Photographers Wilson Barry and Raina Kirn have been creative partners for nearly 10 years and friends for longer. “We both saw that we had different strengths and we joined forces,” Kirn says. “It’s mostly good,” Barry adds, jokingly. “She’s like the annoying little sister that always gets on my nerves – and I get on hers.”
Sibling-esque quibbles aside, when Barry and wife Ngaio Potts started looking for a second home away from the bustle of the big city, they asked Kirn and husband Jason Gordon, who also live in Toronto, if they wanted to all partner up – this time as cottage co-owners and roomies.
For Barry, a country home meant he and Potts could expose their daughter, Rhyan, to more natural surroundings. “I grew up in a rural, very remote area of British Columbia,” he explains. “So, I’m used to forests and animals. I wanted her to have at least a little bit of that in her life.”
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Kirn saw it as an opportunity to spend more quality time with the three-year-old. “Jason and I are [Rhyan’s] godparents. She was one of the reasons why we decided to do the house project together as well.”
The seven-acre lot and 1,300-square-foot house in Flesherton, Ont., which overlooks Lake Eugenia, is a ways from the hubbub of cottage country and worlds apart from their urban lifestyles. “It’s just a beautiful piece of property,” Kirn says, “because it’s got a meadow, but also a bunch of different [cedar and maple] trails that have different feels,” and plenty of nature for Rhyan to take in. “She runs around naked all weekend long, she loves it,” Barry says. “We don’t,” Kirn clarifies, with a laugh. “It’s not that kind of household.”
Renovations to the house, which was built in 1971, began with a coat of white paint to brighten things up – although it didn’t end there. Kirn says they planned “every nook and cranny,” working in custom pieces that would fit the confines of the space. For the kitchen and dining room, they enlisted the help of custom fabricators Paus Inc. and Sixpenny Architectural to build the oak dining table with white steel legs, which clocks in at about 800 lbs. “[Come] the end of the world, we’ll just be hiding under that table taking cover,” Barry jokes. Until then, the families spend hours sitting at the big table, eating and playing games. They also spend plenty of time preparing meals, Kirn adds, “whereas in the city, we don’t have as much time to cook and eat together.”
Light fixtures are custom or DIY: rewired vintage photo studio lights-turned-pendants (over the island) or repurposed work lights from the hardware store (above the kitchen window). “As photographers, light is important to us,” Kirn says, explaining that each switch is a dimmer and every bulb is tested for its colour temperature. Kirn’s husband, Gordon, is also a photographer, making three in the household. Gordon and Barry built the fixture that hangs above the dining table as well.
But when it comes to design decisions, Barry and Kirn take the lead, calling themselves the “design committee.” Just as they might on a photoshoot, they collaborated on the home’s overall aesthetic, which Kirn calls “Scandinavian farmhouse.” Black, white and neutral wood tones define the look, as seen in the repainted dining chairs (Craigslist castoffs from the Old Spaghetti Factory), Structube stools or the vintage Eames rocker with fur throw. Garage sale finds such as mismatched floral-patterned plates and vintage wood spoons as well as the soft pine floors, sourced from a local mill, add back the patina of age, place and history. “It was a lot of blood, sweat, tears, elbow grease and all that good cliché stuff to polish it up,” Barry says. “The floors are already starting to get really dinged and marked up. But that’s what adds character, right?”
Get the Look
Hudson Iron Bar Stool, $49 at Structube (structube.com).
HEKTAR Pendant Lamp, $69.99 at IKEA (ikea.ca).
Heaven Step Ladder, $738 at Finnish Design Shop (finnishdesignshop.com).
Case Study Armshell Rocking Chair by Modernica, $714 at The Modern Shop (themodernshop.com).
Old-Fashioned Cast Iron Shelf Bracket, US$18.95 at Signature Hardware (signaturehardware.com).
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