This Vacation Home in Rural Ontario Sets a New Standard for Prefab Architecture

Mulmur Hills Farm by Turkel Design is a spectacular response to a couple’s desire to bring a connection with nature—and several generations—into everyday living.

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Set within the rolling woodlands in rural Ontario sits a growing family’s vacation home beautifully crafted from timber, stone, and glass. Designed for multigenerational living, Mulmur Hills Farm by Turkel Design is a bold vision for what prefab architecture can be at its best: a bespoke response to the clients’ way of living in which the predictability of the process helps ensure the quality, timing, and cost of the result. It’s also a celebration of past and present, combining understated modern design and impressive timberwork to honor the vernacular of the surrounding 19th-century farm buildings.

"We often hear that our homes don’t look like prefab," says architect Meelena Oleksiuk Turkel. "But there’s no reason high quality, good design and prefabrication can’t work together." Mulmur Hills Farm, for example, makes use of thermally modified ash cladding that contributes to both durability and beauty.

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

"For those who still associate prefab with a lack of customization, or with low-quality materials, our homes upend their expectations," says Meelena Oleksiuk Turkel, partner at Turkel Design. "All of our homes—even those that originate from one of our design starting points in our Design Library—are highly customized for the homeowner’s site and lifestyle." 

Turkel Design prioritized the use of sustainable materials to create the bespoke prefab home. A dramatic cross-laminated timber (CLT) cantilever, for example, juts beyond the edge of the garage door. The panelized components—including the structure and shell of the garage and home—are crafted from domestic engineered wood products that result in a straighter, tighter building.

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

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The couple who own Mulmur Hills Farm are successful entrepreneurs from Toronto who wanted to build a new vacation home on the 100-acre site they had owned for more than 30 years. They were driven to build the new home as a place to create lasting memories with their children and grandchildren, and the spaces are designed to encourage that type of multigenerational living.

The home enjoys a connection with the surrounding landscape with views from every room that invite the 100-acre site into the interior. "The framed views from each room are a source of pride for us," says architect Meelena Oleksiuk Turkel. "They illustrate the way in which we design for a specific site, bringing the outdoors into the home and making the most of what the homeowners love about their land."

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

Operable floor-to-ceiling glass doors slide into pockets to open the entire great room—including the living and dining areas—to the outdoors. "This allows the line between indoor and out to blur, inviting in summer breezes and fresh air," says architect Meelena Oleksiuk Turkel.

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

"Our design process begins by getting to know how each homeowner wants to live," explains Oleksiuk Turkel. "We guide them through an approachable survey process that elicits the way in which they want their home to enable their desired lifestyle. Their feedback in turn guides our response to their site and allows us to develop a home that is uniquely suited to them."

During this phase of the design for Mulmur Hills Farm, Turkel Design discovered that the family likes to spend time listening to records, relaxing over morning coffee, preparing meals together, playing cards, and mixing cocktails.  

At the heart of the open-plan living space is a great room that opens outward beneath an expanse of laminated Douglas fir beams and western red cedar soffiting.

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

The great room includes a U-shaped kitchen island designed for the tradition of family meal preparation. "The joy that the family experiences while preparing a meal together at the U-shaped kitchen island, facing out to the rolling hills beyond, is particularly heartwarming," says architect Meelena Oleksiuk Turkel. 

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

The custom breakfast nook brings natural light in from above and frames the surrounding landscape, allowing the family to appreciate the play of morning light over the meadow. 

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

As a result, Turkel Design created an interior defined by spacious communal areas, as well as more private and intimate moments. Take, for example, the large great room that features a U-shaped kitchen island that allows the entire family to prepare meals together; and the cantilevered space with 270-degree views that serves as both yoga and art studio.

The cantilevered studio space is designed to facilitate two of the clients’ passions—yoga and painting. A floor-level window captures the sunrise during morning practice, while the views from the platform take in the surrounding landscape. "With one window positioned on the glazed living platform, and the other on the floor below, each partner has a window that encourages them down to the floor for their practice," says architect Meelena Oleksiuk Turkel.

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

The exterior of the yoga and art studio is defined by a slatted Douglas fir screen that controls the afternoon light. 

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

Finely crafted walnut cabinetry was also key in creating spaces that could adapt to the client’s needs. The casework design maintains clean lines throughout by concealing amenities, while ensuring that they are close at hand when needed. Notably, hidden away behind sleek walnut facades, are a fully-equipped mixology station, a record player, and an array of practical storage solutions.

The mixology station has a clever door system that allows it to be completely hidden away or opened up as the family desires.

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

The bar can be completely concealed within the walnut casework when not in use.

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

At the entry, a hidden walnut cabinet provides a place to keep wallets, keys, phones, and other distractions, signaling that the home is a place of relaxation. 

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

The LP turntable is concealed under a walnut bench, which allows the family to use the space for multiple purposes. When they want to enjoy their extensive record collection, they can simply open up the bench to reveal the record player.

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

Inspired by an intimate understanding of the property, built up over three decades, the couple also had very specific ideas about how the architecture should create a dialogue with its surroundings. The material palette of timber, stone, and glass echoes the material palette of a small wooden cottage and a traditional Ontario barn. "Although they're from different eras, the idea was for the buildings to share a commonality, like members of a family," explains Oleksiuk Turkel.  

Every room in the home enjoys views of the landscape—including the dining area. The natural material palette of the interior emphasizes this connection between inside and out.

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

The primary suite, with custom oak casework, offers views to the south and east.

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

The porch of the existing cottage, for example, offered inspiration for the screened porch in the new home where the family can gather on summer evenings to watch the sun set. Turkel Design also sourced regionally appropriate and sustainable materials, such as the Douglas fir glulam beams that stretch across the Western red cedar ceiling, a granite fireplace, and thermally treated ash for the exterior cladding. "Our commitment to sustainable materials is one of the reasons clients hire us," says Oleksiuk Turkel. "They’re looking for a smarter way to build."

The new home’s covered porch takes inspiration from the porch of the 150-year-old cottage shared by the extended family, just 100 yards away from the main home. The porch is designed for enjoying summer sunsets.

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

The panelized prefab production of the structure and shell of the garage and home is another big contributor to the home’s impressive sustainability credentials. The innovative panelized solution—which saw the home produced as a series of flat panels just outside Quebec City to be assembled on site rather than more conventional prefab modules—not only significantly reduces waste but also allows for flat-packing of building components for efficient shipping and minimal trips to site. "It’s just one of the many benefits of panelized prefab over modular prefab," says Oleksiuk Turkel.

The elegant prefab construction features glulam beams that support a steel scupper off of which water plumes during a rainfall—yet another nod to the landscape and natural elements.

Photo by Maxime Brouillet

"This family loves to gather," says Oleksiuk Turkel. "This home is the place where they can continue to build on their traditions in this serene landscape. We love the challenge of applying our design principles and process to help our clients live the lives they want—and we are so pleased to have helped them shape this future."

Project Credits:

Architecture & Interior Design: Turkel Design

General contractor: Dimension Homes

Lighting Design: Tirschwell & Co. Inc.

Photographer: Maxime Brouillet



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