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Drum Roll, Please! John’s House Pt. 6

Ladies and gentlemen!

— Drum roll, please —

The Library is now complete!

The ceiling is done….

Blog Photo - John's Library Ceiling

And the walls are painted.

Blog Photo - John's Library Walls Painted1

Even the floor has been swept.

Blog Photo - John's Library floors

And with that, all of the repairing, re-plastering and repainting of the rooms has been done.  Year One of John Garside’s incredible 3-year mission to restore his large old house, coach house and grounds in Prince Edward County, Ontario, is almost over. And this means that he and his wife Ann can finally move in.

(Gee whiz – I feel like stopping everything right now and having a celebratory drink myself – and it’s not even my house!)
Blog Photo - John's House - Front

But before we get too excited, I have to tell you there’s still a bit more to do.

Like putting in the baseboards (skirting) around the newly installed floors on the third floor.

And removing all the scaffolding and tools from inside the house.

Blog Photo - John's House Scaffolding

And paint cans from the kitchen.

Blog Photo - John's Kitchen

And then the big clean-up.

All that before Move-In Day on May 7.

But even during the push to finish it all, John’s feeling delighted with what he’s accomplished – by himself.

“For example, the quote I got to repair the plaster ceilings and crown moldings was $5,000 a room.  Instead of going down that path I invested in $50.00 worth of materials (per room) and did it myself.  The results are truly amazing!  Even the local contractors are impressed!”

Blog Photo - John Red Room Finished

He still arrives at the house a little after 7 each morning and works steadily till 4 p.m., stopping only for a light lunch.

“All is on schedule and all deadlines will be met!  Ann will be arriving on Sunday (May 4) to help with the final cleanup of the house just before the movers arrive on Wednesday.  Great happiness!”

When I told you that John was doing all this work by himself, I wasn’t joking.  His wife Ann, a partner in an accounting firm, has been in Toronto, more than two hours away. This is the busiest time of her work-year – tax season – and Ann’s been working flat-out at her job.   She hasn’t been to the house since mid- February, when she made “a flash-visit”.

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase 2

So how does this work for them? How does Ann know she’ll like what John has done?

“Lots of pictures are sent each day to provide Ann with the state of affairs at 27 Centre Street,” John explains.

“Does she trust you THAT much?” I ask John cheekily.

And he replies: “That is why I send the pictures each and every day . . . Feedback is always good!”

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase

On reflection,  I’m really liking the sound of this arrangement:  Husband does all the hard and dirty work, while wife stays away from all the chaos and white dust, returning when the work is done.

Hmm… Ann, you’re a girl after my own heart.

Way to go, Ann!

Ooops! I really meant:  “Way to go, John!”.

 **

 Photos by John Garside

A Good Home, Customer Service, Home, Kindness, Kitchens

Customer Service Isn’t Dead

My daughter and I were on an errand in the outer reaches of northeast Toronto.

“I need a coffee”, she said.

A minute later, a McDonald’s sign came into view.

Image via wkipedia
Image via wikipedia

“Would McDonald’s do?”

“Sure,” she replied.

So we pulled into the plaza and found our way to the drive-in lane for McDonald’s.  We ordered two coffees – one for her and one for me – and drove away, smiling.

“Did you notice how professional that young woman was?” I asked.

“Absolutely!” my daughter answered. “I love the way she dealt with us. So polite, and so professional.”

Image via Assocaited Press/CTV News
Image via Assocaited Press/CTV News

“Someone should tell her boss,” I said.  “I’m betting most customers don’t bother to do that.”

But we hadn’t taken note of her name, so we drove back to find out and tell her boss.

The manager leaned down to our car window.  We told her that her employee had provided the best customer service that both my daughter and I had ever come across at a fast-food restaurant.

“Thanks for doing this,” she said.

“Maybe someone should tell head office,” I said.

“I can give you the email address to write. Would you mind doing that?”

I shook my head. “Not at all. I’d be glad to.”

She wrote down the name of the employee and the email address for head office.

And then I lost the piece of paper. And forgot my good intentions.

Months later, on another errand nearby, I stopped at McDonald’s again for coffee, looked up to pay for my order and –- it was the same young woman.  The one whose name I’d forgotten.

Again, she was courteous.  Again, she acted as if  I was the most welcome customer.  And as if hers was the best job in the whole world. Now – no disrespect to McDonald’s – but how can someone who works at a drive-through window act as if hers is the best job in the whole world?  Yet, this young woman did.

“May I please ask your name?”

“Maria,” she said.

“Maria!” I said. “Thank you.”

image via Moen website
image via Moen.ca website

Weeks earlier, our kitchen faucet went on the blink.  My husband went to two hardware stores to find the part, but failed. He ended up calling the manufacturer of the faucet, Moen.

He put down the phone in shock. “Their customer service is amazing,” he said.

Not only had Moen promised to ship him the necessary parts, free of charge, but the person on the phone made my husband feel as if his was the most important call she’d received all day.  My husband could hardly believe it.

“Moen is like that,” I reminded him. “Some years ago, when our other faucet needed repairs, it was the same thing. Although the faucet was a few years old, Moen quickly offered to send us the replacement part.  Don’t you remember? I was as shocked as you are now.”

“So customer service isn’t really dead,” he said, smiling.

Some days, it sure feels like customer service is headed for extinction.  And sometimes, big companies seem to be the worst offenders.

