Story by Karen Paton-Evans
Photography by Michael Pietrangelo
Learning to pace themselves has been the most important wisdom one Leamington couple has gained during eight years of home renovations.
They bought their one-floor ranch 16 years ago, appreciating its high ceilings and wide hallways while accepting the décor would require work eventually. Eight years later, the couple started by tackling the kitchen. “I kept putting my husband off because the kitchen is the heart of the home,” the wife says. “Every year since, we have done at least one more room.”
Whenever living in a construction zone begins wearing them out, the couple takes a break.
Helping them stay sane throughout the lengthy process is another couple, designers Stephanie Harrington-O’Neill and Tim O’Neill, partners in life and in O’Neill-Harrington Interiors. The homeowners find it useful to get the male and female point of view regarding design. “Although I know what I like,” the lady of the house says, “the designers give me confidence and reassurance in my decisions.”
On Stephanie’s first tour of the house, she thought the dining room needed immediate attention. However, its reinvention was pushed back until finally, the dining room was addressed last year.
A priority was replacing the original golden oak floors, mouldings and cabinetry that dominated the house. New, rich cherry wood was installed throughout to provide a classic foundation.
While the couple takes note of emerging styles and colours, the empty nesters want interiors that are “more timeless than trendy” for their traditional forever home. “This is what we like. This is home,” says the wife.
Brown Custom Cabinet of Leamington was engaged to turn cherry wood into raised panel cabinetry accented by columns. To preserve counterspace, the cabinetmakers built the wine fridge and microwave into the island. The press of a button causes the microwave to slide out like a drawer for easy access.
While the cabinetmakers’ skill almost steals the show, the wife insists, “I did my whole kitchen around my Wolf stove. It’s the most important thing!”
Stephanie quickly realized that was the case. “Every time I come over, there is something amazing cooking or baking,” she says. “Monday is pasta night for the whole family. Everyone has their favourite, so my client makes four different kinds of lasagne.”
Reconfiguring the kitchen’s footprint meant that “without adding square footage, we got so much more space,” the wife observes. Acknowledging open plan kitchens and great rooms are in demand right now, she says, “I didn’t want wide open spaces because sounds bounce and echo.”
Everywhere, masculine lines are successfully balanced with feminine touches, as evident in two adjacent rooms: Her living room and his media room. The shared colour palette of champagne, brown and black imbues the formal spaces with a cozy feel. The flames of a natural gas fire are framed by the custom mantel carved from cherry wood. The cabinetmakers used more cherry wood, stained brown, to create raised panels gracing the walls, as well as deep mouldings dressing the perimeter of the cove ceiling. Harold Wiens meticulously installed the woodwork.
“It’s spectacular to see all the paneling. The effect is not dark, it’s warm,” Stephanie observes.
Carved cherry wood continues in the media room, forming the home theatre cabinetry and the wet bar, where the host enjoys pouring beverages for guests. Two large stainless steel fridges keep libations chilled. The coffered ceiling over the bar is clad in cherry wood and punctuated with recessed lighting. In the tradition of good bars, an antiqued mirror covers the back wall.
Maintaining the spirit of the wood floors while anticipating potential spills, the designers and homeowners agreed on a wood-grained floor tile for the bar area and media room. “That end of the house used to feel cooler. It’s amazing that with new in-floor heating, the furnace doesn’t run as much,” the wife notes.
After dinner, the hubby retreats to his room and claims one of the brown leather home theatre power recliners to read and watch the news. A big button-tufted ottoman stands in for a coffee table - a much softer and safer choice bought with the couple’s young granddaughter in mind.
The wife likes to curl up with a book on her brown leather sofa. During the holiday season, in the soft light of the Christmas tree, her room becomes a giftwrapping centre.
In 2017, at long last, Stephanie got her hands on the dining room. “From Day One, I thought, ‘That glass block wall has got to go,’” she recalls. In its place are now gorgeous glass panels custom-made by artisan Kim Gene of Kabuki Design and Art Glass in Windsor. The smoky leaded glass rippling with varying textures obscures the view of the kitchen.
On another wall, three large mirrors visually expand the dining room and reflect the light of delicate chandeliers formed with curved prisms. Moulding detail was added to the ceiling. Believing there is already enough wood on the walls throughout the house, the designers painted the dining room champagne.
The homeowners donated their old dining furniture to their church and then went shopping. “All I wanted was a long table and 10 chairs,” says the wife. The champagne fabric and dark wood framed chairs combine elegance with comfort, ideal for leisurely dinners. The uncluttered arrangement of new furnishings permits guests to move around the room with ease.
Mobility is certainly a consideration for the couple as they proactively plan for aging in their forever home. When they recently remodelled their master bathroom, they had one wall removed to accommodate a new larger walk-in shower, making certain that an extra-wide door was set into the glass walls.
Practicalities do not overshadow little luxuries, however. The wife replaced a big whirlpool tub with a romantic vintage-style white tub standing on chrome claw-feet. White silhouette blinds covering the bay windows provide a soft backdrop and privacy for the lady’s nightly bath. “My granddaughter, who is three, loves that bath, too,” she says.
The master bedroom was redone with new linens and suede walls in a pale olive-gold tone. Two additional bathrooms also received makeovers. In contrast to the quiet colour scheme unifying the house, the homeowner splashed out in the powder room, retaining the original red damask wallpaper. A new custom vanity was built and topped with boldly veined reddish-brown granite.
“I find with renovating, you see how dated the other rooms are. Where do you stop? When it’s done!” says the wife. “My husband got the ball rolling and keeps it moving.”
The designers smile whenever the homeowners call after a remodeling hiatus. “It’s fun to get back and do other things to this evolving house,” Stephanie says. Thinking of the clients’ enthusiasm, Tim adds, “It’s like a Christmas gift for us.”
Mentally rolling up her sleeves for 2018’s to do to list, the wife has plans for the pool house and the two remaining bathrooms not yet redecorated. “After that, I quit!” she laughs. “Hang on...the laundry room needs done, too.”
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