Monday, February 06, 2017

A Smooth Landing

Bruce Durrer has had his share of smooth landings over the course of his career as an Air Canada pilot but possibly none could have been smoother than building his dream home with Beaver Homes and Cottages. Bruce and his wife Sally said the task was the most rewarding experience of their life. “We were building our dream home and it was a dream to build,” said Sally. “The whole experience actually brought us even closer together!”

Bruce and Sally started their journey back in November of 2015 when they knew they wanted to tear down their old cottage in favour of a new home. While going through many design books and not finding the plan of their dreams, they stumbled across the Beaver Homes and Cottages catalogue while shopping at their local Home Hardware Building Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario. Blown away with the quality and the amount of home plans within the catalogue and website (, Bruce and Sally zeroed in on the Beauport II model. “The home was the perfect size” said Sally, “It was big enough to host our kids and grandkids when visiting but not too big where it’s too tough to keep up”. Although it was the perfect size and feel, they just wished they could make a couple of little changes. That’s where their Beaver Homes and Cottages Consultant, Jim Lewis, came into help.

“The common perception with 99% of the clients who I see believe that the plan is the plan” says Lewis. “That couldn’t be the further from the truth and I want to make sure the Durrers understood that this is their dream home, and we want to make sure it’s perfect for them…so, if you want something changed from the original plan, just ask.” Armed with this new found flexibility, the Durrers added a substantial amount of windows to the back of the Beauport II so that they could enjoy their beautiful view of Lake Huron and their backyard. As Bruce points out, “Flexibility is a key word when building any Beaver Home and Cottage. Flexible on design, flexible on product, flexible on the contractors…that’s what made working with this program so appealing”.

Wanting to be heavily involved with the project, the Durrers decided to become the general contractor for this build and hired a local contractor/close friend to help administer and facilitate the hiring of local trades. Never shying away from work themselves, Bruce and Sally decided to pour in a little of their own sweat equity into their home. Knowing that tradespeople do great work and are expensive talent, they instructed their trades to purely just do their work and that they would clean up the worksite at the end of the day to ensure a safe working environment the next day. “This kept them doing what they are paid to do and stay productive…this would help us keep on schedule” says Bruce. “Whether it was painting trim or running to the store for extra supplies, we did it to keep the project moving and on time”. Bruce also acknowledged another key factor that kept production on schedule was that Beaver Homes and Cottages program guarantees that product is sent in stages so that there is no “down” time.

The Durrers also paid heavy attention as to what product was included in the standard home package purchased and decided to upgrade some of the products. “We switched out the standard batt insulation in favour of spray foam and upgraded the standard vinyl siding to Mabec wood siding. We also upgraded the stairs and trim, and what a difference this has made to the personality of our house,” says Bruce. “What really blew my mind is how we were able to incorporate a piece of driftwood that Sally and I found on the beach one day and use this as our mantel on the stone fireplace…that meant a lot to us,” Bruce added.

The wide range of products available through Port Elgin Home Hardware Building Centre was also an asset for the couple. “I would say around 95% of the products in this home came from Home Hardware! From the paint to bathroom vanities to our beautiful kitchen! Lori from the kitchen department was fantastic!” said an excited Bruce. The Durrers comment on how they felt like family with all the staff at the store and particularly their Home Consultant Jim Lewis. Sighting a delay in production with a window manufacturer, Jim kept production rolling by tarping and applying plywood in the open areas (at no cost) so that they could begin to put up the dry wall. “Jim went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure our project went smoothly. He was amazing and we now consider him a friend…he’s been back several times since we took occupancy.”

The Durrers can hardly believe that two very ordinary people like themselves could accomplish such a feat as building their own home. But with expert advice of the Beaver Homes and Cottages program, it was one of the easiest things they had ever done. “We have an even stronger attachment to our home because WE did it” said Sally. Bruce added, “to have a smooth landing, you first have to take flight…and we are so glad we took that flight with Beaver Homes and Cottages.”

“I would say around 95% of the products in this home came from Home Hardware! From the paint to bathroom vanities to our beautiful kitchen! Lori from the kitchen department was fantastic!”

