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A collection of exceptional custom new-builds and renovations



Stoney Creek

1275 Hubrey Road

520 Conestogo Road

563 Barton Street








Building family dreams It all started with building a home for one of their own


Infusing personality and function into each and every home In 1984, while gathered around a Christmas feast, the Oke family was discussing one of the brothers’ desire for a new home to be built in a new subdivision in Grand Bend. Oke Woodsmith Building Systems was born that day.

projects done between 2014 and 2021. The world changed a lot over those seven years but what didn’t change is Oke Woodsmith Building System’s commitment to working with each of their clients to bring their home or cottage dreams to reality.

Nearly four decades later, one of Ontario’s leading custom residential construction firms works to make dreams come true: a family building for families. The knack for construction was in the Oke brothers’ genes. Don, their dad, was a long-time and well-respected builder in the area and worked with them on early projects, and Betty, their mom, later joined the company as general manager.

Each project is treated as the special and unique experience it is, and the products are homes that have the Oke mark of quality but are completely individualized for their owner(s). While Oke Woodsmith is known for its work on large custom homes and dramatic renovations, smaller projects – such as one-room renos, re-roofing and high-end commercial builds and renovations are also part of their roster.

From their roots in Zurich, where the first office was located in the garage of their parent’s home, to Hensall, where they expanded into a commercial space they renovated, to their present location in a large office building they built on Highway 21 near Grand Bend, the Oke brothers continue their legacy of building and renovating unique domiciles for their appreciative clients.

The Okes attention to detail is noted by each of the homeowners, as you’ll see reflected in these pages. They take the time to get to know clients and, most often, become lifelong friends. They go the extra mile, taking clients to home shows and materials suppliers, as well as responding to questions after hours.

The publication that you hold represents

How do they accomplish this? By working on just a few projects each year so every client receives unparalleled attention.





The process usually starts with clients meeting with Randy Oke and Steve Poortinga, the company’s design guru. Randy (the middle brother) handles sales and service for the company. Randy works with staffer Matt Playford, to do estimating for the projects, as well. Specializing in design work, Steve’s genius is coming up with a plan that represents the homeowners’ wishes, while working within the home’s footprint or other conditions mandated by municipal authorities. Though they construct and renovate homes throughout Ontario, much of the work is done on Lake Huron’s waterfront areas and involves adhering to environmental and building restrictions in place. Oke Woodsmith’s integrity, knowledge and skill have built a reputation with local authorities, making the process more streamlined for clients. Next, older brother Wayne, who previously worked in the oil industry as an engineer, takes over staking out the lot and overseeing clearing and excavation. He handles the initial stages of construction to the drywall phase, when youngest brother Kevin, formerly a welder who is now a finish carpenter, takes over. He oversees and often handles the installation of the fittings and finishes, including MATT PLAYFORD beautiful stone fireplaces, for which Oke Woodsmith is known. Insulated Concrete Forming (ICF) is a preferred building method for Oke Woodsmith, because of its durability and high insulation factor. Paired with radiant in-floor heating, their houses are more durable and more efficient.


Oke Woodsmith Building Systems truly is a family enterprise, and the talents of several family members are evident in the business. Joanne Oke is Kevin’s wife, and she takes care of accounting. Gail Oke is Randy’s wife, and as receptionist she’s often the first face one sees when entering the office. Office administrative duties are fulfilled by Danielle Oke, who is married to Kevin and Joanne’s son, Jeremy. Photographer Kelsey Renning, Kevin’s and Joanne’s daughter, provided photos for this publication and the Oke Woodsmith website. In these pages, you’ll experience the journey that so many happy homeowners have enjoyed - from concept to living their dreams in an Oke Woodsmith home. You’ll read the stories of more than two dozen happy clients and will see these reasons to work with this leading custom builder. n




ns builds and renovatio ptional custom newA collection of exce m

DISTINCTIVE DESIGNS OKE WOODSMITH BUILDING SYSTEMS INC. 70964 Bluewater Hwy 21, Grand Bend, ON N0M 1T0 PUBLISHER Write.On Communication Services EDITOR Jill Ellis-Worthington PHOTOGRAPHY Kelsey Renning EDITORIAL DESIGN Rachelle van Oosterhout


WRITERS Jill Ellis-Worthington Sydney Van Kerrebroeck Janis Wallace ADVERTISING SALES Annette Gent ADVERTISING DESIGN Lisa Flesher




433 King St. Suite 1904, London, ON N6B 3P3



contents 10








renovations 10 SAND DUNE OASIS















new builds 14 BACK TO THE LAKE















Oke Woodsmith makes a

distance (renovation) relationship work After falling in love with the Oakwood area (near Grand Bend) during a family trip in the early 1990s, Mark and Anne imagined buying a quaint cottage for family vacations and their retirement years. Life got in the way for the couple from the Greater Toronto Area and it wasn’t until rediscovering the area during a golf trip with their adult children in 2013 that their original passion for the scenic location was reignited.


OPPOSITE PAGE Exterior and interior details were chosen with care to reflect the relaxed, natural, beachy ambiance that the homeowners desired. ABOVE Highlighting the home’s traditional character with custom design details, like transom windows, the kitchen is as charming as it is functional.

Strolling on the beach, Mark and Anne came upon a charming 1944 residence for sale that, while dated, had a stunning view of Lake Huron. “We were immediately excited by the potential the cottage had to offer, but we weren’t certain that it was the right time for us,” Anne explains. Several months later, upon another visit to the beach, they were pleasantly surprised to find it was still for sale. “I think we knew in that moment this property would be ours,” Mark states. “We were ready for the challenge.” After buying in August 2014, the couple turned to Oke Woodsmith, a company recommended by close friends, for the renovation.

“There was a lot of work to be done,” Anne explains. “It was crucial that we selected a company that we could wholeheartedly trust as our Oakville roots would ultimately leave us unable to oversee every stage of development.” “We were incredibly impressed by the quality of craftsmanship Oke had done in our friends’ home,” Mark adds. “It was clear early on in the process that we made the right choice. Oke was brilliant.” A preliminary brainstorming session with the Oke Woodsmith design team allowed Mark and Anne to articulate the primary goals they had for the property and describe how they had envisioned the space would function.

ABOVE The exterior rear view as it looks now. INSET The original cottage.

The couple yearned to create a home that would complement both the scenic landscape and their lifestyle. Mark and Anne wrestled with expanding the cottage’s original footprint to provide more space for entertaining. Ultimately, they opted against it so they could maintain more of the home’s original charming features, including beautiful stone staircases leading to the entrance. Maximizing interior space was critical to Mark and Anne, who wanted to transform it into a luxurious sanctuary for family and friends. They decided to include a main floor master bedroom suite in the design, allowing for additional boarding space on the home’s upper level and providing separation for guests. Although this decision required Mark and Anne to eliminate some of their main floor living and entertainment space, Steve Poortinga, Oke’s primary designer, presented several brilliant suggestions to maximize the square footage they had left.

Steve crafted an open concept living design featuring raised ceilings, large windows, and a sliding glass door leading to the beach. Sunlight filters in through each pane, breathing life into what was once a dark space and providing a means for the surrounding scenery to embrace the home and those who reside inside it. Just beyond, a comfortable covered porch provides additional entertainment space where guests may retreat to enjoy refreshments, experience the captivating landscape and listen intently to the crashing of the waves. Cobble Design streamlined the property’s overgrown landscape, giving the green space a more “manicured” look. However, the couple was heavily invested in maintaining a natural beachfront aesthetic, and although certain plants were removed to ensure that the view of the lake was not obstructed, dune grass was added to blend the lawn into the landscape.

Inspired by the sand and surf that surround their home, Mark and Anne cultivated a traditional cottage aesthetic, featuring various nautical elements to anchor the seaside theme. Charming bead board from London’s Riverside Millwork Group accentuates various walls, providing texture and contributing to the cottage motif. Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White paint runs throughout the entirety of the home, presenting a crisp, tranquil, cohesive space. Subtly distressed white built-in bookcases and cabinetry juxtapose rich hardwood flooring and simple modern light fixtures in the couple’s open concept living and dining area. Contributing to the nautical or beach-inspired aesthetic, comfortable apartment-sized furniture from St. Joseph’s Forever Furniture creates texture, warmth and visual interest by the inclusion of various fabrics, colours and prints.

In an effort to inject the space with a dose of the ever-so-coveted “quirky” cottage charm, Anne worked to include a handful of unique touches into her design scheme. Charcoal and white geometric tiles imported from England (Anne’s birthplace and a frequent travel destination for the couple) cover the floors of all three of the home’s bathrooms, infusing character into the space and providing a nostalgic element to the design. Again, working to contribute to the cohesiveness of space, the navy colour featured in the imported tiles is complemented by the powder room’s charcoal grey custom vanity from Woodecor Limited, which in turn recalls the home’s exterior siding.

The home was built to accommodate amazing views of Lake Huron.

Subtle aquamarine hints are littered throughout the home and are represented in small decor details – such as reclaimed wood candlesticks and framed prints – as well as several larger statement design elements. The upper-level bathroom features a custom aqua vanity that blends beautifully with the room’s countertops and wall tiles, all of which are accented with sea glass. A magnificent walk-in shower stands adjacent to a deep soaker tub, above which hang two unique seaside watercolour paintings, purchased by the couple during a trip to Covent Garden. A minimalistic approach to décor is employed throughout the home, drawing attention instead to the custom architectural design elements of each room. Transom windows in the bedrooms produce added visual interest and character while providing a means of increasing airflow during the summer months; inspiring ambiance by allowing light, the sound of rushing waves and the smell of the water to penetrate the space.

The sound of rushing waves, and the smell of the water penetrate the space

Oke Woodsmith’s attention to detail and magnificent craftsmanship is unparalleled, however, it is the company’s ability to create strong and lasting relationships with their clients that propels their level of service well above their counterparts. “Although I was unable to oversee every decision that was made, I was content in knowing that Oke would do a fantastic job in whatever it was they set out to do,” Mark says. “They created an atmosphere of comfort for us during the renovation process that is still present in the finished space. We are home.” n

The covered porch provides an area protected from the elements to enjoy the lake’s natural beauty.







SO HAPPY THEY DID IT AGAIN In the early 2000s, Oke Woodsmith built a home in Grand Bend’s Southcott Pines for Barry and Ruth. They loved it, so when it was time to downsize, they looked to their trusted friends at Oke Woodsmith to do it again on a nearby lot. AFTER

They wanted a home that would take advantage of the beautiful vistas afforded on the lakeside lot. It also had to work for them as a one-floor age-friendly home, but also as a place for their two adult children and their four grandchildren to be comfortable when they visit.




CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT A full wall of windows allows the homeowners to enjoy the beautiful lake views. • The wood-burning fireplace in the great room is one of Barry’s favourite features. • The spacious bathroom adds to the functionality of the home.

Situating the house on the lot to take advantage of the lake views was a challenge, one that Oke ably met AGE - FRIEN


Moving to the lake full time was necessitated by Ruth’s decision that she no longer wanted to take care of two large places. The couple was travelling from their home in Stratford to the cottage in Grand Bend, so it became their main residence. Originally built as a larger home to accommodate a granny suite, the first cottage had now outgrown their needs and they wanted something that would better suit them. Having built five houses together over their 48-year marriage, the couple has ample experience in new home construction. They call Oke Woodsmith their “builders of

choice.” According to Barry, they initiallychosetoworkwithOkebecause “we greatly admired their work. We saw the homes they built and were so impressed.” Incorporating the layout and features they wanted in a home that fit on the footprint vacated by the torn-down cottage formerly on the lot was a challenge that designer Steve Poortinga eagerly met. They also appreciated being part of the process. “I want to see and be involved in every phase of building. I’m a very handson person,” says Ruth. While some builders resist homeowner involvement, Oke Woodsmith welcomes it.


The farmhouse-meets-beach-house esthetic is enhanced by the use of natural materials VIEWS FROM Ruth “loves the building process” and is able to visualize the finished project. She enjoyed working with Steve to adjust the plans to make it all work. “It was amazing to sit back and listen to Steve, Randy and Ruth discussing the possibilities. I don’t understand it, but I admire it greatly,” says Barry. “They were willing to get creative to make it work. Steve is a wonder.” The result is 4,000-square-foot home with three bedrooms and two and half baths on two floors. Special features include one wood-burning fireplace and one that is gas. The twocar garage is Barry’s star of the show, with its car lift that can lower an automobile to the basement for storage.



“It’s also handy in the spring and fall for storing the lawn furniture,” chuckles Ruth. The modern farmhouse-meetsbeach-house look that Ruth loves boasts natural materials. One of her favourite features is the countertops. “The quartz looks like water running over sand. It’s where I took my inspiration for the colours (used in the home’s décor),” she says. The porcelain tile flooring “holds up to both dogs and grandkids,” adds Barry. Their goal of having an age-friendly house keeps all aspects of daily living on the ground floor but the ‘beach-

iness’ of the house is also apparent with an outdoor shower off of the porch to wash off sand. Though fitting the home onto the former footprint while situating it on the lot to take full advantage of lake views was a challenge, it was one that Oke ably met. Barry and Ruth can enjoy seeing the lake and sunsets from the bedroom, sunroom and great room. “It took a lot of problem solving to fit it on the lot with those criteria,” says Barry, “but Oke did an amazing job.” n


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72538 Bluewater Hwy 21 Zurich



A community is a community


making everyday living a special experience Oke Woodsmith is known for helping people make dreams come true. The homes they build are designed to make everyday living a special experience. So, when they heard about the South Huron Hospital Foundation’s dream to build a residential hospice in Exeter ON, they offered to help. “Randy Oke approached us and offered to design it for free,” said Pat O’Rourke, chair of the board. The board envisioned an end-of-life environment that was a home away from home. Oke Woodsmith created a design that would fulfil that vision. “It’s built and looks like a home,” said Pat. The 4,000-square-foot building includes three individual rooms with roll-in ensuites and terrace doors, state-of-the-art kitchen, welcoming family room for music, art and group activities, and offices. Radiant in-floor heating adds comfort and reduces dust. Exposed beams on the exterior are repeated inside adding a warm touch that increases the home-like atmosphere. A soft palette of wall colours also dispels any institutional feel. The entire interior is spacious and airy. Gardens surround the hospice, which provides care for all of southwestern Ontario.

After choosing the design, the foundation tendered bids for a general contractor, and selected Oke Woodsmith based on cost and reputation. Oke also did the framing and trimming on the build. “A lot of contractors wanted to donate in kind,” said Pat. Some of those generous contractors included Brad Baker Plumbing, Pfaff Electric, Smith-Peat Roofing and Keller Roofing, Forest City Fire Protection (sprinkler system), MTE engineering firm, McCann Redi-Mix, Municipality of South Huron, Gary Bean and family. Many more local contractors donated as well. Their in-kind donations accounted for about $750,000 of the $4 million the project received in support of the build and start-up costs. “This is a community that cares and gave unbelievable financial support,” said Pat. Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson also advocated for funding from the provincial government for $315,000 in annual funding for the yearly operating expenses of approximately $600,000.

