March 1, 2012
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.
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.
The same type of stones were harvested and split for the custom surround built for the portable, self-cleaning hot tub shell by Hydropool Hot Tubs. This allowed the hot tub, which was placed directly adjacent to the house, to reflect the home’s existing century fieldstone foundation. During excavation, the original stone steps from the old front stoop were uncovered and eventually integrated into the new design, as steps leading up to the hot tub.
Using heavy equipment, workers were also able to rescue some much larger boulders from the farmland area of the property and incorporate them into adjacent garden beds, where they now take centre stage. Costs were kept down by using Tumber’s equipment and dump trucks to move fill material from the site, which was used to create the grade changes and elevated pool and cabana area and maintain views of the valley.
Also, in the process of excavating for the pool and terrace area, the original cistern well for the property was uncovered. This added a little extra work to the project, in order to properly dismantle this old utility.
Without small children or grandchildren in the family at this point, and considering the clients’ typical pool usage, a smaller, relatively shallow San Juan fibreglass pool was selected. This choice would mean the pool would be much easier to heat and maintain compared to a larger model, which was ideal considering the homeowners would typically only be at the property on weekends. The pool shape includes a sun shelf for lounging and integrated, curved steps. A Pentair equipment set includes a variable-frequency drive (VFD) pump and control system along with a saltwater chlorine generator, high-efficiency heater and cartridge filter.
A multilevel terrace was designed to add some intrigue to the surrounding flat area. Using a fibreglass pool allowed designers to push the sunken terrace right up to the edge of the pool, allowing visitors to literally sit poolside on the 457-mm (18-in.) high exposed stonewall. This is not only visually exciting, but also allows groups of visitors to mingle at the water’s edge. A warm-toned concrete decking material from Stone Link was chosen for these knee walls and the expansive terrace areas, which extended right into the pool cabana, fit with the look and feel of the rest of the project and to keep costs down.
Another ‘breakfast’ walkout terrace was conveniently situated just outside of the front door at the edge of the hot tub, allowing the homeowners to easily take a few steps out with their morning coffee (and only steps to the hot tub in winter).
Privacy, sound and wind buffers were added along the backside of the cabana and connected up toward the new convenient backdoor entrance (also built by Tumber) of the home, using more 4.5-m (15-ft) mature spruce trees and plantings, along with a custom-made, wroughtiron fence system surrounding the entire pool area.
In an effort to create a more welcoming entrance, the original side door was moved to a more convenient location. This, however, created a challenge, as the entrance was only a few steps from the hot tub and pool area, where it would be important to have them screened off from the main arrival area of the property. Through the careful placement of large cedar trees and a custom-made cedar screen, these areas are no longer visually accessible to arriving guests.
The original front door area of the home was also improved by adding appropriate access through a series of natural stone steps and complimentary foundation plantings down to the front lawn. This stretch can now act as a breakout area when larger crowds are being entertained.
The entire project was completed in September 2011, built entirely by Tumber & Associates’ eight to 10 employees, who did all of the excavation, carpentry, stone masonry, pool installation, hardscaping and softscaping necessary to bring the homeowners’ vision to life.
Overall, the clients are thrilled with the results of the project. Although the space was a relatively small portion of the sprawling country property, the thoughtful execution of the improved entrances to the home and access to the conveniently located hot tub, pool and pavilion, made for a completed look that feels authentic in the home’s unique rural setting.
Jason Jayne is the business manager at Tumber & Associates, a landscape design-and-build firm headed by Randy Tumber, who has been designing and building natural landscapes for more than 35 years. The company specializes in mature, native landscape projects that lie just north of the Greater Toronto Area, planning and developing entire sites and project for its clients. Jayne been with the company for more than 10 years and regularly contributes articles and photography to many industry and consumer outlets. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.tumber.ca.
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