A Tragedy Becomes a New Beginning

We are sharing a very special project that’s particularly close to our hearts, a project that highlights the importance of collaboration and taking the time to understand our clients’ dreams and passions. Often, the journey is as important as the destination.



Our client, Dannielle, had her life change drastically when her family home suffered a devastating fire. If the incident itself wasn’t bad enough, insult was added to injury when the construction company recommended by her insurance company told her the rebuild would take a year and a half! Having some experience in the construction industry, our client knew that this timeframe was unreasonable. That’s when she called Jim Bell.




Within two days, Jim visited Dannielle’s home and reassured her that he could obtain the permits quickly and complete the rebuild in less than half the time the construction company quoted. After the initial meeting, there was no question that Jim Bell Architectural Design was the right company for the job and Dannielle had Jim provide a budget for the insurance company so that the project could proceed. She was much more comfortable working with Jim, and since she had quite an eye for design and a strong passion to contribute to the project, Jim was happy to incorporate her ideas. The project was off to a much more collaborative start. [Update: Although Jim Bell Architectural Design Inc. no longer provides project management (build) services, we do have connections with great contractors. Our design process takes you through to permit application stage and then we can provide contract administration oversight services to residential clients who choose to retain us for that phase. Read more about our design process.]




The original bungalow design was very traditional — chopped up into individual rooms. With Jim’s extensive design and renovation experience, he knew this was an opportunity to create a new open-concept living area. Several walls were removed and all of the remaining walls were stripped back to studs and drywalled to remove all traces of damage from the fire. Jim modernized the kitchen layout to include custom cupboards built by a friend of the client, new appliances and two “conversation-piece” elements: a live-edge slab bar counter and sliding barn doors for the pantry. The basement was completely renovated as a separate apartment and the garage was transformed into a serene massage-therapy space for our entrepreneurial homeowner. Exterior work included new colours of siding, soffit and fascia to complement the existing brick, along with the all-new roof and windows.




This fire restoration project illustrates perfectly how the Jim Bell Architectural Design team collaborates with a client during a difficult time. Excellent customer service and the integrated project delivery process are crucial to client satisfaction. It’s not only about providing an exceptional final product, the process must be equally outstanding.




Let’s hear from Dannielle in her own words…

Why did you decide to engage Jim Bell?

I was looking for somebody that could take control of the situation. I had experienced a fire and I had worked with Jim before. I knew his skill level and what a great designer he is. Once I heard from the insurance company I wanted to know how long it was going to take; they said a year and a half. I said, “No way! This should be a three-month project”. I immediately got on the phone with Jim and he showed up within two days. He gave me some advice on how to proceed and said he could help get the permits more quickly. I was using this difficult situation as an opportunity to make some changes to the home anyway. After some back and forth with the insurance company, I fired the original contractor and hired Jim.


How long did you live in the house before the fire?

I had been in the house for 18 and a half years, then the fire happened in February 2015, and I was back in the house by the middle of August. Because we had to be on the farm to look after the horses, we lived in a trailer behind the house and Jim co-ordinated the complexities of utility hookups. It took some finesse to make sure we did not have to do any extra packing and unpacking when we moved back into our home. It went very well because Jim was great at planning and keeping me informed throughout the entire process.




Were there any specific features you were able to include the second time around that you didn’t have originally?

We gutted all the walls between the kitchen, dining room and the living room and Jim laid out the kitchen in a different way. I had a cabinet-maker friend build the cabinets and we used a live edge slab custom-made for the bar. The front door of my house always drove me crazy, so we sat down and Jim provided a sketch on the spot. Jim even included some spiritual items I requested, including cedar. He incorporated cedar into the cupola over the front door and into two large brackets on either side of the door for hanging planters. It has become a healing house.




What did you most enjoy about working with Jim?

Jim showed respect for my spiritual beliefs and he was always honest with me. We had a good relationship going into the project. I have great respect for his design skills. Jim really just stepped in and handled the headaches. Jim provided emotional support and stability for the project. We were able to work really well together. Jim dealt with everything in a really timely fashion and freed me up to think about how to bring healing and closure for my family in our new home.


How do you feel in your house now?

I love my house. I feel great in my house. Not only is it beautiful but the healing elements create a serene atmosphere.


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