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The Oke Woodsmith

Fall 2012

FEATURING‌ 10ofofour ourdistinct distinct 8 custom designs and renovations

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Toll Free 1-888-339-3321 519-264-9700 Mount Brydges Showroom, 22030 Adelaide

Daring to Dream

from one home to six hundred...

the history of Oke Woodsmith Building Systems

the design. Visitors to two of the company’s Oke WOOdsmith Building systems was model homes in Grand Bend came specifilaunched in 1984 with just one client and cally on cold days to experience the warm a tremendous vision. In the years since floors. then, the Grand Bend-based company “Concrete floors are warmer and the has built and renovated 600 distinctive colder it is outside, the better they are inside,” custom homes from Muskoka to Rondeau Randy says. Provincial Park for clients who have come At that point, clients began to apprecito expect the unusual. ate the floors and recognized the value of The idea for the company came about Oke Woodsmith, from left: Randy, Kevin and Wayne. building exterior walls of concrete to the in 1983 when the four Oke brothers – eaves because of the added comfort and Brad, Wayne, Randy and Kevin – reunited energy savings. with their parents for Christmas. Over Oke Woodsmith has since become Christmas dinner, Randy, Wayne, Kevin one of the leading builders of ICF homes in and Don made a decision to help build a Canada and is also the distributor throughhome for Brad in Southcott Pines in Grand out Ontario and Quebec for Lite-Form, an Bend. Wayne volunteered to quit his job ICF building system. The company sells the in Alberta to work on the project, Kevin systems to builders and to private individuals quit his job as a welder in the agricultural throughout Ontario. sector, and their father, Don, decided to resign from his management position. Over the years, the partners’ roles in Many years before, Don had owned his the company have changed. Randy is now own construction company. responsible for the design and sales of the With just one client, Oke Woodsmith was born. It was a courageous move, given the homes, and is also the general manager of the Oke Woodsmith office and manager of Lite-Form, Wayne acts as construction supervisor and Kevin, a finish carpenter, looks after recession of 1981. Success followed quickly. As a well-respected builder in the area, Don Oke had brought the drywalling and fine details. Don has since passed away, Betty has retired and Brad has 33 years of experience to the company. Don who was an equal partner in the company, left the company. Altogether, 30-45 staff members comprise Oke Woodsmith, including a team that is priced the homes and ensured his sons correctly estimated the time needed for each stage of construction. After completing Brad’s house the partners landed a contract for a $1-million responsible for the company’s framing, trimming and concrete work. Employing in-house staff instead of subtrades ensures consistency in each home from the time a site is excahome in Grand Bend, which raised their profile in the area. Randy and Brad worked for the company on evenings and weekends until the business vated to the time a client moves into a home. Annually, the company builds about 20 new homes and undertakes up to 10 renovation grew. Brad, who was still working for Bell, was the last brother to join full-time in 1986. projects. The partners have also designed and built many commercial projects including a Betty, the boys mother, became general manager in 1990. A key role for selling the homes centred on or involved the provision of architectural fire hall east of Toronto, as well as office complexes and agricultural buildings in Huron drawings to clients based on their ideas, budget and property. That was a new concept in an County. Oke Woodsmith is currently building homes along the Lake Huron shoreline from area where clients normally chose a stock plan and contracted a builder to construct it. Initially there was no charge for the drawings which included three revisions and Sarnia to Kincardine and all points in between. The company specializes in the unusual, pricing. If clients weren’t happy with the results, they weren’t obliged to work with the which attracts clients from young professional couples to empty nesters. While the company will always be a custom home designer and builder, the partners company. The concept worked for nine out of ten people, where a budget and design were created to their liking. The five partners undertook all aspects of the construction are turning their attention to the aging population as well. One project, Stone Meadows, work, from roofing to drywalling the homes. Randy believes that was a benefit. “It’s very a one-floor condo community in Zurich, is geared toward retirees. The development is one satisfying when you start a job from the ground up and finish it. Any one of us could build of the first of its kind in Huron County and a first for Oke Woodsmith. What the company a house from start to finish and lay the carpet, lay the tile, lay the hardwood – finish it is trying to do is provide similar qualities that it offers in a custom home, but in a smaller square footage and a more economical package. completely.” Randy hopes to create other similar communities as the company Along with building conventionally framed homes, in 1987, the evolves. He believes Oke Woodsmith’s future will be in the Oke chilcompany began building foundations and, later, above-grade exdren who, like their parents will join the company after working terior walls with Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF). The partners farther afield. believed they were headed in the right direction because of the “I’m hoping our growth is in family members – our kids – improved energy efficiency and sound resistance of concrete. joining the team,” Randy says. “That’s where you get genuine Home buyers, however, were skeptical until the company interest in the company and the ability to expand it.” began incorporating concrete floors with in-floor radiant heat into

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BUILDING FOR THE CENTURY At Oke WOOdsmith, we do much more than build houses. We take design ideas from our clients, meld them with our own, and keep our collective relationship on track during the construction process and beyond. Like any good marriage counsellor, we help our clients over rough patches when they second-guess themselves and need confirmation they’ve made the right decisions. We haven’t had a divorce yet; in fact, many of our clients are building their second or third home with us, so it seems we’re headed in the right direction. While anyone can build a house, we believe it’s much harder to build a home. Infusing a building with personality and function comes from listening to our clients throughout the construction process. Our foremen and building superintendents meet with clients daily on their property and ensure they understand what they’re getting in their new home. However, it’s not just our communication skills that attract clients to our company. We keep ourselves, and our tradespeople, up to date on advances in building science. Many of our houses are constructed of Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF), which we believe is the very best way to build a home. During the construction process, we pour cement into insulated styrofoam forms that have been reinforced with rebar steel. The forms stay in place and become part of the finished wall, resulting in a concrete mass that eliminates drafts and deadens sound. ICF homes, in fact, are 100 per cent more energy efficient and 300 per cent quieter than a conventional wood-frame home. Homeowners never have to worry about being cold – even when gale-force winds are blowing off the Great Lakes during the frigid winter months. In the interests of comfort, we encourage our clients to heat their homes with radiant in-floor heating, which provides a consistent temperature from floor to ceiling and doesn’t circulate dust. We often pair radiant heating with engineered wood flooring since it doesn’t shrink as natural hardwoods do. Ceramic or porcelain tile are also an effective medium for transferring and retaining heat. In this edition of the magazine, we’ve presented a cross-section of homes that exemplify our design ethic: we avoid hallways, particularly in smaller homes, since they represent wasted space. We also use a variety of ceiling treatments to define open-concept living areas, which is particularly evident in most Oke Woodsmith homes. We believe in filling a home with light. By placing skylights and windows in strategic places, including bathrooms, hallways, closets and even walk-in-pantries, we make a home as inviting as possible. We encourage our clients to accompany us to an annual builder’s show in the U.S, where they’re able to see the latest design elements. Our clients’ options are as broad as their budgets and imaginations will allow. They must be prepared, however, to invest time in making thoughtful decisions about finishes and materials which adds up to making the difference between building a house – or building a home. At Oke WOOdsmith, we’re building not just for the decade, but also for the century. Our hope is that the next generation will renovate and update our buildings a hundred years from now. Whether it’s a home or an office building, we feel confident that the structure will be as solid as the day it was built.

