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  • Our World

  • February 03, 2022 4 min read


    I moved last week! It was… a lot. As any move typically is. I didn’t think I would be emotional about it because I feel extremely ready for our next chapter but this condo is where so much growth happened for me both professionally & personally. It’s where my business flourished, where I planned my wedding, my daughter’s first home... Yes, I teared up when I saw the space completely empty. 

    Collin, Reya, and I are currently living in an Airbnb until our next house legally becomes ours at the end of March. Although lovely, this temporary place isn’t home and it has made me reflect on how much my environment plays a role in being my best self.

    By that I mean feeling both energized yet at peace by my surroundings. Somewhere I'm inspired to take time for myself to journal, rest, and be creative. All things I find essential to being intentional in all aspects of my life.

    I know that we are all different in the ways we approach our living situation, but I thought that perhaps some of you are similar to me, and that the story of how & why we renovated our last home could be expansive for you. 

    (Plus, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love good before & after photos!)

    A huge thank you to my dear friend Nicole of Marcy Media for the gorgeous after photos. The before shots are of how the place looked when we first saw it.

    harly jae - laïla's apartment before & after

    harly jae - laïla's apartment before & after

    This renovation happened four years ago. In 2017, a couple months after launching harly jae, I decided to quit my 9-5 job. harly jae was FAR from being a profitable business from which I could draw a salary from but my 
    then-boyfriend-now-husband was willing to support us while I figured it out. 

    To make this financially possible we decided to sell our loft in the heart of the city to get something with a second bedroom where I could run harly jae from. We started looking at older condo buildings as the units were built bigger then. Since we were hoping to buy for quite a bit cheaper than what we sold our loft for, we looked for options 20 minutes outside of the city.

    We eventually found the perfect condo that hit everything on our want list. As a bonus, it had river views and was located on a peaceful boardwalk. I didn't know it then, but it was the zen lifestyle change my nervous system was craving. Now, I just had to bring this sense of calm & light to the inside of the condo…

    harly jae - laïla's apartment before & after

    harly jae - laïla's apartment before & after

    harly jae - laïla's apartment before & after

    This place was always a 3 to 4 year plan for us. We wanted to build equity by renovating it and sell. So with many hours of HGTV under my belt, I got started on this “flip”.

    First of all, I want to say how much more work than anticipated it turned out to be! Renovating in a condo building comes with challenges, like the fact that you have to bring everything up & down the elevator and through a parkade. It would have been extremely hard to manage if I still had my full-time job (or a lot more expensive).

    I was a real stickler about the budget. I knew (again, thanks to HGTV) that when you do a flip, every dollar you put in may not be money that you will get back if you’re not smart about your spending. Thinking about who the next buyer will be is important.

    Because the area in which we lived was geared towards older folks downsizing from their house (hello retirement community living - I’m a grandma at heart), I mainly focused on designing a space that would be bright, calm, and have lots of storage. 

    harly jae - laïla's apartment before & after

    harly jae - Laïla's condo renovation

    We spent money on the things that matter, like getting rid of the tile in the kitchen and hallway so the condo would have better flow & feel bigger. We added more cabinets in the kitchen and a coffee bar where you could watch the river as your hot beverage brewed in the morning.

    We redid the bathrooms: had fun with the guest bath (cue cute tile!) and went for a calm spa vibe for the master bath & added a double vanity. We changed all the doors to oak veneered doors. We updated the blinds and went for light wood curtain rods & white drapes that matched the decor & made the narrow windows look bigger.  

    harly jae - laïla's apartment before & after

    harly jae - laïla's apartment before & after

    harly jae - laïla's apartment before & after

    Because you always need more storage when living in a condo (and because we figured that downsizers would be the next owner - which we were right about!) we bought Ikea closet organizers for all the closets. I must have spent 100 hours planning out the best configurations for each one but in the end it paid off. We never ‘ran out of room’ in this condo. Even after having a baby. 

    For a while almost all of our furniture, decor, and light fixtures were thrifted. Then we bought some cheap-ish pieces. Not only did we not have the budget to splurge on nice furniture at first, we also knew that buying things specific for the condo was pointless because we would be moving in the near future. 

    harly jae - laïla's apartment before & after

    harly jae - laïla's apartment before & after

    harly jae - laïla's apartment before & after

    In the end, even though I didn’t fully design this space to my specific tastes & needs, I did create a home that reflected what I think my soul needed at the time.

    When I think of the person I was when I moved in versus who I am now, it's mind-boggling to me. I credit the light & airy minimal vibe with helping me stop overthinking my way through life. It's as if this space that I got to create allowed me to shed a version of myself that no longer served me. I will always be grateful for what these walls brought me. 

    I hope this (isn't too woo-hoo and) inspires you to create a space you can flourish in too. No matter how big or little the changes you make are, if they feel right, they will positively affect you.

    And if you're renting and a big reno isn't in the books for you right now, Christi loved these two articles (1 & 2) to make her apartment feel like home.  

    I'm excited to do it all over again in our new house. You can follow my personal Instagram for updates. :) 

    Laïla, xo