The community engagement is also reflected in the name, Jessica’s House. Jessica was the 22-year-old daughter of Maria and Tim Hamather. The family is well-known for its businesses and community support. When Jessica passed away from a rare cancer, “we thought it was appropriate to name the hospice in her memory as a legacy,” said Pat. Jessica’s House is visually appealing and functions beautifully for its residents, their guests and staff. Oke’s design ensures enjoyment of the space by all who pass through its doors. “Oke is an experienced designer and builder. They made our job easy working with them. We’re a volunteer group. Randy and his brothers and team went above and beyond. They were there constantly and looked after things. They kept the costs under control. We came in on budget. We are one of few, if not the only, hospice in the province that opened its doors without any debt” said Pat. And that’s a dream come true. n

“It feels like they’re (residents) not leaving their home. It does not feel institutional,” said Pat. “There are no bells and buzzers. It has a nice comfy feel.” OPPOSITE AND RIGHT The distinctive Oke Woodsmith aesthetic ensures that this hospice has a warm homey look. ABOVE The community came together to raise money to provide families a congenial atmosphere in their time of need.


Oke Woodsmith WINS GREEN AWARD AND HOMEOWNER’S HEARTS This lovely country home is a place of contrasts – the drama of the black and white palette, the spotlight on art and music - in a soothing setting of farm fields and woodlots. State-ofthe-art technology and award-winning energy efficiency sit comfortably with traditional style. Several years ago, homeowners Suzanne and Neil purchased an Oke Woodsmith-built cottage in St. Joseph, Ontario. They fell in love with the attention to detail and quality of craftmanship of the cottage. Good friends had just finished a new cottage in Grand Bend with the builder. “We were very impressed with them,” says Suzanne. So, when the couple purchased 150 acres near Birr, where Neil and his brothers farm, they had both the builder and a design in mind. “We wanted something that fit into the setting – country charm and rustic,” says Suzanne, the former Executive Director of the Thames Talbot Land Trust. The innovative manufactured stone by Permacon simulates the look of Quarry stone that clads the exterior of the 3,800-square-foot three-bedroom house. The number of older trees belies the newness. “Oke Woodsmith saved all of the mature trees on the lot so the house looks like it had been here for a long time,” she adds. The couple wanted a one-floor design, energy conservation and preservation of the existing trees. “As we get older, we don’t want to do a lot of stairs. And we’re all aware of what climate change is doing to the planet so we wanted to have a much smaller carbon footprint.”

Starting with a layout Suzanne found online, the couple worked with Oke’s designer Steve Poortinga to achieve their goals. They added walls and windows, eliminated a staircase, created a separate workshop and included so many eco-friendly elements that the house won a Middlesex Centre Green Builder Award for Oke Woodsmith. The county’s program promotes sustainability in residential home construction by encouraging efficient design and recognizes builders who incorporate sustainable features and practices. Some of those elements in this house include: Smart grid technology, solar panels, hot water thermal recovery, green roof, extra-large overhangs and window awnings, window energy efficiency and higher insulation values, geothermal energy source, grey water system and rainwater harvesting.


“We got exactly what we wanted – a country home with elegant sophistication that blends nature and art”

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT A dramatic black and white colour scheme allows the homeowners’ art to be the star of the show. • Pastoral scenery provides a backdrop for the residence. • An avid reader, Suzanne’s dream of owning her own library came true. • Ample storage is provided. • Practical and pretty, the kitchen provides entertaining space at the large island.

The house is also angled on the property to take advantage of the sun. “That way the bedroom gets the early morning sun rise and the library gets the sunsets,” says Suzanne. The property is flat with wide natural vistas. Neil adds, “We have geothermal heating and double-hung windows, eco-shingles and a solar panel that is hooked up to the grid and will eventually be hooked up to the house.” Placement of the windows was important, both for solar energy and viewpoints. For example, the office windows offer sightlines to the road and workshop.



That kind of attention to detail was one of the traits Neil says they considered in choosing Oke Woodsmith. “As we were building, it was so nice to deal with them, they listened to our needs,” he says. In the initial design, the house was much more open concept. More walls were included for the couple’s collection of about 60 pieces of art and sculpture by established and emerging local artists, such as Jamelie Hassan, Thelma Rosner, Bruce Flowers, Roger Ure, Angie Quick, Fanshawe visual arts students and Arts Project (now TAP Centre for the Arts) artists. “I wanted a lot of art,” says Suzanne. “The wall spaces are huge so they could take large pieces of art.” The white walls and black slate flooring act as a gallery to tie it together. Jim Telfer helped Suzanne with design details, including the slate floor. “It’s very dramatic and really works.” In the entry, a staircase to the lower level was eliminated. A baby grand piano takes its place. The black and white scheme repeats throughout in area rugs, quartz counters and fireplace, striped upholstery and white cabinets. Glass pocket doors can cocoon the library/ television room off the dining area. “It’s a great room to read in because of the light. I’m an avid reader and always wanted a library,” says Suzanne. The spacious main bedroom is a perfect retreat with a sitting area and ensuite. “It’s large,” says Neil. “You could have a dance in there.” Over the three-car garage, a loft provides a guest room and bathroom for the couple’s adult daughter and son to stay, and an office for Neil. A separate building houses a workshop, gym, golf simulator and car storage. The glass door rolls up to “bring in the whole farm,” says Neil. “It faces north so it’s like being outside. It’s a great space.” “Building a home is a very big project, not an easy task. We were so happy with how Oke Woodsmith had built our cottage, we wanted them to build this country home. They really listened to what we wanted,” he adds. Suzanne explains, “In the end we got exactly what we wanted – a country home with the elegant sophistication that blends nature and art.” n

The white walls and black slate flooring act as a gallery for the couple’s collection of art and sculpture




Oke Woodsmith provides solutions to renovation dilemmas When Kim and Dan chose a floor plan in 1981, they couldn’t have foreseen that it would be the blueprint for their life together. The house has evolved with them, growing with their family, changing with their needs, and becoming the ideal place to retire. The home has matched their transformation through the expertise of Oke Woodsmith Building Systems. The couple’s 3,400-square-foot split-level backs onto the Ausable River south of Grand Bend. They moor their boat in the backyard, hike at the Pinery Provincial Park, work out in their home gym, and relax in the screened-in hot tub room. The kitchen is a sleek and stylish hub. A fireplace, a wall of losets and a spacious wet room in the ensuite create a luxurious principal bedroom retreat.


From dark and drab to light and bright, the kitchen fits into the same footprint.


PROBLEM THREE: Sunny and too hot second-level deck with a hot tub room below

But when they moved in as newlyweds in 1983, the house didn’t boast all those 21st-century amenities. They started renovating soon after their family, adjusting the space to suit their needs. After a couple of early projects with other contractors, they chose Oke Woodsmith for a series of renovation projects that have resulted in a major transformation.

SOLUTION: Rebuild and expand the deck, add a roof Another fix that had a big impact was the company’s suggestion to expand the deck and add a roof and floor. They also added a glass railing to better enjoy the view. Below, the hot tub room was also given a new ceiling and was screened in.

“It was the quality of their workmanship,” says Kim. “It’s outstanding. Their creative thought process is amazing. It’s entertaining to watch them problem-solve.” Dan agreed. “They find solutions. There isn’t anything they can’t do.” Oke Woodsmith has used its problem-solving skills to create a new house, inside and out. They started and finished at the front door.

PROBLEM ONE: A cramped front entry SOLUTION: Punch out a wall to open up the foyer and make it more functional and welcoming By expanding the foyer, family and friends have room to enter the home comfortably. It was a simple fix that made a big difference.

PROBLEM FOUR: More space, more storage and a separate ensuite desired for the principal bedroom PROBLEM TWO: Office and storage space needed SOLUTION: Open space above the garage to create a room, add a wall of storage with a Murphy bed to make it multi-functional The new office is efficient with storage and seating. Adding a dormer gave the headroom needed to install a Murphy bed. “Now our daughter uses it as her bedroom when she visits,” says Dan.

SOLUTION: Combine two bedrooms, separate a large bathroom into two spaces and add a wall of closets A 12x14 and 10x12 bedroom were merged for one spacious, comfortable principal bedroom. An electric fireplace cozies it up. It is flanked by glass pocket doors, with a closet behind one set. The original laundry chute was tucked behind a slim door. “We wanted an ensuite and more closet space,” says Kim. “We tripled the closet space.” As well as the closet beside the fireplace, a bank of closets is hidden behind the headboard wall, stretching the width of the room with natural light from a window at one end. The shelves, drawers, and hanging space are a fashionista’s dream. Edison bulbs frame the king-size bed and custom nightstands elegantly keep the room clutter-free. Now the bedroom is relaxing and rejuvenating. The floating vanity in the new ensuite is a chic combination of white and wood cabinetry. A transom window provides light and privacy. A stand-alone tub is part of a large walk-in shower area. “The shower room is just to die for,” says Kim. The new separate powder room offers guests their own space. ABOVE Ample storage keeps the kitchen clutter free. LEFT Combining two smaller bedrooms allows the primary bedroom to have a wall of closets, as well as a cozy fireplace.

LEFT The ensuite bath is aesthetically pleasing and spacious, with a walk-in shower and floating vanity.

PROBLEM FIVE: Outdated kitchen, but limited footprint SOLUTION: Remove a pony wall, install new cabinets, appliances, and fixtures “They replaced everything,” says Kim. The new cabinets, by Woodecor Ltd. in Stratford, create a furniture-like aesthetic in a mix of glossy white, sleek black and warm wood. The cabinets echo the chic lines of those in the bathrooms; the black island base is repeated in the dining table. An underset black sink adds to the motif. Although the layout is basically the same, the island is larger, accommodating stools to enjoy breakfast or chat with the cook. It also houses a microwave drawer – which frees up countertop space and is easy to pull out to use. Built-in cabinets were added along the wall by the living room. The popcorn ceiling was removed at this stage also.


PROBLEM SIX: Utilitarian lower-level laundry and mechanical space SOLUTION: Create a modern laundry and upgrade the bathroom Creating an attractive functional laundry and mechanical room and modernizing the bathroom makes the space more functional and enjoyable. PROBLEM SEVEN: Dated 1980s exterior and updated family room SOLUTION: Replace siding with a mix of vertical and horizontal Hardie Board (fibre cement siding) and shingles, add a roof to the front porch

The happy couple says the results looks like a whole new house. They also revamped the family room with a beautiful dropped ceiling and updated gas fireplace. The original porch was good at collecting leaves and ice – not an endearing feature. It now is a covered area for packages to be delivered at the front door. Completed over more than a dozen years, the multiple renovations kept the house abreast of the homeowners’ changing lifestyle. They also created an ideal space for life in general in 2021. Good problem-solving is the foundation of this stylish sanctuary. By listening and responding to the homeowners, Oke Woodsmith was able to create a home with personality, one that performs beautifully now and into the future. “Oke Woodsmith touched our whole home,” says Kim. “We love it here.”

Renovations can be dirty and disruptive, but the couple says each project with Oke Woodsmith went smoothly. They lived in the house for all the renovations, except the bedroom conversion. “Get yourself a quality contractor,” says Kim. She says Oke Woodsmith’s crew “are amazing. When I talked to them, they listened. They made it happen. They’re creative. They made sure we were comfortable. They kept the inconvenience to a minimum.” Dan says, “They paid attention to detail.”

Debating what to put underfoot?

Proudly working with Oke Woodsmith for 28 years and counting.



Space for everyone Oke Woodsmith provides an urban oasis Londoners Bill and Meaghan gave it a decade of thought, then pulled the pin. The house they bought the year they married was, two kids later, about to become the home of their dreams. The vision was twofold: practical for a busy family, but with an air of luxury. “The house just didn’t work the way we needed it to,” explains Meaghan. “We knew when we purchased it that a renovation was inevitable, but it wasn’t until this past year that we knew we were ready.” Renovating is a big undertaking for anyone, but for Meaghan, who manages a business from home, the idea was daunting. In their research, Bill and Meaghan stumbled upon an Oke Woodsmith custom cottage. Inspired by the stunning space and impressed by the craftsmanship, the couple reached out.












“Upon our first meeting with the Oke Woodsmith team, Bill and I knew that they were the right fit for us,” Meaghan says. “They were extremely professional and passionate. Above all, they made me feel comfortable with the renovation process. It was very exciting.” Oke’s team captured the couple’s vision in their first drawings. Thrilled with their designs, Bill and Meaghan were eager to begin.




LEFT The wine cellar combines industrial chic with more rustic elements. BOTTOM LEFT The exterior renovation enhances the home’s curb appeal. BELOW The home’s gym provides a calm spa environment.





Cabernet Franc

DOLCETTO mourvedre




For their external facelift, the couple worked with Oke to create an exterior design that would reflect the aesthetic cultivated inside the home. “We wanted our space to be clean, modern, and bright,” Meaghan says. “Before the renovation, the home’s exterior was dark and outdated. Oke’s team really helped to elevate the look. Now, when we drive up to the home it feels like an estate.” A collection of windows from Huron County’s D&D Glass and Mirror were installed to allow natural light to stream into the interior space. A custom wood awning, painted in crisp white, hovers above a flagstone court. Oke’s signature dark statement doors anchor the neutral stone entrance.

wellness industry and having a gym is ideal,” Meaghan says. “Creating separation between work and life activities was crucial for me.”

To maximize living space, Oke constructed an addition above the garage. Designed for work and play, the space includes a bright gym, cozy office nook, guest bedroom, and sauna. “I work from home in the health and

Oke crafted a space for Meaghan that was all her own. Flooded with light, the workout space is radiant and tranquil. A mirrored wall bounces natural light back into the space. A pale gray and white colour palette contributes to

the spa-like aesthetic while the vaulted ceiling provides character. These design choices work to maintain the airy aesthetic the couple visualized. Purchased from London’s Living Lighting, pendant lights featuring brushed nickel and textured recycled glass dangle above the window seat, creating emphasis and directing the eye towards the view. Constructing a staircase up to the addition created new space on the main floor. Oke designed a quaint mudroom, a practical feature that was most welcome. “There isn’t a day that goes by where the addition isn’t in use,” Meaghan says. “In fact, there is someone using it at almost any point during the day.” In the basement, an industrial wine cellar with rustic elements was designed to house the couple’s vino collection. An exposed stone accent wall functions as the backdrop for a stunning custom wood bar. A dark granite countertop blends with the bar’s rich espresso stain. Industrial custom wine racks hang from the ceiling, providing style and storage. Strategic lighting manipulates the eye, creating a visual effect that simulates a glow from behind the stored bottles. Oversized heated grayscale tiles from Underfoot Flooring perpetuate the contemporary aesthetic presented in the upstairs addition. The modern flooring is complemented by a pair of octagon-shaped stained-glass windows, which were original to the home and repurposed to add a custom touch to the new space. “Oke’s team truly listened to what we wanted and delivered exactly what we needed,” Meaghan says. “They designed a space that fits our family, our life. It was a great experience.” n



Dhome ISTINCTIVE Oke Woodsmith builds a

for a discerning couple

When Shelley and Fred bought a double lot in Grand Bend, they knew exactly what they wanted to build to replace the existing cottage: a home big enough to accommodate their large family when they visited, yet comfortable for the two of them. They saw the look they wanted while golfing in Myrtle Beach and snapped a photo. The two also knew exactly who they wanted to build it: Oke Woodsmith.

