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.


Filed under hello! neighbor


  1. Posted March 30, 2011 at 9:42 AM | Permalink

    totally speechless! the aqua ceiling! the milk-painted floors! O.M to the G.

  2. Posted March 30, 2011 at 9:42 AM | Permalink

    Wow! What a fantastic house!

  3. Posted March 30, 2011 at 9:44 AM | Permalink

    What a treat to read this morning. Thank you so much for sharing. This Hello! Neighbor feature in particular, calls out to me. My fiance and I dream of moving out of downtown Toronto into rural Ontario. Financially, we cannot afford it at this time but this family is my inspiration. I hope one day we are in the position to pack up and continue our life closer to nature and spend the time to lovely build a home like this.

  4. Posted March 30, 2011 at 9:51 AM | Permalink

    my house never looks more lovely (or clean) than when its on your blog! thanks emma xo

  5. Posted March 30, 2011 at 10:08 AM | Permalink

    Eeek! My eyes bugged out of my head when I scrolled down to the playroom. What a beautiful gift to their children. I too am always debating the merits of living in the city versus living in the country. Paul and Rachel have done such a beautiful job – and in six months no less! Wow! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Posted March 30, 2011 at 10:11 AM | Permalink

    Hey Emma! That is one great house. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Posted March 30, 2011 at 10:20 AM | Permalink

    oh wow. I had never even considered moving to the country until now!

  8. Posted March 30, 2011 at 11:59 AM | Permalink

    Oh wow. What a brave move but it paid off. I like his comment about “never trust a realtor” my feelings right now as we are looking to buy a house in crazy Vancouver. Sigh..maybe we should move to the country too.

  9. Posted March 30, 2011 at 12:04 PM | Permalink

    so different from where we live in socal in so many ways. but i love it. makes me miss canada even more. and ontario. and even winter!

  10. Posted March 30, 2011 at 1:01 PM | Permalink

    @ Rachel Your welcome – thanks for giving us such a beautiful space to shoot!

  11. Posted March 30, 2011 at 1:02 PM | Permalink

    @ Tracy – Believe me, you wouldn’t be missing winter if you lived here!!!

  12. Posted March 30, 2011 at 2:24 PM | Permalink

    Where did you move? My husband and I are looking for rural areas outside of Toronto.

    Great house. Love it.


  13. Posted March 30, 2011 at 2:50 PM | Permalink

    amazingly beautiful; oh I can’t express my feeling, actually…except, maybe, wanna live there!
    loveit.loveit. love. it.

  14. Posted March 30, 2011 at 2:51 PM | Permalink

    amazingly beautiful! makes me wanna move in :)
    love it!

  15. Posted March 30, 2011 at 3:09 PM | Permalink

    wow, that house is ridiculously amazing!! I LOVE the idea of laying in bed reading while kids take a bubble bath!

  16. Posted March 30, 2011 at 3:22 PM | Permalink

    Incredible house. I especially love the plain but beautiful old bath, the windowsill of glassware and the wigwam. A really inspiring project. Thanks for visiting my site early BTW – encouragement from one of my favourite bloggers means a lot at this early stage!

  17. Posted March 30, 2011 at 3:49 PM | Permalink

    Wow! I am so inspired by your move and and your house, Rachel! Thanks Emma for sharing this with us! I can’t believe you’re so moved in after only 6 months! Amazing…

  18. Kristen S
    Posted March 30, 2011 at 3:55 PM | Permalink

    I LOVE the barn door! I am sure even the squeaks are charming!

  19. Posted March 30, 2011 at 4:38 PM | Permalink

    this is gorgeous – each photo has so many delightful details! i want to know more about their crystal/branch/chandelier/constellation light fixture!

  20. Posted March 30, 2011 at 4:38 PM | Permalink

    wow! so much work! they have done a beautiful job. and the play room is incredible!!!!

  21. Posted March 30, 2011 at 5:10 PM | Permalink

    @ Alice – I’m pretty sure Rachel made the chandelier you are referring to.

  22. Posted March 30, 2011 at 6:45 PM | Permalink

    hi alice, i did make the chandelier…thanks:)

  23. Posted March 31, 2011 at 6:23 AM | Permalink

    I am inspired. They are so brave…and talented.
    Just love the idea of the little ones in the bath and me lying on a bed!

  24. Posted March 31, 2011 at 11:50 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for all the compliments everyone. If you’re thinking it, MOVE. It is everything you think it will be.

  25. erin
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 2:59 PM | Permalink

    Oh this post makes me so nostalgic, what a beautiful restoration! I grew up in rural ontario and still visit every year…old brick and wide plank floors are in my blood but hard to find out here in vancouver. thanks for sharing!

  26. Posted March 31, 2011 at 5:15 PM | Permalink

    Your home looks beautiful, magazine worthy I would say. Your living my dream.Im jealous……..

  27. Posted March 31, 2011 at 5:48 PM | Permalink

    What a gorgeous house! So inspiring! I’m so in awe of people who can see a run down house and see this kind of potential. We talk a lot about “one day having a place in the country”…. doesn’t everybody? Amazing to see people really making it work. Another beautiful post, Emma!

  28. Posted March 31, 2011 at 11:22 PM | Permalink

    This home is gorgeous! I can’t believe they’ve only lived there for 6 months. It already has so much character and warmth.

    ps. Paul I’m right there with you about the butter chicken at Mother India. It’s the best!

