For Want Of A Hinge (Part 2)

Given my failure to find any of the hinges that we were looking for at Addison’s, the next stop in my quest was in Waterloo. The Timeless Material Company is another organization specializing in reclaiming materials from older buildings (everything from office buildings to factories to churches) and houses. Situated in a restored barn from the 1840s, they have multiple levels featuring everything from reclaimed flooring (massive amounts, at a surprisingly reasonable per-square-foot costs) to doors, windows, pews and staircases.

The Timeless Material Company in Waterloo. Salvage for sale.

We had first visited the Timeless Material Company with Gene, when we were on the lookout for a potential bathroom vanity. While they didn’t have any candidates at the time, I had filed them away for future possible uses as we proceeded with the renovations. Stock continues to evolve based upon what comes in. A sister company is involved in on-going demolition products, and what can be recovered is either refurbished or sold ‘as is’.

More types of recovered doors than you can possibly imagine. And the hardware to match (sort of).

Having visited twice, I have to say that it is surprisingly impressive what it is possible to salvage. They have the sign from the old ‘Seagram’s Museum’ (one of the first places that I shopped for alcohol in my mis-spent youth), as well as rocks (boulders, really), beams and floorboards. You can get a weathered, 20″ wide piece of lumber in surprisingly good condition (something that, once again, you won’t find at your local hardware store). Although that single piece of wood will also put a surprisingly hefty whole in your wallet. As an example, I saw single boards that were priced at $120. When someone is specifically looking for a wide board as a specific architectural feature, however, I am sure that there are more than a few people that will happily pay the price.

Gorgeous church windows. And boards of a width that you won’t find today. At prices you won’t believe.

The Timeless Material Company also sells hardware, I’m pleased to report (although a surprising amount of it remains attached to salvaged doors). Antique doorknobs, latch sets, mortise locks and the like are all available, although in less selection than Addison’s. This is also an area that they do less work in terms of refurbishment. Much of the hardware is sold ‘as is’, and a good deal of it is going to need a fair bit of sweat equity to bring up to scratch.

From awesome archways to vintage windows, and everything in between.

Sadly, though, there were no hinges of the period that I was looking for. They again had a vast area of tarnished, rusted and well-painted hinges of various eras, but ‘era’ in this context could be defined as ‘seventies’, ‘eighties’ and ‘nineties’ — all firmly in the twentieth century.

They did helpfully suggest a place in Cobourg that specializes in hardware, and is certainly somewhere that I will have to check out. But sadly, I left the Timeless Material Company empty handed, with no material and only an investment of time to show for it.

For Want Of A Hinge (Part 1)

One of the fundamental truths of renovating a very old house is that you never know what you are going to find. Normally, that means that you are going to discover things that you wish you hadn’t (and that will ultimately wind up being far more expensive than you wanted to know). In this case, however, gutting the bathroom resulted in a very pleasant surprise.

It turns out that all of the doors on the upper floor of the original house are original, and are hung on their original hinges. Said hinges have since been painted over many, many times now, of course, but they are – once numerous layers of paint are finally removed – absolutely beautiful. Keelan took the set from the bathroom door to see what he could do with them. After torching them, scrubbing them, brushing them and repainting them, they turned into something pretty spectacular.

I didn’t even know they made hinges like this. Now I need to figure out where I can buy them.

Of course a discovery like this leads to the inevitable comment, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get more of these for the doors downstairs?” So, truth be told, even the positive surprises can wind up getting expensive. The question to be asked in all of this, however, is where one needs to go in order to find such hinges. Certainly they’re not something that you’re going to find in stock in your neighbourhood Home Depot.

There was some question even then about what kind of hinges they were, and whether or not they were in fact antique. The back of the hinges were stamped ‘3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″‘, which even today is a pretty standard size in the way of hinges. The offset pattern for the screws looks pretty similar to modern hinges. And one had to ask the question of whether, back in the late 1800s, they were as organized as all that as to be making standard size hinges, and then taking the time to make impressions in the back specifying just what size they were.

And so, we had a mystery on our hands. One I took it upon myself to attempt to solve as best that I could. Given that there were four doors in the downstairs of the old house (to the basement, to the front hallway, to Dianne’s den and to a new door on my den), the objective was to find four new sets of hinges to match the ones in the rest of the house. And really, how hard could that be?

