There's a big difference between renovating a house and building one from scratch.
"Renovations tend to be more challenging because there is always a glitch," said Kim Schroeder, owner of Charisma Design in Winnipeg.
For example, her company is remodeling a 25-year-old home in St. Vital that requires new hardwood flooring and an up-to-date fireplace, among other design changes. The flooring seemed a straightforward job until a large hump was discovered in the floor, hidden by the dining room table.
"When we removed the table, it became evident that the crown in the floor would have to be leveled before new hardwood could be laid," Schroeder said.
Jen Derrett, of The Floor Show in Winnipeg, said the problem was fixed by removing the original sub-floor, then replacing it with sheets of plywood shimmed along the joists to create a level area base for the new floor.
"We used American black walnut manufactured in Canada by Mirage because the people at Charisma Design are perfectionists who demand the best-quality materials available," said Derrett, adding her company refers to Mirage products "as the Lexus of hardwoods."
The 3ü"-by-3/4" tongue-and-groove solid walnut is pre-finished with a special elastic "nanotechnology" coating that will absorb the impact of a dropped object without smashing or shattering, and also contains UV protectors.
Moreover, Derrett said American walnut is easy on the feet as it is a medium-dense hardwood weighing about 40 pounds per cubic foot compared to 45 to 50 pounds per cubic foot for Canadian rock maple, another hardwood used extensively for flooring.
Freshly cut walnut is a cocoa colour that turns a rich black-brown when a finish is applied. The sapwood from the outer layers of the tree is a creamy colour that contrasts handsomely with the dark heartwood, evident in the 1,200-square-foot floor installed in the St. Vital residence. With the floor problem solved, another glitch appeared when the traditional brick fireplace was removed, Schroeder said. "We uncovered a wall that looked as if it was either charred or covered with black mold."
The area was sealed with six-mil poly to prevent the substance from spreading. "In the spring when the weather is warm, we'll cut through an outside wall so we can extract the sooty-looking material," she said.
The new fireplace was installed by Alsip's Building Products and Services of Winnipeg. The natural gas unit, manufactured by Montigo, is capable of cranking out 80,000 BTUs or the equivalent of an average-size furnace, said an Alsip's spokesman.
With the unit's linear design, the exhaust can be power vented under the floor and out a side wall, so there is no bulky chimney required inside the house, he said. Also, fresh air is drawn into the burner from outside the house, making the unit energy-efficient.
The Alsip's spokesperson said the model installed in St. Vital residence is considered a luxury unit with a 61-inch-long by 18-inch-wide glass opening, and glass stones to refract light from the burner's flame. The price for this model is $12,500, plus about $5,500 for installation, he added.
Porcelain tiles of differing sizes, supplied by Ames of Winnipeg, cover the wall that surrounds the inset fireplace. Depending on a person's point of view, the burnished tiles reflect copper and bronze hues that complement the black walnut floor.
"We also installed a series of pot lights on the underside of the fireplace frame to draw the eye to the area and to illuminate tiles that form a ledge in the front of the Montigo," said Charisma designer Brennen Bilyk, adding that a small alcove to the right of the fireplace and lit from above is intended to showcase a sculpture or special piece of art.
Bilyk said a 60-inch flatscreen TV will be installed above the fireplace, but without the normally conspicuous array of audio-visual devices.
"The electronic devices are hidden in a nearby cupboard where they can be controlled by a single remote control. This leaves the screen with a clean, modern look that echoes the stark lines of the fireplace."
Other renovations to the home include the addition of a larger black granite countertop to an existing kitchen island, the removal of wallpaper from most of the downstairs, and a foyer highlighted by a curved stairway with red oak rails and banister.
Since most of the lower floor was being renovated anyway, owners Ruth and Ted decided to redo a small bathroom close to the home's front entrance and, for good measure, replace two chandeliers. Ruth said the final decision on what the new chandeliers will look like is still being debated.
"We suggest to clients what we consider are the most appropriate options," Bilyk said. "But we are more than willing to listen to and accept their proposals."
"It's a business of compromise and overcoming those inevitable glitches," added Schroeder. "But that's what makes it interesting."
With more than 30 renos currently on the go, she and her staff of two can look forward to many more challenges.
For her part, Ruth said she's pleased with Charisma Design's attention to detail, quality of workmanship and top-of-the-line products and materials.
"I only have one misgiving," she added. "If I'd known how much dust and noise was involved in a renovation, I'd have moved to B.C. and stayed with my sister for the duration."