Tuesday, November 19, 2013

One Year Later....A look back at renovating 151 Marion St

November 16th was the one year anniversary of Jewel Envy's relocation to 151 Marion St. It has been a busy and wonderful year but getting here was not easy. This is the long awaited blog entry detailing the epic journey of the retail and studio space (two of the four floors)!

This is first image I have of the house. You may wonder why I am so close to the house and why I took a shot that was clearly blocked by trees. Well I had to stand this close to avoid getting the weeds in the viewfinder and it was the only way to see the house.

The place was used as a rooming house with each floor having a kitchen and washroom and a variety of tenants. The owner bred dogs and yes you could smell them before seeing them. Many of the issues were cosmetic and aromatic, but overall the structure was good. I consulted with three structural engineers, electricians, plumbers, HVAC installers, general contractors, and pest control to make sure I wasn't buying an infested house. Most pre-purchase inspectors wore a respirator once inside and commented on this being a disaster home but a good buy for the right price. I knew from the start I would be gutting the ground floor and basement to open up the space, while trying to preserve some of the old charm as the house was built in 1904 and had some lovely features.

These next few pictures show the cleaned up exterior of the house. We had to remove the fences around the front yard, some of the trees and the three foot high weeds got trampled during demolition.

This area had a collapsed back deck and was home to weeds and waste. There were also some foundation issues causing leaking in the basement.

There was a giant crack in the side of the building filled with caulking, the window sills were cracked and a ready to fall apart.
The roof was also leaking.
This is the side view after clean up and restoration but before painting.

Now these views look like this:

Next we have some pictures from inside the house before the demolition. Most people thought I was crazy but I could see past what was here and imagine what could and would be here.

The entire basement was full of pallets of Russian teapots for sale, wedding dresses, and various other random items like hot plates and 90's boom boxes. A path had to be cleared to walk through it to view the space.

It is kind of hard to understand how the space looks from images so next up is the ground floor floor-plan and a few of the variations I designed along the way. I made lots of structural changes and some walls were removed while others were built.

By the last floor plan you can see how I managed to fit in everything I wanted with room to play around in the retail. I measured everything hundreds of times and tried repeatedly to explain to contractors that when they changed the plans by an 1" it changed everything for me. I may have gone through about 50 versions of these plans before I settled on the final layout.

The day I got the keys we had a little ceremonial breaking of the wall with a sledgehammer, hard hats, and some heals (heals never to be allowed on site during the renovation again).

I was at the renovation every day and part of every decision but I couldn't have done it without the great team keeping the old space on Spadina going while I was away. Alexis was there to help, as she always is, every step of the way. I couldn't ask for a better manager or friend!

Next I will include some before and after shots so it easier to make sense of the transformation.

Walking into Jewel Envy there is no longer a fireplace on the west wall.

Oddly enough the east wall also had a fireplace that had to be removed.
The floors and trim are all original. We recycled wood from areas that were removed to preserve the historical elegance.

This is the view looking out onto Marion St.

The center wall was removed and posts and beams were put in so that 90% of the ground floor could be opened up for the best use of the space.

This is the view looking past the retail into the studio.

As a side note there are ten workbenches in the space, each with flex shaft, light, and torch. Having natural gas to the house allowed me to set up a wonderful system with torches upstairs and casting downstairs. I use oxygen generators at each station so this system is very safe!

This was once the ground floor kitchen and is now another workspace.

Next up the basement.

This area became the washroom, home to the draw bench, and one of the studio wash up sinks as well as various other pieces of equipment.

We removed the closet behind the bin and opened up the space to become our polishing area.

There was a little asbestos surprise at some point along the way. But after the men in hazmat suits came in and cleared the way we were good to keep working on the area that houses our burn out kiln, enamelling kilns, and casting area.

This post became part of the wall opposite the kilns.

This is now a clean space for enamelling.

 And on the other side of the wall is a clean kitchen with a computer and couch for work and relaxation!

Where the sink is sitting there use to be a non-functioning bathroom raised on a concrete platform.

There are still a few landscaping things I have planned and of course I am always buying equipment so I guess it will always be a work in progress. Looking back over what has been done I am very proud of this endeavor. I can say this is exactly where I wanted to be at this stage in my career and I look forward to many more years in this location working with the wonderful artists who are a part of the space.

I encourage you to stop in anytime for a tour of the studio and a look and what our incredibly talented jewellers do here.


Monday, November 4, 2013

I am now an industrial designer....sort of!

It has been a while since my last blog post. That is mostly because shortly after that post I bought a century home in the Roncesvalles Village to renovate and move Jewel Envy to. Today's post is not about that process (don't worry that one is coming in the future) but about a small part of that entire process.

It is about the retail portion of Jewel Envy. Since I was already designing the space I wanted a display system that no one would have. As it took a long time to find the ideal space for the new studio and store I had worked out a lot of the retail in my head before starting to make. By the time I was ready to order parts I knew exactly what was already in existence and what I had to design and find places to manufacture for me. I was able to have all of the parts made in Canada from a variety of places and then assembled them in the studio. I did have some help from fellow studio mate Alexis Kostuk who worked tirelessly to help me get the system installed on time for the grand reopening.

One of the manufacturers that helped the most was a local fabricator called W.M Prager Ltd located less than one block away from my old studio space. W. M. Prager Ltd is a family owned and run business and I was lucky enough that my project interested Mort Prager. He helped me produce a variety of metal fixtures that allowed me to install my displays exactly as I had pictured them.

And then after the store was open and the studio was running smoothly, Mort approached me about optioning my retail display. It was quite an exciting conversation. I worked with their design engineers and explained how I had put parts together. Priced the system. We negotiated a fee. They made samples and took them to the Chicago Design Show in the spring of 2013. And then I heard nothing.

I didn't think about it to much but every once in a while I thought I really should follow up and see what the feedback from the show was. Oddly enough I had some other designs I was thinking of having made so feedback, even it showed disinterest in the design would be helpful. But alas I got busy with my own work and running both the store and studio so I put it on the back-burner.

And then I got a call from Mort. The show had in fact been a success and W.M. Prager had a very large order for the displays I designed. I was getting my first royalty check! I was in a bit of shock and when I went into the store Mort gave me a copy of the catalog. Unfortunately my name was left out of the first print of the catalog but I have been assured it will be included in the next print edition!

 And that is the story of how a trained goldsmith became an industrial designer! More designs to come from PASH in the future so stay tuned to see what I come up with.