The first stop in this particular odyssey was Addison’s. For anyone who has renovated anything in Toronto, they will know that Addison’s is the one-stop go-to place for reclaimed hardware of just about any size, shape and colour. It has also been profiled in just about every issue of Toronto Life’s annual “Where To Get Good Stuff Cheap,” for those who are slightly less tuned in. Just off of Sorauren in Toronto’s west end, Addison’s started off as a plumbing company run by Jim Addison, who started off in plumbing and heating in his native Scotland more than 50 years ago.

The entryway to Addison’s. Spectacular, bewildering and awesome in equal measure.

Today, Addison’s is still in the plumbing and heating business – with a three floor warehouse full to the brim of plumbing, electrical, hardware and heating products. They salvage what can be salvaged from houses that are being gutted, renovated or torn down, and sell the results to those who are gutting, renovating or tearing down their houses. If you have a hot water radiator that needs replacing, these are the people to see – they refurbish and restore old ones, as well as selling all the hardware necessary to keep them running.

Radiators are an Addison’s specialty. If you still heat with water, you need these guys.

Addison’s also has an absolutely ridiculous number of plumbing fixtures of every shape, size, purpose, colour and condition imaginable. It is truly spectacular, and organized mostly by category – so there is a reasonable chance of finding what you are looking for, located in proximity to all of the other examples of what you are looking for.

Plumbing fixtures of every size, shape, style, era and usability.

One of the things that they did have, to my surprise and absolute delight, was porcelain door knobs. Apart from replacing the hinges in the lower doors of the house, we are also wanting to replace the door knobs, which are an eclectic mix from several periods, none of which are actually from when the house was built. Briefly distracted, I was able to assemble three full sets of door knobs (at least, I was able to assemble the knobs, if not any of the other hardware I needed). Not knowing what was required in terms of latch sets (and recognizing the bewildering array of latches actually available) I wisely (in my opinion) left that decision for another day.

Door knobs! They have door knobs! Porcelain ones, and many more besides.

After a delightful exploration of a spectacular, if bewildering, array of stuff, we left with our knobs, but sadly not with our hinges. Stock depends upon what is coming out of houses that are being gutted, and most of the hinges they had were slightly worn and tarnished versions of what you would get from your local hardware store. The search would have to continue.

Of Lighting Dangly And Respectable

As we already noted when buying the rest of the lights for the house, the direction that we were going to take was eluding us. Not only were we not seeing any fixtures that worked for us, but we did not even have a clear picture of what we wanted. Not an auspicious place to being the quest for something that was going to stand out pretty substantially in one of the more important rooms of our house (for what’s more important than food, one might ask? Well, there is that, but the bedroom already has its lights, so we’re good there).

Given that we were sorely lacking in inspiration, we decided that there was nothing for it but to go out and get some. Cartwright Avenue in Toronto is home to a spectacular number of lighting stores (not all of which are, to be clear, spectacular — but there are a very large number of them). Right around the corner from Of Things Past, it’s a pretty handy street to scope out if you want to understand the diversity of what is out there in terms of possible lighting fixtures.

And so, one early December day, Dianne and I set out to explore the landscape and find what inspiration we might. To be sure, there were many, many directions that we could have pursued. We quite early along found one fashioned from antlers, for example. Perfect for the modern hunter (and a sure sell south of the border, no doubt).

The NRA firmly defends your right to use this light fixture.

One store was clearly catering to those seeking to channel their inner Louis XIV, with every light in the place fashioned from crystal. Really, one hasn’t seen bling quite like this in, well… a very long time. And with vajazzling no longer trending, hopefully that is the way things shall remain.

This is what a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ looks like when done with lighting.

There were a couple of fixtures that started to frame a direction for us, however. We were wanting to stay within the traditions of the house, for starters. The dining room is part of the original farmhouse, and one of the most attractive rooms within it. There is beautiful, dark-wood wainscotting on all four walls, a built in china cabinet and a gorgeous plaster ceiling (somewhat marred by what was a pretty hideous chandelier). As the main room for entertaining, it needs to have a certain presence. For a chandelier, then, we wanted something that would stand out and provide good ambient light, but that wouldn’t overwhelm the room.

Alright. We’re getting somewhere, here. Not perfect, but better.

