Bridging the 70-year gap

South Lethbridge was built in the ’50s, the child of mid-century architecture that grew up alongside the cottonwoods, elms, and maples that now shade the gridded streets.

The first home Graham and Mandy Reimer bought in the area was an outlier, built by a young upstart company specializing in modern contemporary infill homes. Though they loved its style, they soon outgrew it, sending them searching through flat-topped bungalows and arts and crafts ranchers for a home that would suit their needs.

They settled on a sprawling rancher with room enough for their growing family but a layout that was letting the home down. With renovation plans in hand, they bought the home and moved in. 

As fans of modern architecture, neither Graham nor Mandy wanted to ape the mid-century design language of the rest of the house. Instead, they wanted to bring some of that modern design they’d fallen in love with to their new home.

With help from Blackburne Inc., they were able to blend past and present for a gorgeous transition that catered to their modern sensibilities without causing design dislocation.

 

Utilizing the abundant space

First, the Reimer’s invited a carpenter to help make the basement more useful, then moved on to a bigger renovation – the second garage. In the ‘50s, the home had been built with two garages – a double car garage around back and a single attached garage at the front. The two-garage design was redundant, so the previous owners had taken a crack at renovating the garage, which shared a wall with the master bedroom, but hadn’t gotten far enough to make it a useful part of the home.

“They had made it part of the house, but it had a garage door still,” Mandy said.

As a big, empty box that connected to the house through the master bedroom, this ex-garage was next to useless. However, it did offer the couple a chance to add an ensuite and walk-in closet to the then bathroom-less master bedroom.

Of course, they didn’t want a garage door in their ensuite, which forced the couple to push the renovation to the exterior, where they wanted to incorporate the garage more with the home.

Bridging past and present

With memories of their old home still fresh in their minds, Graham and Mandy hired an architect to draw up plans for the space to bring their modern sensibility to the project. Then, they went in search of a contractor that would do the plans, and their home, justice.

They interviewed a list of contractors before finding Blackburne Inc.

“Dryden caught the architect’s vision right away and was willing to work with us on a custom level,” Mandy said. 

Working with Blackburne Inc., they created a mood board for the new ensuite, going back and forth with Dryden to nail down the style. Dryden offered his advice to the couple, leading them through the process and helping them to create a vision that he could integrate with the rest of the home. 

“Renovating old homes with distinct styles can get tricky,” Dryden said. “I see so many homes where the renovation makes a mess of the house because it doesn’t pay respect to the original architecture.”

For the home-owners, Dryden’s careful, respectful approach was the perfect ingredient to unify their modern vision from their old house with the mid-century architecture of their new home.

Getting the details right

From the outside to the inside, the new renovation has a huge impact on the home, changing its style subtly without taking over or sticking out. At first glance, it’s impressive, but it’s in the details where this home renovation really shines.

The most obvious of the myriad of details is the transition from the tile of the bathroom to the cork flooring of the bedroom. The original plan had been to do a straight transition, but when Dryden noticed both types of flooring were the same thickness, he pitched a more creative approach.

“I did a lot of work to make sure the new renovation would look good with the mid-century house and I thought blending the flooring together worked on the same level,” Dryden said.

It took him hours of cutting the cork flooring around the honeycomb tiles to create the effect, but the reaction from the homeowners was worth it.

“I would have never thought of that,” Graham said. “It looks amazing and it just screams at us as the owners this guy knows what he’s doing.”

By envisioning the house as a whole, honouring the original design, to tweaking the finer details Dryden was able to merge past and present seamlessly, and without confusion.

”It’s nerdy, I know, but it was one of those topping-on-the-cake kinda things!” Dryden said.

 

A quick and easy fix

For a family of four, the ease and speed of the transition was as valuable as the finished project. 

With their bedroom under construction, and filled with tradesmen throughout the day, the couple had to vacate their bedroom.

“We were sleeping on a mattress in the basement when they started,” Mandy said. 

Add kids and carpenters to a bad night’s sleep, and it’s easy to crumble beneath the chaos However, Dryden’s firm deadlines and trusted trades crew kept the process tidy.

“He told us, ‘this is how long you’ll be down there.’ I think they were even done early,” Mandy said.

Finding the perfect fit

Looking at the house from the street, it’s hard to imagine there was ever a second garage. The new renovation fits seamlessly into the old house, picking up design details from the ‘50s while modernizing the overall effect.

“I was so impressed because it does match,” Graham said. “You’re mixing in something from 1951 with 2020, that’s a whole 70 years later. But, it feels like it’s supposed to be there.”