AFTER With a beachy feeling, the blue exterior of this home suits the area perfectly.


“We bought a house in 2015 built by Oke Woodsmith in Southcott Pines in 1996,” says Fred. “We noticed the quality of construction. We weren’t looking for run-of-the-mill.” Fred has more than 40 years of experience in farm construction. “As a builder, I had a good idea of what I wanted.”

Oke Woodsmith delivered on Shelley’s wish for “as large an island as possible.”


The homeowners wanted a large home with lots of oversized windows, from which to enjoy the surrounding natural beauty

The ensuite’s standalone bathtub is framed by a set of display shelves.

With multiple prep areas, hosting guests is easy for the couple.

Shelley also knew what she wanted. “When we bought that house it had so many windows. It was light and airy. I fell in love with that place – that’s why we chose Oke to build this one.” The couple met with Randy Oke and designer Steve Poortinga to prioritize what they wanted. The list included a main floor with everything Shelley and Fred would need daily: open concept with large dining area and kitchen island, a lower level with bedrooms, baths, games room and gathering space with a walk-out to a pool. “I wanted as big an island as possible for the space,” says Shelley. Fred adds, “When we entertain friends, we always seem to spend a lot of time around the kitchen island.” Oke gave them what they wanted: a 5x10-foot granite-topped island with seating for eight. The table beyond it has room for 14. A coffee bar is tucked into a nook nearby. The transitional cabinetry by Woodecor provides plenty of storage and style, including panel-fronted appliances. The pantry includes a second refrigerator,

second dishwasher, wine fridge and sink – handy when their five children, their partners and children visit. A floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace dominates the living room. With a cathedral ceiling and walls of windows, it is spacious and bright. In the principal bedroom, a cathedral ceiling is accented by up-lighting. “Lots of windows are a kind of signature for Oke,” says Shelley. Double vanities, shower and stand-alone tub are flanked by built-in display shelves, creating an at-home spa in the ensuite. A combination laundry, office and sewing room also includes a steamer closet. “It’s the work room,” says Shelley. As well as determining the flow of the space, Fred wanted the flow of light to follow daily activities. “Most people don’t consider the orientation of the house on the property. For us that was pretty important. As a builder, I also

understand that side. The morning sun starts on the front porch, and the sun is always on the living side. In the afternoon, it is on the swimming pool and at sunset on the rear porch. The garage doors face south, so they never ice up.” The house faces east, and the bedrooms are located on the north side, creating a perfect sleep atmosphere – quiet, dark. A covered porch allows the family to be outside whatever the weather. A waterslide curves down from the upper patio to the pool. “My grandkids think I’m the best grandpa in the world,” says Fred. Five bedrooms and two baths on the lower level provide space for family stays. In response to many comments about the bedroom hallway looking like a hotel, they labeled the doors with each child’s birth year. A bar in the games/family room is fully equipped with a drawer dishwasher, full-size refrigerator and small oven.


Shelley says their daughter enjoys making hors d’oeuvres and the oven allows her to cook and remain close to everyone else. A loft above the garage is an ideal bedroom for the grandchildren. Two skylights in the bath provide ample light. During the planning stage, the couple told Poortinga what pieces of furniture they wanted to keep. “So, we made sure it all fit before we moved in and not after,” says Fred. “Everything went according to plan.” The stone and siding exterior is based on the Myrtle Beach inspiration. “The colour scheme was nautical, beachy and fits the area,” says Fred. “I saw and said: ‘That’s it!’” Soft grey stone sets off the seaside blue shingle siding and crisp white trim. The dramatic front entry welcomes with stone stairs and barrel-roofed portico. The barrel roof is repeated inside, showing Oke’s signature attention to detail. The interior palette also echoes the exterior in textures of stone and wood, with shades of blue, greys, white and

earth tones. “It’s a transitional style with more muted and natural colours,” says Shelley. “It’s soothing. It’s an open concept so you don’t want the eye jumping all over.” Floors throughout are wood-look vinyl planks that offer durability. “Sand manages to get in no matter how much you sweep and vacuum,” says Shelley, referring to the proximity of the beach. They also have two outdoor showers to rinse off from the pool or lake and a shower on the lower level that opens to the patio. “What I love about the home is it’s so comfortable for the two of us,” says Fred. “It’s inviting.” His favourite room is the den where he goes to read in the light-filled space. With seven bedrooms, four full baths and two partial baths spread over 6,000 square feet, the house is large, but not pretentious, Fred says. “Everything we need is on the main floor.” And when the family arrives, there is room for everyone to enjoy their own space or gather together. It’s exactly what Shelley and Fred wanted. n

The barrel-roofed portico continues inside, welcoming guests to the foyer.

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Oke Woodsmith’s signature timber frame look sets the stage

When you connect a builder who listens to a client’s wants with a homeowner who listens to the expertise of the builder, the results are a dream come true. Maureen and Brandon thought they would renovate the 1958-built cottage Brandon and his sister

Wendy inherited from their parents. It had been a family gathering place since the early 1970s. “Brandon’s mom and dad bought this cottage with the idea family time was important to them,” says Maureen. “The original one pulled the family together to have great times and wonderful memories.”


ed a vaulted ceiling and a large stone fireplace. Full view of the lake was also important. “The old cottage had a very large picture window,” says Brandon. “My dad always called it the million-dollar view. To see that as you walk in the door, it opens up to the vaulted ceiling and to have that wall of windows – it was perfect for us.”

However, the state of the cottage and restrictions on additions forced them to rethink. “The best plan for us was to tear the old structure down, which we did, and rebuild it with a new plan,” says Brandon. “Oke helped us with that.” The couple knew Oke Woodsmith’s work in the Highlands 2 area north of Grand Bend. “We asked them to come to the site and tell us what was appropriate for restrictions the lakefront presented. Steve Poortinga and Randy Oke came out on site and looked at what we had and the size of the property,” says Brandon. “They said, ‘We can come up with a plan for you.’ That’s kind of how it started.” To come up with that plan, the first step involved brainstorming a wish list. Both Maureen and Brandon admire Oke’s signature timber fra me exterior accents. They also want-

“It is just great. I sit and watch as the sunset comes across the stones and the colours change. I’m mesmerized by it. I love that feature.” Steve incorporated all those details on the plan. “Usually you expect to go through three or four (drafts). We looked at the first drawing and it was perfect,” says Maureen. “It is so impressive working with Oke,” she says. “They were incredibly helpful. They work with you on every little decision. It didn’t matter what you asked them, they gave you their honest opinion. If you decided to go with their opinion that was fine. If you didn’t, that was okay too. They usually had the best ideas.” The fireplace is a good example. Once the tough choice of stone was made, Oke suggested a reclaimed barn beam for the mantel. Maureen and Brandon weren’t convinced initially, and after it was installed, Maureen wanted to stain it. She listened to Oke’s recommendation to let it age naturally. Now it is Brandon’s favourite element. “It is just great. I sit and watch as the sunset comes across the stones and the colours change. I’m mesmerized by it. I love that feature.” Maureen loves the floor, an engineered hardwood from Under Foot Inc. in London. “The floor was one of the hardest things to pick out. We wanted something that would withstand large nails of a dog and


LEFT Echoing ripples created by sand and water, the kitchen island’s granite provides a soothing ambiance. BELOW RIGHT Many of the cottage’s windows open to admit the sounds of waves – an important feature to the homeowners. CENTRE Oke Woodsmith knew that the original footprint included a garage which allowed for more room to be added for living space.

not be scratched.” They found a new durable product and took a couple of boxes to lay out in the space to see how it looked – and loved it. The flooring has become the wow factor, earning the most compliments from visitors. “We wanted a little bit of contrast to the fairly stark white and stainless kitchen. It’s nice to have the rustic feel of the flooring throughout the whole area and the fireplace. It’s a nice balance,” she adds. Maureen and Wendy chose the granite countertops at Progressive Countertop Strathroy. “We wanted the inside décor to reflect the sand, the blues, the greens of the water. We saw that granite and said, ‘That’s it.’ The waves in it look like ripples on the sand at the shoreline.” Hearing those waves was a feature of the original cottage they wanted to replicate. Steve included a covered porch, a sunroom, a wall of windows in the great room and one bedroom, and French doors from the second

bedroom to meet that wish. The sunroom windows slide up like shutters and it is their main dining area. The two-bedroom cottage functions as a space bigger than its 1,500 square footage. Steve knew it was important to accommodate the extended family. The porch, sunroom and a den achieve that purpose within restrictions of the lakeside location. “The square footage, number of bedrooms and septic system capacity are part of the algorithm that determines the size of the footprint,” says Brandon. The original cottage had an attached garage, allowing the new one to include more footage. The frontage allowed them to bring the new build slightly closer to the lake for lake sights and sounds. Oke’s knowledge of the rules and regulations helped them make the most of available options. “I truly believe a London builder could never do this,”

says Brandon. “Those guys (at Oke Woodsmith Building Systems) are genius. They have the trust of the township and regulatory folks.” As an example of their integrity and service mindset, when the couple ordered the wrong sized sink, Oke corrected the problem with a new sink and countertop – free. Brandon and two friends finished the basement. With nine-foot ceilings, it adds 1,200 square feet of living space. “It’s a relatively simple structure, but we feel like we were getting a custom home, the way they dealt with us,” says Brandon of Oke’s team. “It was important to his parents to have a family gathering place,” says Maureen. “By rebuilding, we’re continuing that legacy. It was Important to all of us to continue it on behalf of his mom and dad. It’s a drawing place for family gatherings.” n


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a change Homeowners value Oke’s honest, transparent guidance Tara and Phil decided to move to Goderich over a bottle of wine one night. They were looking for something very different than their downtown Toronto lifestyle and Goderich is a town that met their criteria. It is close to Waterloo and Caledon East, where their families live, it is on a lake and it has that small town feel the

couple loves. “We liked the idea of living on Ontario’s west coast,” they say. Tara, originally from Waterloo, and Phil, from Caledon East, also felt strongly about raising their son and daughter in a rural setting. Phil grew up on a large farm and wants his son and daughter to have a similar experience growing up.


“We rented in Bayfield the first year while we were looking at properties to buy,” the couple say, and it wasn’t long before they discovered the 35-acre, river front property located minutes outside of Goderich that they now own today. “We fell in love with the property and with the idea of one day building on it.” Initially, Tara and Phil wanted to construct their home next to the scenic Maitland River located at the west end of their property but decided to build on a bluff at the east side to take advantage of the elevation of the land. “We walked around the property and eventually decided on the building site due to the panoramic view,” they say. “There were too many restrictions to build next to the river.” Tara and Phil chose Oke Woodsmith based on the company’s solid reputation and a home tour Oke Woodsmith had taken them on to see homes in Grand Bend.

Rustic French-style board-and-batten defines the home’s chalet style

“The unique Oke Woodsmith look – a kind of board and batten, French rustic, chalet style – is also why we chose them,” Tara says. “We really like their style of home; they have a lot of experience building homes like this which some of the other [companies] didn’t have.” Managing the project was Randy, who kept in contact with Tara and Phil on a regular basis. Brothers Wayne and Kevin were also involved, with Wayne working to excavate the building site and Kevin focusing on the interior and wood finishes. Designer Steve Poortinga was on hand to help Tara and Phil craft their dream home for their growing family. The couple also happened to live right next door to their quickly progressing property during the 10-month building process, giving them daily access to the property and any updates – good or bad – Oke Woodsmith had for them. “They were honest with us – we had heard horror stories about builders who chase you offsite or don’t follow through,” Phil says, “but we never felt that they didn’t want us here; they were honest and transparent.”

OPPOSITE PAGE With a walk-out lower level and two upper levels, this family home offers ample space to grow. ABOVE The homeowners love Oke Woodsmith’s signature timber frame look, describing it as French rustic chalet-style. LEFT A set of two-storey windows provides a sweeping view of the couple’s large lot. Oke is famous for ensuring vistas from every possible angle.


Tara and Phil’s new, two-storey home includes a kitchen, living room, dining room, office, powder room and mudroom on the 1,500-square-foot main level and three bedrooms, a master ensuite, a three-piece bathroom and laundry space on the 1,000-square-foot upper level. The kitchen, which features a spacious island with a butcher block surface, is slightly off to the side and yet the open concept design still connects it to the living area. The kitchen is also connected to the dining area by a sliding barn door, adding to the rustic charm of the house. The living room features a stone wood-burning fireplace – a cottage-like focal point – and the room’s large windows provide a picturesque vista of the couple’s property. The floors in the house are laminate to accommodate the pitter-pattering of growing children. “We plan to upgrade [the floors] when the kids are older,” the couple say. The home’s wrought iron banister’s spindles were also installed with careful consideration of curious, high-energy kids.

“We talked to Randy and the supplier about how close to put them together and how high the banister should be so our son couldn’t climb over them,” Phil says.

narrowed down the options, so we had choices but not an overwhelming amount. You could drive yourself crazy if you weren’t provided with some kind of direction.”

One advantage the couple had throughout the building process was being of like minds with Oke Woodsmith, and they offer this as a piece of advice for people looking to build or renovate. “Being on the same page before we started the project and being on the same page as to what the house should look like in the end made it very easy,” Phil says. “There were discussions during the process, but all of the big stuff was agreed upon before we even started.”

Tara and Phil also liked the “one thing at a time” approach Oke Woodsmith took with them.

Tara and Phil felt comfortable putting their trust in Oke Woodsmith with everything from the designs to suppliers. “One of the things I liked about Oke Woodsmith is they suggested one store that they believed had good options,” Tara says. “They directed us there and

“We liked that everything happened in stages,” Tara says. “We didn’t have to make a whole bunch of decisions at the same time.” “There were lots of suggestions, but we didn’t feel like we were being pigeonholed,” Phil says. “Randy knows how to guide the customer,” Tara says. “And he was good with our decisions even if they were different than his.” Tara and Phil described Oke Woodsmith’s workers as “competent, focused and reliable.” “Randy answered our emails almost immediately, even late at night,” Tara says. “He was always engaged in conversation and genuinely cared about our interest and ensuring that we were satisfied with the end result.” n

On every floor, extra care was taken to ensure this home is as safe as it is beautiful.


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Good vibes for Goderich-area renovation

She’s called the lady with the red wall – a phrase as apt for the owner as the home itself. The statement wall surrounds the staircase and sets the tone for accessories throughout Carol’s and Randy’s 1,350-square foot rebuilt cottage near Port Albert. “White is so popular, and I like it for a cottage,” says Carol. “But I also like colour – all white is too boring. So, we brought some interest with two red walls around the staircase and all red accents.”