One of the early possibilities was a fixture comprised of ornate armatures finished in an antiqued bronze, with each arm topped by an opaque, antique-finished sconce. It didn’t stand out as an absolute winner, but it was the first piece that we had seen that was at least moving in the right direction.

Nice, but big. Overwhelmingly big. And yes, size matters.

The fixtures got larger and more imposing from there, although they continued to evolve style-wise in a relatively appropriate direction. One light in particular stood out at the very last store on the street as being promising. Perhaps a little too promising, however, as with 15 sconces and a span of more than 39″ it would have been pretty imposing even in a dining room on the scale we were working with.

Small. Far too small. Size still matters. But it apparently can get bigger.

We did find one other piece that would have been workable, even preferable, except that it was – at three sconces – far too small. And that’s when we finally asked the question: “Do these come in any other sizes?” As a matter of fact, they do. Many, many other sizes. You can get six-sconce, nine-sconce, twelve-sconce and an absolutely mammoth, 51″ tall and 49″ wide fifteen-sconce version of the same fixture. The latter would have completely overwhelmed not only the room, but the dining room table as well. But finally we had something that looked like it could work.

From here, our journey took us in a slightly different direction. The previous year, when we were outfitting the condo, I had spotted a store in downtown Toronto specializing in antique lighting fixtures. As we were outfitting a pretty modern condo, we didn’t even bother going in. With a 19th century farmhouse on our hands, however, the requirements were now much different. It was time to pay a call to Turn of the Century Lighting.

While some of the stores on Cartwright Ave had been essays in tacky, the experience of walking into Turn of the Century Lighting was overwhelming. Everywhere you looked, there were beautiful, antique (or at least antique-looking) lighting fixtures of every shape, size and application. In fact, the store specializes in stocking both actual antiques and also reproductions that they make on site. Not only were there viable candidates in the store, but they could quite literally build us a custom fixture to our specifications.

Beautiful, decorative features. Absolutely love the detail in the bowl.

There were several lighting fixtures that we were taken with. Many of these had nothing to do with what we were looking for, in fact, and was leading in to the (very expensive) territory of replacing already serviceable fixtures with newer (well, older) equally serviceable (but really, really gorgeous) fixtures. A slippery slope, that one. Reluctantly wrenching ourselves back to some semblance of sanity, we left with a rough quote of what a custom fixture might require and a need to do some serious pondering.

There are totally serviceable fixtures I want to get rid of so I can buy this light.

Ponder we did. Working to build a custom-spec lighting fixture was very tempting, but likely to completely blow the budget. Going with a larger version (but not the fifteen-sconce version!) of the chandelier we had liked was tempting, and much more cost effective. Particularly cost effective when I was able to source one on-line for less than $700, taxes and shipping included. Custom and period was nice, but at the price differential, not THAT nice.

Sconces? Don’t get me started on sconces. Our Visa card can’t afford sconces like this.

And so, at long last, we have a chandelier for the dining room. But I’d still love to find a home for some of the sconces we saw at Turn of the Century Lighting.

We Have a Window!

For the past few weeks, we have had a very large hole in the wall of our future kitchen. The masons did their work, creating the space for a large picture window where previously there had only been stone and mortar. And polyurethane insulation. Which, surprisingly, was actually stronger than the mortar, and was doing an excellent job of keeping the wall together even when the masons had other plans.

As fall turned to winter, however, the wisdom of a large and gaping hole became increasingly questionable. Yes, there was a sheet of wood keeping the weather out. And yes, we had duct-taped the gaps (for we are nothing if not enterprising, and duct tape is nothing if not useful). But the outside has been getting colder, and as a result so has the inside.

So we were excited to learn on our last visit that the window had been completed. And delivered. And was to be installed the next day.

Our new kitchen window, delivered and waiting to be installed.

During renovations, rooms do funny things. They get bigger. And then they get smaller. The hole in the wall looked a lot smaller than the nine-feet-wide that it was supposed to be. But the window leaning against the wall in the great room looked a whole lot bigger when examined up-close-and-personally.

Still a little rough around the edges. Installation was a challenge.

The actual installation was apparently a little bit of a challenge. Normally, you pop the window into a ready made frame, wedge in a couple of shims to make it level, drive in a few screws to keep it in place and spray-foam around the edges. In this case, however, the window was going into a stone wall that is more than a foot thick. This required some more framing, some delicate balancing and some innovative thinking on Gene’s part to get everything to go together and stay put.

