Before and After’s

It’s been a slow process, but the day has arrived! This Victorian semi has been completely transformed. Take a trip down memory lane as we reveal the past to present shots of our home. Looking for professional pictures? Please view the “Photos” page.

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Lessons Not Learned

Today was the day that we had planned on staging Millbrook. I had arranged for photography, inspection, Matterport videography, cleaning and the likes. I was so excited to place it up for sale. I had hoped that my hope alone would somehow speed up the renovation process in its final stages. I was wrong.

It’s been a long, long six months. There’s been some amazing memories built over the past few, including Aaron’s proposal to me, all of which have been sadly hazed by the stresses brought on by this renovation. Nothing has seemed to work in our favour. I’ve yelled about it. I’ve prayed about it. I’ve cried about it: none of which have changed anything for the better – at least, from my point of view. It’s impeded on Aaron’s and my happiness. It’s cut my patience shorter than I’d like to admit and my views have been skewed under the pressure. If you Google “stresses caused by renovations,” you’ll see a mile long list of articles written by psychologists and those who have gone before explaining just how difficult and taxing it is on relationships in particular. Unfortunately, there’s nothing special about us in comparison to the rest of those who have embarked on this journey and I’ve succumbed, time and time again, to the overwhelming emotions of it all.

Yesterday was no exception. When Aaron walked into an unpainted home with the deck installed wrong, kitchen items gone missing, holes in the wall and the long list of deficiencies not rectified by any stretch of the imagination, I nearly had a nervous breakdown. With my stager going away on vacation for three weeks, the sale of the home would now be pushed into December. I displayed by dissatisfaction to my contractor in an irritable-toned text message and called my business partner to complain. Yet again, I wasn’t able to to control the situation, and for someone who doesn’t know how to relinquish control, it had me in the tizziest of tizzies.

On a normal day, I would have jumped into my car and driven from the east end to Toronto in a heart beat. I would have walked around the house in anger, not accomplishing much other than raising my heart rate, thinking in my frazzled state-of-mind that me being present within the home may change something. Instead, I decided to go to church, somewhere I haven’t been all that much since renovations started. I prayed that someone would give me a message (mind you, thinking it would be a message of encouragement). I should have learned by now to be more specific in my prayers. I got a message all right – a message of conviction about my attitude and how I was treating others in my anger, specifically Aaron. I’ve been known the point a blaming finger or two…or three, maybe even all five. I got convicted of God providing me with a blessing and me letting it get to my head. I got convicted of treating those who are my partners in life – my fiance – with condemnation and contempt. Maybe the renovation got to my head and my heart more than I had realized. The possession of my home doesn’t make me better than anyone else. It doesn’t mean that God has more favour on me than anyone else. It doesn’t mean I can treat others in a manner that supersedes God’s grace. It doesn’t mean I can act in a way that doesn’t reflect a Christlike character, even when times get hard. It made me realize how imperfect I am and how much I need to stop pointing fingers and change who I’ve become. Not the message I had intended to receive, let me tell you!

Feeling a bit discouraged, I went home to talk to my mom, questioning the house altogether. What if, I thought, maybe I had thought God had blessed us with this project, but He actually hadn’t? Maybe I wanted it so badly that I stamped God’s approval on it all on my own. I had thought, without a doubt, that God’s hand was on it. What if it actually wasn’t? Maybe that’s why it isn’t working out. Maybe that’s why it’s so delayed. I began second-guessing myself and my decisions – until I decided to leave for work an hour earlier than I ever do (like, EVER) – and started listening to a sermon that I truly believe was meant for me this morning. The message: wait. Wait and wait and wait some more. It talked about me creating a timeline that I assumed God had to stick to. Well obviously, right? Because I have everything figured out to a T – the market, the new mortgage rules, my finances…it has to sell NOW or it will never succeed. Wrong. Wait and wait and wait some more, I heard.