  29. Kaz Zvanitajs
    Posted April 1, 2011 at 8:18 PM | Permalink

    Great feature Emma! I think that Darin and I are living parallel lives to Paul & Rachel…left the city for the country with the kiddies, D is now into birding, and woah, was that a derby helmet and skates that I saw in Rachel’s studio? Too similar! xo

  30. Posted April 1, 2011 at 8:23 PM | Permalink

    @ Kaz – Totally parallel lives – and yes that is a derby helmet and skates!

  31. Posted April 13, 2011 at 5:12 AM | Permalink

    wah, so many ideas in your blog ! I’m juste discovering it, and finc it fantastic and so helpful (we had an old house to restore…)
    sorry for my english

    kisses from Britany
    la marmotte (yes.. the little animal found of his bed..)

  32. Pamela
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 10:47 PM | Permalink

    Wow, amazing job!

  33. sudie jacques
    Posted September 30, 2011 at 10:33 PM | Permalink

    Where did you purchase the barn door for the bathroom?

  34. Posted February 27, 2012 at 10:18 PM | Permalink

    I don’t even have the proper words. My breath is just taken away by their house. Just oh wow!

  35. Posted February 27, 2014 at 7:33 AM | Permalink

    Beautiful house!

22 Trackbacks

  1. [...] birds! However, when we were up in the country a few weeks ago shooting Paul and Rachel’s Hello! Country Neighbor post I got the chance to go for a walk with Paul who is an avid birder. (Avid might not be the [...]

  2. By Para los indios de la casa | Blasphemies on April 8, 2011 at 4:57 AM

    [...] de Restoration Hardware Baby and Child ($149), The Marion House Book, Birch and Lily & Southern Grace. Decoración de exteriores, Decoración de interiores, DIY, [...]

  3. [...] was instrumental in pulling together Rachel and Paul’s country house which I showed you here a few weeks ago. When I talked to him about making us a new headboard he told me about these huge [...]

  4. [...] credits: 1. Jodie Byrne Blog, 2. Aesthetic Outburst, 3. The Marion Housebook, 4. Hola Mama, 5. Ohdeedoh, 6. Gold Snow Drops, 7. Jodie Byrne Blog, 8. Armelle Jewelry Posted [...]

  5. [...] Rachel and Paul’s new home in the country this time with a blue ceiling. Readers absolutely loved this rural [...]

  6. By Vintage House In The Village | StyloDesigns.com on August 15, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    [...] The house is located in Ontario, Canada, a village which full of fantastic vintage things. This house was designed by mother of the twins Shep and Georgia Riordan, Rachel Riordan for her own family. She created the design of the house herself. The family loved the look of the houses in westerns with wood walls, big windows, wide plank floors, gorgeous brick, and the sunny front porch, The attic become the children’s bedroom, the place where they grow up. The loft overlooking the kitchen. The studio, messy chaotic inside with a creative centre. The accessories and furniture in some rooms look like eclectic, with many patchwork, Eastern lamps, plenty of vintage. Vintage treasures, this house is antique stores. Clean, wide open spaces, random strangers giving you a cheery wave as they drive by. The atmosphere in the house is very cozy and sweet. The house itself was a big inspiration. Photographer by Kristin Sjaarda. [via] [...]

  7. [...] room divider. Apartment TherapyOr add character to your casa with a weathered barn door. The Marionhouse BookRepurposing any kind of wood, including hardwood, driftwood, pallets or old wooden crates, is the [...]

  8. By Kids’ Room Inspiration » Pixie Blossoms on August 25, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    [...] 1 – From Hus & Hem, found on Pinterest. 2 - Via Pinterest, Design Sponge (room belongs to Angela Liguori, she has an awesome work and blog as well!). 3 - From Hollis Queen’s Flickr. 4 – After a long search, I found “The Marion House Book”, a very nice blog if you are interested in interior design and the post with the photo #4 above. [...]

  9. By the marion house book » new pure green on January 5, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    [...] loved by readers of The Marion House Book. I’m sure you remember Rachel and Paul’s Hello! Neighbor tour of their whimsical country home filled with vintage and flea market [...]

  10. By Twenty twelve inspirations! « hoolaboola on January 10, 2012 at 5:05 AM

    [...] from themarionhousebook: [...]

  11. By Twenty Twelve inspirations! « hoolaboola on January 10, 2012 at 5:12 AM

    [...] από το themarionhousebook: [...]

  12. By Best of: Barn Doors « on January 28, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    [...] Plank Barn Door, Marionhouse Book [...]

  13. By Teepee « whenmayahappened on February 1, 2012 at 1:57 PM

    [...] via [...]

  14. [...] here have ended up in major print publications like Per & Elana’s (Style at Home), Rachel & Paul’s (Today’s Parent) and Jana & John’s (Toronto Life).  None of that would have [...]

  15. [...] From The Marion House Book [...]

  16. By the marion house book » all in a week on September 14, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    [...] me the best thing about visiting Paul and Rachel (other than their great company) is being in their lovely house. Note the well placed bottle of gin tucked between the cake stand and jar full of [...]

  17. By Tee Pee Heaven for Children » Home and Decor on October 17, 2012 at 11:30 PM

    [...] 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, [...]

  18. [...] credits: 1. Jodie Byrne Blog, 2. Aesthetic Outburst, 3. The Marion Housebook, 4. Hola Mama, 5. Ohdeedoh, 6. Gold Snow Drops, 7. Jodie Byrne Blog, 8. Armelle [...]

  19. [...] 1. Blue stripes teepee  2. Wooden frame teepee [...]

  20. [...] two years ago to the day I profiled the country home of Paul and Rachel in the small Ontario town of Orono. It has proven to be one of my most popular posts of all time. [...]

  21. [...] Photos by Land of Nod, The Marion House Book [...]

  22. [...] Photos by Land of Nod, The Marion House Book [...]

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