The view from outside. It looks like it has always been there.

But stay put the window did. Everything is bolted firmly in place. We now have a window in our kitchen. A very, very big window. A window that, now that it is installed, looks for all the world like it belongs. And that is a very good thing indeed.

Knob and Tube and Angst No More…

As noted earlier in the process of buying Boo Manor, we had a slight issue regarding the presence of knob-and-tube wiring in the house. Not a lot, mind you, and not in any way a safety hazard, but our insurers chose not to see things the same way.

While the wiring for the kitchen was being done, however, we got a welcome surprise: the knob and tube in the dining room is no more. In its place is shiny new wiring, to its own dedicated circuit. And a lot of small holes in our ceiling.

I certainly understand why the knob-and-tube wiring still remained. While the rest of the house was completely rewired during an earlier renovation, including complete replacement of the panel, the dining room represents a bit of a challenge logistically. Three of its four walls were originally exterior; behind the plaster-and-lathe, there is rock. Thick rock. There is no elegant way to get into the walls (elegant, in the context, being code for ‘non-destructive’).

A tell-tale trail of holes where the knob-and-tube used to be.

The ceiling in the dining room, however, has gotten to the point in its life where it needs to be resurfaced. And the chandelier needs to be taken out back and put out of its misery. Both of these facts create an opportunity – if you are going to be refinishing the ceiling, then no one is going to notice a couple of temporary holes along the way.

The end result is that the scary exterior light is no more, and there is new, modern wiring to an actual, modern junction box above the exterior door. There is also now proper wiring to the ceiling fixture in the dining room. And, just because we could, we also have a switched exterior outlet that can be used for Christmas lights. Boo Manor is now 100% knob-and-tube free. But we’ve still switched insurance companies.

Doing a ‘Mike Holmes’ to Boo Manor

We’ve all seen it. That moment in a Mike Holmes just after he says that he, “really, really doesn’t want to go ripping things apart unless he absolutely has to.” Right before he rips everything apart, generally criticizing the previous contractor along the way.

In the case of Boo Manor, Gene’s son Keelan is our own little Mike Holmes. He and a friend have been busily gutting the various bits of the house that are in the process of being renovated: the kitchen, the guest bathroom and the soon-to-be-wine cellar.

First sign of renovations: the waste disposal bin shows up.

Destruction started with the arrival of a waste disposal bin at the property. After that, it didn’t take long for the drywall to start flying. Those bits that could be reused (the kitchen appliances, cabinets and claw foot bathtub) had already found new homes courtesy of Kijiji (and Keelan’s impressive negotiating skills). Out of the bathroom came the rest of the fixtures, including a hideous 70’s vintage plywood vanity, and a surprising array of different eras of flooring and wallboard. What was left was the bare essence of a room, and an awfully uneven floor. While the overall structure of Boo Manor is surprisingly sound, apparently not all previous renovations have been done to the same exacting standards.

The bathroom, down to the bare walls.

The kitchen floor met largely the same fate. Interestingly, floors seem to have been laid on top of previous floors. A relatively hideous (but apparently fashionable at the time) linoleum peeled back to reveal an equally hideous green tile. It was all coming out.

First there was linoleum. Then there was tile.

Finally, the drywall from the wine cellar needed to be removed anywhere there wasn’t already insulation in place. Building wine cellars is an interesting challenge. In most houses, the goal is a warm house insulated from a cold exterior. This is accomplished by insulation, with vapour barrier between the drywall and insulation to prevent moisture from condensation. For a wine cellar, the process works in reverse: you want a cold room inside of a warm house. Warm walls get lined with vapour barrier, then insulation, and then the wallboard for the interior of the cellar. Or, alternatively, spray-foam the heck out of it the interior and enjoy insulation and vapour barrier combined in one smooshie product.

Out comes the drywall. In goes the insulation.

Removing the drywall, however, also revealed the presence of some previous tenants. Namely, six mice that seemingly engaged in some form of suicide pact and fell into one of the wall cavities. Inevitably, a house this old is going to reveal some surprises. A few of which will unlikely be unexpected pests.