Contact Information for Oke Woodsmith… ph: 519-238-8893 fax: 519-238-8894 email: website:

Oke Woodsmith Magazine’s production team… production manager: Lana Breier writer: Judy Liebner art director: Nancy Greenfield photography: Fred Hunsberger printing: Sportswood Printing oke woodsmith, fall 2012 | 5

Evoking a memory


A refined Craftsman-style cottage incorporates elements from the past

Many major renovations are sparked by a minor repair issue that blossoms into a much larger project. For Duncan and Sue Stauth, the need for a second bathroom inspired a completely new cottage. The four-bedroom, one-bathroom seasonal cottage had been in Sue’s family since her parents purchased it in 1958. The family, from Windsor, spent many summers at the cottage located in Oakwood Park in Grand Bend.

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“We’d come up after school and not go back till Labour Day, so we spent a lot of time here as a family,” Sue Stauth recalls. The Stauths bought the cottage from Sue’s parents in 1998. After discussing the addition of a second bathroom, they decided to demolish the concrete structure and start over. The couple contracted Oke Woodsmith because of the company’s reputation for constructing high-quality homes. They also liked the fact that the company worked closely with clients to create a home that fit their lifestyle. The Stauths spent two years working with Oke on a design. “When we saw the first design, it was almost exactly to the finished product,” Duncan says. “We just made very small changes because they listened all the way through and captured everything we wanted.” Oke Woodsmith demolished the cottage in September 2008. The new home, which is constructed of Insulated Concrete Forms for energy efficiency and heated with radiant in-floor heating, was completed a year later. “We wanted it to stay as a family meeting place,” Sue says. “I’m the youngest of four children, so this is our meeting place in the summertime and always has been. We wanted to make sure we kept that feel.” The couple’s fondness for the old cottage led them to incorporate many elements from it into the new home. They decided to retain an old fieldstone wall which made construction of the new home challenging.



hey also wanted to include a loft bedroom and a great room positioned beside the kitchen/dining area. “They worked on the things that were important to us,” Sue says. Duncan and Sue particularly wanted to blend Craftsman elements in the exterior because of the home’s location in a clearing surrounded by oak, pine and blue spruce trees. For the front facade, they opted for a combination of Arriscraft stone, James Hardie fiber cement board-and-batten siding and cedar shakes that were hand-dipped in a maintenance-free coating. The use of rustic materials, combined with a timber frame truss that forms an arch above the entry, has resulted in a home that enhances its natural setting. “We wanted the cottage feel, but without a lot of maintenance,” Duncan says. The couple’s desire to incorporate wood, stone and light is evident throughout the 2,800- square-foot home. Beyond the foyer, refined timber frame trusses visually support the soaring two-storey cathedral ceiling in the great room. An angular stone fireplace with a heavy ash mantel forms a focal point for a conversation area created by comfortable leather furnishings. The Stauths tried to retain the original fireplace but, because of the weight of the stone, were forced to compromise. The new fireplace, which closely resembles the original, incorporates three fieldstones and also includes a niche on one side for wood storage. oke woodsmith, fall 2012 | 7

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1. The kitchen and dining area reflect the Stauths’ love of casual entertaining. 2. An interior barn door enables the Stauths and their guests to play cards in the dining area without disturbing others in the great room. 3. In the kitchen, cherry cabinets in a rustic cottage style form a backdrop to a large centre island.


Made of heavy ash, the door slides across a 10-foot opening, providing excellent sound separation between the two rooms


The hearth is made of flagstones that came from the front steps of the original cottage. “We’ve tried to use pieces throughout,” Sue says. The combination of linear and cambered lines in the great room is particularly evident in a transom window that curves above oversized patio doors. The doors open out to a screenedin porch that features a barrel-vaulted cedar ceiling, walls finished with cedar shingles and a built-in barbecue. The porch was initially designed as a much smaller outdoor living area and was later expanded to its present 18- by 18-foot size. Duncan says he and Sue enjoy splitting their time between the balcony at the front of the home and the porch. “We love being outside,” he notes. A guest bedroom off the great room is balanced by french doors beside it that open out to a balcony with tempered glass railings. The balcony is also accessible from the dining area and kitchen on the opposite side of the foyer. In keeping with the cottage theme, Duncan hoped to incorporate a panelled wall between the kitchen and the great room. Oke Woodsmith improved his idea by using board-andbatten panelling to face the wall, as well as an area at the opposite end of the great room above the transom window and the wall along the staircase. “That made all the difference in the world,” Duncan says of their suggestion. “It didn’t appear to be too much wood because it was broken up.”



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1. A landing outside the master bedroom retreat provides a birds-eye view of the great room below. 2. The balcony at the front of the home overlooks oak, pine and blue spruce trees 3. The ensuite bathroom is fitted with a dark cherry vanity and two glass block walls that provide privacy. 4. The 18- by 18-foot screened-in porch features a barrel-vaulted cedar ceiling, walls finished with cedar shingles and a built-in barbecue.



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Three steps lead from the great room up to the kitchen/dining area, which was elevated to accommodate a lower-level garage. Oke Woodsmith designed an interior barn door to enable the couple and their guests to talk and play cards in the dining area without disturbing others in the great room. Made of heavy ash, the door slides across a 10-foot opening, providing excellent sound separation between the two rooms. “We can have it as one big space and close it off when we want,” Sue says. The Craftsman theme that is so visible throughout the cottage continues in the kitchen. Cherry cabinets in a rustic cottage style form a backdrop to a large centre island with a base of beaded panels and a curved granite counter. A built-in desk separates a walk-in pantry on one side from a laundry room and a two-piece bathroom on the opposite side. In the dining area, a beamed ceiling draws attention to a harvest dining table that was used in the original cottage. The ceiling treatment was a new addition to the house plans. “That was one of the company’s ideas. You just have to listen to them – they know what they’re doing,” Duncan says. The home makes maximum use of space which is evident in the vestibule off the great room. Lined with built-in cherry cabinetry that accommodates a linen closet and storage


for the audio-visual equipment, the vestibule joins an ensuite bathroom with two bedrooms. Duncan and Sue plan to use one bedroom, which is connected to the bathroom through a walk-in closet, if they ever develop mobility problems. From the great room, lights illuminate the ash staircase that leads to the second-floor master bedroom retreat. A landing outside the retreat provides Duncan and Sue with a birdseye view of the great room below. To the right of the bedroom, the ensuite bathroom is fitted with a dark cherry vanity topped with a grey and white marble counter, and two glass block walls that provide privacy for those using the shower. The lower level functions mainly as a guest suite for the couple’s children when they converge on the cottage with their friends during long weekends. An open-concept entertaining room opens out to a covered patio and a fire pit sheltered by a stone retaining wall. The lower level also includes three bedrooms, 1-1/2 bathrooms, a laundry room and a wine cellar. “There’s lots of room for everybody to find space,” Sue notes. Sue says the home is an ideal vacation home, particularly since it evokes so many memories for her and Duncan. “We both work hard during the week so it’s just nice to come up here. It’s very relaxing for us,” she adds. oke


5. An angular stone fireplace with a heavy ash mantel forms a focal point in the great room. 6. Two bedrooms with an ensuite bathroom are located off the great room. Duncan and Sue plan to use one bedroom if they ever develop mobility problems. 7. The Craftsman-style exterior enhances its natural setting. 8. This patio is just one of several outdoor living areas.



