By Jason Jayne
When the owners of this century home ensconced in a rural setting were ready to enhance their weekend getaway with some much-needed amenities and upgrades, they turned to Tumber & Associates. The homeowners first contacted the landscape firm in 2010, and after several extensive consultations, they decided to engage in the design process to create a master plan for the property, ultimately leading to a construction start date of April 2011.
Balancing nature and necessity
The clients, who have owned the home for a number of years, are professionals close to retirement age who live in Toronto. They use the country property as a weekend retreat, as it is less than one hour from their home in the city. These more local getaways are becoming a common trend, as time requirements and fuel costs make the trek to a cottage further north an increasingly unrealistic option for some families.
Situated on the north end of Hockley Valley, the property boasts tremendous open views to the south across the valley. The clients’ primary desire was to develop the property further, transforming it from its largely undisturbed agricultural state by adding a few outdoor amenities to the existing barns and outbuildings.
The homeowners wanted to maintain the open vistas, while at the same time creating added privacy in key areas and addressing the prevailing winds on this largely open site on the top of a hill. Seclusion was created by introducing a large cabana structure and several mature trees and plant material.
The clients were also interested in adding a swimming pool and a nearby shade structure large and open enough to serve as a gathering and entertaining spot. The designers encouraged the homeowners to opt for a building that was architecturally in line with the rural and agricultural heritage of the site. In the end, all sides decided on a structure that would closely mimic the style and materials of a century-old barn.
To achieve the desired look, touches such as a post-and-beam construction method and a cathedral ceiling finished with tongue and groove knotty pine were incorporated into the design. Cedar shakes were used on the roof along with a copper cupola flashing and low-voltage landscape lighting to highlight the beam work. The structure was purposely situated and kept open on the southern side to allow for views of the pool, terrace and gazebo on the edge of the valley.
It was built with a unique GeoPile helical screw pile foundation system and anchored by a massive 3.6-m (12-ft) wide custom natural stone fireplace with integrated wood storage compartments. An impressive large open hearth with custom forged ironwork and screen doors allows the fire to radiate heat and sound to the adjacent gathering area. A large area for outdoor furniture and a dining location was created, along with mechanical storage rooms and a washroom with a composting toilet.
A number of materials found right on site were used, including natural granite fieldstone, which was gathered and split by hand to build the fireplace. This added a feel of authenticity to the project.