Whitehorne Case Study: Opening Up a Family Home
Dan and Laura Whitehorne bought their 1916, one-bedroom heritage home in Victoria’s Oaklands neighbourhood in early 2013. Every room had a different type of flooring, ranging from linoleum to laminate. To go upstairs you had to first go down. To get to the back yard, you had to go for a 10-minute tour through the house before exiting a side door. There was no dining room. And, like many house of the era, walled in spaces made the home very dark. In short, the house was a maze of past DIY projects that made the home feel disjointed and dysfunctional.
“We knew what we were in for when we bought this space, but once we had our daughter Ella, it started to feel claustrophobic,” says Laura, who works for the government. Getting rid of the wall between the living area and the kitchen became a priority. “But we are also on a tight budget, so we weren’t sure how it would play out.”
After getting some names of contractors from their home inspector, Sandra went on MAC’s website and filled out the contact form. Within hours, Ed, the founder, phoned her. They arranged a meeting and Sandra explained what they wanted to do.
“We had other contractors visit, and all wanted to get us to start designing new plans, do a whole bunch of new things. Ed was different. He listened to us, and kept it simple. Remove the wall, keep the lines clean and simple. That’s it. We didn’t want anything intricate. It was exactly what we were looking for.”
“We liked Ed, personally,” says Dan, a cabinetmaker. “He offered a lot of options without telling us what to do.” Laura adds that Ed’s team’s experience was key for her. “It was clear that Ed had the experience. My dad, who has done tonnes of renovations, came over to kind of vet what Ed was saying. He got a good feeling from Ed too.”
The Whitehorne’s also wanted the work done before year end. It was already late September. MAC’s size allowed them to quickly pull together a team and commit to finishing everything within six weeks.
The work started with the wall removal. Previously the couple’s only seating option was a tiny 4-person table in the kitchen. This limited the entertaining they could do, as anyone else would have to sit at the couch in the living room.
While the MAC team was putting in a beam to support the roof, they noticed a sagging section, and realized the beam they had planned to do was no longer sufficient. The roof needed additional support. Laura said this was the first of several change orders, which were made easier by the online BuilderTrend project tracking software that MAC uses.
“I was on maternity leave at the time, and we were living in the house while the renos went on,” says Laura. “It was great to be able to log in in the morning and see what was going to happen that day, whether it was an electrician coming in or a carpenter. I could then take Ella out for the afternoon if the work was going to be to loud.”
Another surprise was when an oil tank was discovered in the side yard while they were excavating to build a deck. “Our hearts sank when we heard that, because we had heard so many nightmares about underground oil tanks and how expensive the clean up was,” says Laura. “But it turned out to be filled with water and the soil tested negative for contamination. Mac coordinated all the inspectors — fire department, hazmat, tank removal — and it was all done in a half day. it was amazing. We really felt we dodged a bullet on that one.”
The house today bears no resemblance to the dark disjointed home they moved into. The open floor plan is contemporary and offers space for entertaining and easy access to the BBQ, deck and backyard. Light floods the entire space, and there is a natural flow between the rooms thanks to the new flooring and paint.
“The functionality of this space has really transformed our lives,” says Dan. Laura points out that their already saving for their next project, which involves updating a couple new bathrooms. “We would hire MAC again in a second.”