Monday, February 08, 2016

Your Own Piece of Paradise

Since its inception, customers looking to build their perfect piece of paradise have been ecstatic with the quality of products and services available through the Beaver Homes & Cottages program offered by Home Hardware Building Centre.

The comprehensive and easy to understand process, with its step-by-step approach to designing and building, makes what used to be a sometimes daunting and nerve-racking experience much more accessible to would-be homeowners and builders working within almost any budget. It should come as no surprise that - for many of the same reasons - the program has become an attractive and often times favourite resource for contractors and building teams; serving as an invaluable tool of the trade when it comes to keeping clients consistently satisfied and beaming.

Working out of the Espanola Home Hardware Building Centre (proudly serving much of Northeastern Ontario,) Erik Carlson has been a Beaver Home design consultant for close to two decades. His immersion in the program and vast personal experience with all areas of building and design for both residential and commercial projects has garnered him significant insight into what keeps contractors coming back to the Beaver Homes & Cottages program when new projects arise.

“(Contractors) are able to focus on the actual build,” says Carlson, “instead of working nights and weekends with material lists or waiting for product approval.”

Those hours, suddenly freed up by working with design consultants like Erik Carlson, resonate with contractors and builders on a number of different frequencies. On one hand, “More available time directly translates to the opportunity to take on more clients and accomplish more builds.” Carlson notes, adding that “It also means that there’s more time to spend with family or simply reclaiming personal time.”

There are close to a dozen contractors whom work closely with Carlson on a number of builds annually. Some he works with on several projects a year, others less frequently, but all seem to echo the same appreciation for the added focus which Beaver Homes & Cottages allows them to deliver in making sure that the build goes smoothly from start to finish.

Lakeland Custom Homes & Commercial Construction is a team of craftsmen headed by master builder Jason Wilcox and project coordinator Patricia Tucker. The team has worked alongside Carlson on countless builds in and around the Elliot Lake / Sudbury area for over half a decade. Tucker muses, “The Beaver plan book gives so many options,” adding “it’s a great jumping off point. Clients come in seeing a plan that has quite a bit of what they like but that they can customize with bigger bedroom or eliminating a wall, etcetera.”

Two instances of the Lakeland Custom team working in tandem with Carlson utilizing the Beaver Homes & Cottages program include a build with minimal customization for Lee and Lana H. in Lively, Ontario and a more highly customized build for Ed and Jane R. in Sudbury proper. Regarding the difference between the two builds and the versatility that contractors respond to when working with floor plans from the Beaver catalogue, Carlson stated that “Customers appreciate our relationship with the builder that gets them a well built home for the money they want to spend. Builders like that the customer has been given information about every step of the build and that I know about all internals before the builder is even called.”

From a builder/contractor perspective, Patricia and Jason spoke highly of the fact that “Lee and Lana wanted a more straight-out-of-the-catalogue build; a country home that’s been a bit citified. Ed and Jane were looking for something more high-end and customized. Even though they were very different, the time Erik spent talking to the customer about flooring, kitchen hardware and materials…since it is such a built-in operation, it allowed us time to focus on what we needed to do.”

When Lee and Lana H. were looking to have their property built in Lively, they knew that they wanted to work with a Canadian company and it was through an online search that they found Erik Carlson and learned more about the Beaver & Home Hardware Building Centre operation. “I don’t know why anyone would want to do it differently,” says Lee. “You can go as elaborate as you want without worrying about breaking the bank. It was all very hands on with open communication lines. After we worked with Home Hardware and Beaver staff to pick styles, paint and fixtures, Erik pointed us toward Pat at Lakeland…and we know that with their reputation they would only work with the best.” Lee also notes “Since we didn’t have to walk through the aisles of the hardware store picking out fixtures with Pat and Jay, we liked that they would be focused on building the house already knowing what we were looking for.”

Ed and Jane R. were equally enthusiastic about their experience working with the team for their custom build in Sudbury, Ontario. “Erik was my point guy,” Says Ed, ”He dealt directly with any concerns we had and communicated them to the build team.” Ed and Jane also enjoyed the simplicity of the entire process, stating that “We chose an existing model out of the catalogue as a basic framework. From there, pretty much everything was totally custom. The model was totally redone under Erik’s direction.” When asked about the overall project, Ed says, “We highly recommend the whole experience. The responsiveness of the Home Hardware team was spot on.”

