Nova Scotia Design Project Briefing

Today John and Matthew present a brand new Design Project featuring the home of long-time Slow Home Studio contributor: Frances GF! If you’d like to try your hand at a redesign use the materials provided below and post them in the comments section.

John and Matthew will present their own redesign, as well as all the great plans submitted by viewers during a special LIVE Online Workshop, Saturday, November 20th @ 9am Mountain (8am Pacific/11am Eastern)

Design Materials

Nova Scotia Redesign – Existing
Nova Scotia Redesign – Demo
Nova Scotia Redesign – PDF
Nova Scotia Redesign – Full Symbol Library

  • S.N.


    First i have to comment on the garden. It is really impressive. Shame that the whole house is not oriented so you can fully appreciate it.
    So what I did is made a “connector” space between hart of the house and the garden. In that space there is enough room to place a PC, so it becomes a study with a great view of the garden.
    Bathroom is connected to the master bedroom and the hallway.
    I am not happy totally with the bathroom, it needs some extra work. A decent deck should be built in the garden to take advantage of this added connection with the garden.
    Entrance area is enlarged by removing the closets and enlarging the entrance door by adding window component to it.



  • http://deleted S.N.


    call me crazy, but you can do this!
    Turn your house around so living spaces face the garden.
    Yes, yes I know it is expensive, and living spaces will face north with just a small east and west exposure….,
    but I just couldn’t resist…. :)


  • Brad W

    Guys why did you offer that demo plan? There are other options…

    SN you’re crazy! Nice plan though…

  • Brad W


    Why is it easier when it isn’t your house? A new bathroom and master bedroom are constructed along the back of the house. An patio door provides access from the master to the back yard and additional closet space is provided. I think you could get smart and arrange secondary access into the bath from the master but I personally think it adds unnecessary complication.

    I do like the concept SN proposed in his second plan which essentially swaps the master bedroom and the living room. So I did that in my second option – this has the benefit of eliminating the bedroom hallway and is fairly cost effective. The downside maybe the odd organization resulting from the bathroom location and that the bedroom doors open directly onto the living room. Next up you could move the bathroom to the front of the house and have a living room and study/bedroom space along the back but this is starting to get expensive in which case I would build spend even more money and build the plan by SN.

  • Frances GF

    Hi SN and Brad,

    You are blowing my mind and sending my husband, Shane into a panic!

    In a perfect world the living spaces would be open to each other with the southern light flooding into the kitchen. But there is a support wall and staircase in the way.

    So in my world the kitchen gets the morning sun and living room has the afternoon sun with a large maple in the front yard to shade it in the summer.

    Brad I think you were correct in saying there is more than one demolition option…should the master bedroom be in back or in the front of the house? Which walls come down and which walls stay?

    SN, although I like your study area it wouldn’t be useful to us. We mainly a laptop family, and Shane has a full office in the basement.

    A regular five foot tub is preferable so the shower could be larger, also one sink is find I am a fan of counter space.

    I have a technical question…how far can a toilet be moved without the added expense of relocating the venting stack and assorted plumbing?

    You both included generous closet space, thank you.

    The garden doors in the master bedroom are sliders…Would a swing door be more draft resistant?

    Thanks for the input.

  • S.N.

    HI Frances GF
    It is great to have feedback from you!
    The original project was to redesign the bedrooms, but you are wright there are issues with living room and kitchen.
    It may be possible to open part of the wall between living room and the kitchen (the area where you have pantry now), then move kitchen in the space I have for the office.
    Now you gain space between kitchen and dining room. This will create a connection space connecting living room, kitchen and garden.
    I would like to draw this to you, but tomorrow morning (European time, that is in 12hours your time).

    For the question about toilet i don’t know.
    I am used to European codes, and American / Canadian codes are unknown area to me :(

    Garden doors in the master bedroom in my plan are sliding due to the lack of space for regular ones.
    Again I can’t say about draft resistance on sliding doors. In Europe it is the same, but in USA / Canada ??????

    Personal message for Shane:
    Dear Shane, please don’t panic!
    Take my advices:
    _If you demolish something please build something, or your wife is going to be really mad
    _Don’t drink and demolish/build, you may pull down wrong wall.
    _Measure twice cut ones



  • http://deleted S.N.

    Brad W
    I agree with you, moving living room requires total redesign of the house and a lot of $$$. If you just switch living room with bedroom it leaves bathroom in strange position, so your first option is much better.

  • J


    Hey Frances

    I really like the idea of have the door out to the backyard. So I put a small hallway in with a bench for storage (shoes, clothespins etc). I think my kids would really use that door :).

    Bathroom is pretty straight forward, shower and bath along one wall, toilet moved closer to the outside wall, but I reused the same wall location, just flipped the toilet into what is a bedroom right now. For the vanity in the bathroom, I would use the whole length of the wall, but you could put a door to the bedroom if you wanted, but that would be a lot of doors in a small area. I put in a soaker tub, but a standard I think would be just as good, and then you could create a custom glass shower!!

