Design Lessons from 800 Square Feet

Falken Reynolds helps a family transition from condo living to a 3,500-square-foot dream home—without any growing pains.

What happens when you ask small space experts to tackle the renovation of a 3,500-square-foot home? You get a house where every spare inch is used to the fullest. Or at least that’s how designers Chad Falkenberg and Kelly Reynolds of Falken Reynolds do it. Here, they’ve applied the lessons learned from a decade of designing compact, highly efficient condos to a larger footprint, creating a dream home that’s the perfect fit for a family of three.

LESSON 1: Layout Is Everything

Though the square footage of the 1960s-built house was generous, an awkward layout made it feel even more cramped than homeowners Melanie and Will’s previous condo had been. “It was a very unique space, but extremely confusing,” laughs Melanie. “There were a lot of separations of the rooms with walls and although the layout had some interesting components, the house didn’t feel unified.” With the help of Terris Lightfoot Contracting, Falkenberg and Reynolds etched out a new open-concept floor plan; now the kitchen, living space and toddler Max’s play area are unified, and stack-and-slide glass doors from Western Window Systems part for a 12-foot opening into the back deck.

LESSON 2: Put Function First

During the design process, the Falken Reynolds team spent a lot of time deep-diving into the family’s needs, discovering solutions to problems they didn’t even know to anticipate. For example, says Melanie, “They proposed having a few key high-traffic areas with tiled walls, and we can really see how it makes sense now.” In Max’s bathroom, the designers placed the faucet and knobs on opposite sides to make bath time with a toddler easier.

LESSON 3: Corral Your Clutter

Thanks to some clever storage planning, the house is practically clutter-proof. There are deep cabinets underneath the island, and a custom wall of millwork by Munro Woodworking that hides what is essentially a giant appliance garage, with room for all of the family’s gadgets: the doors open up and slide into pockets to allow access to the toaster, microwave and blender. There’s even more storage in the mudroom that the family uses for their comings and goings. “It’s the ‘come-in-and-drop-everything’ spot,” says Reynolds.

LESSON 4: Turn Small Spaces into Cozy Ones

Melanie and Will didn’t want or need a lot of bedroom space: just something that felt like a cozy hideaway at the end of the day. While the rest of the house is painted a crisp white, here the team used a warm Benjamin Moore Amulet amber colour, paired with Cloth Studio linens, grey wool carpeting and a dreamy print by photographer Brit Gill to contrast the airy and bright common spaces.

LESSON 5: Plot Out Your Pivot

Though the family’s square footage has changed, the designers took care to use a small-space mentality for the functionality of the kitchen. “Everything’s within a few steps instead of extending across the full room,” says Falkenberg. “We were thinking about a pivoting action.” From the stovetop, for example, the sink and a drawer full of cooking utensils are within easy reach.

Photos by Ema Peter