The Oke Woodsmith
FEATURINGâ€Ś 12 of our distinct custom designs and renovations
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Daring to Dream
from one home to six hundred...
…the history of Oke Woodsmith Building Systems
above-grade exterior walls with Insulated ConOKE WOODSMITH BUILDING SYSTEMS was launched crete Forms (ICF). The partners believed they in 1984 with just one client and a tremenwere headed in the right direction because of dous vision. In the years since then, the Henthe improved energy efficiency and sound resall-based company has built and renovated sistance of concrete. 600 distinctive custom homes from Muskoka Home buyers, however, were skeptical to Rondeau Provincial Park for clients who until the company began incorporating conhave come to expect the unusual. crete floors with in-floor radiant heat into the The idea for the company came about design. Visitors to two of the company’s model in 1983 when the four Oke brothers – Brad, homes in Grand Bend came specifically on cold Wayne, Randy and Kevin – reunited with days to experience the warm floors. their parents for Christmas. At that point, “Concrete floors are warmer and the Brad, an architectural technologist, was emcolder it is outside, the better they are inside,” ployed by Bell Canada in Saudi Arabia and The Oke family, from left: Randy, Brad, Betty, Wayne and Kevin. Randy says. Wayne, an engineer, was working in the tar At that point, clients began to appreciate the floors and recognized the value of building sands in Alberta. Over Christmas dinner, Brad enlisted his family’s aid to help him build a home in Southcott exterior walls of concrete to the eaves because of the added comfort and energy savings. Oke Woodsmith has since become one of the leading builders of ICF homes in Canada and Pines in Grand Bend. Wayne volunteered to quit his job in Alberta to work on the project, Kevin quit his job as a welder in the agricultural sector, and their father, Don, decided to resign from his is also the distributor throughout Ontario and Quebec for Lite-Form, an ICF building system. The company sells the systems to builders and to private individuals throughout Ontario. management position. Many years before, Don had owned his own construction company. Over the years, the partners’ roles in the company have changed very little. Brad is reWith just one client, Oke Woodsmith was born. It was a courageous move, given the sponsible for the design and sales of the homes, Randy is the general manager of the Oke recession of 1981. “How foolish were we to think we could start a construction company?” Brad recalls. Woodsmith office and manager of Lite-Form, Wayne acts as construction supervisor and Kevin, a “Three guys quit their jobs, I bought them each a brand new truck and we started to build my finish carpenter, looks after the drywalling and fine details. Don and his wife, Betty, who joined the company in 1990 as general manager, have since retired. house, so we were going to be a one-house wonder. Altogether, 45 staff members comprise Oke Woodsmith, including a team that is respon“The only reason we were successful quickly was the fact that my father had 33 years of building experience and was very well-respected as a builder in the area. Even though we started sible for the company’s framing, trimming and concrete work. Employing in-house staff instead of subtrades ensures consistency in each home from the time a site is excavated to the time a off fresh, people weren’t looking at a bunch of kids building houses.” Don, who was an equal partner in the company, priced the homes and ensured his sons client moves into a home. Annually, the company builds about 20 new homes and undertakes up to 10 renovation correctly estimated the time needed for each stage of construction. After completing Brad’s house, the partners landed a contract for a $1-million home in Grand Bend, which raised their projects. The partners have also designed and built many commercial projects, including a fire hall east of Toronto, as well as office complexes and agricultural buildings in Huron County. profile in the area. Oke Woodsmith is currently building homes in the Grand Bend area, and in Muskoka, Randy and Brad worked for the company on evenings and weekends until the business Windsor, Niagara Falls and points in between. The company specializes in the unusual, which grew. Brad, who was still working for Bell, was the last to join full-time in 1986. “It took us two years from inception until the company was large enough to pay five. The attracts clients from young professional couples to empty nesters. “I like the challenge of taking an unusual site and making it work, or taking a budget for day I came in, we had three new contracts,” Brad recalls. “We went out to dinner to celebrate a small home and giving clients what they want,” Brad says. because we figured now we were a construction company.” While the company will always be a custom home designer and builder, the partners are Brad’s role centred on selling the homes, which involved providing architectural drawings to clients based on their ideas, budget and property. That was a new concept in an area where turning their attention to the aging population. One new project, Stone Meadows, a one-floor condo community in Zurich, is geared toward retirees. The development is one of the first of its clients normally chose a stock plan and contracted a builder to construct it. There was no charge for the drawings, which included three revisions and pricing. If clients kind in Huron County and a first for Oke Woodsmith. weren’t happy with the results, they weren’t obligated to work with the company. “What we’re trying to do is provide similar qualities that we offer in a custom home, but in “With nine out of 10 people that we did that for we were able to achieve a smaller square footage and a more economical package,” Brad says. the budget and the design to their liking,” Brad says. Randy hopes to create other similar communities as the company evolves. He believes Oke Woodsmith’s future will be in the Oke children who, like The five partners undertook all aspects of the construction work, from their parents, joined the company after working farther afield. roofing to drywalling the homes. Randy believes that was a benefit. “It’s very satisfying when you start a job from the ground up and “I’m hoping our growth is in family members – our kids – joinfinish it. Any one of us could build a house from start to finish and lay ing the team,” Randy says. “That’s where you get genuine interest the carpet, lay the tile, lay the hardwood – finish it completely.” in the company and the ability to expand it.” In 1987, the company began building foundations and, later,
oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 3
Suppliers of the mechanical trades to Oke Woodsmith including: plumbing, electrical, hydronic heating with radiant floors, ventilation, central vac systems, gas fireplaces, natural gas-powered standby generators and air conditioning. 22 Gill Road, Grand Bend
BUILDING FOR THE CENTURY At Oke Woodsmith, we do much more than build houses. We take design ideas from our clients, meld them with our own, and keep our collective relationship on track during the construction process and beyond. Like any good marriage counsellor, we help our clients over rough patches when they second-guess themselves and need confirmation they’ve made the right decisions. We haven’t had a divorce yet; in fact, many of our clients are building their second or third home with us, so it seems we’re headed in the right direction. While anyone can build a house, we believe it’s much harder to build a home. Infusing a building with personality and function comes from listening to our clients throughout the construction process. Our foremen and building superintendents meet with clients daily on their property and ensure they understand what they’re getting in their new home. It’s not just our communication skills that attract clients to our company, however. We keep ourselves, and our tradespeople, up to date on advances in building science. Many of our houses are constructed of Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF), which we believe is the very best way to build a home. During the construction process, we pour cement into insulated styrofoam forms that have been reinforced with rebar steel. The forms stay in place and become part of the finished wall, resulting in a concrete mass that eliminates drafts and deadens sound. ICF homes, in fact, are 100 per cent more energy efficient and 300 per cent quieter than a conventional wood-frame home. Homeowners never have to worry about being cold – even when gale-force winds are blowing off the Great Lakes during the frigid winter months. In the interests of comfort, we encourage our clients to heat their homes with radiant in-floor heating, which provides a consistent temperature from floor to ceiling and doesn’t circulate dust. We often pair radiant heating with engineered wood flooring since it doesn’t shrink as natural hardwoods do. Ceramic or porcelain tile are also an effective medium for transferring and retaining heat. In this edition of the magazine, we’ve presented a cross-section of homes that exemplify our design ethic: we avoid hallways, particularly in smaller homes, since they represent wasted space. We also use a variety of ceiling treatments to define open-concept living areas, which is particularly evident in Don and Marg Bulloch’s home in Grand Bend. We believe in filling a home with light and we use skylights and windows in strategic places, including in bathrooms, hallways, closets and even walk-in pantries, to make a home as inviting as possible. We encourage our clients to accompany us to an annual builders’ show in the U.S. where they’re able to see the latest American design elements. We try to incorporate features, such as large islands in kitchens, that aren’t used locally. Our clients’ options are as broad as their budgets and imaginations will allow. They must be prepared, however, to invest time in making thoughtful decisions about finishes and materials, which adds up to making the difference between building a house – or building a home. At Oke Woodsmith, we’re building not just for the decade, but also for the century. Our hope is that the next generation will renovate and update our buildings a hundred years from now. Whether it’s a home or an office building, we feel confident that the structure will be as solid as the day it was built.
Innovative New Products Beautify Homes Inside
t Oke Woodsmith, we go the extra mile to design and build homes that not only meet our clients’ needs, but also reflect their lifestyles. We believe a keen grasp of how our clients live in their homes, paired with the talents of our in-house designer, are what set us apart from other design/build firms. Our ultimate goal is to create a living environment that will be visually outstanding and functionally relevant for years to come. As specialists in new technologies, products and finishes, we are able to source hard-to-find items that can make a room more comfortable, more stylish or simply infuse it with knock-out appeal. We encourage our clients to accompany us to an annual builders’ show in the U.S. where they’re able to view the latest American design elements. Innovative wine cellars and garage lifts are just a few of the ideas that have captured the imaginations of our clients, and which we have been able to adapt to their own living spaces. We have also taken clients to Chicago to visit Merchandise Mart, the world’s largest design centre. With 700,000 square feet of space and 130 showrooms featuring more than 2,000 product lines, the centre offers an outstanding selection of home furnishings, wall and floor coverings, lighting and accessories – all under one roof. We have even travelled to a quarry in Wisconsin in search of particular stone combinations for one-of-a-kind homes. While these trips inspire ideas, we try, as much as possible, to buy products locally. In the London area, we accompany clients to businesses to select such elements as staircases, windows, trim, flooring and cabinetry. By providing this level of service, we expose clients to new products they may not have seen before. We believe this attention to detail will help them to make the best decisions possible.