The sermon talked about God not having an expiry date and working outside of time. It talked about God’s numerous mysteries that are filled with variety, and God working in mysterious ways we can’t even comprehend. It talked about learning lessons – lessons on patience, lessons on trust, lessons of maturity beginning to take root the more we wait. It talked about there being nothing that I can do to make it happen other than believing the promises that God’s given me. It talked about the work God had to do in me for a greater glory. It talked about doing a work in my heart in the waiting period, and gaining a peace in His sovereign will. It talked about God making “everything beautiful in its time,” and that those who wait “will renew their strength.” Well, I’ve run out of my own strength quite some time ago. And I have not learned that lesson of patience that I was supposed to. And I haven’t honed my character like I thought I would. I haven’t learned the lessons yet that perhaps I’ve been put in this position in the first place to learn.

I think I know it all – I think I know the bigger picture with my extensive knowledge in real estate transactions. I think I know how to do relationships. But the truth is, I know nothing at all. God sees the picture bigger than I will ever see it. And He sees me, flaws and all, and gently tells me, “Wait. And while you wait, change. And until you change, you’ll wait some more.”

I pray that I’ll listen to the messages that were given to me as I wait, as I try to trust, as I try to not take advantage of this blessing. May He continue to do a work in me as I continue to trust in His timing and until I learn all of the lessons not learned.

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11




Business With A Purpose

Powder Room


The time has come! Within the next few weeks, we will place our very first renovation project up for sale! While we would have loved to stay in this amazing 3 bed, 3 bath home in the heart of Riverdale, my fiancé and I will be settling into a waterfront condo in Whitby, only minutes away from my mom and sister’s houses. Second renovation project, here we come!

Our experience has been a very educational one, as we learned the what-to-do’s but mostly what-not-to-do-next-time’s. We’ve slept, breathed and lived this renovation, making sure every detail was well thought out, every error was corrected and every maneuver was monitored. We’re excited to unmask and reveal our creation, from our colour choices, to our bathroom designs, to our custom kitchen selection. We’ve spent countless hours ensuring everything coordinated and complimented one another, from selecting a kitchen faucet to bathroom accessories. I’m excited to stop having nightly dreams about Millbrook, but we’re all the more excited to move onto our new chapter in life: upgrading and settling into our waterfront property, taking long walks on the beach, saving some cash and most of all, planning our wedding!

As the sale of our home approaches, we’ve got a lot on our minds: how much we’ve spent, how much we’ll sell for and how quickly it will sell. November-December are usually not the ideal months to sell real estate, but with the new mortgage regulations that have been implemented recently, the dreaded “stress test” now inclusive of properties selling over 1 million dollars effective January 2018, we’re hopeful that buyers will try to purchase their homes before the new year.

We’ve spent a lot on this renovation. It’s common for contractors to “cheap out” to make a quick buck, but we wanted to ensure that we put in the best of the best on the selections we were able to choose. We didn’t want to purchase something that we wouldn’t use ourselves (and let me tell you, I’m a tad high maintenance and have expensive taste!) In the grand scheme of things, when you’re spending over a million dollars on a home, an extra 50k to upgrade your finishes isn’t all that much. We want people to be satisfied with the product they’re investing in.

And likewise, it’s been our decision to use our surplus to help others in need. While we hope our dream home will also be someone else’s dream home, some people don’t have a home at all. That’s why we’ve decided to tithe over 30% of our profit to buy and build homes for those in third-world countries who don’t have a place to lay their heads at night. That’s 4 or more homes to those who aren’t as fortunate as we are. It’s great that we may make a few extra bucks, but what makes it all the more worthwhile is that someone else’s livelihood has benefited from it as well.

I truly believe that God has blessed us to the extent that He has because of our willingness to give. The Bible talks explicitly about tithing and the blessings that come alongside being obedient to Him:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty.”

