A Home for a Master Gardener

Creating a Country Retreat for Retirement

As Mary and John approached retirement age, they reflected on their time on their beloved family farm. They loved everything about country living; especially their piece of land that they had come to know every corner of in all four seasons. They decided they would sell the larger farm, but keep a particularly picturesque 4 acre section to build a new, smaller home on so that they could comfortably age in place. No longer encumbered by barn chores, they could focus on their passion of gardening.

We located the home at the back of the property on a rise with a view that looked west toward the setting sun. The living spaces are organized as a series of fluid gathering places with views to the north, south, and east, ensuring good natural light and cross ventilation throughout the day against a backdrop of ever-changing scenes. River, pond, forest grove, wild flower garden, and lush lawn are the views from this gorgeous rural home.

Central to the design of this house is the rural community dotted with vernacular building forms like farmhouses and barns. These are referenced in the creation of the homes volumes including the vaulted ceiling above the main floor with a scissor truss, as well as the rooflines, and clad siding. The garage and the main house are separate forms connected by a breezeway, anothe common theme in rural farmhouse design. The space between the home and the garage creates a small, partly shaded courtyard–a perfect location for a quiet place to read on a hot summer day. The master bedroom also faces south with a deck running between it and the dining room. Additional spaces including offices are located on the lower level that open onto a patio. Designed to support the couple as they aged, the principal living spaces are on one floor (kitchen, living room, dining room, and sunroom). The doors are wide and the kitchen has easily accessible storage drawers and the most magnificent view from the sink. The bathrooms are spacious and the shower includes a comfortable built in seat.

Over the years John and Mary built a small pond, added wide stone steps with thyme growing between the slabs, and built an extensive garden around their home which eventually extended over most of the property. Behind the home on the patio that extends out over the lawn, John and Mary entertained friends and hosted family dinners and celebrations. Now the home has new owners who love the garden and this beautiful piece of property as much as Mary and John did. The new owners love their home and their new country life, inviting their friends to summer BBQ’s on the patio or to have a drink down by the pond.

Sustainable Design in a Rural Retirement Home

Sustainable design practices were employed throughout the project including the relatively small house footprint, the excavation of the north side of the lower floor into the slope, careful building orientation to ensure cross ventilation in almost every room, and the creation of outdoor spaces on both the north and south sides of the house for use at different times of the day as well as season. All of this permitted the house to be smaller than it would have been otherwise, thereby providing energy savings without additional cost. Features such as the installation of an efficient HVAC system, a high level of wall and roof insulation, and interior finishes chosen for easy maintenance and long life span, combine to reduce the building’s environmental footprint.

Image Gallery

From Rachel’s Desk

Revisiting the Master Gardener’s Home

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, [...]