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Small home, big charm

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Nina and Matthew Elliott and their two young children, Ambrose (3.5) and Lulu (18 months). Photo: Alyssa Gillingham

Nina and Matthew Elliott and their two young children, Ambrose (3.5) and Lulu (18 months). Photo: Alyssa Gillingham

Twillingate homeowners get creative with their space

On the northeastern shore of Newfoundland, in a small town called Twillingate, Nina Elliott is relaxing and enjoying her newly renovated home. The house blends the charms of the original structure with a modern design, plus some ingenious storage spaces for her young family’s needs.

The first thing that strikes people about the home is the epic view of the ocean, which Elliott says was the reason she and her husband, Matthew, were drawn to it. They couple moved there in 2018 and it’s where they’re raising their two young children, Ambrose (3.5) and Lulu (18 months).

“Obviously it’s a small space,” says Elliott, an occupational therapist and textile artist known for her elaborate knitted and crochet creations. “There’s four of us in here. We’re trying to use the space as well as we can, so we’ve got books and nooks and crannies everywhere.” 

Photo: Alyssa Gillingham

She recently gave East Coast Living a tour of her 1.5-storey house, pointing out all the work and careful thought that went into it.

During their first year in the house, they did a few improvement projects, including installing a back door and new front windows, which bring in additional light and offer great views of the ocean.

“It’s a small space but now that we’ve let the natural light in, it feels like we’re outside,” says Elliott. “I can stand in the kitchen and see the ocean through Lulu’s bedroom or through the front door. And if I come into the living room, it’s more ocean. So, it’s pretty.”

A skylight was added to the slanted roof with a desk space perfectly positioned under it. Photo: Alyssa Gillingham

One year ago, they launched a full renovation from top to bottom.

At the back of the 1,110-square-foot-home, they put in a mudroom, installed a closet, as well as a laundry area, and in the kitchen is one of her favourite upgrades.

“Something that was super exciting was that our contractor moved the staircase forward a couple feet, which then allowed us to put in a pantry,” she explains. “It’s been awesome because again, where it’s a small house, it’s kind of a small kitchen. So, the pantry has been very exciting and possibly my favourite part of it all.”

In the dining room area, just off the kitchen, was one fixture Elliott wasn’t excited about: the out-in-the-open fuse box. So, they had an accent wall built to hide it. It looks like a wall made of wood panels. When Elliott pulls on a corner, a section seamlessly swings open to reveal the fuse box.

“It essentially disappears … that was a fun thing that we did.”

Photo: Alyssa Gillingham

In the kitchen they had a similar hidden door built with the same wood pattern to create a backdoor to the cupboard.

Initially, when they were planning for the renovation, they hadn’t intended to do much with the kitchen area.

“Renovating can be a little bit intense because you go in with a plan, but it’s like a runaway train,” says Elliott. “We didn’t intend to do the kitchen, but then it was like, ‘Well, the rest of the place is looking really nice, and the kitchen is not looking that great … And it’s such a pain to renovate.’” So, they decided to go for it.

The floors and ceilings were done with pine wood, which complements the light paint pallet they chose throughout the house.

Photo: Alyssa Gillingham

Moving onto the first-floor bathroom, which is the only full bathroom in the home, she recalls it was a “horrible” space. They ditched the huge tub and removed the laundry machines. They installed a big shower and a new window to bring in light; wisely, it’s the side of the house that faces a mountain.

“I would much rather have a large space to enjoy a shower than space to enjoy folding laundry,” Elliott laughs.

The stairs have a wall of drawers underneath offering more storage space, which was created when they brought the stairs forward for the kitchen pantry. Pulling out the drawers, she points out they’re filled with art supplies, yarn and children’s toys. Nearby is a skylight they had punctured through the slanted roof as well as a desk space perfectly positioned under it.

The stairs have a wall of drawers underneath offering more storage space. Photo: Alyssa Gillingham

Because there’s a slanted roof, their contractor had to get creative to make the most of the available space, she says. The two bedrooms have storage shelves built into the walls. Elliott pointed out that her son’s bedroom also has a small little cave made against the curved wall. Behind the salvaged door, the inside is like a well-padded fort filled with blankies and soft toys like his moose and bear, as well as a collection of books and a racetrack.

When the contractor took out the chimney, it revealed a space that might have once been a closet. The vacant spot is now a half bathroom, something that’s a relief for Elliott because they don’t have to trek downstairs as much.

For now, Elliott says they’re happy with the progress they’ve made on their little bay home. With the interior in shape, she can now turn her attention to the great outdoors.

Photo: Alyssa Gillingham
Photo: Alyssa Gillingham

“Where we live on a hill on the side of a mountain, we now have to figure out landscaping and outdoor comfortable spaces.”

They’re also considering a wraparound porch, a fire pit seating area and a garden.

“And I want a sauna. We’re trying to decide between a sauna or a hot tub. But maybe we’ll get lucky and get both!” 

East Coast Living