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A transformed trio: reno #3 

A couple transforms a house with hidden history

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Jennifer Stewart describes the home she and her husband purchased in Herring Cove as fairly unremarkable, but as they say on HGTV---it had potential. What Stewart didn't see before buying it were some of the problems with the place.

"It turned out to be older and less well-constructed than we thought," she says. They thought it was a 1920s home, purchased for under $200,000 from the estate of Claude Darrach, author and last member of the racing crew of the original Bluenose. When they pulled up the carpet they found a newspaper with a front-page story of Amelia Earhart's journey around the world---that means the carpet was installed around 1937. But with more plaster and drywall removal, they discovered the house is actually a log cabin, with newspapers stuck in the crevasses dating back to 1830.

"So we don't really know its exact vintage," Stewart says, laughing.

A fairly extensive renovation followed, though she says they sort of ran out of steam with the kitchen, only completing it last year on the 10th anniversary of being in the house. Stewart says good advice she's tried to stick to is to make a master plan. "I also have people who will work for me for a reasonable rate," says Stewart, who is a designer. "We didn't blow our budget, though there are still parts of it that aren't finished. We have plans for things that will eventually get done. But you try and focus the money on the things that really matter." That includes a cherry wood floor and high-quality countertops in the kitchen, but the cabinets are sprayed, medium-density fibreboard and cherry veneer. One thing they didn't skimp on was the island.

"We took everything out of the main floor and put one thing back, a 14-foot-long island," she says, describing the totally open-concept living space, all the interior walls gone. "It has a really lovely granite top. One end is for cooking and the other is by a little fireplace, we sit there and eat our meals and so on." The stove being in the island allows for meals prepared with a view looking through the large windows that overlook the water.

click to enlarge SCOTT BLACKBURN

She says she and her husband were never really expecting to be living in an open-concept home, with intentions of adding another room still unrealized. "We call it the Herring Cove condo," she says.

The ceiling is one of the few original elements remaining in the home, and because it's quite low they had to adjust some of the renovations to accommodate, such as keeping cabinets on lower levels. A minimalist aesthetic was chosen, the style preferred by Stewart. That said, her husband travels extensively and brings home antiques and artifacts from around the world. "So, we have a few lovely ornate pieces. We try to balance it with the clean, modern furnishings. We don't have any drapes, either. The view is so apparent and lively, especially if it's a stormy day. You want to let it be the main event."

click to enlarge SCOTT BLACKBURN

Soapstone kitchen sink
"It's a delicious thing we splurged on. There's something quite nice about having stone and water mixing it up," says Stewart.

Built-in desk
Since both Stewart and her husband work from home, adding a permanent desk was an essential part of the renovations.

Built-in closets
The cabinet-makers who created the storage space in the kitchen were contracted to make the closets in the bedroom, as there was no preexisting closet space. Now they have a big cherry wood wall closet, with all the drawers and cabinet doors are spring-loaded to open with the slightest touch.

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