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Eclectic Charlottetown renovation
One Charlottetown couple used antique hand-me-downs and vintage finds to punctuate the interior of their century-old home.
Home is where the heirlooms are for one Prince Edward Island couple. The downtown Charlottetown house belonging to Craig Dauphinee and Christopher Gillis is a cache of vintage family pieces and treasures the two have discovered on antiquing and shopping excursions over the years.
All mesh together in their century-old home in a design all their own. “I don’t know if we were really going for anything [in terms of a specific style]—a lot of it just happened to be born,” Christopher says.
As first-time homebuyers, Craig, an instructor at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown, and Christopher, a policy analyst with Veterans Affairs, thought they would start small and then move up the square-footage scale in the future.
However, they changed their minds and went big right off the bat after discovering the five-bedroom, three-storey property. It is nestled comfortably in the older part of the city, with neighbouring homes of similar vintage an arm’s length or two away. “There was a lot of character to it and a lot of opportunity for us to put our own stamp on it,” Christopher says.
The house was move-in ready when they crossed the threshold last May, but the couple was keen to add their own touches to the space. Many of the bigger jobs were complete, such as installing bamboo flooring and new windows. But there were still some unfinished projects, such as installing pot lights and crown moulding, and finishing off the baseboards and trim.
“We did quite a bit ourselves,” Christopher says, though they left the electrical and carpentry work to the professionals. They gave themselves two months to complete the main projects so they could have the summer off and then start again in the fall.
They began planning the interior of their new space in the car on the way home from a visit with Craig’s family in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. “His whole family is huge collectors of everything, whether it be antiques, old coins, old tools or china,” Christopher says. “So every time we go there there’s always quite a haul that we come back with.”
That day in the car, they did a mental walk-through of every room. “We wrote a page for each room and started listing the furniture that we would like to put in it, the colour perhaps, some of the decorative features and also the things that we still needed to get,” says Craig. “Each room had one [main] thing to start off with and we just built from there. I don’t think we ever really stepped back and thought of the house as a whole. We did that [process] with every room and it just worked all together.”
The kitchen’s focal point is a vibrant red, vintage 1950s-era Formica and chrome dinette set that Craig picked up at a shop in Weymouth, N.S. called Grandma’s Antiques. A highchair in a similar style acts as an accent piece.
They kept the existing cabinetry but painted it, changed its hardware and installed a basic black countertop. “We went with a laminate counter because it is durable and looks good enough,” Christopher says. “There was no sense in going with anything higher-end considering we weren’t doing a gut job on the kitchen. Sometimes less is more.”
As a special touch, they added a backsplash of red and white Penny Round tile from Home Hardware. But it wasn’t a consensus at first. “Out of everything that we did in the house…there were only two things we didn’t agree on and this was one,” says Christopher, who worried it wouldn’t work in the space. “But now I love it!”
They spiced up the pale cream colour of the kitchen walls with a punch of brilliant red on the chimney enclosure that juts out from one wall. The final touch is a huge red floral print they purchased from Winners. It was quite a feat bringing it home on the roof of their small car on a chilly October day. “We weren’t prepared with rope or anything, so we laid it on the roof and each had a hand out the window driving home with it,” Craig recalls. “It was just cold enough to really freeze your hands,” adds Christopher.
In the dining room, they took the unusual colour inspiration from the soft greens and pinks of Craig’s mother’s Blossom Time wedding china. However, the couple soon second-guessed their choice of Behr paint in Faded Rose for the ceiling and Minted Lemon Green for the walls. “We got the first coat of paint on and I remember saying to Craig, ‘Oh this is wrong—we’ve made a big mistake,’” Christopher says. “We’re going to have to repaint this whole thing. It looks like a 12-year-old’s bedroom!’”
But it all came together once they added a rich, dark Victorian-style Shand Kydd wallcovering to the original non-functioning fireplace, and dressed the room with their stockpile of antiques and heirlooms.
The hallway was the site of their second design dissension. “I insisted that it be a flat finish to add a different dimension to the walls and Craig just threw his hands up at Home Depot and walked away and said, ‘Fine, you can have the flat finish but it’s going to be awful,’” Christopher remembers with a smile.
Now both are big fans of flat paint for its matte-like quality. They used a gentle purple hydrangea hue throughout the main floor hallway and extended it up the stairwell to the third floor for continuity. “It looks blue, grey or purple, depending on the light,” Christopher says. An unusual alcove under the staircase is a neat little nook for a vintage hostess chair and a bright painting. “It’s our time-out chair,” Craig says with a laugh.
A pair of vintage occasional chairs from Hardy’s Used Furniture in Charlottetown was the starting point for the living room, which they painted in gold and a coppery penny colour. A nifty antique sewing box between the chairs doubles as a small table and stores Christopher’s knitting supplies. A 1970s brown dial telephone, still in working order, is a fun addition to the décor, as is an artistic stack of old suitcases that they use as a coffee table. They also framed a funky 1970s psychedelic-style floral scarf for display.
Longtime friend Rachel Brookins of Charlottetown, who was part of their project from the beginning, enjoys their creative use of vintage furniture. “They managed to find some great pieces online or at thrift stores…and painted or repurposed them,” she says. “I am also
inspired by their eclectic collection and display of art. Anything that they find beautiful or interesting is worthy of being hung to be enjoyed, whether that be old photographs, paintings, vintage scarves or fabric.”
They designed it for living and aren’t afraid of using the space to the fullest.
The couple enjoyed putting anything and everything to good use in their décor, including an old door from the house. Turned on its side and affixed to the wall, it’s now the headboard in their master bedroom. This second-floor room, painted a soothing dark grey, is minimally furnished, thanks to the conversion of one of the five bedrooms into a walk-in closet.
The bathroom was the biggest renovation project. Craig and Christopher hired a contractor to gut it so they could start over from scratch and get the look they wanted—from the hot pink walls down to the heated black-and-white checkerboard tile floor. “It’s like apple pie for your feet,” Christopher says with a laugh.
A white vessel sink sits atop an old dresser that one of their friends had in her shed. “We repainted it [black] and had the carpenters put in room for the plumbing—he shortened the drawers—and we changed the hardware,” says Christopher.
A funky mobile suspended from the third floor gives the second-floor stairwell an art gallery feel, as does the collective of personal photographs, paintings by family and friends and other interesting items. It includes a framed copy of an original menu from Sim’s Corner Restaurant, where Craig was the original manager, and a framed photograph of the fishing port where Christopher’s late father sailed from.
The other bedrooms are still works in progress, with the exception of one on the third floor that is the den/television room. “We still have a little bit more to do,” Christopher says. “It’s more than just the decorating and finding pretty things—we really enjoy the process of renovating and designing as well.”
For Brookins, one of the things she most enjoys about her friends’ home is that they designed it for living and aren’t afraid of using the space to the fullest. “There is no show room that is only to be looked at,” she says. “They cook in their kitchen, eat in their dining room, use their silver and china, and sit in their living room. They have made every room in their house special for them, not just the public rooms.”
She plans on following the couple’s lead in her own home. “They have inspired me to dust off china that has not been used since my grandmother’s time, open up the silver chest and use my good teapot,” she says. “They have created a beautiful home and filled it with lovely things. Now they are enjoying every part of what they have created.”