Built with all the smarts; Broadcaster, tech expert wired his own house
This article originally appeared in the Toronto Sun’s “Star Spaces” column Friday September 7th, 2012. Written by Marcy Cornblum. Photography by Jordan Prussky. Special thanks to Shannon Gallagher.
Broadcast journalist Michael Hainsworth is the host of BNN’s The Business News airing at noon, The Close at 4 p.m., and cohost of BNN’s App Central. He can also be seen on CTV News and CTV News Channel with international and Canadian financial news.
“I’m wired for this job,” says the Toronto native and self-proclaimed “computer geek”. Hainsworth is part of the select group that has taken the word geek, which was previously considered a “four-letter word” to being cool and necessary to help people navigate technology.
Hainsworth was a very shy, driven and serious kid, spending weekends trying to sell computers to adults. He was always taking things apart to see how they worked. He even built a few computers. It was his uncle radio personality, Dan Williamson, that was his early influence. “His advice, which I follow to this day, was to focus on the viewer/listener and think of what the audience is thinking when they are listening.”
He began his news career as the technical producer at CFRB and then moved to reporting and anchoring at CFOS in Owen Sound in 1992. Six months later, he was back in Toronto as a member of the 680 News team.
With news there is always something to say. I try to transform financial news concepts into understandable and interesting bits of information.” And Hainsworth is succeeding at his job. Even when he is grocery shopping, men approach him for financial advice and women ask him about smart phones. “I’m grateful– love what I do.”
Hainsworth recently invited Star Spaces into his home.
We bought our now century-old, 2,300-sq. ft. detached home in Riverdale just as the housing market took off about a decade ago. It has three floors including a fully finished basement.
As the front door swung open, my wife and I were instantly attracted to the open architecture. What we didn’t know was the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired space was accomplished by removing structural support walls and damaging the foundation, leading us to a major restoration 10 years later. I wired the house myself for high speed internet, video and whole home audio.
I jokingly refer to it as “The Estate”. It is shared with my wife Ann Doose, (Of 680 News). Six years ago, we introduced our home to a new member of our family, Olivia. We’ve just recently taken-on two boarders, “Goldie” and “Lighting” (they are only temporary residents, because well, we all know how long goldfish live). Olivia looks after the fish.
My daughter’s “Ballerina Pink” bedroom. We used the main floor restoration as an opportunity to upgrade her baby room and let her decide how to decorate it. Since walking up to a wall of paint swatches at a store and saying to a toddler “pick one” isn’t reasonable, we gave her three options: pink, crème or yellow. She chose pink. Then we gave her three variations of pink to choose from for the fabric for the window treatments and linen. I’ll forever remember the great effort she put into painting and how she was brimming with pride when the room’s final accessory was hung: a poster Ann discovered that reads “Graceful. Lovely. True.”
Because of the era of the home, we wanted to return it to its Art Deco roots. The great strides in technology and society reflected in the architecture offer a sense of elegance and optimism that we hope the restoration achieves. Designed by the incredible Darren Sanger-Smith, a three-step ceiling moulding instantly attracts the visitor’s eye. The living room/ dining room is open concept. The rich chocolate hardwood mirrors the geometry’s sharp angles, leaving it up to a “jet age” swooping leather chair and “Mad Men-esque” gunmetal grey couch to round out the edges. The columns of the fireplace underpin two inches of glass that seem to float on top of the oak man-t le. The kitchen is Ann’s domain. The IKEA cabinets are bone white and the walls are tinted grey/white. The appliances are brushed aluminum. Her favourite feature is the European-style faucet mounted over the range. It is a pot filler. We built in a workspace for Olivia at the back of the kitchen. The backsplash is covered with her artwork.
The day we introduced it to our daughter. We laid this sleeping bundle in the middle of our Mission style bed, and I turned to my exhausted wife and whispered, “now what?” The house is witness every day to the never-boring answer. And I almost feel like this newly l-beam framed house and I are partners in protecting the loves of my life.
The home automation. The laundry room lights magically turn on. We’re hooked on Downton Abbey, and a British accented voice announces the arrival of my wife as the garage door opens. And mood settings adjust the lighting to the time of day. Even my 50-gallon soaker bathtub fills itself to the precise temperature and volume I like. Olivia doesn’t understand why her friends’ homes don’t talk.
Did I mention my soaker bathtub fills itself? And I have Wi-Fi?
“Thank you.” After the botched ’90s flip-job, the house was literally buckling at the sides and was a genuine hazard. The restoration took a lot of time, money and effort, but we’ve got the safest and most high-tech house in the whole neighbourhood. And we love it.
Darren Sanger-Smith took our ideas for an Art Deco look and brought them into the 21st century. Details oriented, attentive and charming, you may already have seen his work designing homes for TV’s Bryan Baeumler on HGTV.
Halton Custom Renovations
Communication is just as important as planning and execution with a big home renovation. Jay, Mike, and the friendly guys at Halton Custom Renovations kept us on top of the evolving nature of the gut-job structural and aesthetic reno on our near 100 year old home and were always positively responsive to ideas, improvements and revisions.
Corner Lot Home Decor
Charmaine was patient with a pair of amateur interior designers who knew what they wanted but not sure how to get it. And despite an order mix-up at the factory left us with an armchair we didn’t want, Corner Lot made it right without a second thought.
KH Davis & Associates
Principal engineer Ken Davis was frustratingly difficult to connect with but associate engineer Jose Escandell was a delight. He ensured our century-old home didn’t fall over, made repeated site visits to ensure the work was performed to his standards, and kept our Century Home from collapse — literally.
Robert Mowles was helpful and accommodating to the evolving needs of the Insteon-based installation. While the technology isn’t cheap, AARTech’s prices were reasonable and his technical support top-notch. The company is a Canadian distributor for the Smarthome.com technology.