They laugh in unison as the paint legend is produced from a kitchen drawer.
“You saved it!” exclaims interior designer Shelley Kirsch in mock horror. “You bet. There are 42 different paint colours on the list: 42!”
The quick reply comes from the owners, a couple who we shall call Mr and Mrs Smith. “When Shelley first showed us how many colours she wanted to use on our house we thought she was crazy,” quips Mr Smith.
Add to this colour palette a material one that includes tin, copper, iron and steel; basswood, cherry, maple and bamboo; limestone, pebbles and granite; plus, vintage wallpapers, stained glass and custom designed carpets. The list is dizzying. But the effect is wonderfully appealing, constantly engaging and downright homey in all the right measures.
The richness and complexity of the interior design of this house perched above the eastern shore of Lake Simcoe is hinted at even before entering. High double gates, dressed up in blackened bamboo neatly tied with twine, mark entry to the property. The house is predominantly timber clad and painted a subdued green but from the midriff down it wears a rugged dry stone skirt. And then, there’s the heavy front door, its deep-set paneling playing foil to a beautiful, specially commissioned, stained glass window depicting rolling hills and fluttering maple keys.Ms. Kirsch was hired in 2010 by the couple, whose family have lived on Lake Simcoe since 1954. She worked with them before any other designer was engaged to create an overall vision for the renovation of the property, which includes the main house, a guesthouse and boathouse. Ms. Kirsch then enlisted the services of an architect and team of artisans to bring the vision to fruition.
While the guesthouse had to be virtually rebuilt, the main home was extensively renovated and added to, taking it from the original 2,700 square feet to its present size of 3,100 square feet. “Mrs. Smith wanted to salvage as much as possible of the old house,” says Ms. Kirsch, “and so we changed the layout around to bring the kitchen into the main living space and built two small wings to extend what was a thin, bowling alley of a living room and create a bigger, friendlier space with lots of windows all around.”
But she and architect Kevin Downey have achieved a whole lot more than that. They have addressed the view of the lake properly and fully connected the interior with the verdant landscaping – the windows on three sides of the living room are a few of the 31 windows in the main house.
And, it is this connectedness, these links and associations that Ms. Kirsch’s design thrives upon. Every element, so different and engaging, has a story behind it. The style is eclectic but well chosen. The arts and crafts feel that exudes from the external stone cladding is matched well with the original granite fireplace and its new Adirondak-esque rough wooden framework. Geometric designs on the stair banisters – so reminiscent of the work of Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh – are picked up in the detailing of the cooker hood, while the patterning of the pressed tin kitchen ceiling is transposed to the glorious stained glass office door. Even the shiny nuts and bolts that stud the exposed steel beams in the living room ceiling have an historic allegiance, the oversized rivets of the hallway mirror.
Bringing this plethora of delights together is Ms.. Kirsch’s 42-pot paint scheme. Complementary colours, cleverly combined with a variety of vintage patterned wallpapers, give individual presence to each space. Guest rooms are vibrant and full of immediate interest. In contrast, the master bedroom suite is calm and muted – Ms Kirsch using white and pale blues in both the bedroom and bathroom. Here, warmth comes from the light toned veneers of three species of maple on drawer fronts.
“Shelley was very insistent about the different veneers,” says Mr. Smith. “She even drew a sketch of the drawer fronts for the carpenter, marking the position and direction of the grain on each.”
This attention to detail is carried through to the guesthouse, where a quirky pebbled threshold detail is repeated on the bathroom floor and cedar boards, once used on partition walls, now line the vaulted ceiling of the upper storey. Similarly, in the boathouse existing portholes have been reused, while the roof trusses are not hidden by a ceiling but exposed and painted white to add another dimension to this delightful waterside bedroom suite.
This house overlooking Lake Simcoe is an assault on the senses, albeit a most exquisite one. The ideas and intricacies encapsulated in Ms. Kirsch’s design leave the Smiths wondering when they’ll stop being surprised by it. “Every day you notice a different aspect; you find a new place to enjoy,” explains Mr. Smith. “A certain light coming through the stained glass; the coolness of pebbles on bare feet; another beautifully crafted detail…” His voice drifts off as he smiles and surveys his colourful, enlivening and extremely welcoming home.