Add or expand your closet space with helpful tips and tricks from Scott McGillivray
If you live in a condo or an older house, you know that closet space is at a premium. Adding a closet or expanding an existing one will help to increase the functionality and value of your home. Or, if it’s a low-cost, flexible solution you’re after, stand-alone wardrobes are always an option.
Photography courtesy of istockphoto.com
Adding and increasing
You’d be surprised where you can squeeze in closet space. Consider, for instance, the often overlooked area underneath your staircase. With a little ingenuity, you can really gain some valuable extra storage. If it’s your bedroom closet that’s lacking, you may be able to get away with widening or deepening it – or even building a new one – by expanding into an adjacent room. Just be sure the other space is large enough to give up that square footage without losing its functionality.
Photography courtesy of Stacey Van Berkel
The easiest and most affordable way to increase closet space is by adding stand-alone wardrobes along a wall. What’s great about this solution is that they’re a non-permanent addition, so when it comes time to sell, buyers will be able to visualize the space as either having the extra storage or not.
A lot of people ask me if converting a small bedroom into a walk-in closet is worth it. It’s the simplest and most obvious solution to a lack of closet space in a house, but before you commit to this type of reno, there’s something to consider first. Does your home have four (or more) bedrooms? The most appealing type of property to the majority of prospective buyers is a detached house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Bringing your home down to two bedrooms eliminates a large portion of the home-buying population, so any value you gain by adding the big closet is erased. However, if you plan on staying in your home for the next 20 years and this is a “just for you” renovation, go for it.
Image: Nicole Cohen
After a series of nips and tucks, a derelict brownstone in Brooklyn, N.Y., reaches its full potential – and then some.
Four years ago, Nicole and Jordan Stein made the trip from the maelstrom of midtown Manhattan to a quiet, leafy street in Brooklyn that, compared with the city, felt downright pastoral. They had come to tour a brownstone as part of an estate sale, and immediately saw its potential despite certain drawbacks.
“I definitely had some trepidation because the house was in extremely rough shape,” says Nicole, who designs fine jewellery she sells through her online Etsy shop, ByNicoleAlexis. Conversely, Jordan, a Montreal-born business consultant and entrepreneur, was confident it could be brought back to life – after all, he had watched his parents successfully transform a beat-up Vermont ranch when he was younger.
“Our goal was to marry classic architecture with a modern aesthetic,” says Nicole, who wanted the interior envelope to look original to the house. Though the idea of gutting the space and blasting out the walls was brought up, it didn’t get far. “We bought a brownstone, not a condo,” says Nicole cheekily. “Sure, we have a narrow hallway and a tiny powder room, and yes, it’s a little quirky, but it’s true to the original home.” So the small rooms remained intact and were slowly brought back to code over the course of a year under their contractor’s exacting eye.
Next up? Christine Dovey, a designer based in Oakville, Ont., who has remotely kitted out homes (via email) from America to Norway, stepped in to apply her signature style: ravishing rooms with traditional architectural details in a modern palette of black and white with bursts of pink; spaces in which provocative contemporary artwork often sits alongside antique furnishings.
To deliver an authentic period look, Christine suggested the homeowners invest in crown mouldings. “Nicole wanted something that looked like it was there originally, so we went with big plaster mouldings as a splurge on the living room ceiling but regular crown throughout,” says Christine. Making sure the interior looked more downtown than Downton, the designer balanced the historic architectural elements with what she calls “a mixed bag of edgy yet elegant furnishings.”
In need of some hand holding a little closer to home, Nicole also worked with local designer Natalie Kraiem, who helped achieve the look by choosing key pieces including the rugs and living room artwork.
The sculptural replace in the eat-in area of this Brooklyn, N.Y., brownstone was in such rough shape, it had to be removed and rebuilt. Above it, the enormous antique filigree mirror that belonged to the previous owners lends romance to the space. “We loved it so much we negotiated it as part of the sale of the house,” says homeowner Nicole Stein.
Dripping with crystal beads, the antique brass basket chandelier was a splurge, but Nicole insists it’s a forever piece. “I’m crazy about it too,” says designer Christine Dovey. “I love how it contrasts the rough-hewn wooden table.” The bespoke kitchen peninsula, with its marble waterfall edge, was also pricey, but Nicole had the fabricator use the scraps to make luxurious window ledges. “Everyone comments on them,” she says.