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Listed below are some of the latest (and we think greatest) products available to buyers of custom homes: Ribbon fireplaces: In the last two years, modern design influences have led to an evolution in gas fireplaces. Fireplaces have moved far beyond a replica log-burning insert to a sleek, rectangular style that creates an architectural focal point in a room. Ribbon fireplaces emit gas flames that dance in a horizontal line along beach stones, glass stones or lava rock. Unlike gas inserts, ribbon fireplaces don’t overheat a room. A direct vent fireplace also operates without the need for a chimney or flue, which makes it easier to install. Light tubes: The concept of using a light-emitting tube to illuminate a windowless area dates back to the ancient Egyptians, although the first commercial applications were marketed in 1991. A round tube lined with highly reflective material conveys light rays through a building from a dome situated on the roof or an outer wall. The dome collects and reflects as much sunlight as possible into the tube; at the end point, a diffuser spreads the light into a room. The technology has recently been improved and the tubes convey brighter, whiter light into dark areas and diffuse it more naturally than previous versions. Self-cleaning windows: These are an attractive option for homeowners who don’t want the upkeep of cleaning large expanses of glass in hard-to-reach places. A self-cleaning surface breaks down organic dirt on windows using the sun’s ultraviolet rays, even on cloudy days. When it rains, the water is dispersed evenly over the surface of the glass. The rain then washes away the dirt, leaving minimal spotting or streaking. Invisible screens: These window screens are virtually invisible, giving homeowners a crisp, clear view of the outdoors. From the exterior, the screens are nearly undetectable so they don’t detract from a home’s appearance. They also allow considerably more natural light into a home and offer improved airflow.
Motorized insect screens: These retractable screens effectively exclude insects from porches and patios, making dining al fresco much more pleasurable. The screens also reduce the glare of the sun without impeding the view of a sunset – an important consideration for lakefront properties where the sun sets at a low angle in the sky. Concrete finishes: A new product, FossilCrete vertical stamping system, is a stamped concrete finish that can be used on floors, walls, and around windows and doors. Finishes include dry-laid stacked stone and rustic logs, as well as natural fossil prints and animal tracks. The product is ideal for a feature wall that won’t take the weight of natural stone; it’s lightweight, bonds to most surfaces, and is water resistant and durable. In lower levels and garages, many homeowners are opting for concrete floors that have been etched in a particular pattern, such as a diamond shape or a navigational star, and stained. When used in hallways and living areas, the patterns create the effect of an oriental rug. Rain chains: An Asian invention, rain chains act as a more attractive and functional alternative to the downspout component in a traditional rain gutter system. Rain chains consist of a series of metal cups, with a hole in the bottom of each, or vertical chain links. They funnel water from a rain gutter, down the length of the chain to a collection system, such as a rain barrel. The water can also be directed into a basin where the water slowly overflows, much as it would from a downspout. Alternatively, the water can be directed to the ground where drains carry it away. Gas lanterns: Used as an architectural detail, gas lanterns emit a soft, flickering light that creates a romantic, Old World ambiance outside a home. Electronic ignition systems allow the lanterns to be controlled from an ordinary light switch. They can also be placed on a timer or a photo cell so they operate only when needed. Gas lanterns are available in coach house designs, which are ideally suited to the exterior of a garage or a gate post. Garage lifts: A motorized lift system increases the storage capacity of a garage by allowing homeowners to store lawn furniture, canoes, motorcycles and sports equipment on a secure platform in an overhead position. The concept can also be applied to vehicles. A two-bay garage, for
Contact information for Oke Woodsmith… ph: 519-262-2924 fax: 519-262-2408 email: email@example.com website: www.okewoodsmith.com
example, can accommodate four cars when two are stored below ground or above two others. Retractable awnings: Adapted from a South African design, ShadeTree retractable awnings give homeowners the flexibility of having sun or shade in specific areas of a deck or patio. An overhead track system that resembles a pergola supports awning fabric that rides on cross members. The members contain rollers that glide smoothly in the overhead tracks, allowing the awnings to be extended in seconds and retracted easily. Prioritize, prioritize. . . Selecting some or all of these design elements can happen only after clients prioritize the rooms, features and finishes they want to incorporate in their homes. To accomplish that goal, we request that they: • Write down their ideas and arrange them into four lists. The first is an inventory, by floor, of the rooms they most desire. • The second is a must-have list with critical elements for each room, such as a sitting area in the master bedroom. We also ask our clients to make observations about the way in which they live in each room. Knowing whether they dress in their bedroom or in their ensuite bathroom helps us to design the most functional floorplan for them. • The third list is comprised of five to 10 elements clients would love to have – such as a see-through fireplace – but which may not be financially possible. • The fourth, and most important list, details features couples absolutely don’t want in their homes. This list allows us to eliminate certain possibilities and gain insights into their tastes. We also ask couples to prioritize their top three rooms. These may vary drastically from one spouse to another. Although most people know what they want, many don’t understand how much it will cost to achieve it. At Oke Woodsmith, we enjoy helping our clients transform their ideas into distinctive homes crafted specifically for their needs, tastes and budgets. Helping them define their own style, and source innovative items that will enhance their enjoyment of their home, remains the driving force behind our company.
Oke Woodsmith Magazine’s production team… production manager: Lana Breier writer: Judy Liebner art director: Nancy Greenfield photography: Fred Hunsberger printing: Sportswood Printing
Beach House Beauty Curving decks and arched windows embrace panoramic views of Lake Huron
“On a nice day, everybody can be outside”
GLASS AND MIRROR
41 Third Street, Vanastra, Ontario 519-482-7641 toll-free: 1-800-524-6616 www.dndglass.com “Andersen” is a registered trademark of Andersen Corporation.
Dashwood Industries Limited Highway #4, Centralia
akefront properties are few and far between – particularly along the Lake Huron shoreline. It’s no wonder, then, that Rick and Marlene Mazur leapt at the opportunity to purchase land that not only embraced views of the lake, but also of the Ausable River. The couple, who live in Cochrane, Alberta, have strong ties to Port Franks: Rick has fond memories of spending summers there as a teen and Marlene was raised in nearby Parkhill. The Mazurs purchased their property in Port Franks in 2000 and contracted Brad Oke, of Oke Woodsmith Building Systems, to design and build their home. Extensive travels throughout Cape Cod instilled in them a fondness for beach houses. “I think I’ve always liked the New England states and the style there,” Marlene says. Oke designed the home for privacy, which was a challenge on a relatively small lot in a subdivision. He situated the functional areas – the elevator, pantry, laundry room, two-piece bathroom and a walk-in closet – at the front of the home. A hallway separates those rooms from the main living area, which faces the lake and stretches the full width of the home. It incorporates a master bedroom retreat, a twostorey great room and a kitchen-dining area. “That was a big thing – trying to get every room to have a view of the lake,” Oke says. Marlene was particularly concerned about maintaining the authenticity of the architecture and debated the fine points of the design with Oke. In the spirit of Cape Cod, she and Rick opted for a maintenance-free railing system, manufactured in the U.S., that resembled wood and incorporated straight spindles. Although it would have been easier to choose tempered glass railings, it wasn’t a compromise they were prepared to make. They also selected tan-coloured shingles made by James Hardie, a manufacturer of fibre cement cladding, and paired them with Arriscraft stone. In addition to being stylish, the cladding resists harsh weather conditions on the lake. The home’s construction of Insulated Concrete Forms also eliminates drafts and deadens sound. Inside, Marlene’s goal was to work around a classic nautical theme. She’s partial to dark wood and chose African sapele for the engineered flooring that was installed over the radi-
ant in-floor heating system that heats all three levels of the home. The richness of the floors was also a good match for the cherry staircase and cherry woodwork in Rick’s office on the second floor. Simulated divided light windows were another of Marlene’s priorities. They provide additional detail in keeping with the finishes throughout the home, from the finely wrought plaster mouldings in the upper hallway and the great room to the hand-carved cherry corbels in the kitchen. Marlene selected the colour scheme, which pairs white woodwork with butter yelabove, top to bottom: In the great room, a bank of french doors opens to embrace the outdoors, evocative of homes in the Caribbean • Oke Woodsmith built the home to capture views of Lake Huron • The contrast between light and dark tones is particularly effective in the kitchen where traditional white cabinets are paired with an impressive cherry island. The cabinetry was designed and built by Woodecor near Stratford.
above, top to bottom: In the wine cellar, a ceramic tile floor and a faux finish on the walls and ceiling create an enigmatic ambiance. Off-white vanities and caramel-coloured marble counters accentuate the sense of restrained luxury in the ensuite bathroom. Rick’s office provides a 180-degree view of the lake through a rounded wall of casement windows. A tray ceiling above the sitting area depicts the Northern Lights.
12 | oke woodsmith, fall 2008
low walls and blue accents. Rick trusted Marlene’s ability to visualize the final results. “I’m not built that way,” he says. “I can’t see it; that’s not my skill, that’s Marlene’s skill.” While Marlene was responsible for many of the decisions, Rick had several requirements of his own. “I wanted a big office, but I wanted to see the lake, the river and landscape,” he recalls. “And privacy was a big thing, too.” The couple took their retirement years into consideration and decided to locate the master bedroom retreat on the main floor. They also added an elevator to help them access all levels of the home as they age. Designing the home took about two years, mainly because of the cross-country distance involved. Once construction began in December 2005, Marlene visited the site monthly to oversee the process and source items for the interior. The couple moved into the home in June 2007. Oke describes the exterior of the home as a “refined cottage with a Hamptons-type look.” The rear elevation is particularly stately with a covered porch and upper sun deck that curve along the width of the home, connected at each end by rounded turrets. Wide steps lead up from the ground level to the porch, which is supported by round columns. Because Rick and Marlene requested a walkout to the lake, Oke elevated the main floor and positioned the garage underneath to compensate for the narrowness of the lot. The lines of the porch and sun deck visually detract from the height of the home, causing the eye to be drawn laterally instead of vertically. One year after the completion of the home, the Mazurs say they particularly appreciate their views of the lake and its changing character. With the home situated at the mouth of the harbour, it’s an everyday occurrence to see boats pass by; it was the view, in fact, that sold Rick on the property. Marlene is particularly partial to the mainfloor rooms. “They’re bright, they’re comfortable, I feel at home,” she notes. The front foyer offers a spectacular view of the great room. Furnished in shades of ivory and blue, the room features a wall of cabinetry built around a gas fireplace with a marble surround and hearth. Three art niches above display an exotic Indian rug flanked by two enormous urns – one from Italy and the other from Mexico. A bank of french doors opens to embrace the outdoors, evocative of homes in the Carib-
bean. Motorized screens descend from the ceiling of the porch, effectively excluding insects. “On a nice day, everybody can be outside,” Marlene says. “The outdoors are just as important as the indoors.” To the right of the great room, the curve of a Juliet balcony off Rick’s second-floor office is repeated below in a peninsula that separates the living area from the kitchen. The contrast between light and dark themes is particularly evident in the kitchen where great expanses of dark wood flooring provide a backdrop for traditional white cabinets, positioned along a rear wall, and a beadboard backsplash. A large cherry island, finished with corbels and fluted pilasters, creates a transition between the workspace and a casual dining area. Tucked into a turret, the dining area offers a 180-degree view of the lake through a rounded wall of casement windows. To the left of the great room, double doors open in to the master bedroom retreat. Decorated in shades of sea foam green and ivory, the bedroom features a window seat that curves along one wall. Rounded bulkheads above create a decorative effect, although their actual purpose is to conceal the ductwork for the airconditioning system. “It gives it a little bit of interest versus just a flat ceiling,” Oke says. The ensuite bathroom off the bedroom combines shades of sand in the tumbled marble floors and muted colour scheme. Off-white vanities and caramel-coloured marble counters accentuate the sense of restrained luxury, which is reinforced by a glass block window that curves around a soaker tub, as well as a glassed shower. A cherry staircase with white spindles sweeps up to the second floor, which is comprised of two guest bedrooms – each with an ensuite bathroom – as well as Marlene’s sewing and crafts room, a main bathroom and Rick’s office. The upper hallway is particularly dramatic: it overlooks the great room and is level with three arched windows that fill the area with light. From the main floor, the staircase spirals down to the lower-level walkout. It features a sunken home theatre room with a games area and a bar, a bathroom and an exercise room with a raised hot tub.