One other unexpected pest that has been discovered is a squirrel that has taken up residence in the eaves above the kitchen. At this point, we have no idea how it is getting in. But there is a hole somewhere, and it is large enough to allow not just squirrel, but also some pretty sizeable walnuts, judging from the detritus that the squirrel has left in its wake. And, given the quantity of walnut remains that the electricians have discovered as they’ve been laying cable for the kitchen lights, this has been going on for a while now. It is a wily squirrel, however; Gene has been trying to set a trap for it, using peanuts as bait. After three attempts, all Gene has to show for it is a small pile of spent peanut shells.

And, beneath it all, there is actually a sub-floor.

All in all, though, Gene and his team have been making awesome progress. The result is that the rooms we are renovating have now been gutted, the mice have been removed and the squirrel is still enjoying a free run of the eaves. From here, the work of rebuilding can commence.

Of Bathrooms And Vanity

How hard can it be to buy a bathroom vanity? Really? I mean, they make enough of them. Surely we should be able to find one that works for us for the guest bathroom. After all, it’s not even a bathroom we’ll use on a regular basis.

On our previous plumbing expedition, we found pretty much everything we needed for the house — sinks, showers, faucets and spouts — in one simple trip. Except a vanity. We saw one that we thought would work, but the colour sample had gone missing. And we saw several more that would definitively not work given our mental picture of what we wanted the bathroom to look like. We were looking for an old-world, funky bathroom feel, similar to what we had seen in bathrooms of hotel rooms in Paris. Marble, old fashioned knobs and beautiful vanities (often repurposed from other pieces of furniture), combined to form beautiful, functional and unique bathroom spaces.

A modern bathroom vanity. That looks a whole lot like a dining room sideboard.

Sadly, a lot of the vanities we saw looked like sideboards. They were wooden cabinets, with wooden finishes, that looked more appropriate in dining rooms if they didn’t come equipped with sinks. We wanted something a little more unique, a little more colourful and a little more off-the-beaten path. We had enough budget to work with on this particular piece that it could be new construction, but it needed to meet the design spec (as loose as that was) of what we were looking for. So we designed the bathroom around what we wanted, choosing flooring, wainscotting, shower, toilet and fixtures, recognizing that we still needed a vanity to bring it all together.

One very real consideration was actually finding an antique sideboard, refinishing it, re-surfacing it with a stone top and a sink, and calling it done. With this in mind, we began to stop at pretty much every antique store we came across (and in our neck of the woods, there are an awful lot of them) to look for possible vanity candidates.

A dining room sideboard. That could be pressed into use as a bathroom vanity.

One of the first stops, within Toronto, was Of Things Past, a consignment furniture store. We were referred to it by a relative, and had previously found some great lamps for our condo when we first moved to the city. At the time, we had also noticed some amazing furniture pieces that would have been awesome for our future (as yet unpurchased) home, and had resolved to come back when we actually had a home to furnish. The challenge with any store like this is that the stock changes over regularly; you have to keep checking in to see what is there. The result is some of the pieces that we adored last time were gone, and what we were looking for wasn’t really there. One piece that might have worked as a sideboard was actually a full-on china cabinet, with an upper storage cabinet as well; putting it into service would have meant throwing away the top piece in order to get the bottom cabinet. The overall piece was too long for the space we needed, however; we would have to keep looking.

A few days later saw us travelling from Guelph to the house in order to do some measuring. Out of curiosity, I set the GPS to avoid highways in order to see what kind of route it would recommend that didn’t involve the 401. While this initially took us through the heart of Cambridge, after that it guided us to some lovely country roads that led directly to where Drumbo Road (another name for our street) begins. It also took us past Southworks in Cambridge, a unique mall that includes a massive antique market and another consignment furniture store. Trolling through the antique market, we found a great deal of interesting stuff, but no candidate sideboards. The consignment store, however, was another matter.

Now we’re talking. A little too long, sadly, but otherwise awesome.

Next Time Around, like Of Things Past, takes furniture and resells it – meaning that there stock turns over quite quickly. A browse through their offerings found many more gorgeous pieces of furniture, but only one possible candidate for a bathroom vanity. As candidates go, however, there was a lot that was promising. It was a beautiful and sturdy piece that had a good deal of storage, even given that the centre drawers would have to be replaced with plumbing fixtures. And the multi-level top surface was not only unique, but also offered more surface area for guests to put toiletries that would not be imperilled by sinks. Sadly, the cabinet proved to be too long – continuing our trip and completing our measurements revealed that it was a good 8 inches longer than we would ideally like. The search would have to continue.