A blend of vintage- and modern-look furnishings gives the formal living room an eclectic, collected feel. Sculptural retro Alky chairs are a fun contrast to the stiff-backed caned settee. Heavyweight-cotton curtains draw the eye up to the 11-foot- high ceiling. They were originally placeholders, but looked so fabulous that Nicole decided to keep them – proving that you don’t always need to spend a mint on custom drapery.
Inspired by the iconoclastic Mexican painter, Frida is a punchy print that presides over this area of the living room, where a brass Sputnik lamp, oversized mirror and sculptural fireplace surround offer exciting diversions.
Wild! This spotted antelope-print runner gives an unexpected punch, introducing a graphic pattern into the front hall. “It’s classic but edgy,” says Christine.
Show-stopping architectural details on the ceiling of the living room’s media area are period appropriate but were non-existent when the couple bought the brownstone. Nicole tracked down a plaster restoration specialist in Long Island, N.Y., and sent Christine samples to narrow down the options. The installation took a week and was definitely a splurge. “It’s a real art. There is literally someone there with a cotton swab and a fine blade forming everything by hand,” says Nicole.
(Photo by: Joe Kim | Recipe & Food Styling: Tanya Eng)
End your Sunday nights with a classic Canadian treat — maple butter tart pie.
Try your hand at this divine recipe, which takes the nationally revered butter tart and makes it even better by turning it into a whole decadent pie, subtly flavoured with our next favourite thing, maple syrup. What does that mean for your final course of the day? As large a portion as you desire and more of that sugary, buttery filling in every single bite. Oh, Canada!
1 In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and lard, and pulse to a fine crumble.
2 Add the egg and water. Process the mixture to a loose, crumbly meal.
3 Work the pastry into a 1"-thick round disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry into a ¼"-thick and 12"-round disc.
4 Roll the pastry around a rolling pin.
5 Unroll over a 9-½" springform pan.
6 Work the pastry into the edges of the pan, forming a loose, wavy crust. Chill for 10 minutes.
7 To blind bake the pastry shell, line the pastry with parchment paper and cover the bottom with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 350ºF; remove the parchment paper and pie weights.
8 To make the filling, whisk together the maple syrup, sugar, melted butter, eggs and vinegar in a bowl.
9 Pour the mixture into the baked shell and place the pie on a baking sheet.
10 Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour on the centre rack of the oven. The pie is done when the top is golden brown but the centre is still wobbly. Let cool before serving.
Serves 8 to 10.
(This recipe was originally featured in our October 2014 issue.)
Enjoy this delicious danish recipe any day of the week.
Created with pure dairy ingredients you'll love this delicious danish recipe from blogger Imen McDonnell's The Farmette Cookbook.
1 Place the sour cream, butter, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over low heat; stir until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat; let cool to room temperature.
2 In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit for 10 minutes.
3 Add the sour cream mixture, eggs and flour; mix to form a very soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
4 Using an electric mixer, beat together the ricotta, sugar, egg, vanilla and salt in a large mixing bowl until well combined.
5 Place the dough on a clean work surface dusted with flour. Knead 6 or 7 times, just until smooth and pliable. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a 12" x 8" rectangle.
6 Spread one-quarter of the filling on each piece of dough. Starting at one of the long sides, roll up the dough jelly-roll style. Pinch the seams and ends together to seal in the filling.
7 Place the pastries seam-side down on a buttered baking sheet and cut slits in the top of each one with a knife. Cover the baking sheet with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm draft-free place for about 1 hour, until the pastries have doubled in size.
8 Heat the oven to 375°F. Bake the pastries for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to wire racks to cool.
9 Place the icing sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in the elderflower cordial a little at a time, until a glaze forms.
10 Drizzle over the cooled danishes, then sprinkle with elderflowers and serve.
Prep & cook time: 6 hours
Makes: 4 pastries
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Excerpted from The Farmette Cookbook by Imen McDonnell. Text and photographs © 2016 Imen McDonnell, Food styling by Sonia Mulford Chaverri and Imen McDonnell. Excerpted by permission of Roost Books. All rights reserved.