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Copper, granite and cherry finishes connect this

REFLECTIONS Port Elgin home to its natural setting


udy and Terry Bicknell are accustomed to living in homes that are out of the ordinary. Their new residence in Port Elgin, north of Kincardine, is no exception. The one-floor home, which backs onto a wooded area, was inspired by the natural elements. Chilton stone from Wisconsin in shades of plum, green, sand and blue anchors the exterior, which is accented by arches of reclaimed brick. Copper details – from three Canada geese attached to a cupola above the garage to copper eavestroughs and copper rain chains – reflect the couple’s love of unusual materials. “From day one, we wanted something unique,” says Judy Bicknell. “We feel our last house was unique.” The semi-retired couple moved to Port Elgin from Thunder Bay five years ago to be closer to their daughter and her family. As their daughter’s family expanded, the Bicknells decided to purchase a lot and downsize to a smaller house, allowing their family to move into their home. “They loved this area and we loved this area. It’s very rolling and you can see the trees and the terrain is nice,” Judy says. The Bicknells first learned of Oke Woodsmith after reading a magazine article about a home the company had built in Grand Bend. When they were visiting friends in the area, they contacted Oke Woodsmith and met with them the same day. They were attracted to their experience in designing and building homes on problematic lots, particularly since the lot they had purchased overlooked a ravine. In the past, gravel had been removed to make way for a railway line behind the property which caused the grade to slope steeply upward from the street.

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“I don’t think you’d find a contractor more creative

and willing to please you,” Terry says. “Oke Woodsmith saw this as a real challenge,” Terry says. Because the Bicknells didn’t want an elevated driveway, Oke reduced the grade and was able to incorporate a lower-level walkout. “The side lot setbacks created some challenges because of the stability of that size slope,” Oke recalls. “We ended up doing slope stability tests to prove that we could go into that area. It actually turned out to be very successful because it allowed us to have a walkout from the lower level that looked into the old railway path, which is now a walking path.” For the exterior of the home, the Bicknells preferred a hard stone that would retain its colour. Oke escorted them to quarries in Wisconsin where they found the Chilton stone they ultimately selected. Unlike Wiarton stone used in the area, the colour won’t fade as it ages. As the six-month design process evolved, the couple decided to give Oke free rein in exploring different ideas. Building the home using Insulated Concrete Forms allowed for the creation of curved walls in key areas of the home, in addition to eliminating drafts and deadening sound. Construction of the 2,529-square-foot home began in April 2008 and was completed shortly before the couple moved in one year later. “I don’t think you’d find a contractor more creative and willing to please you,” Terry says. “They would state their views – that was the great thing about them. Lots of times, we changed our views.” Inside, the couple particularly wanted a separate dining room,

above: French doors on either side of a gas fireplace open from the great room to a balcony. The great room embodies a summer ambiance with its detailed ivory coffered ceilings and soft blue-green walls. A curving wall of windows offers a view of a covered porch, a patio and woods beyond. next page: The gourmet kitchen features beautiful natural materials. A large cherry island, finished with French country posts and a raised ledge of silvery black granite, separates the workspace from a wet bar and the casual dining area.

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a main-floor office and a casual eating area in the kitchen. They decided to dispense with a formal living room and opted for a great room instead. Kevin Oke, a finish carpenter, created detailed wooden columns, spanned by an arch, to delineate individual living areas within the open-concept floorplan. “By having those pillars, it defines the area and provides some separation,” Judy says. A heavy African mahogany door, framed by 18 | oke woodsmith, fall 2012

bevelled glass sidelights, opens in to a foyer that features an arched copper ceiling. The office, to the right, is furnished with a curved desk that follows the lines of the tray ceiling above. A rounded wall faced with narrow casement windows captures views of the maple and oak trees in the ravine below. To the left of the foyer, off-white panelling creates an introduction to the dining room, which is furnished with a traditional oak dining suite. The couple decided to incorporate swinging panelled doors to separate the dining room from their kitchen. “When our grandchildren are running through, it’s a nice feature,” Judy says. Beyond a hallway that leads to a two-piece bathroom, the great room embodies a summer

ambiance. Detailed ivory coffered ceilings are paired with soft blue-green walls and traditional furnishings that underscore the home’s theme of comfortable living. A curving wall of windows at the rear of the great room offers a view of a covered porch, a patio and woods beyond. Berms landscaped with evergreens and woodland plants blur the boundary between natural and landscaped areas. “I’m really pleased with the feel of the great room – it’s very, very cosy. I love the view from every window,” Judy says. An archway connects the great room and the kitchen-dinette, which features beautiful natural materials. A large cherry island, finished with French country posts and a raised ledge of silvery black granite, separates the workspace from a wet bar and the casual dining area. One of the home’s strengths is its ability to incorporate hidden and unexpected rooms. A round sitting room off the kitchen opens in to a vestibule that leads to the master bedroom.



The sitting room and the bedroom share a twosided gas fireplace, as well as views of a waterfall that gently spills over ledgerock. The ensuite bathroom to the left of the vestibule features a double cherry vanity topped with a granite counter that incorporates shades of blue, caramel and bronze. A door separates the ensuite from a two-piece bathroom that’s accessible from a secondary hallway. The hallway connects the kitchen to the storage areas, the laundry room and an elevator that makes the entire home accessible. Like the main floor, the lower level is bright and open, which makes it ideal for entertaining family members. Terry says he likes the change in ambiance between the traditional main floor and the more casual lower level. “I’m looking forward, when the snow is here, to turning on the fireplace and watching the hockey game,” he says.


A spacious entertaining room features a stone fireplace, an oak bar with an adjacent dining area and a billiards room. One special element – a wine cellar – was designed with flickering sconce lighting and walls appropriately finished with a combination of stone and reclaimed brick. The lower level also includes an exercise room, three bedrooms, two bathrooms and storage areas. Judy says homeowners should be open-minded about considering new design features. She particularly enjoys the curved walls and the round sitting room, which she and Terry incorporated because of Oke’s recommendations. “We have ended up with some very unique things in our home we love,” she notes. Terry agrees. “Our home is unique and that’s what we wanted and they achieved that.” oke

1. The master bedroom retreat is a relaxing spot that incorporates a gas fireplace and casement windows that overlook a waterfall. 2. Off-white panelling creates an introduction to the dining room, which opens off the foyer. 3. The office is furnished with a curved desk that follows the lines of the tray ceiling above. 4. Two bathrooms and three bedrooms make the lower level ideal for entertaining family members. 5 and 6. A spacious entertaining room features an oak bar with an adjacent dining area and a billiards area. The lower level also includes an exercise room.




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northernexposure This striking home captures enviable views of Lake Huron

The curved mosaic pebble stone wall just beyond the foyer underscores the home’s connection to the lake.

