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The inside story: Fred Connors and Joel Flewelling 

It was a crumbling house in a lovely community. These Halifax entrepreneurs took the most unlikely space and turned it into a stylish and functional contemporary farmhouse.

Owners: Joel Flewelling and Fred Connors, of FRED. beauty food art. and Whet Café

What would you do if you walked into a house in such terrible shape that your real estate agent won't even venture inside? If you're Fred Connors and Joel Flewelling, you bring it on.

When neighbour and community activist Susanna Fuller bought up seven north end houses to keep them from becoming condos, Connors went to look at the one which had been most neglected: ceilings and walls were falling in, windows and a toilet smashed, and "murder" was spray-painted across the front. Welcome home.

But after a second look the couple decided that the size and south-facing orientation of the backyard would be "incredibly conducive to producing food" for themselves and for their cafe. There would be space for a neighbourhood chicken co-op also (Connors is actively fighting the by-law). But that wasn't the real seller: The small house is close to their salon/cafe, and they realized "There is tremendous value in living in a community among people you know you will care about," says Connors.

It's hard to imagine this is the same smelly space they started renovating last May. Almost the entire first floor---except for a small TV room built for two---is now a foodie's dream kitchen, dominated by a 20-foot island, ideal for entertaining, food preparation and hosting community cooking classes. Although the furnishings are cool in their minimalism, there is warmth, thanks to a rich-looking but inexpensive construction beam, flowers and a cheeky canine painting by Michelle SaintOnge.

But this house isn't just pretty on the outside. The heating system was converted to geothermal technology, "with the intention of following the guidelines for LEED certification without being LEED certified," says Connors.

It's a contemporary re-envisioning of a farmhouse kitchen in the middle of Halifax.

"When you walk into our home, you're definitely walking into the heart of our home."

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