above: The master bedroom retreat features a window seat that curves along one wall. Rounded bulkheads above create a decorative effect.
Behind the bar, a brick-lined passageway illuminated with flickering sconce lighting opens in to a wine cellar where racks of wine bottles are concealed behind glass doors. A ceramic tile floor and a faux finish on the walls and ceiling create an enigmatic ambiance reminiscent of a grotto. Oke first saw a similar wine cellar in Dallas, Texas 10 years ago and suggested it to the Mazurs. Although Rick enjoys wine, he maintains he isn’t a connoisseur. “It’s a fun room,” he says. Rick and Marlene believe it’s critical for homeowners to choose a builder with whom they can communicate and share ideas. Rick
says the entire Oke Woodsmith team made building the home a worthwhile experience. “I like Brad, I liked his tradespeople. The three different foremen would always listen and work toward what we needed. They did a good job of trying to fulfill what we wanted. Their contractors were all fine people to work with,” Rick observes. “We always knew they were building for us.” Marlene says it’s important for buyers to tour a builder’s homes. They should also be aware of their own preferences. “Know what you want and stick to it,” she advises. OKE
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Rustic Reﬁnement A tailored approach to cottage design results in a gracious home near Bayfield
• The exterior of the home combines olive green pine board-and-batten siding anchored by a base of ledge rock from Bracebridge. • The deck overlooks a round stone patio on the edge of the forest.
Three curved steps lead up from the foyer to the great room, which pairs taupe walls with walnut engineered floors • An angled island in the kitchen offers a view of a ribbon fireplace and a flat-screen television in the great room. The fireplace is flanked on each side by built-in cabinetry made by Woodecor near Stratford.
any people who build homes in a lakefront location have a long-standing connection to the area. Kate and Gary Lloyd-Rees’ experience was the opposite, however. They ar-
rived in Bayfield for a weekend and were smitten with its beauty – to the point that they decided shortly after to build a home there. The couple’s decision to put down roots in Bayfield came in a roundabout way. They emigrated from England in 1998 and settled in Caledon, northwest of Toronto, before heading off to Australia for two years. When they returned in 2003, they moved to Mississauga and began thinking about locating a property where they could build a home for their retirement. “We had had a few cottage holidays mainly in the Ottawa region, but we had never been to Lake Huron apart from Georgian Bay,” Kate Lloyd-Rees recalls. “We said, ‘Let’s have a look there before we do anything else.’ We had a weekend in Bayfield and fell in love with the place.” After seeing a new subdivision south of Bayfield, they chose a lot next to a tract of land that would never be developed. Once they purchased the property, they were eager to begin building their home. Kate and Gary learned of Oke Woodsmith after reading a magazine story that profiled a home they had built in the area. They were attracted to the company’s track record of building homes of Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) that were well suited to the harsh weather conditions on Lake Huron.
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Makers of Distinctive Custom Cabinetry since 1983
Lloyd B. Vandenberg, Cabinetmaker, RR4, Stratford (just east of Stratford at Little Lakes)
When Kate and Gary contacted Oke Woodsmith in 2005, Brad Oke gave them a tour of homes the family-owned company had built. They identified with the style of the homes immediately. “We just said, ‘Okay, this is it,’” Kate recalls. “They just encapsulated everything that we’d been thinking of what we wanted in a home, but hadn’t been quite able to visualize because we had never built a home before. We could tell straightaway that the finishing, everything in the homes was beautiful.” The couple was partial to a one-floor, open-concept design with the kitchen positioned between the dining area and great room. They had planned to situate a guest suite in a second storey until Oke suggested building up the front of the property to create a natural walk-out at the rear. Creating a walk-out design from a flat lot gave the couple more living space for less money and resulted in a home that didn’t overpower the size of the lot. Oke also designed the home to take advantage of the forest views to the north and the lake views to the west. “Just trying to fit the house to enhance the property was the big thing,” he says. The design process lasted about five months, only because the couple was living in Mississauga and making decisions from a distance. Construction of the 2,204-squarefoot ICF home began in April 2007 and was completed one year later. Kate says collaborating with Oke was rewarding. “When Brad’s working with you on your house you feel like it’s his house, too, and you’re the only one he’s building for. He really does make you feel that he’s totally invested in your project. He takes such
above, left to right: Walnut cabinetry, paired with rich brown marble counters, stands out against a neutral backdrop of polished marble floors and walls. A curved glass-block wall shields a walk-in shower from view of a makeup table in the ensuite bathroom.
Walnut cabinets are situated along a rear wall in the kitchen where they form a subtle contrast to the creamy painted finish that defines the base of the two islands.
pride in it and it really gave us a good feeling.” Kate sourced many of the interior fittings, from the stainless steel kitchen appliances and a vessel-style bathroom basin to an innovative flooring product for the lower level. For the colour scheme she drew her inspiration from nature, which is appropriate since the home backs on to a forest of maple, ash and oak trees. The exterior of the home was also influenced by nature. The front elevation features olive green pine board-and-batten siding anchored by a base of ledge rock from Brace bridge. Square white pillars on stone piers support a white timber frame truss that forms an arch above the entry. Inside, the foyer is balanced by Gary’s office, on the left, and a coat closet and a twopiece bathroom on the right. Three curved steps lead to the great room where a bank of picture windows follows the lines of a cathedral ceiling, making the view of the forest immediate even from a distance. Taupe walls and walnut engineered floors with a hand-sculpted finish unify the decor, which combines shades of burnt orange, sage green and tan. A ribbon fireplace, with flames that dance in a horizontal line along a base of river stones, is flanked on each side by built-in cabinetry. Two angled islands distinguish the kitchen from the great room, on the right, and the dining area on the left. Walnut cabinets, with a combination of leaded glass and flat-panel doors, are situated along a rear wall where they form a subtle contrast to the creamy painted finish that defines the base of the islands. A hall beside the kitchen leads past a builtin desk and a walk-in pantry to a laundry room and a garage entry. “It’s just perfect,” Kate says of the kit chen. “Because it’s mostly just two of us, it’s so easy. Everything is there on hand. It really works well for us.” French doors open from the kitchen out to a curved concrete deck with a ceramic tile floor and tempered glass railings. A white trellis forms the framework for retractable fabric awnings that allow Kate and Gary the flexibility of having sun or shade in specific areas. To the left of the dining area, a sunroom with windows on two sides blends into the natural landscape. Its rustic finishes are evident in
Gary’s office is outfitted with built-in cherry cabinetry, made by Woodecor near Stratford, that features deep crown mouldings and leaded glass doors. A lower-level wine cellar was one of Gary’s priorities.
oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 19
RENAISSANCE STONE AND MASONRY
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The master bedroom retreat is situated in its own wing off the great room. A white trellis forms the framework for retractable fabric awnings that allow sun or shade in specific areas of the deck. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the sunroom capture views of the forest.
olive green board-and-batten siding and natural quartzite floors, which resemble slate. On the opposite side of the home, off the great room, the master bedroom retreat is situated in its own wing. The ensuite bathroom is particularly striking with its contrasting light and dark tones. Walnut cabinetry, paired with rich brown marble counters, stands out against a neutral backdrop of polished marble floors and walls. Cut in 12- by 24-inch tiles, the stonecoloured marble surfaces create a sense of understated opulence. A curved glass-block wall shields a walkin shower from view. Lined with marble, the shower features a pebbled floor and a square shower tile – instead of a shower head – that is flush with the ceiling. In the bedroom, french doors open out to the rear deck. A tray ceiling emphasizes the room’s linear lines, from the transom window above a contemporary-style bed to the rectangular ribbon fireplace shared with the great room. A staircase descends from the front of the home to a spacious lower level that comprises a home theatre, a sitting area, a two-piece bathroom and a wine cellar. A bar and kitchen allow Kate and Gary’s adult children to use the lower level as a guest suite. “They’re completely self-contained, but at the same time it (the lower level) is still very much part of the house,” Kate says. “We’re very pleased with how it came together.” Off the main entertaining area, two large guest rooms connected by an ensuite bathroom complete the suite. Karndean vinyl floors throughout the lower level create a practical surface that closely resembles hardwood. Kate says the time she and Gary spent planning the design and sourcing finishes and products were well worth it: the home is ideal for entertaining guests and enjoying on their own. “It’s just amazing. It’s such an easy house to live in. The flow of the house and the layout – it just totally suits us in every way. I just feel like we’ve lived here forever. This is it for us now.” OKE oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 21
Dream Design A Grand Bend couple ends up with everything they dreamed of – and then some
t was love at first sight when Kate McKenzie and Bob McIntosh toured a timber frame model home that was on display at a home show in London, Ontario. Until that point, they hadn’t put a great deal of thought into the design of their new home. “That’s when we thought, ‘This is what we want,’” recalls Kate, a lifelong Grand Bend resident. The home, with its rustic pine timbers and open-concept design, appealed to the couple who had purchased a lot high on a bluff overlooking Lake Huron in St. Joseph, north of Grand Bend. They believed a timber frame home’s natural materials and relaxed floorplan mirrored their own way of life. “We lead a pretty casual lifestyle – we didn’t want a formal dining room, we wanted an open house,” Kate says.