Lloyd B. Vandenberg, Cabinetmaker 2980 Forest Road, RR4, Stratford 519-271-2700



rian and Jeannette Mellon had no doubt the design of their new lakefront home in Sarnia would incorporate spectacular views of the water. However, achieving that goal proved to be no easy task. Because of the restrictions created by the narrow 50-foot frontage, the Mellons, who are life-long Sarnia residents and sailing enthusiasts, had to make hard choices about which rooms would face the lake. “We wanted to gain as much of the view as possible,” says Jeannette Mellon. Unlike some lakefront locations, the view from the property encompasses not only the lake, but also the Michigan shoreline. Freighter traffic and sailboat races are commonplace sights. “For anyone around here, that’s a real plus because it’s so beautiful to watch,” Jeannette says. The couple contracted Oke Woodsmith Building Systems of Grand Bend to design and build their 2,084-square-foot one-floor home. The design team advocated positioning the main living areas at the back of the home to take advantage of the view, while placing the master bedroom at the front and the den at the side. Steve Poortinga, a residential designer with Oke Woodsmith, says giving the principal rooms lake views wasn’t easy, considering the narrowness of the lot. “That was a fairly big challenge, to have something of a lake view from each of the main living areas.” Despite that difficulty, he was able to create two corner casement windows in the den, offering lake views from the computer desk. A door


in the master bedroom at the front of the home opens to stairs at the side of the property, making it possible for the couple to hear the waves breaking on the shore at night. Brian and Jeannette initially contacted Oke Woodsmith while researching builders who were experienced in constructing homes of Insulated Concrete Forms. The northern exposure of the property necessitated having a home that would be able to resist the wind and cold in an energy-efficient manner. “That was the nice thing with Oke. A good deal of the homes they build are lakefront, so they’ve had so much experience in terms of what works and what doesn’t,” Jeannette observes. “They were so knowledgeable and so helpful, yet we were given the leeway to have our input. We felt that we were part of the family.” A geothermal ground source heat pump powers the radiant in-floor heating system that heats the lower level and the main floor. The couple also opted for LED lighting throughout the home. “We tried to go as green as we could and cut down wherever possible,” Jeannette observes. The Mellons moved into their home, which they share with their teenage daughter and their schnauzer-poodle mix, in July 2011. The maintenance-free exterior of the home reflects Craftsman influences with its combination of manufactured stone, James Hardie fibre cement siding and cedar shingle details. A timber frame truss arches above the front entry, its double posts anchored in stone piers.

1. The rear elevation incorporates beautiful cambered picture windows that provide spectacular views. 2. Transitional cherry cabinetry creates the effect of fine furnishings in the kitchen. 3. The bar in the lower-level media room is made of walnut. 4. Nautical blue and white colours are prominent in the ensuite bathroom. 3

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Hand-crafted, solid mahogany doors with bevelled glass inserts open to a spacious foyer. A compass rose, formed from pieces of granite, marble and onyx, points due north, signalling the home’s lakefront orientation. To the left of the foyer, the laundry room houses coat and utility closets, and a staircase that leads to the lower-level guest suite. The laundry room is accessible from the attached garage and from the courtyard, which includes a sitting area and a built-in barbecue. “When you’re on the lake, the wind is insane sometimes. There’s no way you would want to barbecue, so we have a protected area for the winter or for blustery days,” Jeannette says. Across the foyer to the right, double doors open to the master bedroom retreat. Pumpkin-coloured walls and bamboo flooring interspersed with light and dark tones add a sense of drama to the room, which features a bank of casement windows with a seat that overlooks the front yard. The ensuite bathroom is decorated in nautical colours of blue and white that include a beautiful vessel-style glass basin and a fish sculpture above the vanity. A blue listello border reinforces the theme above the jetted bathtub and along the tile walls of the shower. One of Brian and Jeannette’s priorities focused on blending modern and “beachy” elements that would reflect the home’s natural environment. Nowhere is that more visible than in the curved mosaic pebble stone wall just beyond the foyer. A curving cherry staircase with wrought-iron spindles sweeps past the wall down to the lower level. The modern influences are particularly evident in the great room, where the clean lines of the fireplace’s marble overmantel draw the eye up to the 14 ½ foot height of the barrel-vaulted ceiling. The unusual pattern in the copper-coloured marble reveals the fossilized remains of tree roots embedded in the stone. A cosy den with a built-in cherry entertainment centre and desk opens off the great room. The couple’s painting collection influenced the interior design, from the need to create sufficient wall space to maximizing opportunities for natural lighting. Art recesses were built to showcase each painting. “It features them and makes it look very intentional, that each space was created for each painting,” Poortinga notes. An enormous picture window with cambered lines in the great room is repeated in the dining area off the kitchen. A large island with a raised granite counter separates the dining area from the workspace, which is fitted with transitional cherry cabinetry. A rear entrance off the dining area offers convenient access from the beach and two patios to a two-piece bathroom. The Mellons appreciate the benefits of their location in the city, yet on the lake. “That’s the big appeal of being here,” Jeannette says. “Being here is like being way out in the country, and yet we’re close to everything.” The home reflects the couple’s tastes and their style of living. “We feel like we’ve been here forever. It wasn’t a house that we had to break in. When we come inside, it’s just so comfortable. It feels good being here,” Jeannette says. oke

Most Outstanding Custom Home Under 2,500 sq. ft. – OHBA


5. Brian and Jeannette’s love of natural materials is evident in the great room, which features a marble fireplace overmantel and a cherry barrel-vaulted ceiling. 6. The front elevation of the Mellons’ home reflects Craftsman influences. 7. Pumpkin-coloured walls and bamboo flooring add a sense of drama to the master bedroom. 6


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Georgian Bay Reverie This beautiful Craftsman-style home evokes memories of northern Ontario

R The exterior of the home incorporates a massive timber frame truss that forms an arch high above the front porch.

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uth and Barry Finch spent many summers vacationing in cottages on Georgian Bay while they were growing up. They didn’t fully appreciate the impact of that experience until they began designing their own lakefront home in Grand Bend. Ruth, in particular, wanted an interior made cosy through the use of texture and natural materials. Her goal was to re-create the outdoor landscape indoors. “What’s outdoors and natural, I wanted indoors,” she recalls. After discussing their ideas with the designer, the couple decided on a Craftsman-style home. “The Craftsman look appeals to me. It’s timeless, a lot of the older cottages have that same look and that was important,” Ruth says. The Finches lived in Exeter for five years in the late 1980s until Barry’s company transferred them to Victoria. They moved to Stratford in 1998 and began a six-year search for a vacation property. Originally from Midland, the couple seriously considered buying a cottage in the Georgian Bay area, but was discouraged by the 3-1/2 hour drive. They rented a cottage in Grand Bend while they continued their search.


In 2004, the Finches were able to purchase a lakefront property in Southcott Pines. A previous owner had severed the original large lot, which included a main cottage and a guest cottage. The resulting property was oddly shaped, which made designing a home with views of the lake challenging. Ruth and Barry were aware of the homes Oke Woodsmith had built and decided to meet with them. “We hit it off right away. They were a company we were both very comfortable with,” Ruth says. While they wanted to maximize the lake view, they also wanted to give the couple some privacy. The 15-foot setbacks on each side of the home greatly reduced the frontage, which was just 50 feet along the lakefront. Oke Woodsmith designed a one-floor home, but it became a two-storey plan with an elevator. “In the long run, it ended up to be the nicest



design that we could come up with. It added an element of height to the master bedroom which looked toward the lake,” Oke said. “By going up, we were able to get more lake frontage.” Because of the restrictions imposed by the lot, the garage was reduced to a two-bay design. The Finches expanded the space by installing an elevator that allows for seasonal storage of one vehicle in the lower level beneath the garage. Oke Woodsmith demolished the existing cottage at the end of October 2007 and construction began shortly after. The new 2,400-squarefoot home was completed in July 2008. Ruth and Barry decided to use Georgian Bay wet wood flooring throughout the main level and in their master bedroom retreat after learning of it on the Discovery Channel. A company from Midland developed the product, which is made from timbers that have been reclaimed from the bottoms of waterways.