In 2018, Oke Woodsmith was awarded Best Home Renovation (in the under $500,000 category) by The Ontario Home Builders’ Association

A gas fireplace adds to the warm, welcoming feeling of the wall. It anchors the floor plan and is the heart of the couple’s retreat. “It’s small – it suits four to six people,” says Carol. “There’s lots of room outside for family picnics.” The pair discovered the property through curling friends who own the next-door cottage. They scouted for a builder online and found Oke Woodsmith. “I liked the look of the projects they’d done,” says Carol. “Steve Poortinga (Oke Woodsmith’s designer) took us out to see three properties, and we were pretty impressed,” says Randy. “We didn’t look at anyone else. Steve – that guy’s a gold mine. He’s efficient, good at his job and has a lot of style.” They had to change their plan to raze the existing cottage, built in the 1940s, and build new due to conservation regulations that restricted size and location. “The only thing we kept was the concrete foundation and basically the floor and centre wall,” says Randy. “Everything else was new.” A new build would have to be moved further in from the lake bluff. “We were limited by the footprint. We wanted the cottage to stay where it was. There was not a crack in the foundation. It was onefoot-thick concrete, hand-poured,” he adds. Oke’s ability to make good use of the small footprint is one of many qualities the couple appreciates. The first floor is only 850 square feet, yet boasts a kitchen, living room, principal bedroom, bathroom, entry, utility room and closets. Upstairs, two bedrooms each have their own closet and view. They connect by

an open walkway that overlooks the living room and out to the lake through a wall of windows. The style was also influenced by the choice to renovate. “We like modern but ended up a little more Arts and Crafts because of the reno,” says Carol. “We really wanted the wall facing the lake to have as much glass as possible.” Three sets of French doors open to a wraparound deck. The exterior is clad in sage green siding with white trim. “I wanted a colour that blended with the trees,” says Carol. They planted 30 trees to create a sense of being in the woods. “We enjoyed seeing it from beginning to end,” says Randy. “Oke’s workmanship is spot on. They take their time. They finish things right the first time. I was working in Toronto all the time, before retiring. I needed a builder who knew what they were doing, and they know what they’re doing. “ The lady with the red wall agrees. “They’re good to work with. We recommend them.” The Ontario Home Builders’ Association also appreciate the quality and style of the home as it won their award for Best Home Renovation (in the under $500,000 category) in 2018. n

OPPOSITE PAGE The diminutive domicile offers ample entertaining space on the deck. RIGHT High peaked ceilings, colour pops and big windows add a sense of drama to this homey cottage.


from the


Oke Woodsmith

rebuilds a home where memories live

To replace their beloved family residence in Exeter, which burned while the couple was on a cruise vacation, Earl and Glenda searched for the right company to build their desired custom home. “We needed someone who could not only understand our vision but also deliver it,” Glenda explains. Raised in Zurich, the couple was acquainted with the Oke family, but were equally influenced by Oke Woodsmith’s reputation and recommendations. “Friends of ours have employed Oke Woodsmith in the past,” states Glenda. “Their finished space was absolutely beautiful, and the high level of quality was very clear. We knew that we would be in good hands.” Earl and Glenda were also wooed by the team’s personal approach. Describing their interactions with

Oke’s designers and tradespeople as “warm” and “engaging.” The couple’s main goals were to craft an open concept one-floor space that would be accessible and adaptable as they move into the next stages of their lives. “We wanted the home to be modern and beautiful, but also inviting and functional,” Glenda explains. “With that said, we wanted to ensure that the exterior of the home would blend in with the existing neighbourhood,” adds Earl. These criteria offered the team a challenge that was eagerly met. “Our experience with Oke was educational. There were so many things that were suggested that we never would have thought of on our own. They took our ideas and ran with them in the best way possible.”


The homeowners asked Oke Woodsmith to give them a safe, comfortable home that they and the extended family could enjoy, indoors and out.

The home’s stone facade gives it an understated elegance. The home’s clean lines of the understated stone façade fit in well with the neighbourhood and upon entering it is impossible to miss the clever use of colour working to draw the eye across the space. They drew inspiration from a beautiful handmade vase, gifted to the couple by friends in Japan. “The cranes are meant to symbolize good fortune,” Glenda explains. “The colours are calming and uplifting.” The kitchen is light and airy, featuring white cabinetry fitted with unique glass display cases, designed by their brother-in-law, Dave Siebert of Oesch Woodworking. “Dave did a great job, not only in the kitchen but throughout the rest of the house,” states Glenda. “He provided great custom insights. For example, I struggle with my knees, so he lowered the breakfast bar on our kitchen island. These simple tweaks make a big difference.”

The basement family room is a playground equipped with toys for both kids and adults 1 a large cinema and entertainment space and 2 a fitness room, bar area and game space. Another smart addition is a pantry that adds considerable storage space. It is accessed by a hidden door and is adjacent to the garage, a small design detail that allows it to feature a ‘grocery door,’ a small passageway that allows Earl and Glenda to unload their food directly from the car into the pantry. “This idea was referred to us by friends who discovered these doors in Florida model homes,” Glenda explains. “It is cute, incredibly handy, and the grandkids absolutely love it.” Parallel to the kitchen, a spacious seating, dining and entertainment space is equipped with a grand feature fireplace (with a custom wood mantel), large television and display shelving. This space’s large windows and raised ceiling offer a bright, open space in which to relax. To make life easy for the couple, Stubbs Communications synced together all the home’s entertainment and security systems, allowing Earl and Glenda to control all their technology from a communal iPad. In the dining space a square custom-built Mennonite table mirrors a unique structural detail suggested by Oke, an elegant tray ceiling with indirect lighting.


Rich cool-toned hardwood runs throughout the main living space and continues into the couple’s luxurious master suite. Earl and Glenda’s basement “family room” is a playground equipped with toys for both children and adults; a large cinema and entertainment space neighbours a designated fitness room, bar area and game space. “We thoroughly enjoy entertaining here,” explains Earl. “It is a lot of fun.”


The basement features two guest bedrooms. Oke installed egress windows to help the family feel more protected and comfortable in the space. The couple made sure step ladders were placed in each of these rooms’ closets, so little ones could reach the egress windows. “The children feel at ease and so do we,” states Glenda. “Ease is a great word to describe this whole process,” adds Earl. “It was just so easy.” n

A hidden-door pantry adjacent to the garage features a handy ‘grocery door,’ ...a small passageway that allows groceries to be unloaded directly from the car.

The kitchen is a bright welcoming space to host family and friends.



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Cottaging along the shores of Lake Huron is part of Chris’ and Mark’s DNA. Both of their families had cottages on this great lake, and it melded with their childhood memories. Wanting to provide that experience for their own children, now teenagers, the couple purchased a cottage in Oakwood Park, just north of Grand Bend, in 2011. Choosing a location just an hour from their home that also has good boating – Mark’s summer passion – with a lakeside lot was an easy decision for the couple.

Oke Woodsmith’s famous attention to detail paid off in this 6,000-square-foot home on a large lot.

But they didn’t buy just any cottage. Theirs has a distinctive provenance as it was formerly owned by members of actor Hume Cronyn’s family and was once the residence of Ontario Premier John Robarts. Soon after purchasing, though, they started thinking about doing a major renovation to make it more amenable to a modern family’s needs but they wanted to pay homage to the cottage’s history. However, they knew they’d need to get creative to keep the same footprint, modernize it and respect its roots. Working with architect McMichael Ruth, of the London firm Tillman Ruth Robinson, helped gel their thoughts and provided not just a blueprint but a vision to the project. Interior designer Alex Quimby also played a major role in helping to choose interior finishes. Choosing Oke Woodsmith was a bit of a no-brainer for Chris and Mark. “A home built by Oke Woodsmith has cache,” says Mark. “You see it as a selling point in real estate listings all the time.”

OPPOSITE PAGE TOP The strong lines of the present cottage mimic those of its predecessor. • The deep overhang provides coverage from the elements for the patio and adjacent indoor spaces.



Talking to several builders, Mark and Chris found some that weren’t comfortable working with architectural drawings. “The architects were holding the builder to a certain standard that maybe they didn’t feel they could meet. Oke came to the table and took on the project enthusiastically. They knew that some aspects would be challenging but that didn’t daunt them,” explains Mark. Oke Woodsmith’s famous attention to detail paid off in this 6,000 square foot home with six bedrooms and four bathrooms on a large lot (320 feet deep with an 87-foot front-

age on the lakeshore). This is a large domicile devoted to family – all main bedrooms are on one floor so they can be together – but tilts toward a comfortable, spacious entertainment space with three guest rooms and a guest bath on the lower level. The four seasons room features fulllength glass folding doors to bring in the outdoors. Chris points out that all the family members are lightly complected, so it provides a respite from the sun and is adjacent to the outdoor glass-railed balcony that also has a 10-foot overhang protecting it from the elements.

This room is open to the dining room, living area and kitchen. The former has space for a table that the couple is having custom made to sit 16. The kitchen’s island - topped by a Caesarstone quartz countertop that was newly released in 2018, called Excava - has its own sink and dishwasher, and it has been raised for Mark to comfortably prep food. A second sink sits in a counter, overlooking the expansive front yard, with a second dishwasher that is handy for big party clean-up. Next to this is one of the family’s favourite spots in the house: a unique stone-top table, sourced from well-known Stratford

eatery Rundles’ online closing auction. A colourful custom-made banquette provides seating. “I love to sit here when I bring work home,” says Chris, as he gazes at the lake over the glass rail and through the living room. “We call it the best seat in the house.” To support the weight of this heavy piece of furniture, Mark points out that Oke Woodsmith had to reinforce the floor in this area as it is a cantilevered overhang to the stairs that lead to the lower level. The open kitchen also features two pantries to provide discreet storage space. Offering a comfortable place to snuggle by the fire, Chris loves to spend time at the cottage in the winter since

“it’s so quiet up here in the off-season.” The living area features the wooden mantle from the original cottage and the floor-to-ceiling chimney mimics its stone façade. The interior walls feature poplar panelling, stained a warm colour that echoes the tones of its predecessor. This room’s second salute to its history is the Robarts’ Bar. Hidden behind a wood panelled door, John Robarts’ bar has been re-created to look as it did when the premier was a weekend resident of the area. Opening the door to the bar, Chris points out how they were able to re-create the mottled red backsplash and vintage look cabinetry. “Oke tried to save the original but it just didn’t fit quite right, and it looked off, so they worked with Stratford’s Woodecor Ltd. to make it look appropriate.”

In the primary bedroom, woven wool carpet softens footsteps, while most of the flooring on this level is porcelain tile. The bedroom has its own wall of windows providing sweeping views of the lake. A closet occupies the length of the hallway, open yet cleverly hidden for privacy. The couple’s bed is framed by a custom-made floor-to-ceiling headboard that acts as an accent wall. The ensuite bath’s separate toilet and shower stalls are behind frosted glass doors, while a double vanity occupies one entire wall in a floating vanity. Down the hall are the children’s bedrooms and bathroom. Solar tubes are used in the latter and the hallway to bring in light and save on power usage.


Natural materials ensure a cottage vibe in the modern abode

The lower level’s polished concrete floors provide easy maintenance, which is important for this busy entrepreneurial couple, with a large active dog, two cats, two kids and many houseguests. Besides visitors’ quarters, this level houses a workout room, the mechanical room, Mark’s wine cellar, the laundry room (with clever cat passages to where their litter resides) and an extra closet that can house an elevator in the future. “As we get older, we may need something like that, so we left serviced space for it,” explains Mark. This rendition of the cottage has the same general layout as the original, which was important to the couple. “We wanted to preserve the memories of all those that had wonderful times at this cottage over the decades since it was built in the 1940s,” says Chris.

BEFORE OPPOSITE PAGE An oversized island and large dining room give the homeowners much needed space to entertain family and friends. ABOVE For Chris it was love at first sight with the Excava Caesarstone used to top the kitchen’s surfaces. RIGHT Tucked away behind a closed door, the Robarts’ Bar was duplicated in an homage to its famous former owner.

feature One of the family’s favourite spots in the house is seated around a unique stone-top table, enjoying views from the large windows that surround it

Large windows ensure sweeping views from the common rooms, while their wooden insets echo a Frank Lloyd Wright feeling in the design.

To preserve the character of the original cottage and the memories of former generations who loved it, the fireplace and other features were recreated in the new version He points to the integrated trim that is highlighted around all the door frames. “That’s one of the architects touches that we loved, and it was a challenge for Oke Woodsmith, but they did a wonderful job with it.”


Architectural fans will see some details popularized by such luminaries as Frank Lloyd Wright on the building’s exterior, like deep overhangs, the way the first floor extends with cantilevered extensions overhanging the lower level, the colour scheme and materials that complement its setting. These lines and elements reflect the original cottage’s lines and colouring,


providing a further homage to past generations of owners and their families. The large mechanical room houses the utilitarian elements necessary to keep this large home humming. The house was built using insulated concrete forms, so it is warmer and more solid than other types of domiciles. This fact, combined with the in-floor heating,

keeps utility costs reasonable. Though it is sometimes challenging to spend as much time at the lake house as they’d like, the family adores their cottage and found working with Oke Woodsmith and the architect to be a rewarding experience. n Homeowner names were changed for privacy.


This is a large domicile devoted to family but is well equipped to welcome guests with many indoor and outdoor entertainment spaces

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delivers a home OKE WOODSMITH


When Lorie and Rick decided to demolish their old home just outside of Stratford to accommodate their new custom home back in 2013, they wanted a place that their rapidly growing family could call home – and not feel cramped. The previous house, a split-level home with low-ceilings, had been tired out by numerous renovations – none of which satisfied the couple. After purchasing and moving into a home in town while their eldest son occupied the old house, Lorie and Rick had to come to a decision on their future – would they rebuild in town or on their ten-acre property?

After the decision was made to stay on the big property outside of town, Rick contacted Oke Woodsmith. “We went to look at a few homes they had done,” said Lorie. “We were impressed with the designs, finishes and workmanship. We liked how Oke Woodsmith finished their homes.”

Furthermore, Lorie and Rick hoped for a basement that didn’t really seem like a basement – a space with ten-foot ceilings that would flow out to the backyard easily with eight-foot patio doors. “We wanted the basement to be a second entertaining area,” aid Rick.

Rick adds, “When you go to their houses there’s a different level of craftsmanship.”

Lorie and Rick were impressed with designer Steve Poortinga, who had already drawn up a floor plan and seemed to have thought of everything.

For their custom home, Lorie and Rick had a good grip on their wish list. An ideal medley of traditional yet modern styles would work nicely with the open concept layout and high ceilings.

Oke Woodsmith put 100 per cent into everything they did for Lorie and Rick, even down to interior design. “We looked at having an interior designer come,” said Lorie. “The

Southern-facing windows bring light into the house year-round, and the sunset is beautiful from the west side of the property


year, and the sunset is beautiful from the west side of the property.

Oke Woodsmith people were better to source; it didn’t seem as important to [the other designers] as it did to the different members of the Oke Woodsmith team.”

Two sets of laundry machines are placed throughout the house, so the boys can do their own laundry. Their laundry room is conveniently placed off the garage for their hockey equipment.

The rebuild really did take a village – with Randy, Wayne and Kevin Oke on site constantly, and plenty of other skilled workers assisting with framing, trim, roofing and many other tasks – and the demolition itself, managed by Wayne, was a tearful day.

The garage – separate from the house itself – was revamped to shelter their cars, ATVs, dirt bikes, lawn mowers and their boat as well. The exterior was in dire need of an update and was renovated to flow with the house.

