• Amanda Shields

FROM CHILDHOOD HOME TO MODERN DREAM RESIDENCE: THE WOODMOUNT PROJECT



For those of you who follow me on social, you will already know about my biggest design project to date, The Woodmount Project, the complete rebuild of a Newmarket residence that my family and I have just moved into. What you may not know is the moving backstory, and the design inspiration, behind it.

I felt it was about time to share it with you, along with the exciting progress we are making on the The Woodmount Project, AKA my dream family home.


 

THE BACKSTORY


Newmarket Main Street in the 1980s, Heritage Canada Foundation


The Shields Residence circa 1986


We have now rebuilt our Newmarket family home from the ground up. It was a complete gut job that was a labour of love, and also one literally built on love.


This is because Woodmount is my husband Gord's childhood home, which he and his sister Laura inherited. Built in the 1960s, his late parents bought it in 1986. At the time, this house was their dream home, decades before it would be transformed into our own.


Gord grew up on Botsford Street, in what is now known as old Newmarket. Mr. & Mrs. Shields, my late in-laws, were well-known and loved in the community. If you had met them, you would understand why.


Fittingly, the street they moved to raise their family, Woodmount Place, was exactly how they were-- friendly, warm, and welcoming.

In 2015, as Gord's parents were aging, he and I decided to move to Newmarket to be closer to them. Forever a city girl at heart, I sold my downtown Toronto loft but knew Newmarket would be a great place to start our own family.


We moved there and not long after we became parents to our first little girl. Our youngest daughter was then born in September 2018, making out little family complete. Our joy was mixed with sadness five weeks later, when Grandma Marlene, Gord's mother, suddenly passed away. The close events of baby's entry into the world and Marlene's untimely exit were a bittersweet reminder of the circle of life.

Then, Alton, my father-in-law, battling cancer and Parkinson's, deteriorated quickly with the unexpected passing of the love of his life. He passed in August 2019, before COVID hit.

Gord and I both agreed purchasing Woodmount Place and making it our own dream family home, would honour his parents memory and be a wonderful place to raise our 2 little girls. Again, the cyclical nature of life.


 

THE INSPIRATION



The original inspiration behind moving to Woodmount, a charming and quiet cul-de-sac lined with large, lofty trees, was of course, family history. Now, it was time to modernize this home and make it truly our own.


How? Starting from the bottom, we gutted the entire aged house, and I designed everything from the ground up. (My apologies if I got Drake stuck in your head.) From every brick to shingle, paint swatch to hardware piece, yours truly hand-picked it, as well as exhaustively researched and ordered, just as I do for my clients. Not only was I creating our dream home, I was living a dream as well, being able to choose and customize my very own house.


And when I say "creating our home," I should give props to my hubby. Although our home, Gord completely believed in me to lead the way, from project management to design selections. Sure, I am a professional, but still, I know many spouses who would prefer to be regularly consulted, but Gord was happy being hands-off and that is definitely deserving of a shout-out!


Having a hand in every architectural and design detail, Woodmount was my biggest project to date, especially since it came with some mighty challenges.


My in-laws had not renovated the house since purchasing it in the 80s, so everything, and I mean everything, from the dangerously outdated electrical to the basement's green shag carpet, was ripped out. Not to mention, the less than functional footprint, from the small bedrooms to too many walls. (Basically, we tore most of the house down! But this allowed us to bypass problems that arise when renovating an old home, from mould to sketchy wiring.) If you look at the images in this section, I drew on inspiration from architecture firms Alvarez Morris and Brandon Architects, primarily because they represent California home style so well. I adore California residential architecture, which flawlessly incorporates clean, bright elements like white brick and large windows.


These organic, modern vibes are showcased in our own Newmarket home, with all the warm, sophisticated features of California design -- just winter-proofed, of course. ;)



 

THE MOVE-IN


We sold our home earlier than we had planned just because the Newmarket real estate market was so hot at the time, which allowed us to rent a place for a year while the Woodmount Project was underway.


In May 2022, our family of four was able to move in, an exciting day for us all. But you might laugh when you read what we moved into:


1) The kitchen had no countertops installed, so for three weeks I was meal prepping using a tiny cutting board by the bar sink!

2) I had to wash my face in the laundry sink for more than a month, with a makeshift vanity using a small precariously balanced hand mirror to do my make-up;

3) No glass in the showers, which meant only baths for us -- not at all ideal for my tall, brawny husband, far less my hectic early mornings!


4) The exterior was incomplete, which doesn't seem that bad but it took the girls a lot of getting used to walking into a door flanked by plastic, and for Gord and I it was not having a garage door;


5) The grass had not been laid yet either, which means trekking dirt and dust into the house more times a day than I care to think about.


Those are just some of the ahem, "highlights." The advantage for me moving into the work-in-progress was being on-site to answer trade questions, manage contractor expectations, and offer direction. It also reminded me of my Golden Rule for clients --always make the interior designer your first point of contact! It really underscored how important it is to have a designer on your side acting as your representative in the renovation trenches.


Anyway, these are exciting times for the Shields as we see light at the end of Woodmount Project tunnel.


Just wait until the next blog where I show you the current photos, and then onto the final reveal! I am also going to share something I never, ever do but am making my own rebuild and renovation the exception-- stay tuned!

The original house on Woodmount Place. Not much had changed since my in-laws purchased it in 1986.

The renovation begins.


Starting to look more like the new build.

Construction went straight through the winter of 2021/2022

How the house looked when the Shields family moved in. I dare not show the dusty and dirty footprints the kids trekked in, with no landscaping done at the time.

Transforming from new house into family home, with grass laid (but still awaiting siding as the final touch!)

I have more photos to show you of the impressive progress we have made at Woodmount, coming up in the next months!


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