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Friends and Neighbours, part 1

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Part 1: Architectural Advantage

Owners: Drew Klassen, artist, and Alexa Fotheringham, Dalhousie University

If you're going to undergo the pain of renovations, having two architecture degrees in your home is a huge asset. Although neither practice architecture now, Drew Klassen and Alexa Fotheringham's open-concept kitchen and living room is a carefully planned, but inviting space that the couple aptly refers to as "warm modernism."

They purchased their home in August 2001. Over seven years they gutted and updated the former dump of a rental property, relying on Drew's "sweat equity." The main floor was last, and took about six months.

Thanks to Bargain Hunter, a wooden floor was salvaged from a New Brunswick army base and sanded by professionals. Alexa says the gleaming floor looked like a basketball court, and to celebrate, before moving any furniture in, they grabbed a bottle of wine and laid on it for an evening.

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A load-bearing wall was replaced with a wooden beam (1), commonly drywalled over, but keen eyes recognized its textural appeal. Together they visually designed a steel post (2) and had it sized by an engineer. RCO Steel in Burnside constructed it and later, their cool, modern stairs. Drew and Alexa also wanted to bring in a corrugated texture---an element of the outside renovations---but when they discovered the cost of corrugated architectural glass ($100/square foot), they compromised with a plastic version from Kent (3).

On a limited budget, Drew says there was "judicious spending." Appliances scouted from Sears' bargain basement4; the dining table is an Attica floor model. The tiled soapstone countertop (5), which Drew installed, was a deal, but they spent $300 a sheet for the gorgeous plywood in the cabinetry (6), which Drew also constructed. As strong a presence as they are, the cabinets don't overpower two of Drew's landscape paintings, which take up most of the facing wall. See Drew's work at Gallery Page and Strange.

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