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So Canadian Eh? : First Home Dreams

September 21, 2012



I love writing this series, it has been such a pleasure getting to know Canadians across this great land of ours! After I sent out a tweet looking for more "So Canadian eh?" interviewees,  I had a chance to meet some "new-to-me" bloggers! This week's blogger wears many hats. Not only does she have a zoology degree under her belt, she and her fiance are renovating the most amazing country home, one room at a time!

Please welcome.....

 Ashley from First Home Dreams.




She is.....


Ashley, a former West Coast girl {high five!} , now makes her home in rural Ontario with her fiance in the most incredible country home that looks straight out of a storybook. They are slowly tackling the renovation of their home, bringing it into the 21st century. From large scale renovation projects to simple furniture makeovers, Ashley is creating an amazing "first home" that many of us would be envious to have. Paying attention to the history of the home, they are painstakingly restoring historical bits in the home, such as the locks and windows! But not only can they renovate, restore, re-upholster, paint, demolish, but they make their own maple syrup!


A gorgeous hand-me-down antique secretary adds the extra historic ambience in her home.


It's the beautiful details, like the outdoor lights that adds extra character to an already charming house.


They have restored the cast iron rim lock on their door....you can read about how they did it here.


Cozy Christmas in the country.


Can you believe they have sugar maple trees on their property?


Another stunning DIY, her arm chair makeover.


A vintage inspired bathroom.


 You should read the story about the "shack" and it's demise.



Tell us a bit about yourself, describe your journey into the world of design and blogging? You have a science degree yet you seem have a creative side as well, were you always creative?

 I grew up on Vancouver Island before deciding to pack up and move to Ontario to pursue a degree in Zoology at the University of Guelph. I love all things science, especially when it comes to animals and nature. As for design, well…Sarah Richardson is really the only designer that I can name off the top of my head, and that’s thanks to watching episodes of Sarah’s Cottage with my mom. I am not a designer in any sense of the word - I just enjoy flipping through shelter magazines and Pinterest, and thinking about putting my home together in a way that I find comfortable and makes me happy to look at. I say thinking about because we’re a long way off from having a well-designed home. We’re only one room into our full house renovation! My mom has a creative side (painting, drawing, decorating), and as I get older I’m finding that in me as I tackle rehabbing old chairs or restoring antique locks. Growing up I was all science and sports.

 What made you decide to delve into the world of blogging? How long have you had your blog? 

First Home Dreams is actually my second blog. My first blog was dedicated to all things dog. I was a foster home for an animal rescue for two years and that was what my life revolved around. But then I moved on from fostering to renovating this old house of ours, and my focus in life switched to learning all I could about fixing up old houses. I noticed a lot of people were documenting their progress, so I figured I could jump on the bandwagon, especially since I have many family and friends back in British Columbia who won’t ever get the chance to actually see our house and the progress in person. I’ve been writing at First Home Dreams for about a year and a half now, and am really enjoying working at it as a hobby.

You and your fiancé are currently renovating the most AMAZING historic farmhouse in rural Ontario. Tell us why you chose to move out to the country and why take on such an undertaking? 

 To tell you the truth, we didn’t really think about it all that much and instead just DID IT. Mike’s family has lived and farmed in the general area for three going on four generations, and we knew we wanted to live out this way one day. A friend of Mike’s parents was selling the place, so we took a chance. It just sort of fell into our laps…we hadn’t been thinking about buying a house until we heard about this one. Both Mike and I’s parents took run down houses and turned them into wonderful homes, so it just seemed natural to move into a fixer upper. Ripping out crumbling plaster has turned out to be way more work than we thought it would be, however. While we aren’t involved in farming, we do make our own maple syrup from trees we have on the property, have plans to put in some big raised garden beds next spring, and I’d eventually like to convince Mike to get some laying hens. So far he just rolls his eyes. But what’s country living without some livestock?!

Any renovation survival tips you care to share? Proud moments? Disasters?

 I try to keep reminding myself that it’s not a race. Mike has got this down. Me? Not so much. I would love everything to be done sooner rather than later, but things take time and stuff costs money, even when you’re DIYing almost everything. “Behind the scenes” stuff like replacing an oil tank, an electrical panel, and jacking up the floor is still great progress for the well-being of your home, even if it has little effect on the visual appeal. My proudest moment would be not losing my mind when the structure affectionately referred to as the shack attached to the back house collapsed during our first winter due to heavy snow load. The shack collapsing probably counts as a disaster, too. When we finally finish our bathroom, THAT will be my proudest moment. It was a gut job in the truest sense of the word (we even replaced all of the floor joists). Starting a full house renovation with one of the hardest rooms probably wasn’t the best choice, but it’s been really rewarding to see the transformation, albeit slow.