We’ve seen this promise fulfilled in our own lives. Giving has been a gift in and of itself. There is nothing that brings me more joy than helping others through the blessings God has bestowed us with. Sometimes, from the outside looking in, people may think life comes easier this way. But nothing good comes easy. In fact, it comes with many more challenges than I’m sometimes able to handle. It comes with sacrifices. It comes with hardships. It comes with ample responsibility. But it also comes with an unearthly trust in God and our wellbeing. I have never given out of obligation. In fact, I rarely pay attention to the blessing associated with my tithing. What I do know is that God says that it is a good thing. And that for those of you who struggle in giving, whether little or plenty, that God tells you to “test him and see.”

This house has been dedicated to God and our intentions are to honour Him and use it to His glory until it is no longer ours (and hopefully even after). We’ve made it our mission to do business with a purpose – to give back from what we were given, whether it be to the new home owners or individuals who we’ve never met across the world.

We encourage you to also trust God, test God and see how He’ll take care of you when you entrust all that is yours to Him. And we encourage you to give back and help others every opportunity you get – we can all make a difference if we so choose to and we hope we’ve been an inspiration to encourage you to do the same.





Slow and Steady


It’s been a busy month of finalizing the major details of 21 Millbrook. Our electrical drawings have now been made a reality (who knew the electrician would use our drawings and that us beginners knew so much yet so little about electrical rough-ins all at the same time.) HVAC has been completed and plumbing has been roughed in, all which have passed city inspection. Our basement has been parged both internally and externally to prevent any potential water issues. The small but stubborn roof leak in the master bedroom caused by a single nail hole has now been fixed. Our lead water pipes have now been replaced with copper. Sound-proofing has gone in, insulation has been covered, and drywall is now up! It is slowly but surely looking more like a home each day! Over the next few weeks, there will be even more improvement. Drywall will be taped, tile and flooring will be laid, light fixtures will be put in, our custom kitchen and appliances will be installed and the home will begin to come together – all at once! And so, while we could, we  wrote prayers on the basement floor before the laminate is placed down, dedicating the home to God and asking for His blessings and protection for all who enter within.

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It’s been a slow process, one that has tried our patience many times. I’ve shed tears of frustration, rolled my eyes in annoyance and balled my fists in anger. With many unexpected delays, I’ve tried to control the outcome of the renovation with little success. Some days I’ve wanted to throw in the towel (quite literally…I wish we were at the stage where our appliances were installed!) A project that I thought would be a fun-filled learning experience turn unmanagably overwhelming – I just wanted it to be done and over with. When nothing seemed to be going as planned, I tried to control each and every move to ensure that things got done. Or not…no matter how much I tried to orchestrate change and progress, nothing I did seemed to be working. That is, until I cried out to God and he seemed to turn it all around in a matter of a day.

I’m not sure if I’ve learned the lesson of patience that God’s intended me to learn quite yet, but I’m learning first hand that without Him, nothing is possible. In my own strength, I’m learning I can’t bear the burdens or stresses. I can’t make other people work faster, and I can’t seemingly know everything about something I know nothing about. What I can do is rely on God, His timing and His purpose, and know that He’s got everything covered, even when I don’t understand. Sometimes I find myself making God too small to solve my problems, and placing myself on a pedestal. Maybe He’s using these hiccups in the road to knock me down a notch or two, and prove to me once more that I must depend on Him in all I do.

The completion of the home is fast approaching and there is still much to be done. My prayer is that, despite my past mistakes and my current flaws, I can be a living testament of His name, in my actions and behaviours, and in my attitude and character. I’m not perfect, not by any means. But I pray I can be and will continue to be a witness and blessing to others, somehow. May He continue to build me, hone me, mould me and change me until I’m perfected in Him.


When A Wise Man Speaks

As many of you are well aware of, or perhaps are yet to find out, being a part of a renovation has its rewards and pitfalls. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing something you’ve created come to fruition. Every wall, every thought process that ended up actually making sense or working out, every finish choice, every colour…yes, it’s exhilarating and motivating indeed. It’s the process of getting there that’s tedious, taxing and downright difficult to say the least. Renovations are never a smooth, start-to-finish process. There’s been a lot of sweat and fears so far (yes, I meant fears). Okay, I’ll admit it. The occasional tear here and there too. It’s tested my patience like never before, and it’s tested Aaron’s and my relationship in new ways.