Given Patricia and Jasons’ extensive professional experience working with Home Hardware and the Beaver Homes & Cottages program, it seems all too fitting that the two opted to work with the operation once again when the time came to build their own home and base of operations for Lakeland Custom Homes & Commercial Construction. Patricia notes, “As contractors we had kept going back to Beaver and Home Hardware… so, it seemed logical and smart to turn to them when we were looking to build for ourselves.” The duo was looking to build on water, and ultimately decided that Elliot Lake would be a suitable place to set up shop. “We wanted our base of operations to showcase the quality of work we could provide, as well as the quality of product available through Beaver and Home Hardware.” says Patricia, adding “It was important for us to show the alliance between builders, and it was a combination of the personality compatibility, ability to support one another and the fact that Beaver offered a great product for the location. That’s what kept us going back.”

Monday, February 16, 2015

It all Started with a Garage

Corinna and Jamie Campbell were looking to expand on their cottage experience. “We wanted more space,” Jamie says, adding with a touch of wry humour “and I wanted a garage.” It was this desire that started the Campbells on their search for the perfect cottage.

Fortunately the task at hand was not an arduous one. While initially Corinna and Jamie had entertained the notion of acquiring a new plot of land upon which to build, the couple ultimately decided to keep their existing property. Jamie recalls, “We had looked around briefly for something new, but not for very long.” Not a difficult decision it would seem, given that since its purchase in 2003 the Campbells had created almost a decades worth of memories enjoying their immaculate property overlooking the picturesque shores of Three Mile Lake in Muskoka, Ontario.

With the location firmly established, the Campbells were able to focus primarily on what their new home-away-from-home would look like. Happily - almost serendipitously - due to a pre-existing working relationship with consultant Greg Alton at Home Hardware Building Centre in Milton, Ontario, all of the information Corinna and Jamie were seeking was readily accessible. Jamie notes, “We had worked with Home Hardware to redo the windows and kitchen at our home in Milton.” It was through these interactions that the Campbells had become aware of the many services and options that the Beaver Homes & Cottages Program offered in conjunction with Milton Home Hardware Building Centre.

After taking time to peruse the Beaver Home & Cottage Design Book, Corinna and Jamie agreed that the Copper Creek model was the option best suited to their needs. “We really liked how open the layout was, and we loved the floor plan.”

The Campbells were able to work closely with their trusted Home Hardware consultant alongside friends from the Muskoka area from the planning stages right on through the build. “I have a few contractor friends from the area whom I would have over to discuss different parts of the project.” Jamie says. “We made the floor plan larger; moving the front wall out 2’ and the side walls out 1’. There were alterations to the bedrooms, bathroom, and the master bedroom on the main floor.” Adding, “We changed the design to have larger bay windows in the back to take in the view of the lake.”

“Corinna had just given birth to our son,” Jamie points out fondly. “And though I did a lot of the work myself, I was confident in the quality of work being done by Home Hardware’s and other various contractors.” While spending time with their family, the Campbells recall that they never had to worry about the progress on the build. “Deliveries were being made on time, and everything was moving ahead.”

The progress continued unabated right up to the completion of the build. “Corinna and I worked together on all the finishing touches as well.” Jamie says. From the flooring and fixtures, to the lighting and siding, all aspects of the projects went as planned.

When asked about their overall experience, both Corinna and Jamie felt that the process and final product exceeded their expectations and that they wouldn’t have changed a thing. “We would do it all again,” adding that, “It was a lot of work, but we both really enjoyed it!”

As for the garage that Jamie was originally so emphatic about building: “I still don’t have it,” Jamie laughs. “We put it aside to focus on the complete cottage redesign.” With that in mind, and based on the glowing reviews of their experiences from concept to completion, it would seem that the perfect garage could be the next project for the Campbells, Milton Home Hardware Building Centre, and Beaver Homes & Cottages.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Beaver Home and Cottage Design Book is a great resource to view and research our collection of beautiful homes and cottages.  You may however, prefer to leaf through a physical copy of the 2015 Beaver Home and Cottage Design Book.  The book is available at Home Hardware Building Centres and Home Building Centres locations as well as on-line. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

In Praise of Smallness: the "Not So Big" Cottage

Over and over, the reaction from browsers at Toronto's Cottage Life Show was the same. "How big is this?", followed by startled incredulity ("No WAY!") and the realization that bigger isn't necessarily better, "This is all we really need, we don't need it to be any bigger than this..."