You are taking on an overhaul on your home and getting married in the near future,  how have you managed to keep your relationship intact throughout the chaos? 

 We’re getting married in February, and taking the whole shindig back to my hometown of Nanaimo, BC. To be perfectly honest, it’s been sort of overwhelming. Reno decisions AND wedding decisions?! We are no DIY power couple. We fight more often than we agree; we lose our tempers and yell. We play the “you said”, “no, you said” game. But, we typically have similar tastes in style, so eventually end up finding something we both can live with and enjoy. I think it helps that we’re both very independent individuals, with great groups of mutual AND separate friends. We don’t get bogged down in renovating and almost never turn down a social engagement because we’re busy working on the house. We don’t tell each other “no” when the other wants to go out and do something. Projects take longer that way, but for our sanity, it’s the right choice. We both have full time jobs as well, so we need to be able to wind down sometimes rather than getting amped up by working on the house. We don’t want life to pass us by while we’re up to our ears in plaster dust!

How would you describe your design style? 

If I could have five words…comfortable, cozy, vintage, cottage, farmhouse. If you had of asked me a year ago, though, that answer would have been “I don’t know”.

What are your go-to sources for anything design related? 

Besides Pinterest, I spend a lot of time on the forums at OldHouseWeb.com. Some of the restoration work done by members there is absolutely outstanding.

Who/what inspires you? Any design idols? 

Sarah Richardson. I think you’ll find her name a gazillion times on my blog. Also, the guys at This Old House. Their ability to balance restoration and renovation is inspiring. Knowing when to restore and when to replace or reproduce is a skill that we’re still learning!

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us!

We don’t have a microwave! Not because we have anything against microwaves, it’s just that we don’t really have a place for one right now and we don’t miss it.

What are your views on the role Canadian design plays in the world design scene? Do you feel that Canadians have a unique sense of style and design, and if so, what is it that you think sets us apart?

This is a tough one to answer, because as I said I’m not a designer and definitely not up to date on the happenings of the industry. I tend to think in architecture more than I think in design, and find that often the style of a house, in addition to the culture in a given area, will drive interior décor decisions. Each province in Canada is so different, that I think Canadian’s in general do have a unique sense of style and design because they are able to pull from so many different influences. Salt box houses in the Maritimes, Victorian farmhouses in rural Ontario, and Craftsman homes on the west coast. I am admittedly ignorant of the architecture in the prairies, and would love for someone to enlighten me! I think it’s our culture and heritage, and how we include that in our design decisions (like showcasing a Hudson’s Bay Company wool point blanket!), that sets Canadians apart.

13 comments:

  1. Hello Ashley! Nice to meet you! Your home looks so beautiful (from a West Coast Craftsman on Vancouver Island)

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  2. I would love to renovate a really old home. I must have a microwave...don't know how you do it...no popcorn?

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  3. Sounds like a fun, yet ambitious journey. I'm looking forward to seeing progress pics. Good luck with it all!

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  4. It does look like a storybook house! And I love that you shared a Christmas pic! Country Christmas is better than anything else! Ever! Loved seeing her place:)

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  5. What an exciting time in Ashley's life! Sounds like her farmhouse will be a beautiful combination of love, design and practicality. A girl after my own heart. Thanks for sharing her story Barbara, I'll be following her progress now.

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  6. oh my goodness, maple trees ON THEIR PROPERTY? how WONDERFUL

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  7. Thanks so much, Barbara, for the opportunity! Nice to "meet" everyone here. :)

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  8. I'm glad to meet Ashley and will be heading over to visit. That lock on the door took me right back to Toronto because we had the same lock on our house. So happy to find a Victorian restoration that I can follow along with!!!

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  9. Nice to meet Ashley, and looove their farm house. Now that's totally my kind of home, especially when I saw the photo of their Christmas tree. Beautiful! Heading over to check out Ashley's blog :-)

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  10. That's dedication. As one BC gal who moved to a small Ontario town, I see a lot of these homes and always dream of farmhouse renovations.....maybe I better read Ashley's blog closely to see if I have what it takes :) lol

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  11. Love homes with a past and so cool that she can make her own maple syrup!

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  12. Loved what you had to say Ashley! Love that Christmas photo with the dog too-so sweet!

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  13. I love the Loyalist red brick house! I have always dreamed of owning one of these, and Ashley, you look like you are doing it justice. Well done!

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