Twenty-two years ago, I designed my first custom home, a retirement home for a master gardener. The site was a beautiful 3 acre lot set in the rolling hills of southern Ontario. Seven years ago, my clients sold the home to a family who wanted a country home, as they loved to ride. Last year the second owners put the home up for sale so they could move closer to their horses and the home changed hands for a third time by a Toronto couple who wanted a retirement home.
This past weekend, when I was in Ontario for my mothers 88thbirthday, I was lucky enough to be invited back to this home by the new owner, Elise. It’s a rare occasion for an architect to see a home many years after its built, and be allowed to poke your nose into every room. Of course, I jumped at the chance and immediately rearranged my schedule to fit it in.
As I drove up the curving drive on a beautiful sunny June afternoon, I was immediately struck by how magnificent the matured plantings and landscape design of the master gardener looked in the full bloom of summer and how beautifully the house nestled into that landscape. I had situated the home facing west along the crest of a small hill, with a shaded patio behind the home at the top of hill, and banks of windows overlooking a sloping lawn down to a pond on the west side.
It was clear Elise loved her new home. In fact, she said they were only on a scouting trip for their retirement home, when they found this property. And even though it was a year too soon, they fell in love and could not walk away. She said they both immediately knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to find a home and a property like this and they had to buy it whether they were ready or not!
I have to tell you, that comment alone was enough to make my day!
But what I also loved was that while the home had been renovated twice since my clients had sold it, the things my clients wanted, the bones of the home were still very much intact; the feeling of light and airiness with the vaulted ceilings and the long bank of windows overlooking the sloping lawn, the pleasure of sitting in the sunken sunroom with cool tiles under your feet and the panorama-like view of the property before you. The expansive bay window at the kitchen sink provides a magnificent view of the early morning sun rise, the cool pleasure of the shaded porch on a hot day, and the feeling of quiet escape in the family room on the lower level, remain.
All of the renovations done by the second owner were changes of finishes that reflected their tastes and the renovations done by Elise were to create two large rooms in an unfinished area on the lower level to accommodate their need for rehearsal spaces for their various musical ensembles and groups. As an architect, I want to see homes accommodate their owner’s lifestyle and design preferences, so I was very happy to see this home loved enough to twice warrant the investment for personalization.
What I learned from Elise is that the ‘bones of the home’ were things she too had discovered over time as she lived in this home, and that these bones, the architectural ideas I had for this home are the very things that give her added joy and pleasure each day and in all 4 seasons. And that makes her love the house even more than she did on the day they bought it.
I had a lovely afternoon revisiting this home, which has a special place in my heart, as it was my first custom home design.
It was a pleasure to see it so loved.