1. A long window seat in the master bedroom retreat offers an endless view of the water. 2. In the great room, a massive fireplace of Owen Sound ledgerock extends to the ceiling. 3. Hand-hewn timber frame trusses span the width of the great room. 4. The kitchen features natural cherry cabinetry, counters of green granite and an unusual oak floor. 5. An open shower in the ensuite bathroom is concealed by a curved glass block wall. 6. Craftsman-style birch stairs connect the foyer to the second floor.

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The lumber, which was lost on its way to the lumber mills, was covered with sediment and preserved in frigid water – in some cases, for several hundred years. The couple’s dining table and fireplace mantel are also made of the wood. “That really intrigued me. I always wanted to bring something from Georgian Bay to Lake Huron,” Ruth says. The Finches’ love of natural materials is evident as soon as visitors approach the home. Constructed of grey Owen Sound ledgerock, the exterior incorporates a massive timber frame truss, supported by square columns, that forms an arch high above the front porch. Inside, the foyer offers a sweeping view of the kitchen, dining area and great room, which are unified by beautiful oak floors made of the Georgian Bay wet wood. The flooring varies in colour from pale gold and rich pecan to charcoal and forms a striking counterpoint to the natural woods and stone finishes throughout the main floor. Beyond the foyer, hand-hewn timber frame trusses span the width of the great room, their cambered lines repeated in a transom window. A massive fireplace of Owen Sound ledgerock

extends to the ceiling, balanced on either side by built-in cherry cabinetry recessed into arched alcoves. The Finches opted for a glassed lanai off the great room because it reminded Barry of a similar outdoor room in his grandfather’s cottage in Honey Harbour on Georgian Bay.

The kitchen, dining area and great room are unified by beautiful oak floors made of Georgian Bay wet wood. A glassed lanai off the great room evokes memories of a family cottage in Northern Ontario.

oke woodsmith, fall 2012 | 29




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“They always have ideas so if you’ve got an idea, they know how to make it work for you,” Ruth says. The kitchen, across from the great room, embodies a cottage ambiance with its combination of painted distressed woods and natural cherry cabinetry. Counters of green granite are paired with a slate backsplash in shades of rust, caramel, green and charcoal. Two transom windows, set high into a perimeter wall, convey light into the workspace. A similar approach was used in the dining area, which features a wall faced with Owen Sound ledgerock. The reading room, beyond the dining area, is a favourite of the Finches. Double-hung windows frame views of the lake and pine trees. A wooden deck with tempered glass railings enhances their enjoyment of the outdoors. “The beach can be filled with people, but unless you go out to the deck, you can sit here and you’re still by yourself,” Barry says. A hallway off the kitchen leads to a mudroom, an elevator and a two-piece bathroom that is also accessible off the foyer. Craftsman-style birch stairs, stained to resemble cherry, connect the foyer to the second floor. Stained glass windows along the upper and lower landings form one of the home’s most outstanding features. The panels depict gnarled pines defined against a backdrop of rocky outcroppings and glistening blue water. In the master bedroom retreat, a long window seat offers an endless view of the water. A concrete deck, accessible from a terrace door, is outfitted for retractable fabric awnings that allow Ruth and Barry the flexibility of having sun or shade in specific areas. The ensuite bathroom continues the cottage theme with a double vanity of butter cream cabinetry and a grey granite counter. An open shower is sheltered from view by a curved glass block wall that provides privacy from the doorway. The second floor also includes an exercise area and a guest suite with slanted ceilings and skylights. From the foyer, the staircase descends to a lower-level entertaining room, which incorporates a bar, a gas fireplace with a stone surround and a stone niche created for a juke box. A vestibule off the games area connects two large bedrooms to a shared ensuite bathroom. “Each room is a lovely space – it’s not cramped, it’s not tight,” Ruth says. The home is constructed using Insulated Concrete Forms, which are 100 per cent more energy efficient and 300 per cent quieter than a conventional wood-frame home. Radiant in-floor heating heats the entire house. The Finches say they have developed close friendships with their neighbours and enjoy Grand Bend’s relaxed lifestyle. They plan to make their vacation retreat their permanent home when they retire. “It’s a world away,” Ruth says. “You can be as quiet and secluded as you want to be or as social as you want to be here.” Adds Barry: “We both love the area, we loved the experience. Our home is everything we’d ever want.” oke

above: The second floor balcony allows a perfect view of the great room and beyond. below: The two-storey design maximizes the lake views upstairs and down.

oke woodsmith, fall 2012 | 31

northwest west by

This Grand Bend home was designed to give the owners a view of Lake Huron from every window


rian and Irene Hall were torn between two vacant lots when they were considering the construction of a new home. After engaging in some soul-searching, they chose the less promising of the two properties – and they’re glad they did. The lot’s small size demanded a creative design and a home that maximized every square inch. “It’s easy to get carried away and we would have built a bigger house on the other lot – bigger than we needed. I think we’re both glad we chose to build on the smaller lot,” says Brian Hall. Irene agrees. “We didn’t want anything bigger – it’s perfect.” Brian’s family had a connection to the lot he and Irene purchased just north of Grand Bend. Brian’s grandfather owned a cottage in the immediate area and the family had spent many summers there. While Brian and Irene were packing, they discovered a sign Brian had made in the early 1960s advertising a sale he and his brother were holding on the vacant land. That nostalgic connection was the tipping point for the couple. They decided to purchase the lot instead of a larger property in St. Joseph.

“We took it as a sign that this was maybe where we needed to be.” “We took it as a sign that this was maybe where we needed to be,” Brian says. Because of its size, the lot had been considered to be “unbuildable.” The company invested in slope stability tests – a requirement for securing a building permit. As a result of the tests and a new tertiary septic system that required less land, it became possible to build a home there. The biggest challenge in lakefront (lots) is the conservation authority. Not every lot now on the lake is buildable because of the setback requirements that have been set by the conservation authority. You also have to do minor variances to make sure the footprint will work with the septic system. The Halls, who had lived for 27 years in Southcott Pines in Grand Bend, purchased the lot from Oke and contracted Oke Woodsmith to build their home. Their aim was to live on the lake in a low-maintenance house finished with natural products. For the exterior, they chose a combination of Maibec weather-resistant wood siding, a natural product treated to eliminate maintenance, as well as cedar shingles, hand-dipped in a maintenance-free coating, and quarried gabian stone. There wasn’t enough area to accommodate a garage at the side of the property, so Oke Woodsmith built a three-bay garage beneath the front of the house. Huge boulders, interspersed with mugho pines, heucheras and short ornamental grasses, were positioned to visually reduce the height of the home. A white timber frame truss above the front entry was repeated in a second-floor gable detail. Inside, the Halls wanted an open-concept design that would reflect their enjoyment of casual living. As sailors, they’re interested in all things nautical. “We thought it was a beach house rather than a formal house,” Brian says. “Our last home was fairly open and we liked that.”

opposite: The exterior is a combination of weather resistant siding, cedar shakes and quarried gabian stone. above: . A white timber frame truss above the front entry was repeated in a second-floor gable detail. below: The lot did not allow for a side garage. To work with this narrow lot, a three-bay garage was built beneath the front of the house.

oke woodsmith, fall 2012 | 33


1 1. Elm wood that came from 100-year-old barn beams faces the vaulted ceiling in the master bedroom. 2. Clear glass transoms that open above the second-floor doorways keep the home cool in summer. 3. A pantry and a laundry room off the kitchen provide additional storage.


