Choosing the Right Reno for a Mid-20th Century Home that Needed a Complete Overhaul
Text by Martha Uniacke Breen
Photography by Brandon Barré
“Most people tend to look at their homes through rose-coloured glasses,” says renovation expert and HGTV host Bryan Baeumler. They long for state-of-the-art kitchens, spa bathrooms, and man-caves laden with big-screen TVs, and other toys – but overlook a leaking roof.
That’s where Baeumler and the team at his HGTV show, Leave It To Bryan, come in. The premise of the show is that homeowners discuss three renovation options they’d like to tackle, then hand over their keys (and budget) and, well, leave it to Baeumler and his crew to choose which project is most important and to get it done.
It’s a premise that comes naturally to Baeumler, who has been getting his hands dirty building and renovating pretty much all his life. The son of an aircraft engineer and meticulous tinkerer, Baeumler says his earliest memories involve following his dad around as he fixed things around the house.
By the time Bryan was 14, he launched his first business (Moon River Handymen) with a friend at the cottage, doing odd jobs for neighbours. But before construction became his chosen occupation, Bryan studied political science and business at the University of Western Ontario, originally considering a law career.
“But I remember working in an office one day out near the airport and suddenly thinking, ‘What am I doing here? I don’t want to spend my whole life sitting at a desk.’” He went back to his old love of contracting, and hasn’t looked back since.
THE COLD WAR
In this episode of Leave It To Bryan, dubbed ‘The Cold War,’ the homeowners had purchased a mid-20th century home that had almost no work done on it since it was built. This meant that, while many of its lovely period details were still intact, it had very little insulation and woefully outdated plumbing and wiring.
“It basically needed everything done, including insulating the attic and walls, updating the services, new floors and all new windows,” says Baeumler. On cold winter days, he recalls, it was freezing in the bedroom. Because the homeowners eventually planned to continue upgrading the whole house, once the Leave It To Bryan project was complete, the team reasoned that the couple would need a
cosy nest to retreat to during those long days of renovation. With this in mind, the team chose to complete the master bedroom and bath.
To address the lack of insulation, the walls were opened, reinsulated and redrywalled, and foam insulation was blown into the attic, a major source of heat loss in older homes. At one end, the two closet doors were turned from facing each other to face into the room, creating a pretty niche for a vanity under the window.
The original pink-and-green tiled bathroom, which Baeumler describes as “straight out of Mad Men,” was so small, there was barely room for a shower stall. To enlarge it, they stole part of one closet in the master bedroom, and another closet in the guest room on the other side. This gave them plenty of room for a full bath and shower, and a floating double vanity.
The show’s resident interior designer, Rebecca Purdy, sat down with the couple to discuss their tastes in decorating. It was revealed that they love natural textures, soft neutral colours, and wood accents—and the wife’s favourite colour is purple.
“The room is done mostly in restful, warm greys and creams with white, but we added some colourful accents to add interest, such as the purple coverlet,” says Purdy. “The painting over the bed contains all the colours found in the room, so it makes a natural focal point.” Purdy chose a pair of cosy, tufted armchairs in pale cream linen to create a relaxing sitting area by the window.
Taking her cue from the master bedroom’s colour scheme, Purdy opted for grey subway tiles for the bath and vanity walls, porcelain tiles in a slightly darker grey for the floor (whose 12×24-inch size visually enlarges the space even further), and accents in purple and natural textures, for a sophisticated and pulled-together feeling.
“Everyone tends to have the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other,” Baeumler laughs. “Deep down, we probably know which is the more sensible project, but in our ‘lipstick generation,’ we want things to be pretty. With the increasing cost of housing today, a house that’s built well, that’s well-maintained, and with a roof that doesn’t leak, will hold its value the best.”
Watch back-to-back episodes of Season 2 of Leave it to Bryan Thursdays beginning at 10pm ET|PT
And watch for the weekly before and after photos from each episode of the reno transformations here.