Rising from the Ashes

Dynamic couple, Earl and Glenda, purchased their original Exeter home in the mid 1970s. It was there that the couple planted their roots and began to grow their family, a clan that now includes five grandchildren and a “grand puppy,” Finnegan. The family enjoyed decades at the home, which underwent several renovations during this time. “We had finally managed to create a home that was exactly the way we wanted it,” Glenda explains. Unfortunately, their enjoyment of the space was cut short.In December of 2014 Earl and Glenda embarked on a holiday cruise. It was a lovely vacation, bringing the family together to enjoy the festive season in a refreshingly different way. However, their holiday bliss was short lived; during the family’s absence their home tragically caught fire. “When we returned and saw our family home so severely damaged we were absolutely devastated. But, once the lot was cleared we viewed it as a new beginning, a chance to start fresh and do things differently.” Unsure of what they wanted, the couple thoroughly researched their options and inquired about unique possibilities including modular homes. It was clear to both Earl and Glenda that they intended to produce a truly custom space. More importantly, it was apparent that they wanted to partner with a company whose goals and desires were closely aligned with their own: “We needed someone who could not only understand our vision but also deliver it,” Glenda explains.

Raised in Zurich, the couple was acquainted with the Oke family at a young age. In addition to their personal connection, the couple was enticed by Oke Woodsmith’s masterful craftsmanship and strong client recommendations. “Friends of ours have employed Oke Woodsmith in the past,” states Glenda. “Their finished space was absolutely beautiful and the high level of quality was very clear. We knew that we would be in good hands.” Earl and Glenda were also wooed by the team’s personal approach. Describing their interactions with Oke’s designers and tradesmen as “warm” and “engaging,” the couple was very vocal about their appreciation of the team’s attitude, passion, and work ethic. In fact, Earl and Glenda enjoyed working with the Oke team so much that they decided to present them with an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labour. The vibrant couple decided to plan an event that would allow all those who were involved in the process not only to experience the finished space, but also to show their families the product of all of their hard work.

The couple’s main goals were to craft an open concept one-floor space that would be accessible and adaptable as they move into the next stages of their lives. “We wanted the home to be modern and beautiful, but also inviting and functional,” Glenda explains. “With that said, we wanted to ensure that the exterior of the home would blend in with the existing neighbourhood,” adds Earl. The home’s exterior is a manifestation of the unique design characteristics that are layered within it. Featuring an alluring, yet uncommon stone layout, the exterior design is eye catching without challenging the existing community aesthetic. Evidently, the couple had a distinct vision for their home, both aesthetically and with regard to functionality. However, there were natural gaps in their ideas, holes that were eloquently bridged by Oke’s design team. “Our experience with Oke was educational. There were so many things that were suggested that we never would have thought of on our own. They took our ideas and ran with them in the best way possible.”

Upon entering the couple’s stunning home it is impossible to miss the clever use of colour working to draw the eye across the space. They drew inspiration from a beautiful handmade vase, gifted to the couple by friends in Japan. “The cranes are meant to symbolize good fortune,” Glenda explains as she presents the piece for examination. “The colours are calming and uplifting.” Splashes of green and teal pop up throughout the entirety of the space and are grounded by the overarching neutral taupe colour palette. The large open foyer leads to a grand living space that is flooded with light. Inspired to create a serene aesthetic, Glenda worked alongside her designer, Virginia Warwick, to create a space that was bright, contemporary, and elegant while remaining fully functional and adhering to their unique needs.

The couple’s brilliant kitchen is light, airy, and minimalistic. The epitome of couture, it features crisp white cabinetry fitted with unique glass display cases, designed by their brother-in-law, Dave Siebert of Oesch Woodworking. “Dave did a great job, not only in the kitchen but throughout the rest of the house,” states Glenda. “He provided great custom insights. For example, I struggle with my knees so he lowered the breakfast bar on our kitchen island. These simple tweaks make a big difference.” The kitchen’s clean alabaster tone is juxtaposed by warm granite countertops and a taupe statement backsplash that works to highlight a futuristic stainless steel range head. As if it were a portal to another world, an understated pantry door opens to reveal a considerable storage space. The secret space is adjacent to the garage, a small design detail that allows it to feature a “grocery door,” a small passageway that allows Earl and Glenda to unload their food directly from the car into the pantry. “This idea was referred to us by friends who discovered these doors in Florida model homes,” Glenda explains. “It is cute, incredibly handy, and the grandkids absolutely love it.”