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Because the rear of the home faced west, the couple decided to combine the timber frame elements with exterior walls and a foundation made of Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF), which eliminate drafts and deaden the sound of the wind. Kate and Bob had long admired Oke Woodsmith’s homes and wanted Brad Oke, a partner in the company, to design their own. They chose Pine Ridge Timber Frame Homes of London to build and install the timber framing. The couple decided to incorporate timber beams only in the main living areas, which feature a cavernous great room separated from an adjoining bar/games room by a massive stuccoand-stone fireplace. On the opposite side of the great room, a keyhole above Bob’s concert theatre organ visually connects the kitchen to the main living areas.
Tumbled Owen Sound ledge rock is paired with board-and-batten accents and a modest timber-frame truss that forms a peak above the entry. Maple cabinetry in two distinct finishes gives the kitchen a French Country flair. Nine-foot beamed ceilings in the kitchen allowed for the creation of a secondfloor loft. Bob’s concert theatre organ was a key element in the design of the great room. A keyhole above the organ visually connects the kitchen to the main living areas. The games room and bar reflect Bob and Kate’s love of entertaining. The pine timbers reinforce the home’s connection to its natural setting.
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Instead of opting for tongue-and-groove pine panels, the couple chose drywall ceiling panels painted a soft café au lait shade paired with deep olive green walls. The walls and ceilings draw out the yellow tones in the pine timbers and reinforce the home’s connection to its natural setting. “We wanted it to be special, we didn’t want it everywhere,” Kate says of the timber framing. Oke agrees that using wood in the ceilings apart from the timbers can be overkill. “My philosophy is that it hides the timbers,” he explains. “I wanted the timbers to be pronounced, I didn’t want them to be hidden in the rest of the ceiling.” Kate chose more intimate nine-foot beam ed ceilings in the kitchen, which led to the creation of a second-floor loft that’s accessible from a pine staircase off the great room. The 675-square-foot loft incorporates an office with a cosy sitting room that overlooks the great room below through a pine and wrought iron railing. Construction of the home began in the fall of 1998 and was completed the following June. “It’s a very, very unique house,” Oke says.
“It’s a very, very unique house.” A massive stucco-and-stone fireplace separates the great room from the adjoining bar/ games room. The scale of the room, with its 28-foot ceilings, is brought down to human proportions through the juxtaposition of traditional leather furnishings and antiques. A glass block wall separates the shower from the soaker tub in the ensuite bathroom.
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A path winds through contoured flowerbeds of lush hostas, ivies, heucheras and purple coneflowers to the front of the home. Owen Sound ledge rock, tumbled to soften the edges, is paired with board-and-batten accents and a modest timber-frame truss that forms a peak above the entry. Inside, a small foyer – also delineated by a timber frame arch – opens directly into the great room. The scale of the room, with its 28foot ceilings, is brought down to human proportions through the juxtaposition of traditional leather furnishings and antiques. A fishing net and floats from the East Coast are artistically draped across the twosided gas fireplace, providing a backdrop for five small coloured rowboats that stand on end above a heavy pine mantel. A low wall that forms part of the fireplace accommodates a television and audio equipment in niches. Bob’s organ was a key element in the design of the great room, as was a built-in fish tank that has since become a terrarium. He also wanted an entertainment area with a bar, a slot machine and a nearby pool table. Given the couple’s love of entertaining, great acoustics were a must. “It’s a perfect home for entertaining because you can have intimate little groups sitting in the kitchen or in the living room or standing at the bar and it’s not a competition for noise,” Kate notes. “I don’t feel isolated if I’m in the kitchen cooking – there’s lots of room for people to stand and talk.” The games area and two-piece bathroom are balanced on the opposite side of the great room by a bright and open kitchen/dining area. Designed by Phillip Bielmann of Hutton Bielmann Design in London, the maple cabinetry in two distinct finishes gives the kitchen a French Country flair. Unfitted cabinets with round half-column details and crown mouldings resemble finely crafted pieces of furniture. Stainless steel appliances offer a contemporary counterpoint to a curved stucco range hood and butcher-block counters. With the keyhole positioned on a wall between the kitchen and great room, Kate and Bob are still a part of activities in the great room. “You can at least see and hear what’s going on,” Kate says. Throughout the main living areas, the green walls, yellow pine timbers and textured porcelain tile floors echo the images of nature
just beyond the windows. Kate’s landscaping talents are evident in curving borders filled with yellow Stella D’Oro daylilies, black-eyed Susans, hostas and grasses accented with metal sculptures and natural stone. While the windows frame captivating views of the outdoors, they are also energy efficient and incorporate low-E argon-filled glass, which reduces heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter. Sun shades screen out the heat of the sun in the late afternoon. A retractable awning provides shade for a recessed patio just beyond the great room. Beside it, a covered patio protected by windows and a pergola provides shelter for meals enjoyed al fresco. “It’s a nice place to have dinner and
entertain, and just sit and relax,” Kate says. Off the kitchen, a small hallway leads to the master bedroom retreat, a guest bedroom and a laundry room. Downstairs, a large family room incorporates a home office for Bob and a kitchenette, while three bedrooms and a full bathroom branch off the main hallway. Kate says she and Bob are delighted with the home, and with Oke’s ability to translate their vision so faithfully. “When we sat down with Brad, we knew what rooms we wanted and what the spaces were going to be for,” Kate says. “Brad made them work in a better fashion… He took the elements that we wanted and made sense out of them.” OKE
The rear of the home offers plenty of outdoor entertaining options with two patios ideally suited to meals enjoyed al fresco. A flagstone patio faces west, overlooking Lake Huron.
oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 27
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Room to Grow An innovative floorplan ensures this home’s relevance for years to come
David and Annie’s home in Blyth features a stone exterior and a deep front porch distinguished by round posts and a white railing.
hen homeowners intend to remain in a house indefinitely, the stakes are much higher during the design process. They want to ensure the floorplan and the features they incorporate will see them through several stages of life. That was the situation that faced David and Annie, who reside in Blyth. They discussed the elements of their ideal home many times before having the plans drawn. Word-of-mouth recommendations then led them to residential designer Brad Oke, who transformed the plans from an approximation of what the couple wanted to exactly what they wanted. “The design we had looked great on paper, but Brad and the rest of the Okes tweaked it so it actually worked,” David recalls. Oke added many details, including plenty of storage in the lower level and garage for the family’s sports equipment. He also designed half closets, 10 feet long by three feet high, beneath the slanted walls in the children’s second-floor bedrooms. Doors, painted with whimsical scenes, open to a private play area created with the couple’s two young sons and daughter in mind.
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“It’s all the little things that we would never think or would never have considered,” David says. “If we had to build our house all over again, there isn’t one thing we would change. We wound up with exactly what we wanted and then some. It’s a relief, too, because we truly don’t intend to ever build or move again.” Because the couple entertains frequently, Oke encouraged them to include a servery between their kitchen and dining area. In addition to being practical, it’s a stylish area with display cabinets, a warming drawer and a granite counter that serves as a buffet. In planning the home, David and Annie particularly wanted an open-concept great room with a large fireplace as a focal point and plenty of windows. Their aim was to create a welcoming living area that wasn’t formal. “We wanted a room that was very bright naturally,” David says. While there were some elements they hoped to include, such as timber frame trusses in the great room, Oke dissuaded them because he believed they wouldn’t conform to the overall design of the home. “Brad really discouraged that and we’re glad he did,” David says. Construction of the home began in January 2003 and was completed nearly a year later. Insulated Concrete Forms make the home quiet and energy efficient. “It was an all-round really neat experience,” David says of working with Oke. Located on a rise, the home’s front elevation imparts the essence of a century home with its stone exterior and deep front porch distinguished by round posts and a white railing. Pale stone surrounds draw attention to large double-hung windows. Creating a good fit between the home and its neighbourhood was the designer’s aim. “We wanted to make it look like a house that had always been on the site,” recalls Oke. “It was surrounded by century homes and we wanted to give it that century look – the big thing was to pick the right materials to give it that look.” Oke chose square-cut manufactured stone in shades of rose, sand and slate that would resemble the size and shape of the natural stone used in older homes in Blyth. The stone, which had never been previously used in that size, was purchased from Shouldice Designer Stone in Shallow Lake near Wiarton.
The stone was also used at the rear of the home in a massive fireplace that provides outdoor entertaining opportunities for the family. The fireplace forms a focal point in a garden that also includes a dining area highlighted by raised flowerbeds and a dramatic granite water feature. Inside, the home’s 2,500-square-foot floor plan reveals a departure in theme from the traditional exterior. The open-concept design includes interesting ceiling heights and innovative ways of utilizing natural light. The great room, which is located to the right of the front foyer, features a vaulted ceiling and angled windows on each side of an immense fireplace of Georgian Bay ledge rock. Built-in bookcases, finished with fluted pilasters and crown mouldings, display the couple’s The kitchen pairs creamy cabinetry with granite counters. A nine-foot ceiling opens up to a soaring two-storey height above the workspace positioned along a rear wall. The great room incorporates a vaulted ceiling and angled windows on each side of an immense fireplace of Georgian Bay ledge rock. Built-in bookcases display the couple’s collection of soapstone sculptures and wood carvings.