34 | oke woodsmith, fall 2012


rian hoped to finish one room with wood panelling and was able to source elm wood that came from 100-year-old barn beams. It was used to create panelling in the secondfloor den, as woodwork and cabinetry on the second floor, and to face the vaulted ceiling in their master bedroom. The couple made allowances in the floorplan for an elevator shaft since the home couldn’t accommodate a main-floor bedroom. If they encounter mobility problems, the elevator will take them from the lower level to the second floor. The Halls worked with Oke on the design of the home for a year. “The design period was a lot of fun. We really enjoyed it. In fact, when we were finished with the house, Brian was ready to start another one he enjoyed it so much,” Irene says. Construction of the 1,874-square-foot home began at the end of July 2008 and the couple moved into it nine months later. The home is constructed using Insulated Concrete Forms for their energy efficiency and sound-deadening qualities, and heated with radiant in-floor heating. The Halls enjoy collecting antiques and their home is an interesting mix of old and new. A two-piece bathroom at the front of the home features a vessel-style basin set into a vanity that was once an occasional table. A water wall, faced with 100-year-old slate shingles, forms a focal point in the foyer. Textured cork flooring in a herringbone pattern unifies the main living areas which feature moss green walls with rounded corners that accentuate the sense of flow. The dining area, furnished with a round mahogany table and four chairs, opens out to a spacious sunroom. It was originally planned as a covered porch until the Halls realized their idea wasn’t practical because of the winds off the lake. Patio doors that open to an eight-foot width now provide a seemingly limitless view of the lake. Irene says she loves the west by northwest exposure. “No matter where the sunset is we can see it.” A spacious kitchen next to the dining area features traditional cherry cabinetry paired with a beautiful marble tile backsplash in shades of tan, blue and green. A brass light fixture – once a cargo lamp on a ship – hangs above the island, underscoring the couple’s interest in sailing. The island incorporates a raised-ledge breakfast bar that provides privacy for Irene when she’s doing prep work at the sink. A second sink, positioned beside the dishwasher on a perimeter wall, allows Brian to help with the clean-up. “We were always fighting over a sink, so now we each have our own,” Brian says. Off the kitchen, a pantry and a laundry room are conveniently tucked away at the front of the home where they provide additional storage. The colours of nature used in the kitchen are repeated in the dry stacked stone fireplace surround in the living room. Beside the fireplace, a cherry cabinet conceals a motorized lift that brings firewood up from the garage. An angled wall of windows in the living room and the master bedroom directly above it capture views of the lake.


staircase with a cherry handrail and cherry treads, treated with a marine varnish to create a non-skid surface, leads to the second floor. At the head of the stairs, an elm bookcase opens to reveal a secret passage into Brian and Irene’s walk-in closet. The passage allows the couple to exit their bedroom into the hall without disturbing guests in the adjoining den that forms part of the master bedroom retreat. “It’s the fun factor,” Irene says. The hall divides a guest bathroom and bedroom on one side from the den and the master bedroom on the other. Ceiling fans, and clear glass transoms that open above the second-floor doorways, keep the home cool in summer. The couple particularly appreciates Oke Woodsmith’s clever use of space. “It seems roomier than our other house although it’s about the same square footage,” Brian says. “We tried to minimize hallways; there isn’t a lot of wasted space.” From the foyer, the staircase connects the main floor to the lower-level walkout, which includes a family room, a bar and a two-piece bathroom. Brian says homeowners who want to build on the lake should make use of the technology that exists for weather tightness. Choosing a builder with experience in lakefront construction is also imperative. “You want to deal with somebody who’s done it before. They (Oke Woodsmith) understand what issues you can get into if you don’t do it right,” Brian notes. Despite the obstacles they faced, the Halls are glad they chose the property they did. “It would have been easier to build on the other lot; we would have had more flexibility in the overall footprint, but I don’t think we would have come up with a better house,” Brian says. oke


1. The colours of nature figure prominently in the dry stacked stone fireplace surround in the living room. 2. A brass cargo lamp from a ship is suspended above the island where it illuminates the main prep area. 3. The kitchen incorporates traditional cherry cabinetry, two prep areas and an island.





This striking stone home offers its owners privacy and beautiful garden views


ike many couples of retirement age, Glenn and Joan Johnson moved to a lakefront community so they could be close to the water. As time passed, however, the allure of city life grew stronger. “When I reached retirement age we bought a place on the lake and now, as we get into our later years, we thought it would be better to come back to London,” Glenn Johnson says. After living in St. Joseph, north of Grand Bend, for 15 years, the couple decided to return to London as a matter of practicality. They wanted to be closer to their family, as well as to shopping and medical facilities. The Johnsons purchased a lot in a new community, Treetop Hill, in Old South London. They were attracted to the development’s location at the end of a long laneway off Baseline Road, well away from the noise of traffic. “It’s very, very quiet,” Glenn says.

oke woodsmith, fall 2012 | 37

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he couple appreciated the freedom of being able to contract the construction of their home to the builder of their choice, Oke Woodsmith. Their priorities included a separate main-floor office large enough to accommodate two desks, as well as adequate filing and storage areas. Although they wanted the option of living entirely on the main floor, Oke Woodsmith suggested they install an elevator shaft in the event they became disabled and still wanted to have access to their lower level. Before they began drafting a design, they visited the Johnsons in their home in St. Joseph to determine how they used their living space. They also assessed which furnishings would have an impact on the design of their new home. “As a result, they were able to build in some of the antique furnishings that we have and make places in the house for them,” Glenn says. The dimensions of the sitting room at the front of the home were tailored to accommodate the couple’s antiques and exotic furnishings, which include a finely carved cocktail



table they purchased many years ago in Hong Kong. A round exterior wall and a curved tray ceiling draw attention to their delicate chairs and settees. In the dining room, across the hall, walls were recessed to create alcoves for two antique buffets. A recessed wall in the dinette at the rear of the home accommodates an ornate wooden bench. After a three month design period, construction began in April 2008 and the 2,900-square-foot home was completed 11 months later. 1. A curved stained glass window in the ensuite bathroom depicts scenes of St. Joseph. 2. A covered rear patio incorporates a casual dining area that overlooks a waterfall. 3 and 4. A cherry island creates a dramatic contrast to the painted cabinetry that lines the perimeter of the workspace. The kitchen allows for maximum traffic flow throughout the central areas of the home.

