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Schoolhouse to Home – Part I

March 6, 2012

This is the first in a series of articles about a charming and unique home in the country, just minutes from Hamilton.

I’ll describe through pictures and narrative how my clients have transformed the former schoolhouse into their own showcase for their collections, as well as a comfortable home where they garden and entertain extensively, generously sharing their lives with family and friends.  Jenn is well known for her cooking and gardening skills.  Jim likes to keep his collection of fine wines well stocked.  By the way, to protect their privacy these are not the home owners’ real names.

My clients don’t need any schooling about how to style their home.  They are collectors of rustic Canadian antiques, as well as decorative artefacts, and original Canadian art, and they live comfortably among them within the walls of the old schoolhouse.

It was once a country school surrounded by farmland, and it is still bordered by a church and cemetery.  Tall trees dot the former school playground.  A black and white photograph of the original schoolhouse with its quaint bell tower, dating to the 1800’s, shows the same trees when they were only a few years old.

Now there are honey coloured wide-plank pine floors, soaring ceilings framed in rough hewn beams, exposed brick walls, and beautiful woodwork.  Jenn and Jim have added schoolhouse furniture and old school supplies to their decor; you can almost see the earnest faces of the students and hear the school bell ring.

Previous owners actually made the conversion, but with my help my clients have since renovated extensively inside and out, including five bathrooms, enlarged principal bedroom, and built-in storage cabinets.   We also added an extra thirteen feet of height to the 1960’s classroom addition to create a loft office, gym, powder room and family room.  The old family room has since become the kitchen, and the old galley kitchen is now the servery, which is open to the living room and dining area.  A double car garage complete with a full height room above ensures an enviable amount of room for storage.

When you enter the house you can see right away that it is special, even though you need a guided tour to see all of its charms.  There are surprises around every corner.

Most visitors come in the side door, the closest to the driveway at the side of the house.  In summer the sounds of trickling water echo from the nearby small stone grotto that you can enjoy seated on a grouping of wicker furniture, covered in shades of lime and orange.  Jenn, a talented hobby gardener, has artfully planted heuchera and begonias in the same citrusy colours.  All of this gives a hint of wonders to behold inside.

To the left of the side door entrance, where most visitors enter the home, are the laundry room and a powder room.  The floor is terra cotta and Jenn found an antique washstand with original paint in the same distressed peachy tones, which makes a unique vanity.  Clear urethane was applied to the top to make it a waterproof counter, and a six inch softly shaped back splash was custom made and finished in multiple layers of paint to blend with the chipped and crackled original finish of the old chest.  A gleaming new polished nickel faucet and pair of light sconces, bead-board panels around the sink area and walls painted in milk chocolate make this the favourite powder room of some of the client’s guests.

From the side door entrance you turn right into the large open space with cathedral ceiling that includes the dining area, living room and original galley kitchen, now the servery.  A long, merlot red, bead-board panelled cabinet houses a dishwasher, hammered copper sink and storage.  On the other side, pine doors were treated to an undercoat of red, topped off with a charcoal, satin-finish paint.  A Meile coffee centre is built-in, along with a beverage fridge to make entertaining a breeze.  A rare piece of Porterro black and gold veined marble elevates the counters and pass-through of the servery from a mundane task area to a sophisticated destination for gourmet delights.

Above this, accessed with a custom sliding ladder, is the loft library overlooking the living room and dining room below.  Jenn is on a search for old bookcases to house books and objets d’art, which will create another cozy spot in the house to sit and read a book.

The living room and dining room areas are furnished in Jenn and Jim’s antique finds, some from New Brunswick, some from jaunts to the local Christie Lake Antique Show.  They include a grand, golden pine, corner hutch that houses silver and crystal serving pieces.  The dining table is a classic age-old trestle style surrounded by antique New Brunswick press-back chairs.

The living room is dominated by a sumptuous, caramel coloured, cut-velvet camel back sofa from Whittington Furniture, in Oakville.  Two crackle finished chairs, upholstered in a red check, also from Whittington, complete the seating arrangement that sits on a rich antique oriental rug in shades of red, blue, green and gold.

This great room, one of two in the house, is graced by tall mullioned windows on two sides, allowing plenty of natural light to pour in so this old house is never dark, not even on a grey day.  When night falls, charming schoolhouse pendant lights on long chains dot the ceiling and impart soft golden light.

Beyond the living room is the front entrance to the original schoolhouse.  Here a large exposed brick arch welcomes you, and Jenn reminds you that this was a place of learning with the tiny school desk and chair, as well as the inkwell on the antique side table.  A wicker hat placed on an upholstered bench looks like it was tossed there a hundred years ago.  A gorgeous antique brass lantern hanging from the tall ceiling has marbled teal coloured glass inserts, and contrasts beautifully with the red brick walls.

Walk through the living/dining/servery, and go through double antique wood doors to the bedrooms, or turn left and enter the new kitchen and beyond.

We’ll take a look at these rooms and more in the next instalment, Principal Bedroom and Kitchen.

Continue to Schoolhouse to Home – Part II
Continue to Schoolhouse to Home – Part III

About Adele Barrett

Adele Barrett is a consulting interior designer in Hamilton and Dundas. Over twenty years of conferences and continuing education classes keep Adele Barrett Interiors design practice both on trend and timelessly classic. She started collecting paint chips from the local lumber yard when she was 3 years old, and a seed was planted that grew into a career. Continue reading...