Every project has a budget. Even the big budgets have a budget.  I have a few go to products and tips that are easy ways to save a bit here, so that if you like, you can spend it there.  (There, could be on shoes). I've been doing a small exterior renovation, with the odd interior aesthetic improvement.  These smaller jobs and decisive clients are blissful.  No permits, no extensive drawing packages, just quick, instant gratification. Sometimes Your Designer Friend and co. likes a break from the roof top deck detailing!

This couple owns a semi-detached in Parkdale.  We can try to call it Queen West, but hey, it's Parkdale and we're proud to be the trail blazers that live there! I live in that hood too.

Their home is classic, typical really.  Brick facade, traditional header and bay window.  They are young (30's ) work in TV, and want the exterior to speak to the interior and their contemporary sensibilities.

What we're doing:

New front walkway  - 

We've removed the classic sidewalk style concrete walk and installed new poured concrete, with a dark grey tint.  Poured concrete is economical, and what I do is pour it in one continuous walk then once partially cured have saw cuts placed every few feet, either tight together or well apart, to create a more contemporary layout.  I also have the concrete tinted, usually dark grey.  It costs nothing extra, but looks slick and custom.  If you have a bit more in your budget, have stainless steel metal strips installed at each break in the concrete. 

New steps and landing -

This front entry was small, so we were able to splurge on the wood.  Ipe, is amongst the most durable, hard wearing and lifetime lasting.  It's so hard the contractor will curse you at how many saw blades he (or she) breaks trying to cut it.  The colour is deep and rich and instantly adds value.  I tend to detail expensive stairs and hand rails, or so I'm told.  I like my stair detail to have an apron of sorts.  Typical steps have a riser, flat and practical, and the treads which simply sit atop and overhang the riser.  I like to have a nosing, minimum 2"wrap down to create a deeper overhang.  the riser can be painted out to save money on material.  This seems like a small amount, but Ipe is expensive and a black painted riser can save hundreds.


Privacy screen -

This house shares a dividing panel with its neighbour.  Let's just say the neighbour does not have a Designer Friend.  We decided to use this area to set the modern tone for the house.  I detailed a slated wood screen that sits tight against black painted exterior grade plywood.  this area is covered so the minimum exposure to the elements will be fine for this application. I detailed the screen in proportions that are easily achieved with stock material.  The lumber is available in 1 1/4" thickness x 5"width.  I had originally wanted 1 1/2", but decreased it so that the carpenter can simply rip the 5"planks into 4 equal pieces.  Working a design around what is available saves a bundle.  They would have had to cut down every slat if I'd not redesigned.  Understanding that labour accounts for 2/3's of the average construction budget speaks to the importance of keeping the designs efficient when possible.


Paint -

Black, black, black, black, BLACK.  When in doubt, paint your trim and doors black.  Nothing crisps a facade, or modernises a traditional detail like a fresh coat of black paint.  Natural wood tones sit best against it and honestly, I've never seen an application that I think looks bad.  All the trim on this home will be done in an eggshell black: not so flat it looks chalky, and not so shiny it shows all the imperfections of older trim.

Hardware -

This is an area that typically draws allot of unnecessary money.  There are many high end options for house numbers, mail boxes and exterior lights.  I use them, and job specific wouldn't do otherwise.  There are however, a few go to options that I spec more often than not.  Lowes is my favorite big box hardware store.  Their buyers have a keener eye for design than the competition and their volume sales keep the costs low.  I've used house numbers from Lowes and the Soho Mailbox from Summerhill on this project.


House Numbers $7.57 each available in stainless steel black and bronze, Lowes


mail box $63.98 in stainless steel, Lowes


Soho Mailbox $154.94 (on sale now for 30% off this price), Summerhill Hardware


Lowes Home and Garden
1300 Castlefield
Toronto, Ontario
Summerhill Hardware
95 Ronald Ave Toronto, Ontario 416.787.1787