It was challenging to position the home on the lot and make the shallow rear yard useable. The Johnsons particularly wanted privacy as well as an attractive front yard, which faces the street. “Subdivision design is certainly different from estate design,” Oke Woodsmith says. “Designing it is one thing; constructing it in such a tight space is another. You’ve got to be very careful how you plan things. It’s more restrictive in building, but when it succeeds, it’s that much more rewarding.” Oke Woodsmith was able to raise the home, allowing them to create a lower-level walkout off the main entertainment area at the side of the home. Stone steps lead to the front and the back of the home where a stone retaining wall forms a backdrop for a waterfall that’s edged with ornamental grasses and evergreens. A natural theme was created at the front where curving flowerbeds, studded with spiky grasses and burgundy-coloured hydrangeas, complement the stone exterior. A steeply pitched roof and a front entry, defined by square pillars and arched stone-


oke woodsmith, fall 2012 | 39

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work, lend the home a sense of presence. A heavy oak door with leaded glass panes opens in to the foyer, which is balanced on the left by the dining room and, on the right, by the sitting room. Past a curving staircase that leads to the lower level, the great room forms a central entertaining area at the rear of the home. A detailed coffered ceiling, a wall of cherry cabinetry and burgundy leather furnishings impart a library ambiance. The great room provides access to the home office, on the right, and the kitchen/ dinette, on the left. “I think it’s just a comfortable home – it’s functional and it’s great. Our office is very handy,” Glenn says. The kitchen allows for maximum traffic flow throughout the central areas of the home. Joan says the open-concept design makes it easy to entertain 15 guests for holiday dinners. A cherry island with a raised-ledge granite counter separates the workspace from the dinette. The island, with its fluted pilasters and carved corbels, creates a dramatic contrast to the painted cabinetry that lines the perimeter of the workspace. French doors open out to a covered patio that incorporates a casual dining area with a barbecue. “That was an important part of the design,” Glenn says. The master bedroom retreat, located off the dinette, features two walk-in closets and french doors that open out to a gazebo with a view of the waterfall. The ensuite bathroom includes a glassed shower, a concealed laundry area and an oval bathtub positioned between two marble-topped vanities.

shared ensuite bathroom. Two Murphy beds, concealed behind cabinetry, provide unobtrusive sleeping space for additional guests. Joan says homeowners should be aware of how much time is involved in custom designing and building a new home. Communication between clients and their builder is critical. “The biggest thing is you can depend on them,” she says of Oke Woodsmith.



curved stained glass window above the bathtub depicts scenes of St. Joseph, from vibrantly coloured Canada geese, blue jays, cardinals and orioles resting in trees to a white squirrel foraging for food. The panels provide privacy and a focal point in the bathroom. On the opposite side of the kitchen, a rear hallway leads past a pantry to a twopiece bathroom and a two-car garage. Although the Johnsons spend most of their time on their main floor, they also enjoy their lower level. It includes a spacious entertaining area with an oak bar and gas fireplace, a sewing room for Joan, a laundry room and two guest bedrooms with a 2

Glenn agrees. “They have the best trades in the business – there’s no question about it… The confidence in the relationship with the designer/builder is the most important of all.” oke

1. A round exterior wall and a curved tray ceiling in the sitting room draw attention to the delicate chairs and settees. 2. The great room forms a central entertaining area at the rear of the home, past the curving staircase. 3. The dimensions of the sitting room were tailored to accommodate the couple’s antiques and exotic furnishings. 3 3

oke woodsmith, fall 2012 | 41

Channelling Muskoka Fond memories of a vacation retreat inspire the design of this dramatic stone and wood home


ity dwellers who vacation in northern Ontario appreciate the sense of tranquillity a lakeside setting instills in them. One London couple decided they wanted to capture that feeling year-round. The couple, who used to stay at a lodge in Muskoka, began thinking about building a home in a resort area a few years ago. Motivated by the desire to escape the fast pace of the city, they were also encouraged by friends in Grand Bend. Visiting the area brought back fond memories for them of northern Ontario. “It reminded us of the Muskokas without the drive,” says the homeowner. “It just feels so good when we get here.”

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The couple traded in their home in London for a condo and purchased a lot in Beach O’ Pines off Hwy. 21 in Grand Bend. The front of the property overlooked green space across the road and the rear faced stands of slender oak and pine trees. Their aim was to use simple lines in the home that would complement the natural setting. “We wanted the house to belong in the woodlands,” the owner says. The husband and wife chose Oke Woodsmith as their builder because they knew of the company’s reputation for constructing high-quality homes. Oke Woodsmith also understood the requirements of building near a lake and was familiar with the importance of incorporating views of nature into the design of a home. “Friends who had built with them very much encouraged us to lean that way… We really relied on their advice. It’s not like building a house on a lot in the city. There was a lot more to think about,” the owner says. The couple toured several model homes while they were researching builders and particularly liked the floorplan for a model home Oke Woodsmith had built in Merrywood Meadows in Grand Bend. The great room was situated between the kitchen and the master bedroom retreat and also provided access to a screened porch. An open-concept design was a priority for the couple, who appreciate clean lines and contemporary decor. They also wanted a mudroom, a main-floor laundry room, an office and a main-floor master bedroom. They decided against finishing their lower level, opting instead to incorporate a second storey. Oke was able to angle the 3,200-square-foot home on the lot for privacy so the front and back faced mature trees and didn’t look directly into the yards of other homes. The size of the lot was an advantage in orienting the home away from the street. “We turned the house instead of facing it to the street, so that they’re looking into the parklike setting. By doing the turn, you don’t see any other houses,” Oke says. The front facade of the home is dramatic and pairs grey Arriscraft stone with dark board and batten siding. Timber-frame gable details, also painted a deep shade of grey, offer a contemporary twist on a traditional theme.




1. The front facade of the home pairs grey Arriscraft stone with dark board-and-batten siding. 2. Timber-frame gable details offer a contemporary twist on a traditional theme. 3. The large screened-in porch off the great room is ideal for summer dining. 4. The designer angled the home on the lot for privacy so the front and back face mature trees.





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To the left of the foyer, a home office overlooks a wooded area through casement windows on two sides. The doorways to the office and the two-piece bathroom across from it are finished with clear glass transoms that accentuate the sense of flow throughout the home. The view from the foyer is dominated by the great room, which resembles a northern lodge – from its deep olive-green walls and barrelvaulted ceiling to a massive stone fireplace and contemporary leather furnishings. An arched transom window mimics the lines of the ceiling and appears to extend the indoor living areas outdoors. A large screened-in porch, accessible from patio doors in the great room, is used for summer dining. Like the great room, the porch incorporates a barrel-vaulted ceiling and an arched transom window, as well as windows on three sides. To the right of the great room, the kitchen blends traditional and contemporary elements, including cherry Shaker-style cabinetry and a backsplash of polished marble tiles. The couple had originally chosen a black granite counter, but their cabinet maker believed it would make the kitchen too dark. They opted, instead, for granite that resembles shifting sand with streaks of tan and charcoal. The kitchen incorporates a walk-in pantry, a vegetable sink along a perimeter wall and a large island with a raised-ledge breakfast bar. Four stainless steel barstools slide under the granite counter, creating seamless sightlines from the island to the dining area beyond it. An angled tray ceiling defines the dining area which is furnished with a cherry table and six chairs. Long casement windows on two sides overlook a flagstone patio and berms landscaped with natural stone and evergreens. “I love the kitchen, it’s a great working space,” the owner says. “It’s nice to work with other people in that space. I love the great room because it feels as if we’ve gone to our own private lodge.” To the left of the great room, a vestibule leads to the master bedroom retreat. Beyond the bedroom, the ensuite bathroom incorporates a rectangular soaker tub surrounded by windows, a glassed shower and a double cherry vanity. The bathroom opens into a dressing room illuminated by transom windows set high into a rear wall.