When you’re starting a life with someone, there’s a lot to learn and there’s a lot to adjust to. This renovation has definitely helped us to learn how to work together and how not to step on each other’s toes (steel toes, that is). We’ve been learning how to handle moments of high stress together and how to balance time, our relationship, our jobs and everything else that we have to do. We’ve learned a lot more about one another and, even though it’s been a difficult ride thus far, I’m learning to love him more with every passing day. There’s nothing better than taking on a major work project to test your relationship. Whether it’s your work styles or ethic, your communication skills with one another or your attitudes towards each other, it’ll begin to point out flaws within yourself you never even knew you had. Aaron and I have been discovering the nitty-gritty parts of each other, and it’s had its challenges, like every relationship does. What’s important, though, is that we’ve been working towards embracing those challenges. Aaron likes to call them “growing pains.” We’ve experienced both the highs and lows and, as a team, we’re plugging our way through them. When one method doesn’t work, we try another, until we can hurdle ourselves over the obstacles that life throws at us.

I’ll be honest with you. Our renovation is much too much behind schedule. Our kitchen should have been installed by this point, yet the rough-ins haven’t even been put in yet. This isn’t uncommon in the renovation business, but it is quite frustrating. When the work isn’t being completed as quickly as I’d like it to, I’ve had no choice but to rely on God and His timing, hoping and praying that it will all work out to my benefit and His glory when all is said and done. And, if the delays weren’t bad enough, we’ve already been reported to the city about putting a balcony off of our back bedroom, and I don’t see it stopping there. It’s been one thing after another. It’s been hard not to want to be spiteful. You know, be a little bit noisier than we have to be. Be a little more cut-throat in our communications.  But it’s not the right thing to do. And I’ve had no choice but to try to continue to be patient and act like the Christian I claim to be when things aren’t going my way (and let me tell you, it’s been a struggle and Aaron’s had to handle to remnants of aggravations that I can’t seem to contain!) Actually, let me rephrase that. I suppose I have had a choice. We all have a choice in our behaviour. Perhaps I’ve come to the conclusion that, if I wanted to use this house to glorify God from the beginning, I better not stop now.

A wise man once told me (aka my pops) “if you’ve learnt nothing else than how to do it, then you’ve done well.” Our first time around at this may not be perfect. It may not look perfect, or have been completed as effectively and efficiently as I’d imagined.  But that’s okay. I’m learning new things every day, about myself, about my partner, and about something I’ve always been interested in but had limited knowledge about. Even when I’m discouraged in the moment, and vent to Aaron about how much I want to quit and how I’m never doing this again (I’m like a chippy Chihuahua – I make a lot of noise, but eventually will put my tail between my legs and settle down), the truth is, I won’t let it discourage me in the long-run. Now I know how much I can handle and how much adversity I can overcome. Now we know what to do, and what not to do. We’re learning how to do a lot of things, and hopefully next time is a bit more successful than the first. Processes take time, and practice makes perfect. Learn by trial and error, and take each mistake that you make and use it to your benefit, by seeing what works and what doesn’t, or maybe by never doing it again.

That wise man also told me something else. He said, “Serjenka, this is urgent, but it’s not important.” My life has been consumed by this project. I talk about it 24/7. I think about each and every detail all day long. I blog about it. I even dream about it. I’ve been having a real struggle balancing everything, especially the things that really matter. But it’s not important. Yes, it’s pressing. Yes, it needs to get done. But it’s not everything. It’s temporal and it won’t last.

