“It takes time to curate a home to reflect the people who live in the spaces,” says Allison Gaudett, as she nestles into a corner of a sofa in her living room that is receiving a bath of happy spring sunshine.”
Photos by Steve Smith, VisionFire Studios
The space and the objects around her are a mix of re-purposed and re-imagined with shiny and brand new. She has been curating her own home and a new life in the Valley Woods neighbourhood of Stellarton, Pictou County with her partner Rob MacDonald, their children Findley 6, Myléne 4, and yellow lab Moe.
It has been about two and a half years since the couple purchased their new home that looks very different today from when they first walked through the door in 2016. The house on Cedar Drive was one of the first builds in the friendly little subdivision back in the early 80s. It had great bones but it was showing its age. The layout and foundational décor had been on trend 30 years ago, however it didn’t take long for Allison to create a new vision for the property and they were sold.
“The house was dark and lacked flow,” says Allison.
“I needed to brighten it up to live here.” Looking back at the “before” photos the transformation has been quite remarkable. In a little more than two years they have transformed dark and dated into light and breezy with the millennial trend for paired down simple elegance with a focus on function. To make the reno even more exceptional, Allison and Rob did the majority of the work themselves. Allison as the visionary and curator of their own story has captured much of the reno warrior journey in her blog and Instagram account Details Darlings and Daiquiris.
With two small children and Rob working out west for the 14/14 schedule that many Nova Scotia families will be familiar with, Allison knew that she had to remove the stress of a big reno from the family dynamic and make it fun and involved for everyone.
“The kids have turned into little decorating dynamos,” she laughs. “They know that Mummy likes white but they have had their say in some colour choices. Findley chose a very vibrant green for his room. I kept trying to “trick him into a more subtle shade but he knew what he wanted.”
Allison’s palette is very fresh and stays on the neutral side of the colour wheel. It speaks to her need for light and energy in her spaces and she says it also gives her ease and availability to change out decorative elements and seasonal expressions.
While you would think it would be easy to pin Allison down with a specific décor style, she believes that her natural style is more about creating functional spaces that work for today’s living than it is the colour of her walls and couch. This was always her approach to projects and she learned to expand on this knowledge of functional spaces when she was studying to become a Design Consultant through an on-line program offered by the New York Institute of Art and Design.
It was the redesign of the home’s functional space that consumed most of the family’s renovation budget. Opening the main floor, replacing all of the windows, re-routing plumbing, exterior work and landscaping were major investments. The kitchen was the most extensive interior project after opening up the main floor plan when they elongated the space and moved a few doors and windows to create the flow that Allison was looking for. While most of the reno was their own sweat equity they did bring in local tradespeople for the construction of their kitchen cabinets and electrical.
Allison is just starting to build her design consulting business but for years she has helped family and friends with their own design projects.
“Helping friends and family was natural for me and it took me awhile to realize that while my design eye came naturally to me it didn’t necessarily come naturally to other people. That’s when I realized that I had a marketable skill and decided to formalize some education around this part of my life.”
“My real passion is for people to understand the value in function. It is the foundation of everything else. Your final product can change with little décor changes but ultimately you have to be happy with how the space functions, create balance and scale.”
Give Allison and Rob a day to tidy up after two busy kids and you would think that you were walking into a Pinterest pop up house. They are prime examples of the new age of millennials that have been brought up on social media and endless access to DIY and home improvement programming. They are the generation that is smart, savvy and has an eye for design. They have choices for their décor that older generations never had. They are also the generation that believes that less is more and it is reflected in their design style. They live is an era where so much of the product of the market is disposable but they still have some of the penny wise DNA of their grandparents who were resourceful in the repurposing of “things” that might otherwise just go to the curb.
Allison has re-purposing down to science. It’s another skill that just comes naturally for her and it’s here that her flair for the little touches really takes you by surprise. The coffee table had a former life as a train play station for a friend’s pre-schooler.
The art piece over the fireplace is a vintage scarf that she picked up at a yard sale and then framed by Rob. Two rows of vintage botanical wall hangings that were hidden in her mother’s basement give warmth
and a storied spin to her modern rustic dining room.
“I come from a family of collectors. What some people think of as trash become my treasures. It’s hereditary,” says Allison.
There are still a few more projects to tackle this spring. They intend to extend the deck around the back of the house. Then there is the mudroom that they believe needs some attention to bring it into the same theme as the rest of the house. The landscape will be an on-going project. It was the treed corner lot that attracted them to the home in the first place and they want to maximize the outdoor function as much as their interior.
“I love my house,” says Allison after thinking about the rest of her to-do list.
“I don’t think that what I have done here
is what I would do in another space but this is what this house called for. I love it and I appreciate everything about it.”