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471 Main Street, Exeter
Host ofâ€Ś Design consulting by Rae Ann Ladouceur
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“I love it in the bathroom in the wintertime” collection of soapstone sculptures and wood carvings. A second vaulted ceiling distinguishes the dining area, which incorporates a curved transom window above french doors. Pale yellow walls, pecan engineered flooring and off-white woodwork make the rooms airy and appealing. The main hallway leads from a home office off the foyer to the kitchen, which was designed as much for the children in the family as the adults. A small breakfast table beside a butcher block-style maple island allows the children to do their homework while Annie prepares a meal. Chalkboards on the refrigerator and freezer doors perform a similar function. “I love the fact that when I’m in the kitchen, they can be writing on the chalkboard,” Annie says. The nine-foot ceiling in the kitchen opens up to a soaring two-storey height above the workspace along a rear wall. Two skylights aid air circulation and illuminate the workspace, which features granite counters in shades of moss green and coffee, as well as cabinetry with a cream rub-through finish. A powder room, a bright laundry room and a mudroom equipped with a built-in bench
and cabinets complete the main floor. From the foyer, a maple staircase leads to the second floor, which features an inviting master bedroom and ensuite bathroom, as well as a children’s bathroom and three bedrooms. Radiant in-floor heating on the first and second floors, as well as in the lower level and in the garage, make the home comfortable yearround. “I love it in the bathroom in the wintertime,” Annie says. “When I get out of the shower, the floor is nice and warm.” A lower-level guest retreat, designed with extended family members in mind, includes a family room, a bedroom and a bathroom. It’s just one more detail in a home that fits this family to a T. “It’s great for our kids, it’s great for having friends or family over. It’s a very liveable home,” David says. Annie appreciates the natural light that fills the home, as well as the towering maple and spruce trees that cast shade on the front porch. “It never feels as if I’m enclosed,” she says. “With the old trees all around, sitting on the porch just feels rejuvenating – just having nature so close to our home.” OKE
A vaulted ceiling distinguishes the dining area, which features a curved transom window that forms an arch above french doors. Radiant in-floor heating increases the comfort of the ensuite bathroom. Exceptionally large windows flood the bedrooms with light.
oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 33
Inspired by nature
A small lot is the starting point for a unique stone and cedar home
hen Don and Marg Bulloch purchased a lakefront property north of Grand Bend in 2000, they had no idea several other prospective buyers had seen it and rejected it. Ignorance, in this case, was a benefit since the lot’s wooded ravine and bluffs now form a dramatic backdrop to the couple’s equally dramatic home. The Bullochs, who had been living in Belfountain, north of Toronto, were attracted to the property because of its abundant natural features and its location overlooking Lake Huron. Their own five-acre lot was surrounded by woods and they enjoyed the privacy of such a location. They didn’t realize, however, there were restrictions that might have prohibited them from building on their lot in Grand Bend. Others had deemed it too small to complement a permanent lakeside home. “Maybe we were naïve when we bought it,” Don says. Through the recommendations of family, the couple contacted residential designer Brad Oke, who had seen the property previously and already had a design in mind. “I love lots that have ravines on the side; they have a lot of challenges, but they offer a lot of privacy, as well,” he says. Despite the difficulties posed by the property, Oke and his clients were able to overcome its negative features. The Bullochs, who were originally from London, purchased an unopened road allowance that led to Highway 21 to make the front of the property larger. They also obtained three minor variances that would accommodate the footprint of the home and the septic system, and allow Oke to build closer to the edge of the bluff.
Don and Marg Bulloch’s home north of Grand Bend evokes the spirit of a well-built 50- or 60-year-old cottage. Designer Brad Oke chose natural materials suited to that era, such as Owen Sound ledge rock and maintenance-free B.C. red cedar shingles. Natural stone steps lead past a recessed patio distinguished by arches, and up to two raised patios.
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Technology was on the Bullochs’ side in the form of a new septic system that required less land. Oke chose Ecoflo Peat Filters, which use sphagnum peat moss as a natural filtering medium. “It reduced the amount of area required for the septic system, which then allowed more area for the actual house,” Oke explains. Oke designed a plan with a lower-level walkout, which allowed him to build a larger home on a smaller lot. The design incorporated two bedrooms and an ensuite bathroom, as well as a family room with a games area and a home office. The guest retreat was a key element for the Bullochs, who favoured a one-floor home with additional living areas to accommodate their son, daughter and grandchildren on extended family visits. “We were thinking of going up, but going down seemed to be what he (Oke) suggested and we’re quite happy,” Marg says.
Building up the lot also ensured the couple would be able to see the lake from every room in their home. Outside, Oke raised the grade of the property, which had been flat. Building up the lot also ensured the couple would be able to see the lake from every room in their home. Oke’s aim in designing the exterior was to evoke the spirit of a well-built 50- or 60-yearold cottage. He chose natural materials suited to that era, including Owen Sound ledge rock paired with maintenance-free B.C. red cedar shingles and a steeply pitched cedar shingle roof. The cedar shingles have weathered to nearly the buff colour of the stone, making the home appear older than it is. Two round portholes – one in the gable above the garage and the other in the powder room beside the front door – underscore a subtle nautical theme. The Bullochs’ home marked the first Oke had designed that combined the essence of a cottage with the features of a year-round residence. The home is constructed of Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF), which eliminate drafts oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 37
and deaden sound – even in the fall when winds whip off the lake. Radiant in-floor heating on both levels adds to the home’s comfort. “You feel safe and comfortable and warm in here,” Marg says. On the main floor, Oke defined rooms without walls by using interesting ceiling treatments, which are evident from the front door. Two curved steps lead from the front foyer up to an open-concept living area that’s unified by creamy walls and richly textured hickory engineered floors. Sunlight fills the great room, which is flanked by a gourmet kitchen on the right and a formal dining room on the left. Spatial definition was achieved through the creation of a
The great room features built-in cabinetry, made by Dungannon Kitchens, as well as an impressive fireplace that incorporates a cherry mantel. A second seating area on the edge of the bluff is poised directly above the beach below.
14-foot vaulted ceiling in the kitchen; a cherry island with turned columns and a granite counter further defines the two areas. A second vaulted ceiling in an adjoining dinette forms a dramatic counterpoint to the nine-foot ceilings in the great room. Furnished with a round stone table and four dark wicker chairs, the dinette offers a panoramic view of the lake. Don’s gardening talents are visible in the deep border that rims the bluff, creating a visual feast in shades of gold and yellow interspersed with blue-green and red foliage. A dome above a sitting area in the great room signals yet another change in theme. A rounded wall of windows – one of Oke’s trademarks – overlooks a small concrete patio with tempered glass railings. Two additional patios, accessible off the dinette and the master bedroom, provide Don and Marg with ample outdoor dining opportunities. The great room, comfortably decorated in shades of honey and camel, features built-in cabinetry for the television and stereo, as well as an impressive fireplace that incorporates a cherry mantel. The dining room, at the front of the home, is the most tailored room with deep crown mouldings, banks of casement windows that face a ravine at the side of the property, and a traditional oak dining suite. The dining room is balanced on the opposite side of the home by the master bedroom retreat and spacious ensuite bathroom. Subtle indications of the home’s lakeside location are evident in the form of Marg’s photographs of sunsets and in the choice of rustic pine and sand-coloured granite in the ensuite bathroom vanity. While the Bullochs have imprinted their own personalities on the home, Oke’s hand in the design is clearly evident. “The design of the home is totally him,” Don says of Oke. “He was extremely good for us – he had good ideas.” Marg agrees. “He knew what he wanted the house to look like in the end, and I could see that was what I wanted the house to look like, too. He had definite ideas and I trusted him completely.” Although Don had never gardened before moving to Grand Bend, his eye for colour and texture play a pivotal role in providing a backdrop for the home. Ornamental mulberry, false cypress and weeping larch provide vertical interest to contoured flowerbeds filled with large white hydrangeas, hostas and spirea. oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 39
Natural stone, flanked by evergreens, barberry and sedum, forms steps that lead from the side of the house past a recessed patio distinguished by arches, and up to two raised patios, one of which incorporates a built-in barbecue. A second seating area on the edge of the bluff is poised directly above the beach below. The 3,030-square-foot home was completed in 2003. Marg and Don agree the home is ideal for their needs and their tastes. “We love it, it’s perfect for us,” Marg says. OKE
Expansive windows and a raised patio off the master bedroom retreat offer the Bullochs an enviable view of the lake. Brad Oke defined rooms without walls in the Bullochs’ home by using interesting ceiling treatments, including a dome above a sitting area in the great room.
Designing for Present and Future Needs A well-planned office building raises the profile of an Exeter investment firm
ary Bean was faced with many of the same decisions that confront new home buyers when he began planning the design of his new office building in Exeter. His challenge lay in assessing his current needs and also planning for offices that would allow his company to expand. Bean, who is president of Gary Bean Securities Inc., says a key element of the design centred on incorporating areas that could be transformed into offices as his staff grew. One challenge lay in determining the position of office furniture which, in turn, had a bearing on where the electrical and data connections would be located. “When you’re planning for offices that don’t exist, it’s harder still,” Bean notes. Functional space was at the top of his list of priorities, particularly since the company had been located for 19 years in a smaller renovated house on Exeter’s main street. While the existing rooms of the house had been adapted to the company’s needs, there was a lack of privacy for clients meeting with their advisers and a need for more functional workspace for employees. Bean particularly wanted clients to feel comfortable coming to the office. It was also important to him that the new building fit into its small-town surroundings. “It’s hard to take an investment office that would be suitable for the city of London or Toronto – it would not necessarily fit here in Exeter,” he says. Bean consulted several designers before settling on Oke Woodsmith Building Systems of Hensall. Brad Oke, a partner in the family-owned company, created a square two-storey building, faced with Owen Sound ledge rock and stucco, that imparts a sense of agelessness. Enormous cambered windows soften the building’s linear lines.
40 | oke woodsmith, fall 2008
Above: This two-storey stone-and-stucco building, designed and built by Oke Woodsmith for Gary Bean Securities Inc. in Exeter, imparts a sense of agelessness. The building was designed specifically to fit into its small-town surroundings. Opposite: Designer Brad Oke borrowed many elements from heritage financial institutions, including an impressive ash staircase that sweeps, on two sides, from the two-storey reception area up to the second floor. Throughout the building, tray ceilings, crown mouldings and heavily grained ash trim create a tailored interior. Next page: An open reading area at the top of the stairs features great expanses of gleaming Brazilian hickory engineered floors. The reading area is tastefully decorated with leather furnishings and fitted with built-in bookcases.
