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10 Tips to Create Your Dream Home with First Step Design

Creating your perfect home is a breeze with First Step Design. Twin sisters and co-owners, Cindy McPhee and Michelle Morin will guide you through every step of your home renovations. Cindy will help you create the design of your dreams as the Principal Designer, and Michelle provides great administrative support, managing the business end of the company as the Business Manager. “We also work with the municipality approvals and partner with the construction to make sure everything moves smoothly,” Cindy said. Whether you are renovating a new home, a section of your current home or designing an addition, First Step Design can help create the home of your dreams.

“In the day of HGTV, many homeowners have specific requests. They know what they want but aren’t sure how to get there, and that’s why we are First Step Design. We truly believe we are the first stage in the whole process,” Cindy said.

Left: Michelle Right: Cindy


Cindy and Michelle will help you create the home of your dreams, taking you through a few stages, to not overwhelm you in this already stress-inducing project. It is important to take the project in stages, which Michelle and Cindy will guide you through. “We do know and recognize that it is overwhelming. You may watch HGTV and they make it look so easy and you say ‘I wanna do that’ but when you turn around and look at the realities of it, it gets pretty overwhelming pretty quickly. So we take it in stages and we start with your idea,” Cindy said.


If you have an idea of what you would like your space to look like when it is completed, collect some visuals to show the First Step Design team to guide them in the direction of your ideal living space. If you don’t quite have an exact image in your head yet, Cindy suggests to take some time to browse through Pinterest, watch HGTV or create a home vision board to narrow down what you hope to achieve in your project. With your favourite aspects of rooms in mind, “we start to develop their idea into a design,” Cindy said.


Cindy and Michelle always work with design options so the homeowner can see different concepts to identify the things that they don't like and what they do like. At times it may be the opposite of what you originally thought you wanted! Cindy says they choose to bring multiple options, to ensure homeowners are confident to make a decision for the final design and move towards construction.

Before and after.

Photo credit to First Step Design's Official website.

Focus on the final product!

There will be many steps along the way that might cause you to become overwhelmed. So, the ladies at First Step Design advise you to, “always think about why you started because the end result will be worth it!” As blueprints are created and throughout the construction process, it can be quite stressful and not as easy as renovations you see on HGTV. So, be prepared for making difficult decisions, budget struggles, compromising and the many stages of construction. Just remember to focus on how wonderful your home will be when the project is completed as you make each decision. The ‘wow moment’ will happen, just be patient!

Ideal vs. reality

Their design skills and services rage greatly, however recently, Michelle says the most common projects they are working on are additions and renovations. Many popular requests they get are to create an open floor plan and people wanting to use every square inch of their property. “People are requesting private bathrooms, so every bedroom would have their own bathroom. But, the square footage adds up pretty high, so that’s where it’s a matter of balance because the more area we have, the larger the budget,” Cindy said. Compromise to keep your ideas within reach and, for example, opt for sharing bathrooms to stay within your budget. When expanding your current home’s blueprint, First Step Design will also look into to building bylaws, to ensure that your design will meet these required standards.


With every project, it is important to have a budget in mind. While some people might be a bit more flexible with it, Michelle and Cindy will help by giving you options to make budget-conscious decisions. “If your budget cannot include everything you want and at the end of the renovation it isn’t worth it for you, we reevaluate. If you intend to create an open floor plan, you can choose lower-priced finishes to stay within the budget,” Cindy suggests. For example, you could leave a few things to be finished at a later date or opt for less expensive finishes, to stay in budget with the help of the ladies at First Step Design.

Allow ample time

If you are thinking of starting a project for your home, it is important to give yourself lots of time to contact a designer. Firstly, the planning and approval stage takes much longer than one may imagine. Cindy and Michelle have had clients that want to have the construction done in six weeks, which is not manageable. However, contacting them approximately six months in advance is ideal to begin the preliminary stages of designing and municipal approval.


In the beginning stages of designing, many compromises will have to be made. Whether it is in regards to budget or differing opinions within the family, “it’s a matter of compromise and that’s fine!” Cindy says. Each person in the household may want different things to be achieved during the renovation, Cindy says she gets everything down on paper and they talk through every aspect to achieve the best design that everyone agrees on and says within the budget.

Identify your taste

Many homeowners research before meeting Cindy and Michelle using Pinterest, HGTV and home dream boards, which can help identify the purpose of your renovation. This is essential, according to Cindy, because knowing the purpose is what will help you make design decisions.

Expand your current home

First Step Design is located in Newmarket and they are finding in that area, people are happy where they live and don’t want to move, “their kids love the school and they love their house, but it could be bigger to have more family space. Some of the work we’ve done has been multi-generational homes,” Cindy said. “We’ve created essentially nanny suites for grandparents and newlyweds that were fairly young.” With just an addition, families can all live happily and comfortably under one roof.

Start creating your dream home today!

For more information visit First Step Design's website or contact them: (416) 779-9370, hello@firststepdesign.ca.