Perspectives of a Bloor West Village House Addition

 At a mere 576 square feet, this was one of the smallest bungalows in Toronto. Like so many of the renovations we do, this home began as a starter-home, but as the family expanded, so did the need for space.


Exterior of the Bloor West bungalow prior to the addition.


These homeowners had a tight budget and a modest wish list. They wanted more storage space, an open concept for the main floor, and to add a second storey to the home that included three bedrooms and a bath. Because the footprint was so tiny, as their design/build contractor, our biggest question was, “How best to fit three bedrooms, a bathroom and a set of stairs into roughly 576 square feet?”


Here is their renovation story.


Vantage Point: Heather

We purchased the home in 2007, and during that first year, we moved the bedroom from the main floor to the basement, which gave us more main-floor living space. Even though this home has a small footprint, we always thought it would be a good one to top-off. In fact, “How should we change the home?” was often a topic of conversation when we had friends over for dinner.


Vantage Point: Jon

Our single-floor bungalow was indeed small, but it was fine for the two of us. It got tight when our son was born, and there were three.


Heather:  The basement living space was L-shaped and by using a glass partition wall, we made the space into two bedrooms. Our bedroom didn’t have a door – you walked down the steps into our room, and our son’s room was behind the partition wall. When he was a baby, this arrangement made for really long nights when he would lie awake crying.


Jon:In the decision to move or improve, the cost was a big factor. If we were to move, I’d estimated it would cost between at least $35,000 for everything – from paying land-transfer taxes (to the city and the province), to moving expenses and legal fees. After looking at these expenses, we figured we were much better off staying put and improving.


Heather: We compared what we’d lose if we sold the house. We currently have a two-car garage, and if we sold the house, we knew we’d lose the garage and parking. We also have a nice-sized yard – which is a big deal for the city. We didn’t want to give up our green space. Our neighbourhood is walkable and kid-friendly, which also was a factor in our decision to stay.


Tiny Kitchen Before

Jon:  When we decided to renovate, we looked at five or six different contractors. One contactor was very dismissive, actually, and wanted to increase our budget by about 75%. We got a good vibe from Lou [of Inspire Homes]. We talked to a few of his past customers and felt comfortable moving forward with him.


Inspire Homes wasn’t the cheapest, but Lou was the most measured and reassuring when he went through the process with us. He did the design/build, so we got the design first, and then signed on to the build portion. It was nice to know that we had a ‘get out’ if we got cold feet or decided not to undertake the expense right away.

Kitchen After


Heather:  Lou got back to us right away and was open to meeting with us. Of course, the budget was a concern. We had a few contractors scoff at the budget and tell us that it was completely impossible. One contractor even said, “You’ll never find someone who will do a reno of this scale at that price.”


Jon:  We didn’t have a huge budget and we didn’t have a lot of space. Lou drew up a series of plans for the ground and second floors. Once we chose a layout, it was a matter of setting the budgets. Lou made it perfectly clear that everything over those pre-determined budgets would increase the cost of the job.


Heather:  Lou mentioned many times to us that it was easy to go over budget, but he made the budgets for each area pretty clear. When we visited the suppliers, the budget was bang-on to what he said.


Jon:  The other big concern was schedule. You hear the horror stories and people told us that if the contractor told us four months, we should allow for six. But we didn’t have any of those issues.


Heather:  The reno required us to move into a furnished rental for the winter, which was a huge undertaking. We were concerned about the schedule. At one point, it looked like the project was about a week behind schedule, but that didn’t last long. He got caught back up quickly, stuck to his word and finished on time.


Kitchen Before and After


Jon:  The best part of the improved home is the space. The ground floor is a totally open concept, and we have three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. We aren’t living on top of everything anymore.


Heather:  The first floor open concept allows me to look straight out and see the greenery in the back yard. It is so relaxing. Our old place was dark and cramped, and we always felt like there wasn’t space for anything. We are so happy with our main floor, now. We have lots of natural light.


We have trees at the front of our home, so in the upstairs bedrooms it gives a wee-bit of tree house effect because you can look into the trees. Having an second storey addition is wonderful.