Although Bean wanted a rugged exterior for his building, he relied on Oke to interpret his vision. He particularly wanted a simple design with high-quality materials. “I found it was very easy to work with Brad,” Bean observes. The 5,900-square-foot building features a steel tiled roof that reflects Bean’s preference for a maintenance-free exterior. The building is constructed of Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF), which maximize energy efficiency and eliminate road noise. “The ICF is 300 per cent quieter,” Oke says. Bean decided to heat the building with radiant in-floor heating for comfort and the fact dust is virtually eliminated. With its even floorto-ceiling temperature, the heat system has reduced employee illness, says Suzanne Mathers, company controller. “I think people are healthier and I think people are happier coming here – they’re able to work in an area that is their own instead of a transient workspace,” she adds. Inside, Oke borrowed many features from heritage financial institutions, including an impressive ash staircase that sweeps, on two sides, from the two-storey reception area up to the second floor. Flanked on each side by curved railings, the staircase leads to an open reading area with great expanses of gleaming Brazilian hickory engineered floors. The reading area is tastefully decorated with leather furnishings and fitted with built-in bookcases. Light throughout the second floor is cleverly conveyed through the strategic positioning of windows. A staff lunchroom and a large conference room face each other across the staircase with an enormous fixed window in each room that provides a view of the front foyer. At one end of the building, an area that is now used for storage will be divided into two offices – each with its own window – for future staff members. At the opposite end, Bean’s office combines several functions, including a comfortable work station and a client conference area. The office also incorporates a private two-piece washroom and a recessed balcony with tempered glass railings that overlooks a park-like setting below. The earth tones that form the interior colour scheme carry through to Bean’s office where a combination of slate blue and linen-coloured walls form a subtle backdrop to oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 43
Planning is pivotal in designing an office building rich cherry furnishings. Downstairs, directly behind the front foyer, a mailing area with storage for office supplies connects the front of the building to individual offices, workstations and a boardroom. Throughout the building, tray ceilings, crown mouldings and heavily grained ash trim create a tailored interior, paired with comfortable leather furnishings and an abundance of tropical plants. The design process lasted a year and the building was completed in April 2006 at a cost of $1.25 million, which also included the purchase price of the property and the landscaping. Unexpected costs arose, including doubling the cost of the parking lot to install a circular driveway, which saved a stand of walnut trees. The trees now form a tranquil park with a curving centre walkway that bissects a dry bed
of riverstone studded with pink and mauve hydrangeas, hostas and purple sandcherry bushes. It’s a theme that’s repeated in the deep flowerbeds that border the building. Bean says planning is pivotal in designing an office building, particularly if it’s going to be functional for years to come. “Take your time in doing it and have excellent people to work with,” he advises. “There are a lot of steps in the planning process prior to moving into the building. You’ve got to have someone you’re comfortable working with to accomplish that.” The new building is successful in several ways, Bean believes. “It’s a very, very solid building and it’s very energy-efficient. It’s a benefit to everybody who works here; it also raises our level of visibility within the community and that, overall, has been good for business.” OKE
European Flavour Timeless architectural features infuse a newer home with character
he most successful renovations are those in which a homeowner and a designer blend their ideas, taking their collective vision to new heights. That was the experience of an Exeter-area couple who wanted to create a stronger sense of connection between the interior and exterior of their 1½-storey, yellow-brick home, which was built about 15 years ago. With their pickled wood finishes, the rooms were dated and didn’t reflect the stately appearance of the exterior. The couple contracted Oke Woodsmith Building Systems to redesign and renovate three rooms within the original footprint of the home. The homeowner wanted the rooms, which encompass an area of 1,787 square feet, to impart a traditional European flavour with top-quality finishes and materials. “I wanted a ‘wow’ factor, but I also wanted it to be very comfortable so that when you came in, even though it was grand and airy, you still felt comfortable,” she says. The renovation began in January 2001 and was completed at the end of May. The work involved transforming a sunroom into a family room, redesigning the kitchen and dining area, and creating a great room.
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The homeowner had many ideas of her own and worked with designer Brad Oke to achieve her vision. She and the Oke team often brainstormed, which resulted in an even better idea than the one first proposed. “I think Brad respects my ideas and I respect his, and we were both open to each other’s suggestions,” the homeowner notes. “It didn’t matter who said it, we just jelled – which was great. Oke Woodsmith were very, very accommodating.” Detailed cabinetry, unusual ceiling treatments and timeless architectural features, such as hand-carved corbels, unify the three areas. Sunlight from east-facing, floor-to-ceiling windows fills the rooms with light, accentuating the rich earth tones. A combination of engineered wood and porcelain tile floors are paired with radiant in-floor heating. A foyer off a secondary entry, which is lined with maple cabinetry, opens in to a family room on the right. Once a sunroom with leaking skylights, the family room now embodies a sense of rugged masculinity. The angled lines of the vaulted ceiling are softened by a wall of arched windows that over-
look a swimming pool and a two-tiered waterfall. Floors of porcelain tile resemble flagstone, blurring the lines between interior and exterior living spaces. A stone fireplace conceals a wood-burning stove – a compromise made by the owner, who hoped for a fireplace, and her husband, who preferred a wood stove. It’s balanced at the opposite end by maple cabinetry that features open shelves where the owners display their books and pottery from Costa Rica. A dining area, furnished with a round mahogany table and chairs, bridges the transition between the family room and the kitchen. An abundance of natural materials and exceptional finishes elevate the two areas from the functional to the sublime. The homeowner’s love of traditional elements is evident in the maple cabinets, which stretch along three walls and incorporate two
Detailed cabinetry, unusual ceiling treatments and timeless architectural features, such as hand-carved corbels, unify the family room, dining area and kitchen.
oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 47
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The angled lines of the vaulted ceiling in the family room are softened by a wall of arched windows that overlook a swimming pool and a two-tiered waterfall.
serving areas for coffee and wine. Finished with deep crown mouldings, the cabinets extend flush to the ceiling and incorporate heavy corbels carved with an oak leaf motif, as well as round hand-turned posts. The focal point of the kitchen is a raisedledge breakfast bar with counters of Italian marble. The angles of the bar are mimicked above in a striking ceiling treatment that combines linear and curving lines. Behind the island, a hood of pale cast stone forms an arch above a stainless steel range. The sense of grandeur evident in the kit chen is carried through to the great room, which features a coffered cherry ceiling trim med with gold-coloured mouldings. An imposing cast stone fireplace is flanked on either side by cherry cabinetry with leaded glass doors. A formal conversation area, anchored by a wool Indian rug, overlooks a covered patio with a built-in barbecue and fireplace, just beyond a bank of french doors. The homeowner says her goal was to find a designer with a sense of vision who could pic-
ture the final results – something she was fortunate to find in Oke. “It’s hard sometimes when you have vision yourself and someone doesn’t, and you’re trying to explain it. When you explain to him what you want, he (Oke) has it right away.” Oke says his role focused on blending his client’s ideas with his own, and realizing the home’s potential by creating a connection between the interior and exterior. “There was no square footage that was added, but it was a complete makeover. We changed the whole character; the outside character was very stately,” Oke says. “Right now, you would think it was a brand new estate home versus a renovation – it’s right out of the design magazines.” The homeowner is so delighted with the results that she and her husband are making plans to renovate their dining and living rooms. The overall appearance of the completed area is exactly what she envisioned. “It’s what I thought this place should look like,” she says simply. OKE
The homeowner’s love of traditional elements is evident in the maple cabinetry. The heavy corbels that grace the breakfast bar are repeated in a range hood of cast stone.
oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 49
Preserving History A THOUGHTFUL RENOVATION HONOURS THE INTEGRITY OF THIS 115-YEAR-OLD HOME
It’s an outdoor lover’s dream 122 King Street, Hensall, Ontario 519-262-2924 | fax: 519-262-2408
t may not have made financial sense, but undertaking an historically sympathetic renovation to a century home was just common sense for a Godericharea couple. Steven and Laurie are the third owners of their 6,000-square-foot, yellow-brick home, which was built in 1892. Steven’s parents lived in the Victorian home for 30 years after purchasing it from the daughter of the doctor who built it. Along the way, they repaired and updated the infrastructure, including the wiring and plumbing, and carried out some cosmetic work, as well. The home was structurally sound when Steven and Laurie moved in 15 years ago, which made the prospect of a renovation easier and less expensive. “When they did all of the structural work, they
created an opportunity for us to make a logical investment in an old home that also met our emotional needs,” Steven says. “We love living here – it’s a great old place.” The original architectural features, such as the plaster mouldings, hardwood flooring and detailed ash woodwork, were still intact which was a definite advantage for the couple. “Most of the feeling is still here, the woodwork is still here and any changes along the way have been really made thoughtfully,” Steven says. The couple engaged Oke Woodsmith Building Systems to undertake a series of three renovations, which began in 2004. Their aim was to restructure the rear of the home to reflect today’s lifestyles, while preserving its architectural integrity.
oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 53
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Headed by Brad Oke, the family-owned company created a dining and sitting area where the kitchen once was, overlooking an east-facing side yard rimmed by cedars. That area is balanced on the opposite side by a new kitchen, which takes the place of the former family room. The kitchen now features a centre cherry island flanked on two sides by granite counters and butter-yellow cabinetry with deep crown mouldings. Wide aisles between the island and the counters allow for an easy traffic flow, which is particularly important when Steven and Laurie host buffet-style dinners. “There’s room for people to mingle; it works out really well,” Laurie says. Oke also enlarged an archway between the kitchen and the sitting/dining area to visually connect them. Built-in bookcases, positioned on each side of a Victorian-style fireplace, signal a transition between the two rooms. The dining area, which resembles a recessed alcove, posed the greatest challenge since creating it involved removing an exterior wall to add needed floor space. Oke’s aim was to blend the new work seamlessly with the existing structure. “The big challenge was to take a Victorian home and not ruin the philosophy of the original design,” he explains. The focal point is a bay window, replicated to resemble bay windows in the formal living room at the front of the home. The long doublehung windows were custom manufactured by Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. Inc. to resemble century-old windows and installed by Ridley Windows of Toronto. The windows provide nearly floor-to-ceiling views of an in-ground saltwater pool and outdoor entertaining areas. “Our hope was to have them as authentic-looking as possible,” Steven says. Draperies in shades of raspberry, gold and green draw attention to the windows, which form a backdrop for a trestle dining table with a wroughtiron base and a cherry top. Terra cotta-coloured wallpaper and golden ash floors unify the renovated areas, making them warm and inviting. Connecting the three rooms to the outdoor living areas was another of Steven and Laurie’s priorities. Because the swimming pool wasn’t accessible from the rear of the home, the indoors and outdoors were completely separate.