“It was hard to watch it come down,” said Lorie, of their long-time family home.

“This detached building looks great as the exterior style, rooflines and finishes ties in perfectly with the new house,” said Rick. “Actually, most people think we demolished our original detached garage and put up a new building at the same time the house was built. “

The demolition was a challenge – taking the old house down without touching the pool (an original feature of the property) had proven to be a difficult task, but it turned out just fine.

Lorie and Rick said working with the Oke Woodsmith team made the process easier because they were able to provide good information and suggestions in the decision-making processes and helped them better visualize the plans.

Their finished home included all the things on their wish list, with four bedrooms – each with patio or balcony access and six bathrooms – every bedroom is accompanied by an ensuite bath and a walk-in closet. The primary bedroom is bright with a bay window and an incredible vista, and its ensuite features a walk-in shower, a soaker tub and a double-sink vanity.

“I could say something about the design to Steve Poortinga and he got it on paper the first time and did the tweaks we asked for,” Lorie said. “What we envisioned – he saw it too.”

The home, which was completed and move-in ready by July of 2014, is built to accommodate their big family and hold large gatherings. The finished home also has two outdoor fireplaces. The southern-facing windows bring light into the house at every time of the

Lorie and Rick wanted a place that would seem like a vacation home more than anything, and that’s what they got.

ABOVE This large family home features six luxurious bathrooms to serve them and their guests.

“With working, we can’t usually get away, so this is great,” said Lorie, calling it “a place for family and to come home to.” n



Oke Woodsmith's model home shows off features that homeowners love

RUSTIų chic


“We learn a lot from our clients and use what they teach us to constantly get better at what we do,” says Randy Oke. “We’ve been building homes for 37 years, yet constant improvement and new ideas is what keeps it fresh and exciting.” They’ve entitled this project Rustic Chic because it is ultimately a style that embraces the perfect imperfection of nature. It is a four bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom, three-storey home with 5,000 square feet of living space. Approaching its pleasing L-shaped exterior, the sweeping landscape – designed and installed by Cobble Design – sets the tone for this abode’s relaxed but elegant ambiance. With light taupe Hardie board siding and Arriscraft stone on the exterior, a cottage feeling is well entrenched. OPPOSITE PAGE The model home captures many of the features that homeowners ask for again and again when working with Oke Woodsmith Building Systems - oversized windows, soaring cathedral ceilings and hand-laid stone fireplaces. ABOVE The Rustic Chic moniker assigned to this home is reflected in its cottagey charm and livable spaces. RIGHT Three separate outdoor entertainment spaces are featured in the rear: an elevated deck, a covered stone patio and a firepit area.

The classic OWS timber frame façade at the main entrance welcomes visitors with its familiarity. This theme is continued inside the living room where the soaring two-storey shiplap cathedral ceiling is crowned with timber beams. One of two gas fireplaces resides in this room; its twin is located on the backside of this wall outside to warm the elevated deck area. It overlooks the wooded lot that leads to the river. OWS is famous for giving homeowners amazing views with large windows, and the model’s great room area is graced with a series of oversized windows that bring the beauty of the lot (which is 80 feet wide and 700 feet deep) into full view for its future owners.

We learn a lot from our clients and use what they teach us to constantly get better at what we do


Located on a large lot, lushly landscaped and well treed, that backs onto the Ausable River (just south of Grand Bend) the Oke Woodsmith Building Systems’ (OWS) model home brings homeowners’ favourites to life and demonstrates how well they fit into the OWS aesthetic.

The side entrance, through the three-car garage, leads to the mudroom, which is a bit of a misnomer as this space has a handsome dark wood entrance hall organizer cupboard, custom-made by Woodecor, that matches the cabinetry in the adjacent kitchen. This style of cabinetry is echoed throughout the home, lending it the relaxed elegance for which OWS is known. This entrance hall leads to a spacious laundry room that features extra storage and an ample folding surface, as well as a powder room and closet.

The kitchen features a big island that separates it from the dining area, which is defined by its tray ceiling. This is a feature that the Okes often use to visually separate spaces in an open-concept design. The primary bedroom resides on the first floor with its ensuite bath and a large, well organized closet space. A no-curb, walk-in shower in the ensuite runs the length of the interior wall. There is also a separate area for the toilet and a standalone bathtub.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP RIGHT The kitchen and dining area are visually divided by a tray ceiling. • Enjoy indoor/outdoor entertaining with double-door access to the recreation room through the covered patio. • The primary bedroom offers a custom closet. • A custom-made hall organizer offers an attractive answer to organizing outerwear. • The timber frame entrance is one of Oke Woodsmith’s signature features.


RIGHT The lower-level bar area is ready when the gang is over to watch the playoffs. TOP A second stone fireplace delivers cheery warmth to the lower level’s entertainment space. MIDDLE The brains of the home are contained in the mechanical room. BOTTOM The three-car garage also provides a secondary entrance to the home.

Two more bedrooms reside in the loft area above the garage. One is set up as an office space that has two skylight windows. In this technology-friendly house, these skylights have sensors that enable them to close automatically when it begins to rain. The custom-made triangular shaped window is another type of feature that the Okes find that homeowners favour. “Everyone appreciates having unique touches in their homes,” says Randy. The second loft bedroom features a modified cathedral ceiling. The Juliette balcony allows for extra light and air in the room. Realizing that their clients always appreciate extra storage, OWS has cannily added three large closets along the hallway of the loft area. There is also a luxuriously appointed full bathroom. On the lower level, it is party time. This space is for entertaining with a custom bar next to a glass enclosed, stone-walled wine cellar. Uniquely, the custom cabinetry for storing vintages stretches through the glass, providing a storage space for games or glasses.

A stone-clad gas fireplace is the centrepiece for a seating area, adjacent to a space for a future pool, billiards or ping pong table. The glass doors lead out to the stone patio with a wood-burning fire pit to enjoy on cooler nights when entertaining al fresco. There is an exterior stairway to access the upper deck, as well. A fourth bedroom – with a steam shower - has been placed in the basement, with a cheater bathroom and large closet. Providing access to the ‘brains’ of the home is a large mechanical room. “These are all features that we’ve been asked to do by homeowners repeatedly over the years,” explains Randy. The secret to Oke Woodsmith Building System’s success: doing what makes sense for relaxed, gracious living and doing it very, very well. n



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After trusting Oke Woodsmith to do several renovations on their home, the couple decided to extend the relationship by having them design and build a grand cabana.

OKE WOODSMITH ENHANCES OUTDOOR SPACE Inspired by the lush landscape that surrounded their beautiful Grand Bend estate, Tony and Fran yearned to create an outdoor entertainment area that would provide a place for their family and friends to enjoy. They wanted it to engage with the stunning gardens and green space that surround the property, while blending seamlessly with the existing residence.

Personally and professionally connected with the Oke family for several decades, the couple knew immediately who to contact to bring their vision to life. “We enjoy the Oke Woodsmith concept,” Tony explains. “They are very thorough and follow each job through from start to finish. They always do great work.”


Designed to be an open concept space, the cabana’s living area flows freely into a well-designed kitchen, equipped with high-end appliances, including an indoor BBQ. Mirroring the clean and almost minimalistic design theme the couple had in mind for the space, the kitchen was outfitted with stainless steel, black, and grey fixtures.

three-season haven Originally built in 1972 by Tony himself, the property’s main house had undergone a handful of renovations over the years, most of which were executed by Oke Woodsmith. Thus, very familiar with the process of renovation, Tony and Fran were not frightened by the prospect of dismantling their former pool house to provide space to construct a cozy cabana. The couple had been captivated by an image of a lavish outdoor room they had clipped from a popular design magazine and had hoped to recreate the space on their own property. After an exciting brainstorming session with the Oke Woodsmith design team, the couple decided that the inspirational design, although beautiful, was limited in terms of functionality. Building upon aspects of the original design inspiration that intrigued the couple the most, Oke’s team crafted a beautiful proposal for a space that would undoubtedly be more adapted to the Canadian climate.

Built within the original footprint of the dismantled pool house, the new 458-square-foot cabana was an oasis. Equipped with a large retractable screen door, the cabana’s sitting room invited you to engage with the surrounding scenery. An intimate seating area was created with comfortable outdoor inspired furniture from Grand Bend’s Casual Industries. Oke’s designers worked diligently to create a space that was not strictly a summer room but would function as a three-season haven in which the family could entertain or enjoy independently. The cabana was fully insulated and equipped with a shutter system, electrical heating, and a charming fireplace that was functional and inviting.

The entire cabana was finished with rich cedar paneling. The wood aesthetic functioned as homage to the estate’s landscape, while simultaneously recalling a nautical vibe. To the left of the kitchen, Oke designed a small bathroom featuring a large glass shower and luxurious marble accents. In the kitchen, a second retractable screen, fixed above the sink, opens the cooking area to the green utopia that lies just metres beyond the cabana walls. When retracted, the screen revealed an outdoor granite bar, which was ideal for hosting formal summer dinner parties or simply relaxing with casual cocktails. The exterior of the cabana was composed of beautifully textured warm grey stone. When the sun set, an automatic lighting system illuminated the gardens, pond, and gazebo. “We really wanted to do something different,” exclaims Tony. “And we knew that the Okes would not disappoint.” n The homeowners sold this home before building a new one with Oke Woodsmith. It is featured on page 84.

well-designed kitchen

Time to relax with an outdoor bar area, full kitchen and comfortable living space




To get the most out of the breathtaking landscape that surrounds the family’s lakefront cottage, Tom and Nicole called on locally renowned builders, Oke Woodsmith Building Systems, to help them navigate what they thought might be a tricky renovation.

“Building and renovating this close to the lake comes with a unique set of obstacles,” Tom explains. “However, Oke Woodsmith was excited to embrace these challenges and tackled the project head on.” Built in 1970, the quaint beachfront property has provided decades of enjoyment for Tom and his family. “We absolutely loved our old cottage, but it was tired and desperately needed an upgrade,” he states.

As a result of the limitations on the design development by the cottage’s proximity to the lake, the process of brainstorming and planning was lengthy. The couple was eager to expand the space, however, conservation requirements made doing so difficult. “We had to get creative,” Nicole explains. “Oke’s team was able to craft an impressive plan that would not only provide us with extra living space, but also maximize what we currently had.” Embracing the cottage’s original shape, the Oke Woodsmith design team looked for ways to increase and maximize space without drastically changing the fundamental structure and square footage.

Increasing functionality, Oke converted the family’s covered porch into a fully insulated sunroom, enclosed with a stunningly beautiful Weather Wall window system, allowing light to pour into the space and connecting the room with the tranquil scenery that lies just beyond. Additionally, to create more living space for the family of four, Oke transformed the property’s old work shed into a bright and comfortable master bedroom space for Tom and Nicole to enjoy.


Apart from expanding on the living space, maximizing the view of the lake was a priority. “The team really changed the lake experience for us,” Nicole explains. “Before there was the cottage and the lake, but the renovation fostered a connection between the two.” Upon Oke’s recommendation, the couple opted for an open concept design with raised ceilings; elements that work to breathe life back into the once dark and segmented living space. Large windows line the wall of the main living, dining, and entertainment area, allowing light to filter into the entirety of the space and providing a means for the surrounding landscape to embrace the home and those who reside in it. Inspired by the Muskoka aesthetic, Tom and Nicole, along with designer Rawda Al-Henedy, worked to select specific design elements, including furniture, paint colour, stone features, and wood accents, that would recall the “traditional lakefront look.” The kitchen, admittedly Nicole’s favourite space, features simple stainless steel appliances, luxurious white and grey marble countertops, and clean white cabinets, all of which come together to form an elegant aesthetic. So as not to

impede the line of sight from the kitchen to the lake, minimalistic lights from London’s The Lighting Shoppe, hang above the sink and provide an ambient glow as the sun sets over the lake. “Having the ability to look out the big beautiful window at the peaceful beach makes doing the dishes much more bearable,” Nicole exclaims. “Fun, in fact!” The renovation of the couple’s cottage was, according to Tom, “a delicate pro-

cedure,” as the entire building was lifted to lay a new foundation to support and reinforce the structure. Proper insulation, weatherproofing, air conditioning, and in-floor heating, were among the additions that elevate the cottage from a damp summer destination to a warm and comfortable four-season getaway. “In the end, Oke’s team transformed the cottage experience for us,” Tom states. “This has become a second home; one that we are able to stock with linens, food, and clothing without a second thought.” Not only did Oke’s team maximize the cottage’s interior, but they also suggested the aesthetic and functional benefits of working to “open up the property” by clearing some of the grounds’ trees and bush. Tom and Nicole worked with Cobble Design Inc., a Zurich-based landscaping company, which took the couple’s vision for the property and created a lush haven, ideal for a relaxing retreat or hosting lively entertainment.

TOP A covered porch was converted to a fully insulated sunroom with a stunningly beautiful Weather Wall window system. RIGHT Opting for an open-concept design brought life and light to the home. • To maximize views, large windows line the wall of the main living, dining and entertainment area. OPPOSITE PAGE A much-loved family cottage gives way to a renovation that thrills the owners.

Directing the eye towards the lake, a tiered deck was constructed off of the back of the cottage and is surrounded by lush gardens and large transplanted trees in which delicate string lighting was installed. “I often feel as though we are at a resort,” Nicole describes. “It is absolutely beautiful.” “We are both so happy with the finished result of Oke’s work,” Tom adds. “The property feels fresh, which is exactly what we were looking for.” n




BRINGS COTTAGE COUNTRY FEEL TO LAKE HURON When Audrey and Randy decided the drive to their Muskoka cottage took too much time, they found one much closer in Southcott Pines in Grand Bend. The 30-year-old, sidesplit, 2,000-square-foot home was in good condition but needed updating and upgrading. They looked to Oke Woodsmith to make those changes. “They shared our vision from the beginning,” says Randy. “We’ve known the family for years. Randy (Oke) and our oldest son played hockey together. They have a good reputation. It felt like contacting neighbours. Randy and his team are professionals. They listened and could share our vision. They came up with a lot of ideas and how to do it right. We have a business and we know how important it is to care about customers. They showed that kind of care.”


CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Improving a cottage that was in good shape proved to be a great cooperative effort by the homeowners and Oke Woodsmith Building Systems. • Adding larger windows and skylights allowed the forest to be part of the family; using natural materials and colour schemes completed the homey getaway.

Their vision was of an open space with plenty of light. They opened ceilings, added skylights and enlarged windows. Exterior brick was matched perfectly when the kitchen window was enlarged. Now, the vaulted ceilings and large expanses of windows create a sense of being surrounded by nature. Wood accents add to the natural theme. “We opened the ceiling with beams,” says Audrey. The beams emphasize the structure and the dining room ceiling is clad in wood. The new stone fireplace in the great room is set off by a rustic beam mantel. The stone matches part of the front façade. A wider new front door and sidelights also allow more light to enter. The sunroom was transformed into a dining room with cathedral ceiling and windows on three sides. “It’s beautiful,” says Randy. “It feels like you’re almost outside. I like the skylights in the kitchen too.” A large island gathers everyone around with seating for five. “We had good family times here,” says Audrey. The island provides storage accessible from both sides, a microwave and bar fridge.