    For the master I would gut your existing closet and make it an alcove in the room. Now that IKEA has a corner unit for their PAX system, I would run wardrobes from the old closet all the way up the other wall. You could customize the doors some mirrored, some solid but make them all sliders!
    Then you would have room for a small dressing table or bureau across from the bed (I think).

    I never added window placement in the diagrams, but above your bed, where it is now and a window in the bath between the toilet and the bath.

  • Brad W

    Frances GF

    What I find interesting about something like SN proposed is that it highlights the difference between a complete home renovation project and a room by room renovation.

    Now to answer your questions:
    1. How far can you move a toilet? The drain must slope towards the stack (at minimum .25 inch/foot) and the fewer turns/elbows the better. You will need to consult a professional plumber in your area. Obviously, leaving the toilet in the same location is the most cost effective (especially if the basement is finished and/or the stack and toilet share the same joist cavity) but your toilet is in an awkward location and you owe it to yourself to find out exactly what the costs are to move it before you compromise on your design.

    2. Sliding verses swinging doors? Well engineered doors of either type are equally inefficient. It really comes down to personal preference. A conventional door in combination with a large picture window could work well in you master bedroom. The slider will save space.

  • Brad W


    A small revision – made the bath slightly larger and added ensuite access, the tub is smaller and only one sink, the windows in the bath are higher for privacy and towel hanging space, a skylight in the bathroom is also worth consideration…anyway you can get a great bathroom and a larger master with more closet space and access to you backyard.

  • Terri


    I tried to stay true to Frances’s original request for a larger Master bedroom, a larger main bathroom with walk-in shower, access to that bath from MB, and not moving toilet far from present position.

    The toilet is on the same wall as presently. (I used original to make my plan so that I could be sure I did this.) I did have to move it along that wall by about a foot and a half. The vanity doesn’t offer much counter space with the dual-access entry; but, you could decide to not have access from the MB and make both vanity and the MB closet longer.
    I’ve kept your original closet in the MB because the other one is only about 7 feet, and 8 for MB is usually minimum. If you went for the single-access bath, larger vanity and closet, then that space where the original closet is could have a built-in of some sort (bookcase, vanity, bench…) Or, the bedroom on the other side could have access to it, creating a larger closet for that bedroom.

    I think a slider would be nice in the MB instead of just a window; though it would be colder in winter, it could be very nice in summer.

  • Jim G


    I tried to solve Frances’ issues without making too many changes. I moved the bathroom into the smaller bedroom beside it. I eliminated the closet in the master bedroom to accommodate the closet along the west wall. I moved the bed in master bedroom to the south wall for a better view of the yard. I think that window should be enlarged.
    I also added a door to give access to a small patio outside the master bedroom.

    In the bathroom I used the wall separating the toilet from the vanity for a two-sided cupboard (indicated in blue on the plan). On the vanity side the cupboard would be like a medicine cabinet with deeper shelves. On the other side beside the toilet would be open shelves below the height of the counter for toilet paper, towels, etc.

    Finally I tried to solve the access to the outdoors by extending the deck around to the back yard, to lure guests outside.
    I think the two wide steps from the kitchen to the landing and the door to the side yard provide adequate access to the yard.

  • Jonathan


    While watching the video, this is the first scheme that jumped into my mind, so I’m both surprised and pleased that it has not been suggested yet. This drawing is quite preliminary, and I think there are many options available. It provides for a significantly larger bedroom, while also increasing the size of the bathroom, and providing the master bedroom access that was requested. I recognize that the space where the non-walkin closet is is somewhat awkward, and perhaps even wasted, but this is where options are available (moving the closet up toward the bed, leaving a larger more open space against the backyard wall?). I like the idea of a deck off the master bedroom, whether separate from the main deck of the kitchen or connected. Thus, a patio door would be a nice replacement of that window. On my scheme, the window in the bathroom also has to be moved over. And I know the chair is facing the wrong way, but I’m only using paintbrush, and if that’s no excuse, I haven’t discovered how to rotate an existing image yet.

  • Frances GF

    Hello all,

    I’ve really sent Shane’s heart racing and not in a good way.

    John asked what we had done in the kitchen. We had previously gutted the original kitchen, extended two feet, added windows and replaced others, laid an oak floor, and rebuilt the lower cabinets. We are almost done…then look what I want to do now.

    We would loose the lower cabinets and counter top. Perhaps this would have been the cost of a designer/architect! SN you can add to your “advice list” consult a professional.

    This twenty inch enlargement of the kitchen solves the all it’s problems. The fridge has a better placement and there is dish storage near the dishwasher.

    Before we go through the expense of a new bathroom all the surrounding details have to be right. The bathroom, if that is where it ends up, will be approximately seven feet wide rather than nine feet.

    My apologies in advance if this change impacts designs people may be working on.

    Does the toilet have to be moved to make this room work? Yes Brad the basement is finished.

    SN, Love to see any redesign on the other areas of our home, I simply took out the wall in the living room to open up the front entry.

  • Frances GF


    And here are my changes.

  • fmb


    I know I emailed this in, but couldn’t resist the public forum opportunity!
    My notes are on the jpeg. Tried to keep it as simple & effective as possible.