We finally wound up at an antique market near Dundas, almost entirely by accident. We had been driving around with a sample cabinet board in the trunk for weeks, and had finally decided to return it. From there, we were going to Dundas to do some Christmas shopping. On our way to Dundas we drove past a giant antique shop. One u-turn later, and we were in their driveway to check out their wares. These included a life-sized Elvis (white-suit-era), a Fender electric guitar, several beds, some disturbingly tacky Italianate cabinetry and one very real candidate for a vanity.

And then we found this. Perfect size, bump-out for a sink, and the price is right.

Sizing the cabinet up and down (and measuring it just to be sure) we decided it was a very real candidate. Given that the store was having a sale, and was also open to negotiation, we decided to pursue the matter further. $400 later, the cabinet was being loaded into the back of the SUV as we continued on with our Christmas shopping. We now have a vanity. It will need some work and refinishing, and we still need to find a linen tower that will complement it, but it’s a very good start. Take out a couple of drawers, add a marble-looking stone counter top and a vessel sink, and we have the basis of a bathroom. Even better, we might actually wind up under budget on this particular item. Which would be a good thing, because we seem to be over budget on a few other choices that we’ve made so far. Some balance would be very good.

Whining About Wine

Boo Manor will have a wine room. This is pretty much a given with any of our houses, of course. In our last house in Edmonton, we went through two different rooms before we were done. We started with a smaller room, built into the north-west corner, that was only controlled by being built into a concrete corner of an underground room in a city in a cold climate. In other words, the temperature varied considerably, which wine doesn’t necessarily like. And our collection grew enough that we eventually started shoving cases in, shutting the door, and pretending that we were organized.

This led us to turning our storage room into our wine room, our wine room into our storage room, and using the storage room as the exhaust point for an actual climate control system. In doing so, we learned a lot about the dynamics of controlling temperature in wine rooms, and how climate control systems work (and don’t work). This subsequently led to us excavating a six-inch duct in our newly poured foundation, and hooking up an exhaust system from the climate control unit to the outside (as all we had done prior to that was turn the ‘storage’ room into a sauna, while cooling the wines not at all).

Building Boo Manor, therefore, we are determined to do it right. This involves finding an appropriate control system to incorporate into a basement that won’t support our previous system, and finding shelving that will work for our new collection. Prior to this, we’ve used Gorm shelving from Ikea, which used to come with shelves that were specifically designed to hold wine bottles. Our previous cellar, which held close to 1,000 bottles, cost all of $400 for the shelving. Now, you need to buy normal Gorm shelves at $5 a pop, and then spend an additional $3.50 on a metal rack that goes on top of the shelf. While this will still get you there from here, it’s starting to drive the costs up considerably.

At the same time, custom-built wine cellars generally scale into the thousands-of-dollars, and I have no interest in going there. I am far less fussed about what my wine cellar looks like than the wine going in it, and if I’m going to spend a few thousand dollars then it’s going to be on wine, not on the shelving. This means that it is necessary to look at some different options, and cost out what makes sense.

I had already selected a vendor for the cooling unit, Rosehill Wine Cellars of Toronto. They had provided the previous cooling unit when we were in Edmonton, and now that we are in Ontario they even count as a local vendor. They also stock any number of other bits of paraphernalia for the wine connoisseur, from wine glasses and decanters (definitely overpriced) to shelving (which ranges from the spectacularly expensive to the surprisingly-not-bad). While talking to them about our plans for a new cooling unit for Boo Manor’s cellar, Dianne noticed that their display racking was configured to hold 700+ bottles in what still constituted a reasonably priced arrangement. And so we think we have found a solution.

The great thing about the shelving in question in that it is infinitely configurable. It is designed to hold normal bottles, small bottles and slightly-larger-than-normal burgundy and champagne bottles (which otherwise defiantly refuse to be stored in any reasonable quantity). Even better, it more efficiently uses space than the Ikea shelving that we have used in the past, meaning that we can get the numbers of bottles we have previously stored into a much smaller space, and (given that our cellar is larger) ultimately have the capacity for a much, much larger number of bottles down the road (which is also no bad thing).

What remains now is to measure and plot, and to figure out a configuration that will work for now and provide expansion possibilities into the future. This also means that Ikea has lost one of its last footholds into our house. After the wine shelving, there is only Billy bookshelves left. And they had better not stop making those. If they do, there will be hell to pay.