One level down, the family room has the original wood-burning fireplace. The lower level includes a bedroom, office and laundry. Upstairs, they added new railing to the balcony. Audrey likes to renovate so the cottage was a good project. She enlisted the help of designer David Bradstock who specializes in custom residential design and decoration. The four bedrooms, two baths, dining room and great room with living area and kitchen are a welcoming mix of soft white walls, rich wood flooring, shades of brown with blue accents. A play of textures in wood, leather and wrought iron create interest. Prints feature birds, and fish to continue the theme. The original owner checked out the renovation and was pleasantly surprised says Randy. “It was a big job. The Okes made it easy and enjoyable to do.” n Editor’s note: This cottage has since been sold, but the couple loved it so much that Oke Woodsmith is currently renovating their new one.

The vision was of an open space with plenty of light. Vaulted ceilings and large expanses of windows create a sense of being surrounded by nature




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beach retreat features award-winning kitchen Drawing inspiration from the serene landscape, Fred and Shelley set out to create the ultimate beach retreat, crafted to fit their lifestyle. In 2003 they bought a cottage next door to their own, and, captivated by the allure of the lake, decided to build a retirement dream house.

Fred, a native of the Grand Bend area and well-known in Ontario farming circles, looked to his roots as inspiration for their ideal custom space. Having lived the most of his life in an 1887 farmhouse, Fred wanted to blend subtle rural touches into a contemporary space. “We succeeded in taking


LEFT Identified as the most used space in the house, the kitchen’s large windows offer expansive views. TOP RIGHT Situated on a lakeside lot, this stunner is the homeowners’ dream retirement home. RIGHT The residence combines ample entertainment space with features perfect for their extended family.

mementos of the farm to the beach,” Shelley says. “But it definitely smells better!” Devoted to supporting local industry, Fred and Shelley chose Oke Woodsmith to bring their vision to life. “It was an easy decision,” Fred explains, “Oke has a great reputation within the community and their homes embody the distinct custom aesthetic we hoped to create for ourselves.” The couple’s relationship with Oke’s design team was “fabulous,” as the team was professional, understanding, accessible, and adapted easily to any change in plan that arose. “They are the ‘yes’ people,” Shelley explains.

“It seemed as though literally anything was possible!” Following a brainstorming session with Oke’s team, spearheaded by designer Steve Poortinga, a fundamental plan was crafted for the creation of space designed for comfort and function. Fred and Shelley’s investment in the custom aspects are evident. Each room features touches that reflect the owners’ ideals, passions and experiences.

blending subtle rural touches into a contemporary space

The couple lived in the neighbouring cottage during construction, so Fred had a close eye on the project. “You never really know how plans on paper will translate into the physical space,”


he says. “Oke was absolutely amazing at answering all of my questions, explaining what exactly was going on at each stage of construction, and accommodating any changes we wanted to make.” “Our goal,” Shelley says, “was to create a real entertainment space that was designed specifically for our family’s unique needs and desires. We wanted to build a functional home and a paradise getaway all in one. We have three children, a granddaughter, and three cats – everyone has their own space here.” The home’s grand entranceway invites you to immediately engage with the unique aesthetic. Double doors feature the family’s initials, subtly incorporated into the custom design, conceived by local Mennonite craftsmen. The open concept kitchen and main living space – the most-used area in the home according to both Fred and Shelley – directs the eye toward the room’s massive windows and lake view.

couple’s desire for a custom home. Fred was involved in its design, including the indoor/outdoor kitchen, which features a stocked bar (the first of three), two barbecues, and Talius retractable roller shutters. A rustic stone floor runs throughout the kitchen space and continues outside as a pathway to the lake. In the attached dining area, a long, reclaimed wood harvest table from Restoration Hardware points towards another charming wood-burning fireplace. Above the table, a light fixture crafted by Fred hangs delicately. Composed of reclaimed barn beams and dangling Edison bulbs, the fixture transports the family back to their farmhouse roots. Fred and his nephew Quintin, a certified welder, constructed the home’s open staircases.

Drawing on the tranquil energy she derives from nature as inspiration for her décor, Shelley worked alongside Fred’s sister Teresa, a Winnipeg-based interior designer, to produce the unique aesthetic. Teresa’s attention to detail worked to inspire important elements in the home, including colour choices, and a stone archway to the wine cellar. The couple’s kitchen - winner of the London Home Builders’ Association’s ‘Kitchen of the Year’ award for 2015 is light, airy, and minimalistic. A mixture of white and espresso cabinetry with simple chrome hardware provides ample storage while supporting the serene, almost Asian-inspired design aesthetic. Parallel to the kitchen, a large open seating, dining, and entertainment space awaits with an immense wood-burning fireplace, built-in shelving, large television, and an adjacent three-season dining room. The dramatically raised ceilings in the space recall the sensation of being outdoors. The three-season entertainment space is another expression of the

Reclaimed wood table, charming wood fireplace and reclaimed barn beams transport the family back to their farmhouse roots


OPPOSITE PAGE The bathroom’s concrete floor is enhanced by a spiral of beach glass the couple collected, adding a personal touch. • Casually elegant and comfortable, the dining area invites family and friends to settle in and enjoy themselves. CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Shirley chose to decorate common spaces with soothing contemporary touches. • Custom doors, featuring the family’s initials, welcome visitors. • The outdoor shower and footbath are well-used features in a lake house. • The couple ably met their goal of combining aesthetics with function in all areas of the home. • The wine cellar is an homage to Fred’s childhood home and holds 1,000 bottles of wine.

Fred designed another extraordinary feature: a wood log elevator system. Fred’s one-of-a-kind contraption allows him to hoist firewood from his basement into the three-season space, making it easier to add wood to both of the home’s fireplaces. The rustic inspiration continues into the basement, as Fred’s wine cellar is an homage to his childhood home. The entrance is framed by a veneer stone archway, antique-inspired mahogany wood doors from London’s County Heritage, and a collection of reclaimed wood beams salvaged from the family’s old barns. Inside the temperature-controlled space, custom metal wine racks – also welded by the couple’s talented nephew – hold nearly 1000 bottles of wine patiently awaiting their peak. “Oke Woodsmith just does it right,” Fred states, “they listened to us, inspired us, and directed us towards things that we didn’t even know we wanted, but we love.” Fred also has a green thumb and took responsibility for most of the property’s landscaping, with help from local landscaping company, Cobble Design. Lush gardens surround the house and line the pathway to the lake. An outdoor shower and foot wash are strategically connected to a “mudroom of sorts” in the basement – a bathroom accessed from outside features a changing room, toilet, and shower. The couple added a custom touch by creating a spiral design out of personally collected beach glass in the concrete shower floor. “Little accents like this are what make a house a home,” Shelley explains. n


If you want a room with a view, this cottage offers you a full floor of options. Every room in the 1,100-square foot cottage provides lake views thanks to a major renovation by owners Nancy and Dieter with Oke Woodsmith. The cottage was built in the 1940s and was purchased by Dieter’s family in 1972. “We always thought one day of renovating it,” he says. “Friends close by had their cottage completely rebuilt by Oke and they had a very good experience. We really liked their cottage, so that got us thinking more actively about pursuing something with building and we approached Oke.” “Our neighbours on each side have built with Oke,” adds Nancy.


OF TRADITION Oke Woodsmith offers big luxury in small footprint With the completion of their renovation, Oke Woodsmith is transforming the streetscape in Elmwood, north of Grand Bend. A combination of quality workmanship, listening to owners, respect for neighbouring properties and understanding conservation authority restrictions is making them the go-to builders. “One of the big benefits with Oke is we did everything by the rules, by the book but there was room to be creative with efficient use of space,” says Dieter. “We appreciate the expertise provided by Oke.” BEFORE



OPPOSITE PAGE The original cottage was loved by Dieter’s family since 1972, but it needed renovation. LEFT Vaulted ceilings add a feeling of spaciousness to the small living spaces. BELOW LEFT The nautical colour theme is followed through on the inside as well, with white cabinetry and a blue kitchen island. BELOW MIDDLE To increase usable space, a sunroom was added to the design. The homeowners count it as one of their most used areas of the cottage. BELOW RIGHT Glass railings maximize the lake view from the deck.

The first hurdle was finding a solution within the footprint of the old cottage – no second storey, no additions. “It was a complete renovation,” says Dieter. “We lifted the cottage up and moved it across the road onto our empty lot. They poured the foundation and lifted it up and put it on the new foundation and completely rebuilt it. Oke was fantastic. They organized it all.” Nancy and Dieter found a Michigan cottage online that reflected the style they wanted: beach and water hues, relaxed, clean, open and modern. When they showed their ideas to the Oke team, they appreciated the feedback about what would work, what could be better. “They have so much experience,” says Nancy. “They’d say maybe consider this in a different way.” The stone fireplace is an example of Oke’s input. They found the same Michigan stone as the inspiration photo and thought they’d also put stone on the lower section with wood above the mantel. Oke suggested taking the stone to the ceiling and Nancy says they are happy they took the advice. Limited to one floor, they wanted to create an illusion of more space.

Most rooms have cathedral ceilings. “It looks bigger, more elegant,” says Dieter. “That’s a positive from the restriction.” They also maximized views of the lake with large windows and a window-wrapped three seasons room. With heated floors and a gas fireplace, it is used 10-11 months of the year. White kitchen cabinets are complemented by a nautical blue island. A model ship sails along the mantel. Light fixtures of glass and metal continue the theme.

A window-wrapped threeseason room maximizes views of the lake; it is used 10-11 months of the year The old cottage did not have a front entrance and was limited by its footprint. The solution sacrificed a small third bedroom. The principal bedroom looks to the lake through the sunroom. Guests can enjoy the water view lounging on the sofa in their own bedroom. Although there is

only one bathroom, adjacent to the main bedroom, it functions as an ensuite. Dieter says the new two-bedroom cottage is a good size. “When Nancy and I go to the cottage throughout the year, it’s quite manageable and cozy. When we want the big crowd, we have the ability to do that too.” They own the cottage beside them, perfect for the grandchildren to have their own space. Two empty lots across the road add an outdoor play area. On the lake side of the new cottage, activities flow easily from kitchen, dining and living, to sunroom, to deck with glass railing and patio with fire pit and seating. For the exterior, Dieter says they wanted board and batten. “Oke recommended Hardie board (a fibre cement siding). When we saw the samples, we picked blue with white, reflecting the lake setting and the inside colour scheme.” White panelling on the interior walls repeats the board and batten style. They also took Oke’s suggestion to install a steel roof and are pleased with the bright appearance. “It is unrecognizable from before. It’s a dramatic change,” says Dieter. n


Rightsizing instead of downsizing: Oke Woodsmith was able to accommodate the open concept design the homeowners had in mind.

FROM RENOVATIONS TO CUSTOM HOME Oke Woodsmith fulfilled their needs

Fran and Tony Relouw believe working with Oke Woodsmith is like working with a friend – an expert and talented friend. And they should know. Tony worked with the Oke brothers’ father on projects a long time ago. The Relouw’s previous house was “torn apart and rebuilt” by Oke Woodsmith and they saw the brothers and their crew “from 8 in the morning until 5 every night” so they came to know them well. No wonder they turned to their friends to build a new home in Newport Landing, Grand Bend. Fran and Tony purchased a double lot on a cul de sac. The house is situated on one lot and the other is preserved as a spacious yard. Their previous country home was on about 20 acres and Tony likes the ability now to look out and see neighbours across the lawn.

zines and books and found a house we liked the looks of,” says Tony. “We could sit across the desk from Steve and he made certain suggestions – move this wall here, move that wall – and instantly he had the floor plan as we were talking. You want to move one wall and it changes everything. That’s how the house ended up larger than planned.”

“The intent was to downsize, but it didn’t really happen,” he says. Based on a photo of a house they liked in Florida, Fran and Tony sat down with Oke Woodsmith designer Steve Poortinga. “We looked at maga-

The knowledgeable staff at Oke Woodsmith was another factor in the Relouw’s choice of builder. “They do everything themselves. They have all the equipment. They don’t have to wait for subtrades to come in,” says Tony. RIGHT The guest bath displays a sophisticated palette.


The result is a 3,000 square foot one-storey home that evokes the nearby beach with sand-coloured stone and siding. A covered front porch, a backyard resort with pool, pool house, shaded sitting area and entertaining spaces combine to create an escape without leaving home. “One of the things I wanted was a front porch,” says Fran. Inside, the open concept is spacious and lit by an abundance of windows, many with transoms, high ceilings and a soft, natural palette. Several cove ceilings add height and dramatic effect. Fran’s large dining table, which seats 10, was also part of the plan. The couple enjoys entertaining and visits from their three grown children and nine grandchildren. The kitchen is outfitted to cook for a crowd without being separated. White cabinetry by Woodecor in Stratford is complemented by black countertops. The island reverses the scheme with a black base and white countertop. A built-in hutch shows off the good

china behind black and glass-fronted doors. An eating area wrapped in windows overlooks the pool. The Relouws wanted to incorporate some of their treasured furnishings. With the help of Sandra Rowe of Interior Concepts in Exeter they achieved a mix of new and old. “I had a lot of colour in the other house,” says Fran. “This whole house was getting to be mostly grey, so I wanted a bit of colour.” She got it in a vivid orange wall behind the bed in the principal bedroom. Flanked by large windows, the bed against the orange wall is definitely a focal point. The ensuite provides double floating vanities, shower, stand-alone soaking tub and separate water closet. The other bathroom echoes the black and white scheme of the kitchen in cabinetry and striking wallpaper.

A laundry room is laid out for maximum efficiency and style – something Fran wanted instead of the combination laundry/mud and back entry she had before. The Relouws’ previous house was a split-level with “steps here and steps there,” says Fran. Two more bedrooms downstairs, each with its own bath, accommodate family and guests. A welcoming family room serves up snacks and drinks from a bar with fridge and seating counter. Coming together with someone they knew and trusted created a home that Fran and Tony can enjoy with family and friends. “They are great to work with. They do great workmanship,” says Tony of the Oke Woodsmith team. “They are experts at what they do.” n

CLOCKWISE FROM RIGHT Practical aspects, like extra storage in the laundry room, makes this house functional, as well as comfortable. • Echoing the beauty of the nearby beach, the stone was chosen to reflect nature’s colour scheme. • Adjacent to the house, the pool cabana building’s separate bar makes summer entertaining easy. • The kitchen’s big windows overlook the pool area, providing a quiet place to enjoy breakfast.

