Before and After: How Etalk’s Chloe Wilde transformed an old Kawarthas schoolhouse into a Scandi-chic rental
“We wanted to keep it as historically accurate as we could—but some of the finishings weren’t quite our vibe”
A two-bedroom, two-bathroom schoolhouse-turned-rental sitting on an acre of land in Kawartha Lakes.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Etalk’s Chloe Wilde and her partner, Ben, an artist and designer, found themselves with a lot of extra time. They had long dreamed of embarking on a renovation as a creative project, so, with a ballpark makeover budget of $75,000, the couple started touring potential properties. Chloe and Ben’s ultimate goal was to land a unique place that could be transformed into an Airbnb escape for city dwellers. When they found this Kawartha Lakes schoolhouse in May 2021, they had a good feeling—but there was a lot of work to be done. While the building had already been converted to a residential unit, it required a slew of maintenance, including updates to the septic tank, the roof and the well. It also needed a facelift. They got to work immediately.
Six months later, the renovation was complete, with the rental hitting the market in October. Here’s a look at how it went down.
One of the first rooms Chloe and Ben tackled was the loft bedroom. They began by peeling back six layers of wallpaper, only to learn that they’d have to tear down the drywall to install insulation and additional electrical outlets. They also ripped up the carpet and added oak flooring. Then they painted the walls a warm oatmeal colour. Today, the room, which overlooks the verdant backyard, is a charming sanctuary for guests.
The main bedroom just needed cosmetic changes. Chloe and Ben used the same oatmeal paint and oak floors here, swapping the dated light fixture for a contemporary piece and adding a queen-sized bed flanked by funky gold side tables. The ensuite bathroom, sectioned off from the bedroom via a half-wall, was functional, so they left it in place. “We never had any intention of dismantling the bones of the home,” Chloe says.
This hallway nook went from dreary to inviting thanks to a new sofa and a fresh coat of paint. The couple furnished the home mostly with thrifted finds, incorporating a few new pieces throughout. Many of the dried flower arrangements, like the one in the corner, were plucked from around the property.
Downstairs, Chloe and Ben swapped the green walls for a creamy neutral. Before painting the stairs a fresh white, they had to remove the carpet—and each staple—by hand. The original floors (which still have marks from where school desks once stood) could stay, but all the lights and fixtures were traded for ones with gold and white hues. “Our home in Toronto is a lot of creams, neutrals and plants everywhere,” Chloe says. “That’s the vibe we wanted to bring here too.”
Chloe also enlisted the help of her brother, who owns a construction company in Ottawa, to beautify the kitchen. They replaced the grey floor tiles with a hand-laid mosaic and swapped the quartz countertops for butcher block. The team then removed the cabinets by the fridge and installed floating shelves in their place for a minimalist feel.
Outdoors, Chloe and Ben expanded the drab firepit with pea gravel and river rock and refaced the existing Muskoka chairs, painting them lemon yellow. “We wanted to elevate that area, making it a designated hangout spot,” says Chloe. They also lined the house with twinkle lights, including the deck, which they expanded and repainted. See the wooden structure attached to the left side of the home? That’s an outdoor shower, which accompanies the cedar barrel sauna behind it.
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