The first thing you notice when you enter this gracious Oakville home is the staircase ““ an elegant and beautiful ascending tower of polished oak and iron railings that moves through the house, from the basement to the top floor. Along with the polished oak floors, a massive natural stone wall and rounded turrets, the home has strong design elements of the Arts & Craft movement. Yet the harder elements are softened by warm colours and soft upholstered furniture that make the space welcoming and comfortable.
The owners bought this house after moving back to Ontario from Alberta. They've moved nine times in 25 years, and this, the homeowners assure me, will be the last. So it is important that this house have everything the family needs to feel settled.
To begin with, the neighbourhood is perfect. The new owners love that they can walk almost anywhere, and that the downtown is just minutes away. Yet the area is quiet. There are lots of mature trees, and very little traffic.
There were some logistical difficulties in designing the house. The couple bought it before their move from Alberta, so much of the preliminary planning was done long distance.
“We had an excellent relationship with our designers,” the owner tells me, “and they made the process work. We began working with Elizabeth Interiors in February and they seemed to get our style preferences quickly.”
Karen Dunn and Pamela Lahey from Elizabeth Interiors in Burlington were the two designers who spearheaded the project. “This was a dream couple to work with,” explains Dunn. “For each room, we drew up three possible design options and presented them. Almost without fail, the option they chose was the one we liked best. And they were clear about what they wanted. They had a definite style preference and a vision for the house, so we just helped them realize that vision.”
“Their style is what I would describe as transitional,” explains Dunn. “It's casual, not overly traditional or ultra modern. What we tried to do was meld the architectural elements of the house with the owner's desire for a comfortable space that wasn't stuffy. I think the colours we ended up using ““ warm and earthy with hints of grey ““ help to do that.”
None of the architectural details of the house were changed, but Dunn and Lahey designed the lighting, paint, draperies and most of the furniture.
“Several of the furniture pieces are ones that the owners already had and were shipped from Alberta. It was amazing how well they fit into the design we had planned,” says Lahey.
High ceilings, a multitude of windows and an open plan make the spaces flow smoothly together. The massive natural stone wall and the wood elements bring nature indoors, creating a zen-like calm.
The kitchen is dominated by cream cabinets, with glass doors in the upper sections which lighten the room and provide a place to display important pieces. A double refrigerator from Liebherr, a Dacor microwave in a drawer, Dacor stove and warming drawer and Meile dishwasher, make the kitchen a cook's delight. The large bi-level island provides working space as well as a sitting area. Two different granite counters are perfectly mated ““ a chocolaty matte finish countertop on the island, and a polished lighter toned granite on the side counters.
Dunn and Lahey switched up the lighting in the kitchen, from fixtures that were too contemporary for the look the owners wanted, to two lanterns and a flea market chandelier in brass and crystal, more fitting for an eat-in area. A striped window cover above the sink and paisley above the doors adds colour, texture and warmth as well as some privacy.
The hallway chandelier was replaced with a more masculine take ““ fashioned from forged iron and rock crystal, with a similar chandelier added to the dining room. “These fixtures are stunning, and perfect for this house. They are elegant and add some bling without being frilly.”
The kitchen flows freely into the hallway and the great room, where the owners spend most of their time. A stone hearth and double sided fireplace add warmth while large windows let in the light.
The massive rectangular ottoman is traditional in design but a bit contemporary in colour, mink leather. It serves multiple functions ““ as a table, a place to rest your feet, and seating. Chairs are another melding of styles, with distressed leather seats and a more contemporary fabric back.
Next is the dining room, and here the designers were thrilled to be able to use a round rather than a square table. “Round tables are just so much better to sit around, so much more conducive to good conversation, but you have to have an almost square room that is large enough to provide space all around,” says Lahey. The natural mahogany round table here is gorgeous, with perimeter leaves that can extend its size. It is paired with upholstered velvet chairs with nailhead detailing. A round wool area rug anchors the dining area.
In this room the drapes are a subtle damask-patterned silk, picking up the colours of the stone in the fireplace.
Opposite to the dining area is a more formal sitting room, ideal for pre dinner drinks and appetizers. Natural light imparts a halo effect to anything that occupies the display table.
A main floor laundry room just off the kitchen is small but efficiently organized with a large sunny window.
On the upper floor, the open staircase and large central hall continue the feeling of openness. There are five bedrooms and five baths, four on the upper floor, one on the lowest floor, with the bathrooms done in mostly natural elements, in cream and muted tones, with glassed-in showers.
A soaring staircase, big windows, deep trim and expansive space ““ this Oakville home is larger than its exterior would tend to suggest, but still feels intimate and warm. It is the perfect permanent home for this well-travelled family.