    -Remove wall behind stove, extend bar to align w/ wall to create seating. Replace hood w/ decorative hood.

    -Relocate existing plumbing fixtures & slide toilet back for added privacy & to give clearance for bedroom entry via track door.

    -This creates seating area w/ room for built-in shelving to alleviate closet stress.

    -Seating area now views back yard. By using nana-wall type system the glass can be closed during winter or completely open during summer – both viewable from the entry.

    Sorry for the screen shot quality! Good luck.


  • J


    Hey Frances

    Back again, I really liked Jonathan’s idea about taking the other bedroom.

    So I gave “the cave” a real closet. Left the toilet and tub exactly where they were. In the master I gave you a length of wardrobes, a place for a bureau or dressing table and a seating area…doors from the seating area lead to the outside deck and there is a door to the bath from the seating area in your master. I worry that there may be too much wasted space, but if you could find the right furniture/accessories, (read IKEA) I think it could work….

  • Brad W

    I was working on a project with a very talented artisan and I had the temerity to ask a few questions about his proposed design. He responded by saying he accepts projects based on three criteria: fortune, fame and fun. At least one must be present for him to proceed. As he explained, on my project his pricing was such that there was no fortune. A small degree of fame was possible as my project was pushing him in a new direction. But once I questioned his ability all the fun was gone and he respectfully resigned. In our subsequent discussion I believe he understood my position (my money, my right to ask questions) but we never did work together. In these design projects, in the context that they transition from theoretical to practical, I can relate to what my artisan friend was saying.

  • Frank


    My first post had an error (a TIFF file) so lets try this again.


    Here are my phased remodel suggestions or long-term master plan recommendations for your house.

    Phase I move bathroom to west wall. Add ensuite to Master. Add new private deck off Master. Add rear entry to new public deck. Plumbing via a number of options including opening ceiling in lower level, interior plumbing chase lower ceiling or new exterior plumbing chase on west exterior wall.

    Circulation spines are multi-use spaces that could serve as art gallery display space, book storage, study space, reading space, etc. They are meant to play a more important role as Phase 2 and 3 unfold.

    Phase 2 removes the walls between living, entry, and kitchen to allow interaction among the spaces for entertaining etc.

    My ultimate build out would push the kitchen casework six to eight feet east and move the dining to the center of the rear portion of the house (circulation area in Phase 1).

  • Frances GF

    Hi everyone,

    Brad and Jim, I like the idea of closing off the existing closet, it frees up the south wall for the bed and as Jim pointed out a view to the backyard. A skylight or even a light tube for the bathroom is a great idea.

    Terri, I like your bathroom layout and as you suggested by giving up the second entrance I can have more closet and a longer bathroom vanity. I know I said I wasn’t a fan of walkin closets but I like your idea of combining the back to back closets for the front bedroom. It would work for storage for the bulkier kids items.

    Jim, I am totally sold on your terrace outside the bedroom I also like how the bedroom door and the exterior door line up.

  • http://deleted S.N.


    HI Frances
    Here is one more idea
    It goes along my first option, but I moved kitchen and opened the wall between living room and kitchen.
    this was done to connect living areas with the garden. that is why i removed a small section of wall near the basement stairs.
    Because you are enlarging the kitchen you just need to add hardwood floor. For the cabinets you can always reconfigure and reuse existing elements.
    I agree with Jim G about the deck, but make a large one so you can entertain on it, and it becomes a extension of your living areas. I also added a hot tub that is incorporated in the deck…. just for fun :)

    ooo the renders, I know you all would like to see them, but they take a lot of time to make, and I had a busy week. maybe after John and Matthew ‘s review I will make some renders that will combine best ideas into one.
    I did this two weeks ago with Montreal design project, where I continued on John and Matthew’s idea, and made a cool master bedroom. I sent renders to John’s mail, but they forgot to post them on the page (they promised :( to me will post it )


  • http://deleted S.N.

    I forgot to mention
    The strange column left at the center of the plan is structural support.
    Looking at the plan I guess it needs to be there, but I am not sure.
    I am used to working with concrete and I am not familiar wit timber frame structures


  • Frances GF


    Hello all,

    Thank you for your input, I have found this process illuminating. We tend to have blinders on for our own homes.

    I took what I liked from various designs to form this compilation. I started with Terri’s plan, the closets and bed placement from Jim and Brad and what I’m calling my “breakfast terrace” from Jim.

    I am lacking bathroom details but I think that is dictated by the materials and fixtures used.

    For all your work, thank you again.

    J didn’t identify as a first time submitter, but I know who you are! Hello little sister.

  • Brad W

    Frances – a very realistic and reasonable plan – I have one concern…where are you going to put a dresser in the master bedroom (assuming one is required)?

  • Terri

    In addressing Brad’s comment, would a slider alone with deck off of it allow you to have more wall beside it for furniture? Or are you adverse to a patio slider door, perhaps?

    Just looking at your overall plan, I was wondering if the living room wall beside the pantry could be removed (the LR door would have to go to then). Just this end of the living room being more open to the kitchen could make quite a dramatic difference. Eventually you could address the front hall section as John and Matthew did.