Previous page: The long double-hung windows provide a clear view of the saltwater pool and outdoor entertaining areas. This page: The dining area is tucked into an alcove that overlooks an outdoor entertaining area through a bay window. The kitchen features a centre cherry island flanked on two sides by granite counters and butter-yellow cabinetry, designed and built by Woodecor near Stratford. Wide aisles between the island and the counters allow for an easy traffic flow when buffet-style dinners are served.
oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 55
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“The outside feels like it’s connected to our house.” “The pool always felt very disconnected,” Laurie notes. Oke built a Victorian-style gazebo as an extension of a covered rear patio, which is accessible through a garden door in the sitting room. Radiant in-floor heating was installed in the floor of the gazebo to melt the snow, allowing the family to use it for dining in late fall or early spring. While a simple side porch would have been historically sympathetic, it wouldn’t have achieved the family’s objectives. “What we have here incorporates all of the architectural elements of an original side porch, but in a living space that works for today,” Steven says. “The biggest single thing is that the outside feels like it’s connected to our house now instead of just being the side yard.” In the spring of 2005, Oke replaced the deck and fencing using a combination of white painted wood and wrought iron around the swimming pool, and built a rustic pool house. He also built an outdoor fireplace made of Shouldice Designer Stone that forms part of an entertaining area opposite the gazebo.
In the third and final phase completed last fall, Oke transformed a garage that was designed for a motor home into a coach house. Built of reclaimed yellow brick to resemble the home, the garage now features ornate white fretwork and coach house doors topped by arched soldier courses of brick. Its design is practical since it allows Steven and Laurie to park two vehicles beneath two other vehicles on raised lifts. Heated sidewalks were also installed at the front and back doors, and the west side of the house was landscaped with symmetrical, English-
style flowerbeds. Boxwoods and yew, interspersed with pink hydrangeas, lavender, hostas and magnolia trees, create a sense of formality. Steven and Laurie agree the thought they put into the renovation has paid off. “One of the things I enjoy about it the most is that it flows so well,” Laurie says. “The kitchen flows to the gazebo and the pool area, and all of the landscaping around the house ties it together really well.” Steven says he understands why owners of century homes are tempted to gut entire rooms and start from scratch. Undertaking an historically sympathetic renovation – while it was the right thing to do – added time, work and expense to the project. The couple never considered the alternative, however. “It was really worth the investment and that has been exciting for us,” Steven says. “In terms of the windows and the woodwork and the trim, Brad’s guys have been great in replicating everything.” Laurie agrees. “Brad has such wonderful ideas and he’s great to deal with. We always felt very confident in the workmanship.” OKE
oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 57
Cottage Transformation A MODEST VACATION RETREAT BECOMES A GRACIOUS CRAFTSMAN-STYLE HOME
vacation property was the furthest thing from Pat and Kurt Keller’s minds when they began searching Lake Huron’s shoreline for a vacant lot. They were planning to build a home for their retirement years – until they spotted a small, teal-blue wood frame cottage on a bluff overlooking the lake. The Kellers put their building plans on hold, sold their farm south of Mitchell, where they had lived for 29 years, and moved into the cottage. Even then, they weren’t convinced they were going to use it as a permanent home. “It was in November (2006) when we moved up here thinking we’d just be here for the winter,” Pat recalls. “But we just love it and we couldn’t imagine building someplace else. We thought, ‘Let’s do what we can with what we have and stay.’” The 10-year-old, one-bedroom home was a little small for the Kellers’ needs, but several factors made it worth adapting. The owner was in the process of renovating the lower level and adding
58 | oke woodsmith, fall 2008
two bedrooms and a bathroom there when Pat and Kurt purchased it. Two guest bedrooms were a necessity since the couple had two grown sons living in Kitchener. On the main floor, a large family room was the only element that was lacking. Pat and Kurt realized they would have to convert the garage to accommodate the new room, and build another garage. A few months after moving into the cottage, the couple visited Oke Woodsmith’s model home in Merrywood Meadows in Grand Bend. The home was a grand prize in the London Health Sciences Centre’s Dream Lifestyles Lottery. The Kellers were looking for ideas they could use in their own renovation and were particularly drawn to the model home’s distressed wood floor, built-in oak cabinetry and coffered ceiling – elements they eventually incorporated into their new room. “We just fell in love with everything that he (Brad Oke) had done,” Kurt says.
Oke took them to see other homes he had built and also interviewed them in their own home before he drew new plans. On the exterior, the Kellers had hoped to incorporate stone and stucco to give the home the appearance of permanency. Oke suggested a front porch, as well, which the couple hadn’t considered. “Right away we thought that’s exactly what we wanted,” Kurt says. “We appreciated his professionalism – it was just very comfortable to deal with him.” Before the five-month renovation began in the spring of 2007, the Kellers undertook some preliminary work that would help to ease the transition between the new and older areas of the 1,480-square-foot home. In the open-concept living room at the rear of the home, Oke removed a gas fireplace and added a window to a bank of existing windows. The couple now has an unobstructed view of the water, and of Lake Huron’s famed sunsets. “We really wanted to open it up all the way across,” Pat says. In the kitchen, located directly in front of the foyer, an existing bulkhead and island were extended to provide spatial separation between three key areas: the
foyer, living room and casual dining area. Updating the island with a HanStone quartz counter and a stylish base of natural wood with turned posts also transformed the workspace into more of an entertaining area. To the right of the kitchen, a hallway leads to the sunken family room, which embodies a British Colonial theme. Lush green plants and wooden sculptures, collected during the Kellers’ trips to the Caribbean, stand out against a backdrop of black walnut engineered wood flooring and linen-coloured walls. A wall of built-in oak cabinetry, finished with crown mouldings and fluted pilasters, extends across one wall. It incorporates glass display cabinets, as well as
Oke Woodsmith transformed Pat and Kurt Keller’s modest cottage into a Craftsman-style home with a distinctive stone and stucco facade. The couple’s garage was converted into a sunken family room.
oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 59
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When we have family gatherings we’re not crowded. a flat-screen television positioned above a gas fireplace. Three large casement windows that face east and south flood the room with light. Kurt says he appreciates the additional living space the 552-square-foot room provides. “When we have family gatherings we’re not crowded, especially when we have overnight visitors,” he adds. Outside, the home reflects a Craftsman influence with its distinctive stone and stucco facade. Pillars on stone piers frame a recessed entry and draw attention to a covered front porch finished with wrought-iron spindles. The new garage features coach house-style doors with windows and wrought-iron handles. Although it appears to be a two-car garage, it features an additional bay – half its normal depth – that accommodates the Kellers’ motorcycle and a riding lawn mower.
Creating new rooflines posed the most significant challenge, Oke says. “Configuring the new roof to work with the old roof without making it look as if it was added on – that’s a hard trick sometimes,” he notes. Pat and Kurt believe it’s important for homeowners who are considering a renovation to consult a contractor who is also a designer. Otherwise, owners may wish after the fact they had considered other options. “A professional can come up with drawings and before it’s even built you’ve got a pretty good idea,” Kurt says. They also acknowledge that undertaking a renovation is sometimes preferable to moving. It’s certainly a decision that worked for the best in their own situation. “If you like the location, doing a renovation might be a wiser move than selling and relocating,” Kurt observes. OKE
The Kellers’ garage was converted into a 552-square-foot sunken family room with casement windows that face east and south. A wall of built-in oak cabinetry, finished with crown mouldings and fluted pilasters, extends across one wall in the family room.
oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 61
Living without barriers THIs VICTORIAN-THEmED HOmE Is wHEELCHAIR ACCEssIBLE FROm TOp TO BOTTOm
im and Doris Meldrum knew exactly what they didn’t want in a home when they began contemplating the design of their new residence in Kincardine. Instead of the four-level layout and multiple stairs of their previous home, they chose extra-wide hallways and doorways, and even an elevator. The couple decided to be ruthlessly practical so their new home would accommodate their needs as they aged. They allowed enough space to accommodate wheelchairs in hallways and, for the same reason, also planned for lower vanity heights and higher toilets in their bathrooms. “This home is designed for the retirement market,” Jim says. “We tried to make it as practical as possible.” Oke Woodsmith Building Systems of Hensall had built a home for the couple in 1995 when they returned to Kincardine after living for many years in Toronto. The home resembled a bungalow from the front, but was built on four levels.
62 | oke woodsmith, fall 2008
“It wasn’t marketable to a lot of people because there were a lot of stairs,” Doris says. When a buyer appeared out of the blue, the Meldrums decided to sell the home and repeat the process with Oke Woodsmith in the same neighbourhood, but with a more practical layout. Brad Oke, who designed the home, says most of his clients are opting for an elevator, which costs about $25,000. “Instead of having a house that you’re limited to, why not design this in and then have your house available to you indefinitely?” Oke says. “Most of my clients feel it’s going to be an investment in a home that they won’t have to move out of and a necessity, possibly, down the road.” From the exterior, the Meldrums’ red-brick home exudes a Victorian appeal. Double sets of round white posts on square bases anchor the front entry. A veranda spans the width of the home and features two round turrets at each end. While the couple thought they wanted a plain front porch, Oke believed the gazebo effect created by the turrets would add definition to the front elevation. “Bradley’s brilliant at drawing,” Jim says. “He put in the two round turrets and they just made the house.” Inside, the rooms are large and bright and offer commanding views over Lake Huron. Deep crown mouldings and baseboards, paired with a colour scheme of rich linen and terra cotta, pay homage to the home’s Victorian roots. A curved staircase with oak railings and wrought-iron spindles in the front foyer divides two parallel hallways. The main hallway leads, on the right, past Jim’s home office, which could function as a caregiver’s suite if he or Doris became incapacitated.