Visitors believed their eyes, not the specs, when they walked into the petite 572 square foot model cottage available as a material package through Home Building Centres, says Dave Bond, Marketing Manager for Home Hardware's Package Sales division. The structure is furnished and finished only with materials and accents available through Home Hardware and Home Furniture stores - and it was the undisputed hit of the Cottage Life Show. "They were walking in, asking 'HOW big is this?'" Bond recalls. "It was like they were asking, 'Did I hear you right?!? I can't believe there' s only that many square feet in this cottage!'"

While the response to the Home Hardware cottage was overwhelming, the concept behind smaller space buildings is not a new one. Home Building Centres have carried smaller-sized packages for years, including the new line of bunkies in this publication. But with the popularity of books like American architect Sarah Susanka's The Not So Big House, which extols the virtue of smaller-as-better, designed for living houses, it's clear that consumers are thinking differently about the kind of space they want to live in.

Tim and Anastasia Hurley of Tillsonburg, Ontario couldn't agree more. The Hurleys actually purchased the model cottage from the Cottage Life Show. "We were there ourselves," as vendors, explains a thrilled Anastasia, "We had about half an hour before closing when we finally walked through. I walked through again, and again, and I said to Tim, 'What do you think about this, about putting this on our property?'" The couple scrapped their initial building plans and took the leap (and delivery) this past July. "I just absolutely fell in love with it, the colours were beautiful - it was just everything we wanted!"

Neatly blending form and function, the cottage begins with a generous entryway with lots of room for the things of outdoor living and family: shoes, towels, toys and coats. To the right of the foyer is a compact but complete bathroom featuring a roomy shower and space-saving vanity sink with plenty of storage. The high tech "sun tube" skylight brightens the room and provides excellent light on even the dullest of days. Like the building itself, the bathroom is small but doesn't feel it, thanks to good design and well-placed amenities.

What really catches your eye when you walk in the door, however, is the spacious and welcoming "great room", which stretches away and up, giving a tremendous sense of bright, open space. "Things like skylights, larger windows, vaulted ceilings... they just give you that little bit extra," explains Bond. The designers also used the same high quality laminate flooring throughout, "By not breaking up open areas with different kinds of flooring, you're allowing the eye wander uninterrupted."

The open-concept living space also includes a kitchen with storage for wine and other essentials under its large and versatile angled dining counter and bar area - perfect for accommodating gatherings of friends and family or an intimate dinner for two. The layout of the working surfaces relies strongly on principles of good kitchen design; everything is within reach, and there's lots of room for more than one cook. "Angling things off as opposed to squaring things off, these are things that make areas look larger than they are," Bond points out.

With just one bedroom, the cottage plan was developed with empty-nest boomers in mind. "People who are looking for something a little higher-end to retire to, or those who want a cottage or guesthouse, but don't want something that's overwhelming," a big bonus for anyone who's ever considered the reality of maintaining two homes. "This was the second time we took a completely 100% finished cottage to the show," he continues. "We wanted to do it with quality finishes; we wanted to show off the variety of products that Home Hardware carries - the fact that we really have everything you need." As it turns out, that decision appealed to many, "People called, saying they wanted to build the cottage, but that they also wanted the exact same flooring and roofing and other finishes," Bond says, smiling.

For the décor and interior design, Home Building Centres turned to the experts at Beauti-Tone. Bev Bell, Beauti-Tone Creative Director, Paint and Home Products Division, and regular décor and DIY columnist in Home Hardware's Home at Home magazine, worked her usual magic with stunning results. "We piggybacked on the wonderful warm wood," that panels the interior, explains Bell. "We made sure the colours all related, so they told a nice story; there's flow from one space to the next, it isn't jumpy." Done in deep, rich tones, the rooms are welcoming and inviting while still maintaining the sense of space and light that makes the cottage so livable. Even the stylish and well-priced, quality furnishings were provided by Home Furniture. "Everything in this model is available from us," Dave Bond states proudly. "This project was truly a collaborative effort among the experts at Home."