My sister came up with a system for me to rate my life with. It consists of 4 categories:

  • Important and Urgent
  • Important, Not Urgent
  • Urgent, Not Important
  • Not Important Or Urgent

If you’re having struggles balancing your time, I highly suggest you take a half hour to really contemplate the items on your plate and to put them into these categories. I sadly found out that I believed (key word is believed) everything in my life was of dire importance in some shape or form. How do you learn to balance time when you think everything that you’re doing is needs to get done…RIGHT now? When I put it all on paper – my job, my relationships, my renovation, my day-to-day duties, to name a few – it was overwhelming just looking at it. But the world wouldn’t end if I actually didn’t clean that day. Or if I told a friend I actually didn’t have time to meet up for coffee. Or if my blog post was published on a Friday instead of a Tuesday. I’ve been adjusting to placing things in their appropriate spot, and it’s been difficult, let me tell you! Maybe you’ll need to do this checklist every day to keep yourself in check. Life will always be busy. Learning to deal with it and how to behave within it is where you’ll find the peace you’re actually looking for.

But hey, I’m the preacher preaching to the choir (is that the saying, I always wondered what it actually said). Who am I to say anything, but to share a bit of my own story with you.

Want to keep up to date on our renovation? Stay tuned!

Choosing Lighting For Your Home

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can see the light.” After much waiting and anticipation, our contractor has informed us that the workers will begin to put the rough-ins for electrical and plumbing this week.

This means that all vanities and lighting have to selected by today! Aaron and I spent the last week searching for and purchasing our light fixtures in our spare time. We’ve just completed a rough-in legend to detail the location of all plumbing and electrical for our contractor. This included lighting, from the where to the what! Through our scavenger hunt for fixtures, we’ve learned a little about the different types of lighting and how they work.


  1. Ceiling fixtures: great for bedrooms, dining rooms or even utility rooms. Always keep the refraction of the light in mind. Fixtures with enclosed bases are more likely to provide less light than those without.
  2. Pendant/recess lighting: great for breakfast bars or even unconventional bathrooms. Decide whether the area is suited for downward illumination or if it is more important to have a central source of lighting that provides additional brightness. Have two pendants at 50 watts? Keep in mind that’s a wattage of 100! Also take note if the height of the pendants are adjustable, or ensure that they are placed over the breakfast bar or vanity to avoid interference in walking spaces.
  3. Bath bar lighting: great for above the vanity mirror. Ensure the light source is pointing downwards to have the mirror reflect the light to maximize brightness in the room or choose a light that illuminates outwards rather than downwards.
  4. Wall-mounted fixtures: great for bathrooms or even bedrooms above side tables. Again, should this be the main light source, purchase a light that is not task-oriented.
  5. Chandeliers: great for dining rooms, hallways, foyers or master bedrooms. Always ensure that the light height is adjustable or accommodates for the height of your ceiling.
  6. Outdoor lighting: consider what type of outdoor lighting you need. Do you need wall-mounted lights, motion-sensored lighting or spot lights? Do you want the illumination to travel down the wall for special effect, or do you prefer to have the area well-lit?

We put a lot of thought into our lighting selections. Whether it be considering the exterior finish (for example, we wouldn’t want a brushed nickel light fixture and polished chrome faucet!), or trying to determine how to coordinate all rooms while keeping each unique, or figuring out how to balance transitional, rustic and modern fixtures all in one home, there’s a lot to think about!

Because our home has exposed brick on the main floor, we decided to use uber modern lighting on the first floor to compensate for the rustic appearance of the walls. However, we decided to use more abstract/rustic fixtures on the second floor to coordinate with downstairs since there is little exposed brick on the upper level.

We stayed away from warm lighting and used bright, white LED lights, not only for economic efficiency, but to ensure that the lighting was radiant in a home with fewer windows than I’d like (it’s a semi!) We learnt that the color of lighting plays a large part in the atmosphere of a home. Cool lighting often has a more contemporary appearance than warm lighting.  We were weary not to create an industrial ambience based on lighting design or even bulb choice (we stayed far away from Edison bulbs!)

