East meets West

Distance not a factor for Oke Woodsmith

Renovating a home is never easy but doing it when you are on the other side of the world is one heck of a brave decision. It is in times like these when technology becomes really useful. You also must put a lot of faith in your contractor. 

When Elsa and Terry decided to renovate their cottage in Grand Bend, it wasn’t until three interviews later that they knew exactly in whom to place their faith. 

“We interviewed three different contractors but went with Oke Woodsmith because we live overseas and wanted to give the job to someone we trusted,” said Terry during a Skype interview. “Randy [Oke] gained our trust because of the quality of work we saw that they had done.” 

The couple, who reside in Jakarta, Indonesia, are administrators at Jakarta Intercultural School and come to Grand Bend every year. They also like to spend their time travelling through Europe and other parts of the world. 

In the earlier 2000s, when technology was less a part of everyday life, Oke used what was available to give the couple full access to the developments of their renovations. Through Skype conversations, email and file-sharing, Terry and Elsa were able to keep up with the day-to-day progress and to provide feedback when needed. 

“Randy dropped us email updates, workers would take photos and put them in Dropbox and let us know.  Then we would look at photos, ask questions and write emails back for clarity or changes. The whole working relationship has been long distance.” 

It was during a vacation in Ontario – for a family reunion – that led them to buy the house. Elsa, having fallen in love with Grand Bend, had discovered the place near the end of their stay. Though they were just about to make a big move to Thailand, Elsa told Terry he had to see the property. 

The cottage, located in Southcott Pines right by the beach, features classic cottage elements with a hint of inspiration from the couple’s travels throughout Southeast Asia. When it was bought, the small cottage needed serious updates. 

“The bathrooms were hideous, to say the least,” Terry said about the cottage’s status when they bought it. The place was trendy at one time – maybe in the ‘70s and ‘80s – but silver wallpaper and bathroom mirror overkill just don’t cut it anymore. 

Though the place was in dire need of an update, the much-needed renovation didn’t stop them from visiting it as much as they could. “We went every summer – though it wasn’t renovated  –
and once during Christmas.” 

Even from the other side of the world, Terry and Elsa were involved during the whole renovation process. “We had a big hand in choosing materials and the look we were after, and Steve Poortinga [the Oke designer] helped make it reality,” said Terry. 

Having Randy in charge on location proved to be a smart move for this satellite couple. Randy’s “big-picture” attitude and relationship with the subcontractors to do things right gave Terry and Elsa “peace of mind” for the final finished product. 

The carpentry, led by Randy’s brother Kevin, provided the fundamental structural needs with fine attention to the modern features seen throughout the cottage and had “guys in the trenches doing work,” according to Terry. “They have an ability to see and execute details.” 

Steve was able to “roll with the punches” and catered the designs to any changes or issues that arose. His communication with the couple over Skype and keenness to flip PDF design ideas back and forth continued the rapidly building trust between Terry, Elsa, and the whole Oke Woodsmith team. The entire production, Terry said, was quality work and it shows. 

The renovation brought along a desire for an open-concept layout and as much natural light as a home could provide. The one-of-a-kind sculptures, cabinets, and otherworldly décor from far-off lands blending with the bright, beautiful maple flooring make this custom cottage particularly unique. 

The woodsy, stone fireplace brings history to the place with an old, repurposed beam from a barn built back in 1890, mixed in with a nautical, antique sailboat steering wheel. 

The slanted ceilings are scattered with pot lights and feature industrial-style light fixtures down the length of the island. The gourmet kitchen shines as the interior focal point with natural light and the stainless-steel appliances and cook-top stove add to the livability of the cottage. The glossy white counters complement the dark antiquity of the dining room table and cabinets. 

The nearby beach is a three-minute walk, making this cottage the perfect getaway for those long, warm summer days and evenings bringing in a cool breeze from Lake Huron. 

Overall, Terry and Elsa have nothing but positive feedback about their newly renovated place. 

“We have no regrets,” said Terry.

Credits: Story by: Write.On Communication Services , Photos by: renthuron.com

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