Entertaining spaces combine to create an escape without leaving home



519.857. 2982 Photo courtesy of Hunter Industries

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Renovating a home is never easy but doing it when you are on the other side of the world is one heck of a brave decision. It is in times like these when technology becomes really useful. You also must put a lot of faith in your contractor.

eastmeetswest — Distance not a factor for Oke Woodsmith —

When Elsa and Terry decided to renovate their cottage in Grand Bend, it wasn’t until three interviews later that they knew exactly in whom to place their faith. “We interviewed three different contractors but went with Oke Woodsmith because we live overseas and wanted to give the job to someone we trusted,” said Terry during a Skype interview. “Randy [Oke] gained our trust because of the quality of work we saw that they had done.” The couple, who reside in Jakarta, Indonesia, are administrators at Jakarta Intercultural School and come to Grand Bend every year. They also like

to spend their time travelling through Europe and other parts of the world. In the earlier 2000s, when technology was less a part of everyday life, Oke used what was available to give the couple full access to the developments of their renovations. Through Skype conversations, email and file-sharing, Terry and Elsa were able to keep up with the day-to-day progress and to provide feedback when needed. “Randy dropped us email updates, workers would take photos and put them in Dropbox and let us know. Then we would look at photos, ask questions and write emails back for clarity or changes. The whole working

relationship has been long distance.” It was during a vacation in Ontario – for a family reunion – that led them to buy the house. Elsa, having fallen in love with Grand Bend, had discovered the place near the end of their stay. Though they were just about to make a big move to Thailand, Elsa told Terry he had to see the property. The cottage, located in Southcott Pines right by the beach, features classic cottage elements with a hint of inspiration from the couple’s travels throughout Southeast Asia. When it was bought, the small cottage needed serious updates.



FAR LEFT The cottage’s character and sense of history is evident in the large stone fireplace. LEFT From “hideous” to handsome, the bathrooms in this renovation got a much-needed face lift. ABOVE An example of Oke’s exemplary service: to ensure the house was ready for the family’s homecoming, “Randy had his crew put furniture in the house and the china in the cabinets,” says Terry.

“The bathrooms were hideous, to say the least,” Terry said about the cottage’s status when they bought it. The place was trendy at one time – maybe in the ‘70s and ‘80s – but silver wallpaper and bathroom mirror overkill just don’t cut it anymore. Though the place was in dire need of an update, the much-needed renovation didn’t stop them from visiting it as much as they could. “We went every summer - though it wasn’t renovated and once during Christmas.” Even from the other side of the world, Terry and Elsa were involved during the whole renovation process. “We had a big hand in choosing materials and the look we were after, and Steve Poortinga [the Oke designer] helped make it reality,” said Terry. Having Randy in charge on location proved to be a smart move for this satellite couple. Randy’s “big-picture” attitude and relationship with the subcontractors to do things right gave Terry and Elsa “peace of mind” for the final finished product.

The carpentry, led by Randy’s brother Kevin, provided the fundamental structural needs with fine attention to the modern features seen throughout the cottage and had “guys in the trenches doing work,” according to Terry. “They have an ability to see and execute details.” Steve was able to “roll with the punches” and catered the designs to any changes or issues that arose. His communication with the couple over Skype and keenness to flip PDF design ideas back and forth continued the rapidly building trust between Terry, Elsa, and the whole Oke Woodsmith team. The entire production, Terry said, was quality work and it shows. The renovation brought along a desire for an open-concept layout and as much natural light as a home could provide. The one-of-a-kind sculptures, cabinets, and otherworldly décor from far-off lands blending with the bright, beautiful maple flooring make this custom cottage particularly unique.

The woodsy, stone fireplace brings history to the place with an old, repurposed beam from a barn built back in 1890, mixed in with a nautical, antique sailboat steering wheel. The slanted ceilings are scattered with pot lights and feature industrial-style light fixtures down the length of the island. The gourmet kitchen shines as the interior focal point with natural light and the stainless-steel appliances and cook-top stove add to the livability of the cottage. The glossy white counters complement the dark antiquity of the dining room table and cabinets. The nearby beach is a three-minute walk, making this cottage the perfect getaway for those long, warm summer days and evenings bringing in a cool breeze from Lake Huron. Overall, Terry and Elsa have nothing but positive feedback about their newly renovated place. “We have no regrets,” said Terry. n



OKE WOODSMITH’S PLAN PROVIDES A GATHERING PLACE Family is at the heart of Lynne’s Lakeshore Retreat. Her memories of summers at her parents’ cottage in the area and the proximity of three other family members’ cottages in the Oakwood neighbourhood made the location perfect. The existing building was less than ideal for her vision of big family gatherings. Her brother, who is in the construction industry, found Oke Woodsmith through an online search and recommended the family company. “He was my go-to for the design,” says Lynne of her brother Bob. The two worked with Steve Poortinga, of Oke Woodsmith, to capture the best elements of their childhood cottage in the fivebedroom, five-bathroom, three-level award-winning cottage.




Lynne’s three children, four grandchildren and large extended family were all a big factor in decisions. “I kept them in mind a lot when designing it. I kept in mind my parents’ cottage with a big living room and sunroom facing the water. But we eliminated the walls so that the design also includes an open dining room and kitchen. Every room has full exposure to the sunsets. We like to be all together. It flows well.”

Regulations required the same footprint as the existing building. At first, the plan was to open up and reconfigure the ground level and add a second floor. But as that became an impossible challenge, the design was changed to a total rebuild retaining only the lower level. Throughout the process, Lynne made several changes. The first was triggered by the entry configuration. “The old cottage entry was dark and narrow. When they discovered the windows needed to be replaced, we seized the opportunity to change the entrance and front door and increase the celling height everywhere. The result is a grand welcome with old-fashioned double screen doors that allow cross breezes to blow through and cool the whole cottage. “The Oke Woodsmith team was great to work with. It was a real team approach. They gave good advice and also listened to me,” says Lynne.


THE DARK MAIBEC WOOD SIDING AND STONE EXTERIOR GIVES THE COTTAGE AN AGED APPEARANCE In addition to working with the Oke Woodsmith team, Lynne had her own team of ‘consultants’ in the form of family and friends who helped her make many crucial decisions. To create a soaring space in the great room, Lynne eliminated a second-floor bedroom from the original plan. Now the rebuilt stone wood-burning fireplace takes centre stage, flanked by a pine wall, and lit by a driftwood chandelier created by interior designer Jim Telfer, who helped Lynne with decorating. A wood barrel ceiling caps it off. “The old cottage was all knotty pine – every wall, ceiling. The crew took it all down so it could be recycled and reused.” Lynne says they prioritized several accent walls in the great room, hallway, playroom, two bedrooms and used the rest for bedroom closets. They were able to reuse about 90 per cent of the pine.

Early plans included glass doors between the sunroom and great room. “We took the glass doors out,” says Lynne. “Best thing we ever did. Now, when we have big groups (before pandemic restrictions) people pull in the chairs from the sunroom. It’s nice it’s so open.” A large buffet provides a perfect place to lay out food for a crowd watching sports or movies. The kitchen island has lots of room to pull up a stool and chat. A gas fireplace in the sunroom and panelling in the den also create great gathering spots. “It’s a nice cozy room,” says Lynne of the den. “You wouldn’t know it’s not original panelling. They had tremendous attention to detail to do that,” says Lynne of the Oke Woodsmith team. “They did a good job of those things that make it all blend.”



Upstairs, Lynne’s bedroom suite is her private retreat. It includes a spacious bedroom with sitting area, access to a balcony and large bathroom with stand-alone tub and walk-in shower. “My room is gorgeous. It looks out to the lake and is my quiet reading spot.” The lower level bedroom contains four single beds and a Queen-size. “We call it the clubhouse. My grandchildren love it,” she adds.



OPPOSITE PAGE Located next to the doors to the deck, the wet bar easily serves guests indoors or out. ABOVE Removing many of the cottage’s interior walls created an open-concept great room, allowing those working in the bright kitchen to be part of the action. RIGHT In conjunction with her designer, the homeowner chose an aesthetic of elegant rusticity for the renovated cottage. LEFT The comfort of a spa bathroom at the cottage.


The décor is natural and relaxed, exactly the vibe for a family gathering place. Distressed hemlock floors unify the whole cottage. A variety of tiles in showers and backsplashes in pebble patterns and soft sand tones add to the beach look. The exterior uses stone and Maibec wood siding. “I wanted it dark – to be calm, try to disappear and not look new. It looks like it’s been there forever.” The lakeside façade is almost entirely windows. Terraces for dining and sitting to enjoy the view bridge the yard between house and lake. An outdoor shower helps eliminate tracking the beach inside. According to Lynne, “We added it at the last minute for the kids and dogs.” Other practical considerations included two laundries, the original one on the lower level, and a new one on the second floor with all the bedrooms. “There were so many decisions to make, I couldn’t make any more. So we moved all the furniture from the old cottage including an extended harvest table, a beautiful stained-glass window, and all of the bedroom and living room furniture.” She kept the elevator from the existing cottage, so the cottage is completely accessible. That means Lynne and her family will be able to enjoy it far into the future. n

TOP Ample seating for friends and family inside and out. MIDDLE Oke Woodsmith increased the size of the cottage by adding a second floor. RIGHT Favouring fresh air over air conditioning, Suzanne loves the big screen front door.


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STAR of the sea A special home for art lovers

Smaller windows and more walls aren’t usual requests from a customer for Oke Woodsmith. However, homeowners Carla and Brian asked for space to display their art collection. Their sea-themed paintings also set the colour palette of blues with orange accents. The complementary hues reflect the couple’s interests. Brian is a sailor and Carla loves a warm, welcoming entertaining space. Their 2,500-square-foot home in Sarnia was given a major facelift to bring the mid-1950s building into the 21st century. Today, it includes two bedrooms, two and a half baths, den, a flex space loft, kitchen and great room. “It’s a small footprint that lives big,” says Randy Oke. It had been a rental property and was in rough shape. “Carla had a pretty good idea of what she wanted. She was a big part of it,” says Steve Poortinga. “The original design was flipped. We put in for the permit and had to alter the plans. The flow turned out even better and the curb appeal improved.” The need to change the design came after the couple had traveled to Florida for the winter. So, Randy and Steve came up with a solution, then contacted them. “We know how to go with a curve ball thrown at us,” says Randy. To address the permit requirements and Brian’s large dining table, Steve flipped the layout, adding an extension to the back and a garage at the front.

The bump-out was the best solution to seat 12 at the table and it created a long gallery-style wall for art. “We’re used to nine-foot and vaulted ceilings,” says Randy. “These are eight-foot ceilings. So, we did a reverse tray over the kitchen island to make the room look taller and more spacious.” The next curveball was from Carla and Brian – fewer windows, more walls. “At Oke Woodsmith we tend to maximize out the glass area,” says Steve. “You give me a wall, and I’m going to put a window in it. Carla said, no window, too big. Once I saw their art collection I understood. They needed more wall space than window space. That was different for us. Usually, we do not have clients say make the windows smaller.”


The entry was also altered to showcase art. Normally Oke Woodsmith builds a railing at the top of an open staircase. Carla wanted it closed in. Steve designed a display niche, widened the stairs and added pot lights to spotlight the art. Poplar stair risers and treads were stained to match the luxury vinyl plank flooring from Hucker Floor Covering in Sarnia. Ceramic tile makes the entry easy to maintain. Brian chose a dramatic front door that he’d had in a previous home built by Oke Woodsmith. “It added to the grand feeling of the foyer,” says Steve. A fireplace in the centre of the house was removed, adding space and eliminating the leaky chimney. Steve used the new-found area for a 4x10-foot kitchen island that became the focal point. It contains the gas cooktop and seating for six and is topped by a slab of onyx, a type of translucent marble. A separate bar area includes wine storage and fridge. The maple cabinetry was installed by Woodecor. A new fireplace in the great room was faced in granite tiles. The main bedroom is located where the former garage sat. It’s one step down and includes an ensuite and large walk-in closet. Brian found the glass door for the guest bathroom and Oke Woodsmith installed it, creating a custom look for a fraction of the cost. A second bedroom and den/office replaced two

former bedrooms. The bedroom window seat provides a perfect spot to read and adds interest to the exterior.


“Oke Woodsmith built my lakefront home a few years ago and the quality was over the top, so we contracted them to do a major renovation on a small house to make it our dream home”

“One of the biggest transformations was the curb appeal,” says Steve. “It’s in a very nice neighbourhood. It didn’t really fit in before. Back in the day it suited the streetscape but over the years it had fallen behind.” The new two-car garage features a Permacon stone façade. Existing brick was painted to match new vinyl siding. “We find we learn a lot from our clients,” says Randy. “They bring finishes for consideration, and we incorporate them in their home or cottage. With these new-found ideas, we sometimes incorporate them into another project. These are often things they’ve seen on Pinterest or Houzz that they share with us. It gives us a sense of their likes and dislikes.” n The homeowners were unavailable at time of writing, so they asked Randy Oke and Steve Poortinga to share the story of their renovation.





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The sunroom’s sliding door makes it part of the living space in nicer weather months.

SUNSETS AND MORE STRESS-FREE NEW HOME CONSTRUCTION EXPERIENCE An award-winning house with an award-winning view is a dream come true for Carrie and Gerald. Their home sits on a waterfront lot in Bluewater’s Highlands II area, where they enjoy the sunsets. In 2017, the London Home Builders’ Association awarded Oke Woodsmith

Building Systems Inc. Best New Kitchen in a Home Over $600,000, Best Outdoor Living Space, Best New Exterior and Best New SingleFamily Home Over $850,000. That same year, they were also awarded Most Outstanding New Home Bathroom for this house from the Ontario Home Builders’ Association.

The grand fireplace wall of stone was painstakingly created by Kevin Oke over a three-week period


Upscale urban mixed with country charm fits Carrie’s shabby chic style perfectly

A stained glass window from Carrie’s parents’ place finds a new home in the kitchen providing privacy at the front of the house

From the moment you see the exterior, you know it is special. The roof lines mimic waves on the lake behind the house. A full wall of oversized windows opens the house to the lake. “The lake is the focal point. Our view is all windows,” says Gerald. “All we see is lake. It is very private here.” Double doors with a circle motif welcome you into a spacious entry. The circle theme is repeated in round and arched windows and a grand Palladian window on the front façade. Inside, a glass railing on the catwalk between bedrooms on the second level allows that view to continue. The principal bedroom opens to a balcony with more glass railing and a hot tub to enjoy the view.

Another special feature is the Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) foundation. Unlike conventional foundations - in which the forms are removed after pouring - the forms remain with ICF, increasing the insulation on either side of the concrete. An ICF wall is also stronger due to the improved curing environment. Those factors are important for the house, which is 1,460 square feet on both the lower and main levels and 1,350 on the upper level. Gerald and his two sons, his brother and nephew own Van Osch Farms, a cattle and cash crop operation. Carrie and he wanted to include a bit of the farm in their house, without it being country. Gerald power-washed beams from one of their old barns, and Oke recessed them into the ceiling of the great room. Another became a mantel for the gas fireplace on the lower level. They also hauled in boulders from the fields for the landscaping.


In 2017, Oke Woodsmith Building Systems Inc. was awarded

Most Outstanding New Home Bathroom for this house from the Ontario Home Builders’ Association.

The luxurious ensuite bath is reminiscent of ones that the homeowners experienced while traveling.

