Photography: Mike Chajecki
Styling: Ann-Marie Favot
Along with creating beautiful spaces for her clients, designer Rebecca Hay now tries to do something else with her remodelling projects – make them more sustainable.
“It’s a new mission for my firm,” says Hay, the founder and CEO of Rebecca Hay Designs. “Our industry is wasteful; there are a lot of disposable designs out there.”
Her main goal is still to make her clients’ homes beautiful and functional, but now she tries to keep the environmental impact of that in mind as she does it.
During a recent kitchen renovation in East Toronto, Hay put that new motto into practice.
The homeowners had seen a blue-and-white kitchen she had designed for a previous client and wanted her to do a similar design that would work for their growing family. They had one young child, a new baby on the way, and an old kitchen in a separate addition that had been built onto their house without ever having been insulated.
To make the home more energy efficient, Hay added insulation, heated flooring and a new door to the backyard. During demolition, when the contractor removed the original cabinets, they were sent to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, the second-hand shop affiliated with the home-building charity. It also accepts donations of used plumbing fixtures, lighting and other items. “There are lots of opportunities to send things to a new home rather than to landfill,” Hay says. With a little planning, reupholstering or refinishing, she says, furniture can often be repurposed and used in another part of the home or, if not, it can often find a home elsewhere.
Hay also tries to source products locally whenever possible, or choose those that are made sustainably. The home’s new cabinets were custom-built with Canadian materials by nearby Enrich It Woodworks in Guelph. Instead of adding cheap plastic inserts, the cabinets were customized with built-in storage options. “This kitchen is a perfect example of thoughtful storage,” Hay says. “We always ask clients to take the time to think about how they use the kitchen. It doesn’t matter how most people use it; it matters how you will use it.”
In addition to creating more counters for meal preparation, the homeowners also wanted clearly defined entertaining space: a bar area and an island. “It was tricky to figure out the plumbing,” the homeowner says, “But having a dedicated bar zone is perfect for all the entertaining we do.” The island isn’t just a place for guests to gather, it also acts as a barrier to keep them out of the cook’s way. She says they considered a variety of seating options, including bar stools and no table. “Rebecca really encouraged us to go for the table with bench seating. She was right. It’s so wonderful with small kids.”
The clients also wanted to keep a door between the kitchen and the rest of the house, one that they could close to keep out smells. Hay replaced the old swing door with a pocket door that could be tucked away. “We really wanted to use a vintage door but they were all the wrong size,” she says. “So we got a solid door and put in a window so they could have a sightline to the other room.”
For the floor, she chose large light-grey and off-white porcelain tiles, laid in a checkerboard pattern. “It’s classic bistro style,” she says, “It’s a way of giving the look of polished marble at a better price point.” •
Rebecca Hay Designs Inc.
Enrich It Woodworks
Habitat for Humanity ReStore
416-755-7353 (main Toronto branch)
Upper Canada Specialty Hardware