Parallel to the kitchen, a spacious seating, dining, and entertainment space waits, equipped with a grand feature fireplace, large television, and a custom wood mantel and display shelving. A quirky glass coffee table with chrome negative space detailing works to maintain the couple’s desired “airy” aesthetic. Light beams in through the space’s extensive windows and the raised ceilings provoke feelings of relaxation and tranquility. To promote calmness and ease, Stubbs Communications synced together all of the home’s entertainment and security systems, allowing Earl and Glenda to control all of their technology from a communal iPad. In the dining space a square custom built Mennonite table mirrors a unique structural detail suggested by Oke, an elegant tray ceiling with indirect lighting. An industrial bronze ceiling light fixture hovers above the handsome black table, functioning as a delightful contrast to the chrome accents present in the space and providing another layer of visual interest. Rich cool toned hardwood from London’s Deacon Flooring runs throughout the main living space and continues into the couple’s luxurious master suite.

In the bedroom a dark accent wall, featuring Taos Taupe by Dulux Diamond Paint, draws the eye towards the focal point of the room, the couple’s plush king sized bed. The room’s extremely dark furniture is a welcomed contrast and works to anchor the space. Silver, taupe, and black Ikat bedding provides texture, shine, and print to a space dominated by neutral tones and subtle fixtures. In the couple’s ensuite a large double vanity with a built in makeup desk hovers above crisp white honeycomb tiles. The sun filters in through the long rectangular transom windows that float above the vanity mirrors, embracing the room with warmth. Contributing to the serene spa ambiance, the couple’s large walk-in steam shower features an asymmetrical mirror design that works to captivate the eye by subtly recalling delicate drips of water. “Little touches like these are here for our enjoyment,” explains Glenda. “But, a lot of this house was created with the enjoyment of others in mind.”

Earl and Glenda’s basement “family room” is a playground equipped with toys for both children and adults; a large cinema and entertainment space neighbours a designated fitness room, bar area, and game space. “We thoroughly enjoy entertaining here,” explains Earl. “It is a lot of fun.” A bright geometric feature wall in the gym sets a vibrant tone for the room. This motif is carried into the greater entertainment area as a large colour block rug warms the neutral tile floor. One of the only furniture pieces to survive the fire, Earl’s black liquor cabinet, a custom piece built by his brother-in-law, served as the inspiration for the rest of the basement cabinetry. Contributing to the artistic use of colour throughout the space, a red, brown, and rust toned granite countertop functions as another detail completely individual to Earl and Glenda’s unique aesthetic. Various sports memorabilia, including Earl’s beloved Bobby Orr jersey, litter the walls, promoting healthy competition in the game space. A sizable window hovers above the couple’s large pool table, basking the room in light. A custom vinyl wall mural featuring numerous professional athletes decorates the wall of the basement guest bathroom. “This choice was as much for Earl as it was for our grandchildren,” Glenda laughs. “He loves it. We all love it. Plus, it’s very personal to us because our grandchildren helped to decide which athletes made the cut. Their choices reflect their interests and personalities.”

The basement features two guest bedrooms, both tailored specifically to the design tastes of the couple’s young grandchildren. Although cultivating an exclusive style was a major focus, safety was also a paramount concern, not only for Earl and Glenda, but also for the children themselves. “When our youngest grandson expressed anxiety regarding the potential for another fire, we knew we needed to do something to make him feel safe and secure,” Glenda explains. Each closet is equipped with a storable step ladder that allows access to the room’s window sills. Oke installed egress windows to help the family feel more protected and comfortable in the space. “The children feel at ease and so do we,” states Glenda. “Ease is a great word to describe this whole process,” adds Earl. “It was just so easy.”

Credits: Story by: SYDNEY VAN KERREBROECK , Photos by: kelseyokephotography.com

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