But  we are most thankful for these delightful exceptions. They proved our assumptions wrong.

N.B to my readers:  If this sounds like advertisement for these companies, be assured I have no connection to  either one.  Nor is this a ploy to get free coffee at McDonalds!

This post is dedicated to Maria, and to all the people in this world who go over and above to provide courteous and efficient service to their customers.

 

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Colin and Justin in Cottage Country

Cottage country will never be the same.

Those talented, funny and likable designers – Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan  (the duo who gave my book such a good review last fall) – have bought into the Canadian dream: owning a cottage.   It’s on a lake in Muskoka, three hours north of Toronto, and every time I look at the photo below, I burst out laughing.

Blog Photo - Colin and Justin in the WoodsColin and Justin, “Cabin Pressure”, Cottage Life TV

As usual, they’ve gone whole hog.  No modern Muskoka Mansion for these two.  They’ve bought the quintessential Canadian pioneer dwelling:  a log cabin.

A log cabin, you might ask? Are we talking about the same Colin and Justin? The famously jet-setting designers known for creating glamorous interiors and sporting oversized flowers in their lapels on their previous TV series, Colin and Justin’s Home Heist?

Blog Photo - Colin and Justin Design

Yes.   They co-purchased the log house with two friends.  And they’ve made a TV show about their adventures, called “Cabin Pressure”, (Tuesday nights in Canada on Cottage Life TV).

Of course, no matter where they go, they’re still Colin and Justin, after all.   The same witty Scottish-accented pair who live in Scotland, England and Canada and make us laugh while sharing their clever design skills.

So, as they told the Canadian Press:  “I think we scared the living bejesus out of a lot of people. Because we arrived in fake-fur, floor-length coats and trailed around the lake in the middle of summer like the Kardashians on crack.”

Oh, dear.

Colin and Justin Cabin Pressure
“Cabin Pressure”

But if there’s one thing I know about these two, it’s that they’re very talented. And another: they’re smart.  They’re also very knowledgeable about the deep feelings people have for their homes. (See Colin and Justin’s review of my book, A Good Home.)

So what can we expect? You’ll have to watch the series to find out.  But I’m betting you’ll learn a few things about log homes, cottage life, and a lot about interior design. After all, many of us would find decorating a log home very challenging.  As did Colin and Justin.

They visited a dozen cottages before settling on this one.  It passed inspection.  But when the renovation was starting, they encountered a rotting deck, dangerous wiring, and several other problems.  Their new purchase seemed to be “a pig in lipstick”.

Still, they describe the experience as “brilliant. It’s made us better people.  We’ve learned such a lot about ourselves.”

Cabin Pressure on Cottage Life TV
“Cabin Pressure” on Cottage Life TV

So cottage country may never be the same, but it appears that our famous designer duo will never be quite the same, either.

Get ready for a new take on “Canadiana” – Colin and Justin style.

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House Proud

Every house has a story, and so does this one.

Blog Photo - Brick House3

“I walked through the front door”,  owner Beth says,  “and, without seeing the rest of the house or knowing anything about it, I burst into tears and said ‘We’ll take it’.    The realtors replied: ‘But you haven’t seen the rest of the house’.    I didn’t need to.”

Beth was immediately drawn to the  “magnificent staircase”,  the sight lines from the front door, and the kitchen’s stained glass window.

mls.ca

 Set on 5+ acres, this large brick house north of Cobourg, Ontario, has been beautifully renovated and lovingly cared.  Beth and her partner Gerry were enthralled with the  original features throughout the house: the woodwork, the 18- inch baseboards,  the stained glass windows in 4 of the main rooms, and the back staircase that leads up to the bedroom once used by  the household staff.

mls.ca

The house goes back to 1892, one of several built by the Atkinson family on “crown land” (deeded to them by the government).  Descendants of the Atkinson family still live and farm nearby today.

Realtor.ca

But in the 1970’s, the house was in such sad shape that it was slated for demolition.  Then a family bought it and lovingly restored it over 20 years.  Next,  the house was sold to professional renovators.  By the time Beth and Gerry came along, it was already in great shape.

Realtor.ca

Beth has a passion for Victorian homes, and while some of the woodwork is painted, most of it has been kept original. “I have a mission to preserve old houses from being ‘painted’ – as so many of the décor magazines seem to advise right now, e.g.  ‘Paint that staircase white’.  Or, ‘get rid of that ugly wood trim’.”

Realtor.ca

It’s been a good home for Beth and Gerry.

With 5 bedrooms and spacious common areas, the house accommodates their large  family gatherings and also provides separate office spaces for this couple.

They love the views. The sunsets from their west-facing living room. The trees. The fields. And the “free horses” – two Belgians belonging to their neighbours – that come to live in the field from May to October.

Realtor.ca
Photos by Steve Leach – Realty Services

A favorite space is the screened- in porch/sunroom.

“It’s heaven.  Listening to the sounds of nature.  Enjoying the fresh breezes. From the first minute the temperature rises to +5 in the spring,  we are sitting out there for three seasons.  In the mornings with our coffee, at lunch taking  a break from work, and after work with a glass of wine.”

But the time has come for Beth and Gerry to downsize. Their lovely house is for sale.  And though there’s the inevitable sadness when leaving a cherished home, they know that others will enjoy it for years to come.

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