A contemporary maple staircase connects the great room with the second-floor loft, which features dramatic angled walls and a curved balcony that overlooks the main floor. The loft, which is used as a reading area, leads to a cosy guest bedroom, a den and a bathroom. The owner says she and her husband enjoyed working with Oke Woodsmith on the design of their home. Construction of the home began in January 2007 and was completed in February 2008. “The company paid attention to the little things; even with the open area on the second floor, guests can get from their bedrooms to the bathroom without being seen from down here. Little things like that are very important,” she adds. Other priorities included a dog shower for the couple’s German shepherd. Their two-bay garage accommodates three vehicles and the shower, which is also convenient when friends with children visit. “The dog shower is fabulous – it’s a good thing to have,” the owner says. The mudroom off the garage was also designed for the dog and accommodates her crate beside a built-in bench with cubbyholes and hooks for coats. A laundry room beyond the mudroom completes the main floor. The owner says she particularly enjoys Grand Bend’s relaxed pace of life and the way in which her home facilitates her lifestyle. Her days are filled with walking, bike rides and impromptu get-togethers with neighbours. “We like being here so much,” she says. “When you’re in the city, it winds you up. When we get here, we relax and feel good.” oke 1. The ensuite bathroom incorporates a rectangular soaker tub surrounded by windows, a glassed shower and a double cherry vanity. The bathroom opens to a dressing room illuminated by transom windows. 2. The kitchen blends traditional and contemporary elements, including cherry Shaker-style cabinetry and a backsplash of polished marble tiles.




3. The owners’ appreciation of clean lines and contemporary decor is evident in the master bedroom. 4. The home office overlooks a wooded area through casement windows on two sides.


improved new and

An updAted flOOrplAn COMpletely revAMps A 45-yeAr-Old hOMe Many homeowners ponder the age-old question of whether to renovate or move when their children leave home and their lifestyle begins to change. For one couple in Exeter, an innovative renovation achieved many of the features of a new home while allowing them to remain in the neighbourhood they loved. The couple’s two-storey, four-bedroom home was too large to suit their needs once their three daughters left home. A series of small rooms with defined functions meant that when they entertained, different groups gathered in different rooms. “We couldn’t pull it all together and interact with everyone,” the owner recalls. “We also ended up with a lot of people standing – we didn’t have the room to sit.” Because they were using only a portion of the home, the couple gave serious thought to building a smaller ranch-style house with an openconcept design. They particularly wanted better traffic flow for enter48 | oke woodsmith, fall 2012

taining and an office where the owner’s wife could work. The couple contacted Oke Woodsmith who suggested a new home might not be necessary. Moving would have meant exchanging their 100-foot lot frontage, and their view of a beautiful ash forest, for a smaller property in another part of town. The couple toured homes Oke Woodsmith had built and renovated which helped them to envision the possibilities. They also showed them how their existing floorplan could be reworked. “What to me seemed so challenging, they made so easy,” the owner says. In a three-month renovation that was completed in November 2008, they reconfigured the couple’s main floor. The company transformed the living room at the front of the home into an office with built-in cherry cabinetry. Off a secondary hallway, a small office became a laundry room, an existing two-piece bathroom was outfitted with new fixtures, and a new mudroom area was created.

“What to me seemed so challenging, they made so easy.”

A opposite: The dining area is conveniently situated between the kitchen and the great room, which maximizes the owners’ entertaining possibilities. below: The centre island doubles as a bar where guests can cluster while the owners prepare dinner.

t the rear of the home, the kitchen and dining rooms were reversed and walls were removed to open up the space. The great room, created from the former family room, became wider with the elimination of a hallway. Larger picture windows were also installed to maximize the view of the backyard and of the forest and corn fields beyond. “It was the right thing to do,” Oke says of the renovation. “It certainly added value. We gutted the whole main floor and gave it a new lease on life.” The owner says he and his wife are glad they didn’t downsize to a smaller home. “As it’s turned out, our kids come home, we’re utilizing the space and the four bedrooms and we’re glad we have them.” The couple’s enjoyment of casual entertaining is evident in the open-concept living area

at the rear of the home. Warm earth tones, cherry cabinetry and birch engineered hardwood floors unify the kitchen, dining area and great room. “We wanted to somehow maintain a homey, comfortable feel to the home,” the owner notes. “We wanted it to be a home that would be lived in and enjoyed, rather than just viewed.” The kitchen is well-proportioned and features a centre island that’s faced with cherry beaded panels and topped with a granite counter in shades of tan and chocolate brown. One end is rounded, forming a bar where guests can cluster while the couple prepares dinner. The island is a new element for the couple. “The island fits into the way we like to prepare food and the way we like to share an evening – it all works together,” the owner says.

“We wanted it to be a home that would be lived in and enjoyed, rather than just viewed.”


raditional cabinetry, painted cream and finished with deep crown mouldings, rims the perimeter of the workspace, which incorporates long granite counters. The refrigerator, concealed behind panels, is conveniently positioned between a walk-in pantry and two wall ovens. Beside the kitchen, the dining area is furnished with a long wooden dining table and eight leather parsons chairs – a theme that’s repeated in the great room. A brown leather sofa and loveseat provide comfortable seating in front of a cherry entertainment unit that spans one wall. A bar equipped with an under-counter wine fridge is tucked away unobtrusively to one side. Because the house has been wired for whole home audio, guests are able to enjoy music and DVDs throughout the home. “We can enjoy the same space and that really suits our lifestyle both from a family point of view and a social point of view,” the owner says. “We like to have people in and we like to enjoy them, and it just didn’t work the way it was before.” The owner says he and his wife are glad they remained in their home. He believes it’s important for homeowners to discuss an idea with a contractor who renovates and also builds new homes. “Oke Woodsmith really gets it in terms of trying to understand your lifestyle and your specific needs. They excel at coming up with ideas and then walking you through the detail and implementation stage. The Oke Woodsmith team were a part of it all the way through,” the owner adds. oke

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Arriscraft International is proud to call Oke Woodsmith Building Systems a partner in excellence. The beauty and sophistication of a home finished with Arriscraft stone is sure to be memorable. We pride ourselves in helping homeowners realize their design vision by offering a wide selection of product styles and colours.


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St. Joseph, Ontario

519-236-4479 oke woodsmith, fall 2012 | 51

y r t e n i b a Custom C Y R T E N I B A C M CUSTO

1491 Fanshawe Pk. Rd. W. West of Hyde Park Rd. 519 473-7338

Winner - Best Renovated Kitchen of 2011 - LHBA Nominated - Best Renovated Kitchen 2011 - Ontario Home Builders Nominated - Best New Kitchen 2011 - Ontario Home Builders Winner - Best Booth in Show 2010 & 2011 - LHBA) Winner - Sub-Trade of the Year 2010 - LHBA Winner - Best New Kitchen 2009 & 2010 - LHBA

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The Oke Woodsmith Collection of Homes - Fall 2012  

By choice, Oke Woodsmith builds only a very few, very select homes each year. And no two are the same. That's because we believe each custom...

The Oke Woodsmith Collection of Homes - Fall 2012  

By choice, Oke Woodsmith builds only a very few, very select homes each year. And no two are the same. That's because we believe each custom...