Timeless architectural features infuse a newer home with character
The most successful renovations are those in which a homeowner and a designer blend their ideas, taking their collective vision to new heights.
That was the experience of an Exeter-area couple who wanted to create a stronger sense of connection between the interior and exterior of their 1 ½-storey, yellow-brick home, which was built about 15 years ago. With their pickled wood finishes, the rooms were dated and didn’t reflect the stately appearance of the exterior.
The couple contracted Oke Woodsmith to redesign and renovate three rooms within the original footprint of the home. The homeowner wanted the rooms, which encompass an area of 1,787 square feet, to impart a traditional European flavour with top-quality finishes and materials.
“I wanted a ‘wow’ factor, but I also wanted it to be very comfortable so that when you came in, even though it was grand and airy, you still felt comfortable,” she says.
The renovation began in January 2001 and was completed at the end of May. The work involved transforming a sunroom into a family room, redesigning the kitchen and dining area, and creating a great room.
The homeowner had many ideas of her own and worked with designer Brad Oke to achieve her vision. She and the Oke team often brainstormed, which resulted in an even better idea than the one first proposed.
“I think Brad respects my ideas and I respect his, and we were both open to each other’s suggestions,” the homeowner notes. “It didn’t matter who said it, we just jelled – which was great. Oke Woodsmith were very, very accommodating.”
Detailed cabinetry, unusual ceiling treatments and timeless architectural features, such as hand-carved corbels, unify the three areas. Sunlight from east-facing, floor-to-ceiling windows fills the rooms with light, accentuating the rich earth tones. A combination of engineered wood and porcelain tile floors are paired with radiant in-floor heating.
A foyer off a secondary entry, which is lined with maple cabinetry, opens in to a family room on the right. Once a sunroom with leaking skylights, the family room now embodies a sense of rugged masculinity.
The angled lines of the vaulted ceiling are softened by a wall of arched windows that overlook a swimming pool and a two-tiered waterfall. Floors of porcelain tile resemble flagstone, blurring the lines between interior and exterior living spaces.
A stone fireplace conceals a wood-burning stove – a compromise made by the owner, who hoped for a fireplace, and her husband, who preferred a wood stove. It’s balanced at the opposite end by maple cabinetry that features open shelves where the owners display their books and pottery from Costa Rica.
A dining area, furnished with a round mahogany table and chairs, bridges the transition between the family room and the kitchen. An abundance of natural materials and exceptional finishes elevate the two areas from the functional to the sublime.
The homeowner’s love of traditional elements is evident in the maple cabinets, which stretch along three walls and incorporate two serving areas for coffee and wine. Finished with deep crown mouldings, the cabinets extend flush to the ceiling and incorporate heavy corbels carved with an oak leaf motif, as well as round hand-turned posts.
The focal point of the kitchen is a raised-ledge breakfast bar with counters of Italian marble. The angles of the bar are mimicked above in a striking ceiling treatment that combines linear and curving lines. Behind the island, a hood of pale cast stone forms an arch above a stainless steel range.
The sense of grandeur evident in the kitchen is carried through to the great room, which features a coffered cherry ceiling trimmed with gold-coloured mouldings. An imposing cast stone fireplace is flanked on either side by cherry cabinetry with leaded glass doors. A formal conversation area, anchored by a wool Indian rug, overlooks a covered patio with a built-in barbecue and fireplace, just beyond a bank of french doors.
The homeowner says her goal was to find a designer with a sense of vision who could picture the final results – something she was fortunate to find in Oke.
“It’s hard sometimes when you have vision yourself and someone doesn’t, and you’re trying to explain it. When you explain to him what you want, he (Oke) has it right away.”
Oke says his role focused on blending his client’s ideas with his own, and realizing the home’s potential by creating a connection between the interior and exterior.
“There was no square footage that was added, but it was a complete makeover. We changed the whole character; the outside character was very stately,” Oke says. “Right now, you would think it was a brand new estate home versus a renovation – it’s right out of the design magazines.”
The homeowner is so delighted with the results that she and her husband are making plans to renovate their dining and living rooms. The overall appearance of the completed area is exactly what she envisioned.
“It’s what I thought this place should look like,” she says simply.