hello!country neighbor

Today I have a little extra Hello! Neighbor post for you. I'm treating it as a bonus because this house isn't really in my neighborhood, in fact it's not even in the city of Toronto.  However, I think once you see the house you won't mind where it's located plus we have a little history with the homeowners. I first showed you Paul & Rachel's city house back in April 2010. In fact, it was only the second house I had ever shot for this series. A few weeks ago, I showed you Rachel's studio. Well, now you finally get to see their new country house! Last summer, Rachel and Paul sold their house in the city and moved to rural Ontario with their twins. They found a shell of a house and got to work creating the home of their dreams. I cannot believe how quickly this place has come together. They have only been here for six months (that includes renovation time)!

By the way, not only are these two talented renovators but they also pen their own blogs. Paul is making a documentary about birding called Punk Rock Big Year which you can learn more about on his blog by the same name. Rachel's blog, The Stay Lucky documents all of the amazing, creative things she gets up to in her new home. Definitely worth a visit.

Enjoy the tour!


Rachel: Illustrator/Designer

Paul: Associate creative director/art director at DDB Canada.

How long have you lived in your home?

6 months.

Any pets or kids?

Three year old twins, Shep and Georgia. A chihuahua Lucy and a cat named Francis.

Many people dream of leaving the city for the country but you guys actually did it, what prompted the move?

Rachel: I wasn't sold on the idea initially, I quite like the city and really loved my house. Paul brought up the idea when we were both floating in the Carribean Sea rum in hand, I was so mellow I did not completely shut it down. Once back home I thought about it, and what I really wanted for my kids and it made sense. The thought of living mortgage free seemed too good not to explore. I saw the house online had a feeling right away. I saw it in person and fell in love with it. When we got to look inside I knew as I was wandering through the attic that this was going to be my children's bedroom, the place where they grow up. We put the city house on the market three weeks later.

Paul: I wanted the kids to have a bit more of a sense of community and especially to have some sort of connection to nature.

What did the house look like when you took possession of it?

Rachel: It looked sad. Like it had once been something special but it was sagging under too many years of neglect. Under all that rubble and dust there was a glimmer of promise, of what it could be again given the chance.

Paul: It looked like a house that had been abandoned and had squatters living in it for 4 years. It was the house that teenagers used to party in. It was a piece of history that was going to become a parking lot for the bank.

What influenced you? Where did you get your design inspiration for this house?

Rachel: The house itself was a big inspiration. Wide plank floors, gorgeous brick, the sunny front porch, it's easy to imagine what it used to look like. I then pored over decorating magazines and tore out anything that spoke to me. I pasted them into a notebook and handed that to the guys from Backshed Design. I love French country houses, traditional farm houses with a bit of eclectic thrown in for good measure. I initially wanted everything white on white, but colour keeps sneaking in. Got to please the hot pink side of me too.

Paul: For me, I always loved the look of the houses in westerns. Wood walls. Big windows. It was important to us that we restored it to it's former glory. I am not fond of walking up to an old house that should be full of character but looks brand new on the inside.

I know you worked very closely with some local builders and craftsmen on this house. Can you tell us a little bit about that process?

Paul: We wanted our reno to be done using only local tradesman and as much local material as we could. All the wood came from a couple of local mills. Tin ceilings were purchased from a place nearby. Even the dresser that holds the sink in the bathroom was bought in Orono (8 years earlier). The guys we used worked fast and very hard. We had done a few renos in Toronto that cost 2 times as much, took three times as long and I think took years off my life. When your tradesmen live in town, they are WAY more accountable.

Rachel: Brad and Dawson from Backshed are like fairy God carpenters. They were game for whatever I came up with. No matter how crazy it sounded - "I would really love a Moroccan style couch that doubles as a bed" - done. It made the process exciting, not painful.

Do you have a favorite moment or place in your new home?

Rachel: My studio definitely. Late afternoon in my bedroom, it has the most gorgeous soft light. I chose to have a claw foot tub in our bedroom over a walk in closet. I can lay on my bed in a patch of warm sun reading a book while my kids have a bubble bath, delightful. That and the skylight above our bed, we set an alarm and watched the lunar eclipse from the comfort of our duvet. The loft overlooking the kitchen. I guess I have a lot of favourite places in my new home.

Paul: I love sitting on the grey chair in the corner of the living room, feet up on the stool, drinking a glass of beer and the two kids sit on each arm of the chair playing "Shape-O" on our iPads. My guess is that will change to the covered porch when the weather warms up.

Any advice for people starting the renovation of a new home?

Rachel: I highly recommend putting together a scrapbook with cutouts from magazines, paint chips, a place to scribble ideas or inspiration. It's a huge help when you are waist deep in renovations and loosing focus amidst the chaos. I still consult the book if I find a room is getting off track, it really helps keep your theme.

Paul: Homestars.ca helps if you are in the city. Make a budget, stick to it. Never trust a realtor!

If you had to choose one object that best described you what would it be?

Rachel: The studio, messy chaotic outside with a creative centre.

Paul: The restored barn door on the bathroom. It's squeaky and hard to deal with. But people seem to enjoy it for some reason.

Best thing about living in the country?

Rachel: Clean, wide open spaces, grocery shopping on neighbouring farms, random strangers giving you a cheery wave as they drive by.  Vintage treasures, this town is mainly antique stores.

Paul: The trees, the trout creek in the back yard, the smell of it all, and of course, the birds.

Thing you miss most about the city?

Rachel: Retail therapy, walkable brunch, walkable drinking hole.

Paul: Butter chicken roti from Mother India.

Do you have any future plans for the home – projects you would still like to complete?

Rachel: The backyard is the next big project. A fence, landscaping, a garden and deck...it's never ending.

Paul: I'm planning on a small building just at the edge of the woods. It'll have a book shelf for my bird books, a record player, a tiny wood stove I hope and lots of bird feeders. My electrician labeled it, "The Party Barn."

Rachel: "The Pout'n Shack".

Links, acknowledgements?

Dawson Campbell and Brad MacArther from Backshed Design

Jude Allison www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_185787571441723&ref=ts




All photographs by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion House Book.

(Before photos courtesy of homeowners.)

Thanks Rachel and Paul.