Curious to see our lighting selections? Follow us on Instagram or keep up to date with our blog as we continue to post our progression or shoot us a message to pick our brains. Only one month until completion!

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” 
Matthew 5:16

Digging Deep

Today I passed by our house on my way in to work. There was a single worker there this morning. I had no clue what he was working on. It crossed my mind that he wouldn’t be able to achieve much on his own for a renovation that’s scheduled to be completed in a month’s time. I did, however, notice the workers finally put stairs leading down to the basement the previous day. Finally, I could go down to see if they’d begun to fix’er up. It’s a bit creepy walking down there. Unlike the rest of the house, it’s dark and dingy, with little work completed on it and a few flies buzzing loudly and flittering around. It’s an old basement, over 100 years old in fact. The foundation, cracked and fractured, has been there for a long, long time. When we’d purchased the property, the previous owner had told us that he thought it would be easier to sell than renovate it on his own. We will now be digging down the basement, trying to heighten the ceiling as much as possible without having to underpin.

Again, on my way home from work, I decided to stop by to see today’s progress with my boss. The entire basement floor was stripped, the concrete pulled up and the dirt beneath exposed. Just like that. 100 years of support, gone in an instant.

It made me dig a little deeper myself – into my thoughts, that is. One second things are one way, the next, another. Seeing that one worker there this morning, I never assumed much would get done today. How unexpected. How quickly things change.

I’ll be transparent with you guys. Today I also went to my first counselling session in a long time. The truth is, I never “believed” in counselling. I’ve been to a few sessions here and there, with little luck and much discouragement. But I’ve been dealing with some stuff. And, in all honesty, I have the habit of pushing things down and covering them up and never having to deal with them. Some of it’s been left undealt with for years. I haven’t had to address the mess and grime that lays underneath the surface. Like the previous owner of my house, it seems easier to pick up and move on from something that’s overwhelming. It’s daunting, having to face something that needs a good reno, but having no experience on how to repair things or even a clue how or where to start. So instead of fixing myself, I’ve been on the run. But, unlike my home, someone else isn’t going to come along and fix me. And time doesn’t heal unless you’ve confronted the past you’re running from.

Things are about to change drastically. Today I decided that it was time that I be stripped, my disintegrating base yanked up, and my mess in its entirety exposed. Just like that.

We all have skeletons in our closets. Some of them are emotional, some physical, some psychological. From experience, I’ll go ahead and say sometimes it seems that it’s easier to leave a foundation fragmented than to fix the entire structure. I mean, common. Fixing it? It’s time consuming. It’s exhausting. It’s costly. It’s dark, and it’s messy and all the while annoying. But it’s progress. Sometimes we need to be ripped apart to be built up again.

The Bible talks about the importance of strong foundations:

“He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built” Luke 6:48.

It is critical for us to ensure that our foundations are strong, built on rock rather than degrading sand. This way, when trials or hardships come our way, we are equipped to endure them and can stand strong in times of adversity. Whether it’s our relationships, our emotional wellbeing or our character, we must be the best versions of ourselves and we must make the effort and put in the work in order to become just that.

I know, after all is said and done, the basement will be dug up, a new, stronger foundation will be poured and the structural integrity of our home will be enhanced. Likewise, I know after I dig deep within myself to rip away the hardness that coats my surface, I will also be able to begin to build a stronger, better me, and I will be all the better for it.

It doesn’t matter what my issues are. It doesn’t matter what yours are. What matters is that we take the necessary steps to support the weight of the load that is life. What are you going to do about your baggage? I’d suggest you join me in doing whatever it takes to get rid of it. It’s worth your investment, both financially and emotionally, and you are never alone. God is always with you. He is the cement that will help put you back together, that will strengthen you and that will cover all the dirt underneath with love and forgiveness. And I’m here for you. Want to shoot me a message? Feel free to go to our “contacts” page and leave us a note! We’re just an email away.