After their 80-year old clapboard style farmhouse burned down in a tragic fire, this couple wanted to have a new home built on the lot where their old house once stood but they desired a completely different look.
"We lost all of our photographs, furniture, and family heirlooms in the fire, and it was devastating," the homeowners said. "When it came time to rebuild, rather than try and recreate our old home, we thought we'd go with something totally different, to kind of give us a fresh start." They thought a contemporary-style home would do just that.
The couple sought the advice of interior designer, Penny Southam, owner of Southam Design Inc., a design firm based in Ottawa, Ontario. With Southam's professional advice, they designed and built a home that was contemporary and modern, yet still very warm and inviting.
"Most of the homes on our street are more traditional," the homeowners said. "We wanted something that would be a little less conventional, something that would stand out and not just be another "cookie cutter" type of house."
It was important to the couple to keep the design open, simple, and clean-lined. He is an accountant and she is a patent attorney, and both of them spend long days at the office. "We wanted a calm, uncluttered environment we could come home to and unwind after a hectic day at work," the couple said. They also thought an open floor plan would be ideal for their two sons, ages 3 and 5, to give them more room to run around and play.
The home Southam designed for them was two-stories, with approximately 2,400 square feet of living space. On the first floor is the kitchen, family room, dining room, and living room. The master bedroom suite, two additional bedrooms, and a laundry room is on the second floor.
The two focal points on the house's first floor is a large, open staircase, and a free-standing central wall that dissects the main floor into four different rooms. "The challenge was to separate the family room, dining room and kitchen in a non-imposing, creative manner," Southam said. "It was vital that the open concept of the ground floor be maintained while at the same time creating visual barriers." Her solution was to create a unique, curved partition in the center of the home, to separate the dining room, living room and family room from the kitchen.
The central wall is visually a focal point in the house from any vantage point, but it's also functional. The house's mechanical and electrical wiring are contained within this wall, and there's also a number of built-ins.
On the kitchen side of the central wall is a built-in cushioned-sofa, storage cabinets underneath the sofa and a large pantry, and on the other side-in the dining room-are additional built-in storage cabinets. "The whole family tends to gather in the kitchen at the end of the day, and we thought the sofa would be a great place where everyone could sit and be comfortable," the homeowners said.
The kitchen also features a lowered, table-height eating bar. This was designed with the couple's children in mind. "We wanted the eating bar to be low enough that we could use standard-sized chairs there, rather than the more typical barstools that you would use with the higher eating bars," the homeowners said. "Our children are still young and we figured that if they were sitting on regular sized chairs that were closer to the floor, they wouldn't have too far to fall if they fell off."
To create extra visual appeal, Southam created 15 by 15 inch square openings, or punch-outs, that are recessed into the central wall at various points. This adds to the open feel of the home, but each of these openings creates a place where the homeowners can display vases of flowers, sculptures or other types of artwork.
Of course, sometimes a little less openness is desired, and for those situations Southam designed two barn doors for behind the central wall at the back of the family room, to separate the family room from the rest of the house's main floor. "If the couple has overnight guests, they can stay in the family room and be able to close these doors and have some privacy," Southam said. "When their children get older, the couple will be able to close off the family room when they're entertaining and let the kids watch television in there, while the adults socialize in the other part of the house."
Natural-colored flooring, walls, cabinets, furniture and accessories were used throughout the home, to give it more of a warm, inviting feel. "Contemporary homes do not have to be cold and uninviting," Southam stressed. "They can be very warm and cozy. You just need to use materials that reflect the warmth, for instance the warm wood types and wood finishes, and a warm color scheme."
The central wall and the exterior wall that goes up the stairs in the interior are both of a orangeish-pumpkin colored brick, and this same color was used as an accent throughout the house. The cabinetry in the kitchen and dining rooms are a light-colored wood veneer, and the floors are natural cherry wood flooring-all of which pick up on the orange tone in the brick wall. Even the outside of the house has a creamy gold-colored stucco, which is in the same color grouping as the orangeish-brick walls.
Put it all together and you have an ideal home design for a busy, two-career family. "On a lot of days our children will just run in circles around that central wall on the first floor and they really burn up a lot of excess energy that way," the homeowners said. "Also, we can be in just about any location on the first floor and watch and supervise the kids wherever they're playing."
From the parents' perspective, the warmth and openness of their home provides them with a much-needed sense of peace and relaxation. "If you walk into a room and it's really cluttered and there's things everywhere, it can make you feel anxious; you get that feeling like ~.ou have to go and clean up," the homeowners said. "But with this home, being uncluttered and simple and warm, when we come home from a busy. day at work, we can sit down, relax and unwind because we don't have all that clutter to deal with. We get this sense of calm, and the hectic-ness of the world outside just kind of drifts away".