cherry floors.

Little was changed in the master bedroom, except for new base, crown moulding and doors, but she did remodel the walk-through closet leading to the ensuite. She had interior folding doors removed and added pocket doors on the bathroom and bedroom sides, to save space.

Clare has a few simple decorating rules, beginning with: “Less is more and no clutter.” She uses neutral colours, mostly black, taupe and beige and is never afraid to mix woods or patterns.

She tends to accessorize with odd numbers, whether fruit in a bowl, tulips in a vase, or groupings on a sideboard, “although with groupings of over five, anything goes.”

“The most important thing when doing a reno is finding the right contractor who has his own crew and can guarantee the work will be done in a reasonable time and on budget. Also, don’t order things sight unseen, or from abroad, unless you are willing to wait.

“I can’t say enough about Mike Knight. To be able to pull this off in seven weeks was really something. I was so impressed with him and his crew. There were at least three people here every day, just like he promised.”

Clare had done a lot of renos before but never such an extensive one. She started by interviewing three contractors, and what sold her on Knight was when he asked if he could bring his trades to the interview.

“Five or six fellows showed up all at once including a painter, woodworker and electrician. It was a chance for me to meet them all and see their quality.

“Mike Knight told me his trades would be here every day and they were. And the job even came in a little under his estimate, which was impressive.”

Knight said working at such speed, with layers of trades all on site at the same time, is not something he normally does.

“But I have a good, full-time crew of six and trades that I’ve worked with for years and years, so once in a while I can call on them to all work together. You’ve got to make sure you’re very organized, so it will flow.

“Shirley had to be very organized too, which is another reason the project went really well. It was an awesome, satisfying job and she is really nice to work for, really appreciative.”

Knight has been doing more of this kind of job in recent years.

“There is a lot of this renovating and updating going on, and we are often asked to give an older home a more open concept.