by Barbara Ramsay Orr
In the late afternoon sunlight, this house looks like a Christopher Pratt painting ““ full of light, with pure clean lines and a generous view of the water.
When Anne Aziz and her husband took their Sunday afternoon drives through Oakville neighborhoods, they had always lingered in front of the old cottage with the spectacular view on Park Avenue. “If that house comes on the market,” they told themselves, “we'll have to find a way to buy it.”
It was a house that was on a lot of people's Sunday drive tours. “Maybe someday” they told themselves.
Then it was that day.
They acted quickly and their dream became a reality. Luckily, they knew exactly what they wanted, and retained architect, Gren Weis, who was familiar with the area ““ he has designed most of the houses on the street.
The old cottage was demolished and Anne began the process of creating from scratch the vision she had for the house. “We wanted that East Coast US architectural feel, a Nantucket-Long Island look.” The result is a shingle and stone exterior with sweeping terraces and abundant windows that take ample advantage of the magnificent views.
“Designing and furnishing the house was easy,” explains Anne. “I am in the business.” She owns Studio H, an interior design studio in Oakville. “And we had a clear concept of our design direction.”
“I wanted the house to feel classically contemporary, with a relaxed formality. That's the style I bring to most of my projects. We also wanted lots of entertainment space, both indoors and out.”
As you walk through the five-bedroom house, it becomes more contemporary as you move from the top to the bottom. But although much attention has been paid to moldings and architectural detail, the look is never ornate. It is consistently clean and uncomplicated.
Because Anne is a cook, and has designed many kitchens, this one is a dream. “This is a working kitchen,” she explains. “We do a lot of entertaining with family and friends.”
The kitchen is filled with light, from the creamy white cabinets and white polished Calcutta marble counters and backsplash, to the floor to ceiling French doors that open to the terrace and the waterfront. There's a Viking 48-inch stainless stove, with a griddle, a grill and a water source for filling large pots. There's also a Viking professional warming drawer which she uses all the time. The sub-zero fridges disappear behind the cabinetry. There are two dishwashers, a Miele, as well as an Asko, a Swedish dishwasher designed specifically for fine china, silver and stemware. The sink is a white cast iron Kohler single bowl design.
The large island is topped with 2 1/2-inch thick American Walnut that merely requires oiling once a month and cleans up beautifully. Window treatments in the kitchen and the open concept living room are elegant but minimal, designed to allow as much natural light in as possible. Anne's desk and computer station are in the kitchen, and she opted to forego a set of cupboards in order to have an extra window. “I was quite willing to sacrifice storage for the view,” she says.
The light fixtures and hardware are all polished nickel, mostly from Michael Smith Design, the New York designer who has been chosen to decorate the Obama White House.
Virtually all the walls in the house are painted in the same colour, “Whitewash” from Ralph Lauren, what Anne calls a chameleon colour. “I always say the best colours are the ones you can't describe. Colour shouldn't compete with the design elements in the house.”
Pale walls make an excellent backdrop for the Aziz's collection of contemporary art that adds colour and texture to the rooms. “We've always collected art, even when we had no money. The large painting in the dining room is one I picked up in Paris when I was there for work.”
There is a gentle nod to the nautical, in the interior design, through the combination of stained and painted finishes. All the doors are dark stained, as well as the staircase and the island countertop. The floors are American Cherry with carefully placed Tibetan wool and silk carpets leaving large areas of wood floor exposed.
Connecting the kitchen to the dining room is a servery, with a sub-zero wine fridge and a place for the espresso maker. There's also a great pantry with floor to ceiling storage shelves, and with a space where an elevator has been roughed in, should the need for one ever arise. As Anne explains, “We intend to be here forever.”
She's enamored with the classically informal California ambiance, which shows strongly in the dining room. The table and chairs are large but very comfortable, presenting both formality and relaxed clean lines. The fireplace continues the combination of stained wood and paint, and more French doors open to the terrace and the outdoor pool, kept warm all year round, and used frequently.
There's a pretty music room cum library with striped linen drapes, white linen sofas and a gorgeous Barbara Barry chair in soft sea foam green.
The upper floors have spacious bedrooms, all equipped with flat screen televisions and integrated sound systems that can be synchronized with an ipod. The master has a large fireplace and sweeping windows, perfect for watching the sunrise or listening to the waves crash. The master bath has cream limestone countertops and a walk-in shower, with fixtures from the Barbara Barry collection and crystal ball doorknobs. The generous walk-in closet features a floor to ceiling mirror that opens to reveal shelving storage for shoes.
This is a house with long views. If you stand at the top of the staircase on the second floor, you have a clear and beautiful sight line down the stairs, through the hall and main rooms, past the terrace and right to the water.
The lower floor is completely finished with heated floors and here the feel is much more modern. Walls have black and white family photographs and there is a waterfall sink in the powder room. There's a completely equipped gym with a sprung floor and gym quality machines, a flat screen television and floor to ceiling mirrors.
And then there is the entertainment area. Here you have a television screen that takes up one whole wall, with oversized two person lounges, natural walnut walls and a massive contemporary style pool table. There's also a bar, and temperature controlled wine cellar. Like the rest of the house, all the design touches are spare, clean and elegant.
All of the choices in this home have been carefully considered, and it shows.
Even the entranceway to the house has been given a special touch. “Thomas Jefferson said that there would be visitors who would never get beyond the front door of your house, and you should give them something to look at,” says Anne. She drew a design for the ceiling and had it executed in several different inlaid woods, like American walnut, ebony and burled elm. The floor is cream limestone, and a large contemporary painting hangs in the facing wall.
It's a fitting entrance to an exceptional house.
Jefferson would approve.