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For the love of restoration

Brampton couple aims to ‘bring it forward’ in Napanee

The Ryans haven’t named their newest historic home, built circa 1803, but they’re thinking about it. Who knows? It might even come to them during the restoration process – a journey they like to think of as “organic.”

“I’ve got this idea about how it’s going to go, but once I’m there and I’m experiencing it, things will grow out of it,” says Steve Ryan, a Brampton, Ont.-based home renovator who recently purchased a one-acre property in Napanee, Ont., and will be moving there this fall, along with his wife Gloria.

Their find is a stately, Georgian-like, all-brick home once owned by members of the Gibbard family, one of Canada’s oldest furniture manufacturers. With an estimated budget of $60,000 to $70,000 they plan to modernize it while maintaining as much of the original architecture as they can, a project they call “Bring it Forward.”

Some changes will be for comfort, others for economics. Some will be within their control, others unplanned.

“We don’t know what surprises we’ll run into,” says Ryan, noting they already encountered a “pleasant” one, when they discovered the south wing hardwood floors are salvageable beneath the carpet. “But I know there will also be unpleasant surprises that we’re not ready for,” he adds.

South view of the hallway restoration underway.

One nice surprise so far? The hardwood floors beneath the carpet in the south wing are salvageable.

It’s all part of the territory when you tackle a restoration project, familiar ground for the Ryans. In the early 1980s, they renovated a Victorian home in Brampton, lifting the basement, replicating a Victorian era bathroom and refurbishing the lock boxes on interior doors, complete with skeleton keys.

In Napanee, they plan to update the electrical and plumbing systems, add air conditioning and central vac, change the configuration of the family room and kitchen which will feature brand new Shaker-style cupboards, and add coffered ceilings in the hallway. The property will also be “pool and hot tub ready.”

After more than 15 years in the renovation business, Ryan is highly skilled at his craft. But he still expects a learning curve during any restoration. For example, the home in Napanee is heated by a water-based boiler system he “knows nothing about” which will prove challenging when it comes to adding air conditioning, since there’s no duct work.

He also needs to bring in engineering expertise to assist in his plans to remove first floor walls in the main living area. “The floor joists are resting on the wall,” he explains. “If I remove it, there’s no structural support for the floor above.”

Renovation of the bay window area includes a plan to install bankette seating. As for the dining room, the plan is to modernize everything while maintaining as much of the original architecture as possible.

Renovation of the bay window area includes a plan to install bankette seating. As for the dining room, the plan is to modernize everything while maintaining as much of the original architecture as possible.

Still, there’s a certain enthusiasm in his voice when he describes how he plans to insulate and add vinyl siding to the north wing, and convert one of three wood burning fireplaces to gas. He’s not sure exactly how or when it happened, but restoring homes is now his passion.

“When we bought our first home, I didn’t have a real appreciation for the architecture; I just wanted to get the thing fixed,” he recalls, noting that he seemed to gravitate towards restoration projects over time. “You need to bring a lot of patience. And be careful, because you’ll probably fall in love with it along the way,” he says.

Stay tuned, as we follow the Ryan’s renovation journey and see the end result of their new home.

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