Two stained glass windows from Carrie’s parents’ place found a new home. One is in the kitchen to provide privacy at the front of the house, eliminating the need for curtains. When it came to the details, Carrie enlisted the help of cabinet designer Yvonne McLeod – and a lot of Pinterest surfing. “My style is shabby chic,” she says. From the huge chandelier gracing the great room to mirrored furniture pieces and a subdued palette, the look is comfortable and inviting with a little glamour. The beautiful stone wall is a commanding feature. “I wanted a big chunky mantel because it is a big room,” she says. “Kevin (Oke) worked three weeks on that fireplace placing the stone,” says Gerald of the massive stone wall. With four bedrooms and three full baths plus a half bath and outside

shower, the house accommodates their blended family of five children and two grandchildren when they visit. To meet size restrictions and find room for Gerald’s convertible, a lift system conveys the car to the lower level of what looks like a twocar garage. Carrie grew up with Kevin Oke, so turning to a friend to build her house was a natural choice. “We trust them,” she says. Gerald was impressed by Oke Woodsmith’s work. “It is above anyone else’s. They’re tuned into what’s happening. They know a lot about building houses.” Gerald’s brother Fred also built a house with Oke. (See Lure of the Lake story.) Carrie liked the way Oke Woodsmith catered to her wishes. “They asked us for a wish list and said anything is possible.”

One item on the wish list was added after Oke took the couple to the builders’ home show in Las Vegas. To abide by the conservation authority’s footprint requirement, the covered porch is considered an outdoor space. A sliding glass NanaWall from Germany that the couple saw in

LEFT The home’s roof lines mimic the lake’s waves. LEFT BELOW A wall of windows showcases the star of this show: Lake Huron.

Vegas turns it into a room for most of the year, except when the wind blows its coldest off the lake. The flexible system navigates 90 degrees. A second set of full sliding glass doors on the exterior of the covered porch gives way to having the whole area open to nature. The open concept is great for large groups and is adjacent to the award-winning kitchen, which is a his-and-hers space. “Hers is the kitchen, mine is the bar,” says Gerald. “It’s nice for entertaining.” A trip to a luxury resort in Mexico added another item – a walk-around headboard wall in the master bedroom. “I took pictures and said, ‘This

Double doors with a circle motif welcome you into a spacious entry

is what I would love’,” says Carrie. The ensuite is accessible from either side of the bed. “The master bathroom is pretty cool,” says Gerald. The tub stands in front of a window wall beneath a barrel ceiling. For their closet, Carrie didn’t want to see the clothes hanging from the bathroom, so they are hidden behind doors. A washer and dryer in the closet make laundry handy. To keep farm dirt and odours at bay, Gerald has his own entry off the garage with a change room and bath. And a separate laundry room on this level handles his farm clothes and

the household linens. The main floor ‘beach bathroom’ features a walkthrough outdoor shower and a vanity lit from below. A feature wall in the wine cellar is a photo of marble mounted on glass. The guest bathroom is wheelchair accessible, and an elevator shaft is roughed in, making the home age friendly. “The knowledge they have, you can see the value of it,” says Gerald. “The way they build is craftsmanship. Usually, a building project is very stressful. This was not. Oke Woodsmith knew how to help us through the stress.” n

The primary bedroom suite features a large bedroom and luxurious ensuite, with a large balcony view of the lake. The closet has its own washer/dryer to make laundry easy.

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London St. Thomas





shipping channel


Watching the freighters and pleasure craft sail by – both Betty Ann and Jim look out at the marine traffic and wildlife on St. Clair River from their bridge-like, custom-fitted offices. Surrounded by a rounded bank of windows and seated at curved desks, each of the couple can view the river from his/her own space. Attracted by the home’s location and its quality, they are happy with both. Avid boaters, they chose their home for its location on an island south of Sarnia. “We liked the river view and privacy,” says Betty Ann. “The fact it was an Oke Woodsmith house made it very attractive,” says Jim. “We liked their reputation.” The house was built in 1998/99 and Betty Ann and Jim bought it in 2015. The three-bedroom, two-anda-half bath, 3,000-square-foot house reflected that era. They wanted it to suit their lifestyle today and approached Oke Woodsmith. “We sought them out to maintain the integrity of the home,” says Jim. Inside, the great room was Betty Ann’s priority. A small awkward corner cabinet housed the television beside a fireplace. “It didn’t appeal to us,”

says Jim. “We were apprehensive about changing what Oke Woodsmith had built, but Betty Ann really didn’t like it.” They need not have worried about insulting the builder. “Within 10 minutes of their conversation about a new design, Steve Poortinga came up with exactly what we wanted,” says Jim. By relocating the office door to the corner where the small cabinet was, it opened up the space to create a feature wall. “Randy Oke took us to a client’s home with a design that demonstrated what they were recommending, and Betty Ann said, ‘I definitely want that wall.’” This solution created an attractive floor-to-ceiling entertainment wall for a recessed large-screen television and fireplace. Clad in stone from Patene Building Supplies, with dark wood cabinets and open display shelves, it is the focal point of the great room, soaring to the 18-foot ceiling. “Randy Craner, project foreman, did an excellent job building this wall and also built bulkheads with pot lights above the doors flanking the entertainment wall,” says Betty Ann.


21st century

Oke Woodsmith brings one of its own into the

Braam’s Custom Cabinets created the entertainment millwork and three kitchen side cabinets. They also added to the existing kitchen cabinets, which included a second oven and microwave. A new backsplash, granite countertops and painting the island gave the space a bright new face. Jim and Betty Ann often host more than 20 guests for family celebrations, and the kitchen now provides them with an ideal cooking/entertaining layout. The dining area features an eight-foot hutch and buffet. A garden door accesses the patio. Ceiling details draw attention to the unique shape of the rooms. Just off the kitchen is a quiet seating area, dubbed the chart room due to its large chart of the Great Lakes. It looks across the patio to the shipping channel. Two offices occupy turret-shaped rooms on the first and second floors. Each required careful measurement to ensure the custom desks, built by Braam’s Custom Cabinets, fit the curved window walls. Upstairs, the wood is left natural, accented by deep blue walls. In the first level office, a white stone wall was added, complete with built-in book case, file drawers and television, complementing its red and white palette. The stairway commands the centre of the house, visible from the entry and great room. The original white spindles, risers and stringers with natural wood treads and railing looked very ‘90s. “We had picked black iron spindles,” says Betty Ann. “But Randy Craner said if we did, he would paint them grey. We, ‘of course,’ changed them to grey and are very happy that we listened to the expert.” New light fixtures, many upgraded LEDs and new bathroom fixtures were installed by Turnbull Plumbing & Electric of Grand Bend. Hucker Floor Covering installed new flooring over radiant heating throughout the house. “We changed every floor in the house, except the ensuite.” “Oke Woodsmith had a lot of co-ordinating to do and they did it exceptionally well,” says Betty Ann.

Bedroom furniture was moved from their previous homes, but she says pretty much everything else was purchased from Forever Furniture in Sarnia including the outdoor patio furniture. Windows line the back of the house to take advantage of the river view from the great room, dining room, chart room, kitchen and offices. The main bedroom, walk-in closet and ensuite lead off the great room and first-floor office. Two bedrooms, bath and office are located upstairs, as well as the large balcony. So, they could enjoy the view more, Randy Craner suggested replacing the second-floor balcony iron railing with glass. It is an ideal perspective to sit and enjoy the shipping channel. “It’s a very efficient home, built with Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) construction. It’s very comfortable and quiet. I have a friend who is an energy consultant who had complimentary things to say about the integrity Oke Woodsmith brought to the building process. We experienced it first-hand,” says Jim. n

OPPOSITE PAGE The renovation created a large stone wall for a fireplace and integrated television/entertainment station. • In typical Oke style, large windows allow the homeowners to enjoy their river view. RIGHT The dated banister was updated with modern looking spindles. BOTTOM The perfect setting for avid boaters, Oke Woodsmith updated the home they originally built in the late 1990s. MIDDLE Betty Ann and Jim each have an office space with amazing views in the turret-shaped rooms.


519.482.7869 41 Third St., Vanastra, ON N0M 1L0


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We deliver a concrete solution • Stamped Concrete • Floating Slab • Concrete Driveways • Sidewalks • Foundation Walls • Concrete Steps • Exposed Aggregate • Retaining Walls

Grand Bend’s concrete professionals since 2003 ContaCt us today for a free estimate 519-238-1494 www.mCCannbrothersConCrete.Ca CheCk out our lastest projeCts on faCebook and instagram



Oke Woodsmith brings BC alive for happy homeowners

When they decided to move back to Ontario from British Columbia, the homeowners brought a bit of the west coast with them. Their former B.C. home, a minimalist design with a twist of industrial style, became the inspiration for what would be their new place. Having lived in Ontario before relocating to B.C., the couple decided to return after 16 years of living in a quiet, coastal town so they could be closer to family.

After six months of house hunting and the memory of their coastal abode still fresh, the couple finally decided on an older home that backs onto London’s Thames Valley Golf Course. After seeing the house, they closed a deal within 12 hours. Oke Woodsmith had been the owners’ initial choice when they were planning on building a new house. After deciding to renovate an older home rather than start from scratch, it was reputation and quality of workmanship which ultimately convinced the couple to work with Oke Woodsmith.


Interior and exterior decor choices have been incorporated to emphasize the clean lines and minimalist look of the modern aesthetic that the homeowners love.

a minimalist design with a twist of industrial style


“Ultimately, when we met with our designers, Randy (Oke) and Steve (Poortinga) from Oke Woodsmith, we felt confident and immediately at ease with their style and willingness to allow us to actively participate in every aspect of the design,” the owners say. “Often by the time you are done with a builder you have had enough, but this was not the case with Oke Woodsmith.”

The living room is the common area where the couple relaxes; the beautiful wall of windows overlooking the golf course and three skylights make the room bright and airy. All the window coverings in the living room allow light to enter the space yet provide privacy. The original, narrow staircase was opened, and a custom-made glass and steel bannister was installed. The Parallam open riser stair design and grey stain match the porcelain tiles throughout the space, which mimic the concrete floors in the couple’s BC home.

Retirement gave the clients the freedom to be involved with the renovation plans. “We were here everyday – usually at the end of the day – to find out what went on and to check on the progress,” they say. “We chose not to live in the house during construction and rented a townhouse nearby, which allowed us to be close. Our onsite supervisor, Tommy Maguire, very quickly understood what we were trying to accomplish with the design and was able to steer the subcontractors to what we wanted even if we weren’t there.”

The second floor study is a quiet place to read.

The ensuite was a labour of love, having two half baths and a shared shower and soaker tub installed.

Though the place required a much-needed update, the original design of the home provided several qualities that would ultimately be featured in the final design. Maintenance of the architectural integrity of the original design was an overriding objective. A vast expanse of windows overlooking the golf course and the number of skylights, as a couple of examples, would provide enough natural light to warm the house up. Replacing the roof proved to be one of the most strenuous tasks – the desire for minimalism led the couple to decide on a steel roof. Fitting it to the frame and getting the perfect measurements for the skylights became a complicated project for Oke Woodsmith. The overall effect added aesthetic interest and the owners say it was well worth the challenges. Both the garage door and front door were changed to glass to help continue with the contemporary styling theme. The greyscale colour scheme is an homage to their home in B.C. The kitchen and living room spaces needed to be stripped down to the studs. The patio door was moved from the kitchen to the dining room to create more space for the counters and cupboards. A love of cooking and entertaining was the inspiration for the new kitchen design; the Martin Jesko cabinets are a high-gloss grey, giving the area a modern

The upper loft serves as the television and family room with four sky lights that allow the light to pour in. The skylights and glass bannisters were fortunately already in the space, so this area required minimal work.

The basement rec room was built for the pool table and a home gym. One wall was taken out and replaced with a glass wall to open the space. The balance of the home is comprised of two bedrooms with a den, a full bathroom and a half bathroom with a shower. The private back yard is banked to protect it from the golf course and has a putting green and stone patio. Another patio, installed by the owners themselves, flows out from the kitchen.

The two-storey foyer provides a grand entrance.

feel with the reflective surfaces bouncing off the natural light in the space.

This home is a downsize for the clients, however, with a good use of space and storage it feels much larger than it is. With the use of white walls opening the space and punches of colour in the furniture, artwork, carpeting and lighting, the home has lots of energy and vibrancy.

The owners chose furnishings to complete the minimalistic style of their new home. The polished chrome, white walls and grey accents speak to both art deco and contemporary styling, giving the space a clean and minimalistic feel.

The finished product is an eclectic mix of modern, minimalistic and industrial with artwork peppered throughout the space. The owners are proud of their truly unique, one-of-a-kind home.

The gallery-style lighting complements the sleekness of the home, making the space reminiscent of an art gallery. The Whites have an extensive collection of original art to display, so this arrangement works perfectly.

“The people at Oke Woodsmith were easy to work with and allowed us to take an active role in this large-scale remodel project,” the couple says. “The site supervisor quickly understood what we wanted and was able to translate it seamlessly in the design. We couldn’t be happier.” n


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subtrades and suppliers Oke Woodsmith Building Systems appreciates the support of these advertisers Airfoam Industries Ltd., 49

Lifetime Water Products, 41

Architects Tillmann Ruth Robinson, 49

Live Green Irrigation, 86

Arriscraft, 75

M&M Painting & Decorating Ltd., 86

Braam’s Custom Cabinetry , 109

MacLachlan Insurance - HMS Insurance & Financial Services Inc., 37

Canam Group Inc., 32 Casual Industries Inc., 48 Cobble Design Inc., 3 Custom Covers, 47 D&D Glass & Mirror: Anderson Windows & Doors, 108 Dashwood Windows & Doors, 66 LePage Millwork, 99 Darling Electric Ltd., 49 Delta Power Equipment, 41 Designers’ Edge by Covers, 23 Easy Building Products, 37 Eco Insulation (Chatham & London), 87 Edward Jones, Mark Hartman, 7 Enviroshake Quality Engineered Roofing, 67 GCW Kitchens & Cabinetry Inc., 105 Goemans Appliances, 113 Grand Bend Decorating & Flooring Centre, 48 Grand River Insulation, 95 Hensall Major Appliances & Mattress Centre, 67 Huron Motor Products (HMP) Exeter, 113

MacLeans Home Hardware Building Centre Grand Bend & Exeter, 76 McCann Brothers Concrete, 109 McCann Redi-Mix, 76 Moffatt & Powell Rona Exeter, 98 MTE Consultants Inc., 95 O’Brien Designs, 48 Pat O’Rourke Coldwell Banker Realty, 75 Pfaff Electric, 33 Regier Property Maintenance, 33 Rheo Thompson Candies, 49 Riverside Millwork Group, 2 Roes Stair Corp Inc., 77 Smith-Peat Roofing & Sheet Metal Ltd., 66 South Huron Office Solutions, 48 Strategic Alliance Consultants Limited, 75 Stubbs Communications, 58-59 The Hayter Group, 77 The Painting Company, 98

Industrial Choice Supply, 75

Thornton Management Ltd. – Manulife Securities, 95

J&M Drywall, 95

Timberfield Roof Truss, 87

Jayden’s Mechanical, 116

Turnbull Plumbing & Electric Inc., 37

Joe Boyle Sales Representative, Sutton Group Select Realty, Grand Bend, 108

UnderFoot Inc. Flooring Consultants, 27

Lerners LLP Lawyers, Liane Armstrong, 37 Libro Credit Union (Exeter), 99

White Squirrel Investments Ltd., 17 Woodecor Custom Cabinets, 115

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Proud Supplier to Oke Woodsmith 519.271.2700

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