A DIY Couple Build a Farm-Fresh Retreat in the Canadian Countryside

A DIY Couple Build a Farm-Fresh Retreat in the Canadian Countryside

By Lydia Lee
Working with architect Nova Tayona, a Toronto-based couple create a family farmhouse that merges past and present.

Kristine Remedios and John Silva had a shared vision. "We always wanted a modern house with a country feel," says Kristine. Both Kristine and John work and live in Toronto—she’s an inclusion and diversity officer, and John teaches photography and digital media to high schoolers—but a few years ago, the couple became enchanted with the rural community in Ontario’s Prince Edward County, a three-hour drive from the city. 

At one end of the house is an unconditioned space designed to function like a screened porch. The roof trusses are made of wood from the old farmhouse, and the interior walls are clad with shiplap boards painted white. The wood stove is from Pacific Energy.

In the historically agricultural area, previously settled by British loyalists during the American Revolution, they came across a six-acre farm with a dilapidated farmhouse and barn dating back to the 1830s. "There was something about it," says John. "It had woods and fields and a rolling landscape—it was a very pleasant spot. We thought we were going to save the house." 

The couple was inspired to build an all-white house after visiting Newfoundland and seeing the many white saltbox houses there. "They’re neutral—you can see the whole landscape around you," says John. "In my mind, properties have a memory of what was there," adds Tayona. "This house is familiar but modern at the same time."

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After the couple consulted with architect Nova Tayona, who had been a patron of a cafe Kristine and John used to operate in Toronto, it became clear that the farmhouse was unsalvageable and that they would have to start from scratch. From Tayona’s perspective, it was all the better. "In Ontario, you often see farmhouses with something modest in the back, which is the original structure, and something taller in the front, which is the fancy part that came later," she says.

The all-new family retreat features 2,500 square feet inside of an L-shaped layout. In a tall three-story volume are the kitchen, dining room, bedrooms, and a loft, and a connected one-story volume contains the living room and screened porch. "I also wanted to create privacy from the road and have an open view towards the field and the barn," adds Tayona. 

The living room is heated with a Morsø wood stove. The house is clad in Maibec prefinished rabbeted-bevel wood siding in Ultra White and has a standing-seam metal roof.

Having previously renovated four other properties, including their 1800s-era home in Toronto, Kristine and John were excited to do much of the construction themselves. They took on some of the framing, along with the wiring, the siding, the concrete floors, and the interior finishes. "We like to do the work—and we wouldn't have had the budget to hand it off," says Kristine. Says Tayona of her clients, "They’re both very handy and precise, and have an understanding of how things come together." 

The couple purposely requested that the house have no closets or built-ins. "We wanted it to be a really simple place," says Kristine. "It’s so peaceful here. We walk right into a field in the morning."

In the porch room, Max, age 10, and Emily, age 8, sit on a vintage sofa from Gone Vintage in Belleville, Ontario. The caribou antlers are from Aberfoyle Antique Market in Puslinch, Ontario.

In the dining room, the acrylic paintings are portraits of the children by Kristine. The dining table was made by John from wood reclaimed from the farmhouse, and is paired with dining chairs from Smash Salvage in Hamilton, Ontario.

The kitchen cabinetry is from IKEA; the cabinet pulls are from Richelieu Hardware. In the spring, the family harvests maple syrup from the trees outside the window.

A pendant light in the kitchen is a basic socket combined with an LED Edison bulb.

The living room sofa is from EQ3.

One of the kids’ bedrooms has a lamp that was scavenged, which was paired with a long incandescent bulb.

The main bathroom features Timorous Beasties’s White Moth Circle wallpaper. The mirror and vanity are from Gone Vintage in Belleville, Ontario. The shower is tiled in white Saltillo tile from Saltillo Imports in Toronto.

The combined laundry room/powder room features Sardines Charcoal wallpaper by local artist Kate Golding.

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