This home is designed for the retirement market,” Jim says. “We tried to make it as practical as possible.“ Directly across from the office, a second hallway leads to a bathroom with a tub and shower, and a bright storage room. Both corridors connect to the rear of the home, which consists of one large room with a dining room, kitchen and living area cleverly divided using minimal spatial separation. A partial wall between the kitchen and dining room acts as a builtin china cabinet where the couple displays their collection of Royal Doulton figurines. On the other side, the wall accommodates a stainless steel propane range, pull-out drawers and cabinetry. Designed for westerly views of the lake, the home features enormous casement windows in the dining and living rooms. Patio doors in the kitchen open out to a partially covered rear deck faced with granite tiles and finished with a tempered glass railing. From the foyer, the staircase curves up to the second floor. Two spacious guest bedrooms are located down the hall from a main bathroom and the master bedroom retreat and ensuite bathroom. A combination sewing and laundry room is conveniently situated across from the retreat. Doris says she likes having the bedrooms and the laundry room on the second floor. “It’s exactly as I hoped it would be,” Doris says. “It just seems more comfortable and more compact than our other home.” Jim is particularly partial to the lower-level walkout, which encompasses his workshop, a fruit cellar and a bathroom, as well as an open-concept games room with a sitting area and a small kitchen. A tiled room at the rear of the walkout features a hot tub illuminated by a skylight. Windows on two sides and a set of patio doors overoke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 63
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look a covered patio and the swimming pool. Because the home is built into a hill, the couple’s three-car garage is positioned at the side. The garages open into a vestibule with the elevator just beyond it. “The downstairs is perfect,” Jim says. “I have all my boy’s toys downstairs, like the hot tub and the pool table and my workshop. We just come in off of the garages and we come up on the elevator. It’s real simple.” The house is also energy efficient. The Meldrums heat their home solely with radiant in-floor heating powered by a ground source heat pump used in conjunction with a boiler. The heat pump extracts heat from pipe buried in the ground, which remains constant at 58 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat conveyed from the pump is then exchanged through a heat exchanger and transferred into the home where it supplies the couple’s laundry, air-conditioning, heating and showering needs. Propane is used as an auxiliary source for heating the home and hot water on cold days during the winter. “The ground source heat pump is a very, very efficient method of taking the heat from the ground,” Oke says. “It heats air, as well as hot water for the in-floor heat. It also heats the domestic hot water and it’s an efficient air-conditioning system.” Other energy-efficient features include a heat recovery ventilator that preheats the incoming fresh air with heat from the outgoing air, and also ventilates the home. Low-E argon-filled glass windows were used throughout the home to reduce heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter. The Meldrums’ outdoor living areas reflect a no-nonsense approach to maintenance. Yard work has been minimized through the creation of a low-maintenance courtyard, finished with paving stone, that surrounds the inground swimming pool at the rear of the home. Beyond the fenced pool, the sloping property has been landscaped with natural stone, ornamental grasses and evergreens. The couple decided to continue that theme, using stone, ivies, cotoneaster and evergreens at the front of the home. A dry riverbed of beach stones draws the eye down a steep slope that curves from the front to the side of the property where the garage is situated. During the design process, the couple made two trips to a trade show in Florida with Oke to see the newest products and features in home design. Oke also took the Meldrums to see several homes he had built before they contracted him to build their first home. “It’s important to have a good builder and have confidence in him and the workmanship,” Doris says. After a 16-month construction period, Jim and Doris moved into their 3,845-square foot home in September 2007. Jim says the home is everything they expected and more. “To me, it’s real homey. It turned out to be exactly what we wanted.” OKE
The Meldrums’ home incorporates a lower-level walkout and two decks finished with tempered glass railings and granite tiles. Patio doors connect a small kitchen with a tiled room at the rear of the walkout. The room features a hot tub illuminated by a skylight and surrounded by windows.
oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 65
Modern influences A Kincardine couple cooks up a new kitchen design to reflect their love of entertaining 66 | oke woodsmith, fall 2008
hen Gail and Michael Walden had their home built in 1990, the design of their kitchen reflected their meat-and-potatoes approach to cooking. Nearly 20 years later, the couple’s culinary skills had evolved to the point that a new kitchen was a necessity. “When we designed our house, I don’t think the kitchen reflected the type of cooking we did or the quantities of people that we have here on any given occasion,” Gail says. “We tend to have lots of kids here and lots of adults, especially in the summertime. It’s a big meeting place – we have cottages on either side of us, so this seems to function as the most comfortable place to come.” While lifestyle played a key role in revamping the kitchen, the instigating factor was the breakdown of a wall oven. Replacing it with a larger oven to accommodate Gail’s increased interest in baking would have required major structural alterations. To open up the kitchen, the couple decided to dispense with a small den and reduce a full bathroom off a rear hallway to a two-piece size. Another important decision involved revamping a mudroom and updating a family room off the kitchen with contemporary-style cabinetry and a slate fireplace surround. “We had time to really think about what we wanted,” Gail says. The couple, who live on a beachfront property in Kincardine, perused design magazines and assembled a wish list of features. Their interior designer, Steve Suraci, of Toronto, created a kitchen design that reflected the 1-1/2-storey home’s modern influence. Once Suraci drew up the floorplans, it became a matter of deciding which elements the kitchen would accommodate. Because Gail thrives on organization, she measured her existing cabinet and counter space and assessed whether there would be enough storage in the new kitchen. The storage also had to be accessible; in the original kitchen, key cooking ingredients
Left: A partition wall offers additional counter space, a refrigerator drawer and a wet bar. It overlooks the sunken family room below. Below: A Sub-Zero refrigerator and a wine fridge are flanked by pantry cabinets with pull-out shelves. A large centre island doubles as a bar with aerodynamically designed bar stools. Rift-cut oak cabinetry contributes to the kitchen’s modern edge. An undermount stainless steel sink, a microwave drawer and a dishwasher are incorporated into the island. It’s positioned just steps away from a range and two wall ovens.
were inconveniently located in a pantry well away from the workspace. A friend who is a professional chef gave them valuable pointers. “We’re not going to be doing this again, so I didn’t want to be repeating it down the road,” Gail says. The couple contracted Oke Woodsmith to act as general contractors for the renovation. The Hensall-based company had built homes for friends in the area and the couple was familiar with the quality of their craftsmanship. “Oke Woodsmith are professionals at what they do,” Gail says. “There are builders in this area who probably could have done it, but we wanted somebody who was professional and who mirrored our own values as far as looking at something and saying, ‘Let’s do it right.’” Designer Brad Oke says the renovation was difficult from a structural point of view. Many of the walls that separated the den, kitchen and a rear hallway were load-bearing, which required concealing beams inside joists to support the second floor from below while key walls were being removed. The company worked with engineers to determine how they could add structural support elements that wouldn’t be visible after the renovation was completed – an important fac-
tor in creating an open-concept design. While Oke Woodsmith is a design/build firm, the company welcomes the opportunity to work with designers. “We love to work with other designers – they bring a new element into it, as well. It doesn’t have to be fully our design,” Oke says. Upstairs, the Waldens decided to update their ensuite bathroom and upgrade the finishes. Oke Woodsmith also rebuilt a bathroom shared by the couple’s teenaged son and daughter. As a result of a prior renovation, the shower wasn’t draining properly and water was leaking into the dining room below. The three-month renovation was completed in December 2007. Gail says the kitchen now reflects the family’s style of living and entertaining. Friends who enjoy cooking are able to help with meal preparation from stations set up along the counters – an arrangement that wouldn’t have been possible in their small galley-style kitchen. “The counter space is great,” Gail notes. “That gave us a lot more flexibility than the old kitchen. From a function point of view, I’m so excited about it. It just lends itself to our lifestyle so well.” Maybe too well, Michael adds with a laugh. “The kids said at Christmas time that if oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 67
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107 King Street, Hensall, Ontario
Gail said, ‘I love this kitchen,’ one more time, they were moving out.” The kitchen is distinguished by clean lines softened by the warmth of natural materials. Soft grey-blue walls act as a backdrop for rift-cut oak cabinetry and Zodiaq quartz counters that combine shades of white and grey – tones that are repeated in the ceramic tile floors. Brushed nickel hardware and stainless steel appliances add an industrial edge to the workspace. A large centre island doubles as a bar with aerodynamically designed bar stools that combine white leather and stainless steel. The island, which incorporates an undermount stainless steel sink, a microwave drawer and a dishwasher, is positioned just steps away from a range and two wall ovens. The range features six propane burners, a grill and a griddle, as well as a stainless steel warming shelf with a heat lamp above, ideal for allowing bread dough to rise. Gail’s love of organization is evident in the area around the cooking station: spices, arranged in alphabetical order, are positioned in a drawer to the right of the range, with a collection of knives, and pots and pans in drawers below. To the left, oven mitts are situated above mixing bowls and measuring cups. That arrangement allows the Waldens to keep their workspace organized. “It leaves the countertops cleaner and available for other things,” Gail says. A side wall offers abundant storage space in the form of a Sub-Zero refrigerator and a wine fridge flanked by pantry cabinets with pull-out shelves. Across from the island, a home office area with built-in cabinetry is situated beside a dining alcove formed by a curved glass-block wall. A partition wall – an original design feature – offers additional counter space, as well as a refrigerator drawer for vegetables, fruit and drinks, and a wet bar. A raised ledge faced with opaque glass subway tiles provides visual separation between the workspace and a sunken family room below. A hallway behind the kitchen connects a two-piece bathroom with a mudroom off the garage. The bathroom’s modern appeal is evident in a sculptural pedestal basin, illuminated from beneath, and a long mirror surrounded by small opalescent glass tiles. The mudroom is equally stylish. A coat closet is concealed by sliding panels of etched glass and stainless steel evocative of Japanese shoji screens. Gail and Michael agree it’s important for homeowners to be organized before a renovation starts. They believe the amount of planning that went into their renovation helped to yield positive results. “Home is so important – you want to come home to somewhere that’s special,” Gail says. “I think food brings people together. It’s a gathering place for people.” OKE
Across from the island, a curved glass-block wall forms a dining alcove. A main-floor two-piece bathroom features a sculptural pedestal basin, illuminated from beneath, and a long mirror surrounded by small glass opalescent tiles.
oke woodsmith, fall 2008 | 69
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70948 Bluewater Hwy. 519-238-8282 www.homehardware.ca
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