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– Story by Barry Mathias | Photography by nuttycake.com –
The house is set in a peaceful, one acre landscaped property, with many mature trees. At the bottom of a gentle incline there is ample parking surrounded by lawns, flowerbeds and ornamental bushes. To my left is an attractive double-garage, separated from the house and painted in blue with smart white trim, and with a sizeable, double-windowed loft. “Don’t look in there, it’s a mess,” jokes Bryan, pointing at a variety of useful tools: there is no doubt he is a practical man.
Bryan takes me along a concrete tiled path to the front of the main building, also in blue with white window frames; it has a well-conceived portico with stone pillars, supporting cedar posts, that runs the full length. This not only protects the front door, but with its numerous skylights allows this to be a social area as well as an inviting entrance.
The front door opens into a large, bright social-room that flows into an airy kitchen. “You have no idea what this was like to begin with,” says Bonita. She is a welcoming, energetic woman. While we drink coffee, she shows me pictures of their house as it had been when they bought it two years ago. I see an old-fashioned, dark building with small windows, narrow corridors and awkward shaped rooms with solid doors. The lounge has a dropped floor around the fireplace, a popular idea in the 1970’s, and outside, the grounds appear over-run with blackberry bushes: no serious gardening has been done for years.
“We bought the house because of its potential and its sunny position,” Bryan explains. The building has outside stress walls, “which enabled us to gut the interior of the house down to the studs,” Bonita adds. She did the majority of the forward planning, spending weeks identifying the changes she wanted, together with the types of furniture, lights and appliances.
They had the dropped floor raised, creating a spacious one-level lounge and dining room, and replaced the aged propane heating with a modern, efficient and very attractive wood fire, and an underfloor hot water heating system throughout the rest of the house. “We used the underfloor system to begin with, and ended up with massive Hydro bills, even though the building’s windows, doors and insulation had been brought up to the highest efficiency levels,” Bryan says. “Now we use the wood stove, but rarely turn on the fan. The fire has a capacity to heat a 3,000 square foot house, and ours is only 1750.” Interestingly, it feels like a much larger house.
The carpeted lounge and dining area is a comfortable space, with a dining table for six to one side, and a three-seat leather sofa and matching armchairs on either side of the fire, which is inset into a half wall of brown- and blue-toned stone. There are numerous attractive tables and chairs: “we used One Stop Furniture of Sidney,” Bonita says enthusiastically. “They were terrific!”
The room, like the rest of the house, is decorated in light hues. “I want to say how pleased we were with Maximilian Huxley Construction of Victoria, and with Cabinet Works of Sidney,” adds Bryan. “They took great pride in their workmanship.”
Floor-to-ceiling windows run the length of the back wall with fine views of the gardens; with the well-positioned skylights, there is no need for artificial illumination, even on a wet day. At night, pot lights and table lamps and a dramatic range of dropped ceiling lights provide selective or universal illumination, and piped music adds to the atmosphere.
Large porcelain tiles stretch from the front door to the kitchen, where I am aware of the excellent planning: “We dealt with Matthew Smith of Inner Vision Designs,” says Bonita. “He was exceptionally helpful.” Full windows and a glass door to a wide patio, continue along the garden side of the airy kitchen and provide both light and constant reminders of outside beauty. A long granite-topped island fits well into the 20′ x 13′ kitchen. It incorporates a range of carefully designed cupboards, double sinks with a flexible tap, and a stainless steel dishwasher on one side, while on the left are four fashionable, high, black leather stools. On the inner wall, granite topped work surfaces enclose an ample oven with a ceramic hob, and a variety of white drawers and cupboards.
“I love cooking,” Bonita says as she proudly shows me the range and organization of these many drawers and cupboards, containing a diversity of herbs, spices and cutlery: an epicure’s delight. “This kitchen has everything I need close-to-hand.” The enormous, double door refrigerator opens up for instant identification of its contents, and next is a tall cupboard with 3-foot deep drawers allowing the storage of a multiplicity of cooking equipment. In one corner a door opens into a well-designed, modern laundry room.
Down a short corridor, the only one in the house, are two bedrooms with en suite bathrooms. The visitor’s bedroom is light and comfortable, and is also used as an office. Next door, the three-piece en suite with high bright windows and a granite topped sink is noteworthy for its spacious walk-in shower: it has natural light, a molded seat and stainless steel handgrips. “We designed it for my mother when she came to stay,” Bonita explains.
The five-piece en suite for the master bedroom is spectacular.
It has a long, granite topped double-sink unit above a range of dark wood drawers to the right, a glass-sided walk-in shower, and a tiled deep tub with views of the garden in front, and with the toilet behind a partial wall to the left. With its white doors, pale tiles, selective wall art, large mirror and multiple lights, this washroom is inviting, cool and luxurious.
As we enter the main bedroom, there is a long, walk-in wardrobe to the right, with enough space to have ample shelves for the linen, double racks for clothes on both sides, and at the end a set of drawers underneath a window. Natural light is key to the planning of this house, and the bedroom has half-length windows on two sides, allowing the back garden to be enjoyed from the comfort of the maroon, queen-sized bed. There are colorful armchairs, flower patterns on the rug and on a drape across the antique table; these combined with the tasteful wall art and the selective lighting make this a cozy room.
“I took a course in landscape design,” Bonita smiles as I walk round their extensive garden. “And I bought a powerful machine to move all the soil and heavy rocks,” Bryan says ruefully. They did all the outside work themselves, importing 230 yards of soil, 55,000 lbs of rock and 14 tons of gravel. “We raised up the main lawn a whole foot, to avoid a step down from the house,” says Bryan, “and we restructured all the lawns.”
Gravel paths meander under tall firs, around flowering bushes and rose and herb gardens. “That’s for next year,” Bonita says pointing to some undeveloped ground. I am conscious of the enthusiasm, planning and care that have gone into this remarkably transformed home and garden.