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Zen And The Art Of Renovation

Buddhist teachings say the key to overcoming obstacles is to face them with confidence and creativity.

So when Yee Jee Tso of ArtiZEN Renovations Inc. received a picture of a kitchen torn from a magazine to use as a point of reference to make over two outdated bathrooms in a West Vancouver home, he readily accepted the challenge.

Before: With its fading wallpaper and hard-to-clean carpeting, the original ensuite was in desperate need of a makeover.

“Essentially, the entire renovation stemmed from that single image,” Tso explained of the project at the home of Henry and Hanna Tong. “We used it to glean more information from the homeowners about their needs and desires for the rooms.”

With his friendly, easy attitude and dedication to customer service, Tso, who co-founded ArtiZEN with his carpenter partner in 2005, helped the Tongs define a vision for their dream home.

“They wanted clean lines and a modern look, but not ultra-modern or unlivable,” said interior designer Leanne Poon, who collaborated on the British Properties home the Tongs share with their two sons. “We guided them through the process step by step and helped them choose beautiful, natural materials – lots of wood and texture.”

With fading wallpaper and hard-to-clean carpeting, the master and shared baths in the house hadn’t been updated since the 1980s. Partition walls separated the toilets from the tubs, blocking sunlight and making the rooms feel cramped. The old-fashioned vanities and ancient storage cabinets added to the shabby look of both spaces.

“At first, we considered making the rooms bigger and brighter with entirely new layouts,” said Tso. “But we had a budget to stick to, so we took both partition walls out and replaced them with glass.”

Then came new appliances, fixtures, cabinetry and décor, and the Tongs had what ArtiZEN’s marketing and communications manager, Ashleigh Franklin, called “a whole new bath.”

With the new glass divider filling the boys’ bath with natural light, ArtiZEN removed the old enamel tub and built a walk-in, custom-tiled shower. “It was right up our alley,” said Tso, a former tile installer. “Totally waterproof, with a frameless glass enclosure, we felt it suited two growing, active boys more than a bathtub.”

Indeed, upon completion of the renovation, the Tongs’ sons called their new bathroom “cooler” and “more masculine” than its former incarnation.

Featuring the same tiles as the smaller bath but a completely different look and feel, the master bath was transformed into a soothing space with a spa-like feel – a perfect place in which the man and lady of the house can relax.

“We’re so happy,” said Hanna. “Both bathrooms are absolutely gorgeous, and the staff were extremely professional and thoughtful. They made us feel at ease throughout the entire process.”

Along with the rest of his team, Tso accepts the praise with quiet modesty, pointing back to the basic principal that drove him to create ArtiZEN: “When you show up on time, are easy to deal with and do a good job, the work speaks for itself.”