First Guests at Boo Manor

Boo Manor was acquired in part with entertaining in mind. We wanted a place that our friends would view as a destination, and that they would want to come and visit – and to stay awhile. That’s one of the reasons we gave so much thought to guest space – in terms of number of guest rooms, and ‘alternative’ sleeping spaces that could be pressed into use where required.

While much of the entertaining will have to wait until renovations are finished and we have moved in, we couldn’t wait to share the house with our friends. The only solution was organizing a road trip. Through the virtue of work schedules and family commitments, something we aimed to organize for October became a trip that was planned for… December. December 2, to be precise.

Ferrying everyone to and fro was also a consideration. Apart from Dianne and myself, there would be five others. And despite all the vehicles that do exist in our collection, none of them have that much capacity. Nothing for it, then, but to go and rent a big-ass Chevy Suburban for the trip.

Early on the morning of December 2, then, Dianne and I hauled ourselves up into the cockpit of our rented behemoth, off to fetch our friends from various points around the city before heading to points westward. After a brief but necessary stop at Starbucks for caffeinated products, we were ready to hit the road. Given that it was a Sunday, traffic was fairly light. And with seven people in the vehicle, we definitely qualified for the High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes. Settled in at a nice, steady speed (that for reasons of discretion I shan’t reveal here) we made good time as we headed west on the 403.

The first destination was Innerkip itself, to give our friends a tour of the town that we would soon be calling home. Two minutes later, we pulled into the driveway.

Deb, Derrick and Oliver by the fireplace

The tour of the house was much longer and more involved than the tour of the town. Mostly because the house is large, while the town is not. Two basements, many bedrooms and five bathrooms later (all of which, apparently, required testing by one friend or the other) we arrived back at what we expect to be the site of a great many parties and gatherings: the great room. And it is indeed a great room. In excess of 500 sq. ft., and more than two stories tall, it offers beautiful views of the garden and pool area.

Derrick, Dianne, Gene, Jenni and Elizabeth (not Liz) in the great room

In the absence of the kitchen, the fireplace mantle was pressed into duty as the ‘bar’. Plastic glasses in hand, we christened Boo Manor with the first of what will likely be many, many, many (and I don’t think I can emphasize ‘many’ sufficiently) pops of a champagne cork. I had questioned the wisdom of needing three bottles of champagne for this trip. Knowing our friends the way we do, that was an unnecessary consideration. In fact, if we had a fourth bottle we would probably have consumed that, too.

A group picture. There will be many more of these.

As we got into the third bottle, we were surprised and delighted to have Gene and Jenni join us as well. Our friends got to meet the author of our current renovations, and Gene and Jenni got to find out just how insane we and our friends truly are. I’m not sure who gained more out of the experience.

Boomers Gourmet Fries. Our intended lunch destination, closed.

No road trip is complete without stopping for a meal, of course. Our plan for this trip had been a jaunt up to Stratford for a lunch at Boomers Gourmet Fries, home of the Poutini Martini. If you have to ask, you really, really don’t want to know what that is. Dianne has been coveting one since she saw the restaurant featured on a show on the Food Network. Sadly, in this age of instant-on awareness, all of us managed to – despite drooling over the menu – remain completely oblivious to the fact that Boomers was closed on Sundays.

Disappointment reigns supreme in Stratford. Boomers has a lot to answer for.

A large group of very unhappy campers was left to contemplate what to do for lunch. Fortunately, Stratford is well equipped with many dining options. It required very little thought before determining that heading ‘to the pub’ should be our next strategy, the pub in question in this case being Bentley’s. A time-honoured destination for thirsty travellers (and local thespians) to Stratford, many of our number have spent many an evening (and late night, and afternoon… and possibly morning) in the bar of Bentley’s. It was a comforting place to return to, then, to recover from the sadness (if you can call it that) of missing out on poutine.

Being in Stratford, it would have been neglectful in the extreme to not pay a visit to Balzac’s, one of the finest coffee roasters in Ontario. That, and I really, really wanted an Americano for the drive home. Well sated, and moderately caffeinated, we began our return trip to Toronto. The first visit to Boo Manor was complete. Many more parties and weekends lie ahead in our future, I’m sure. Can’t wait.