Sarah Shaw and Peter Mann’s vacation home is called Teph Inlet, which stands for the first initial of each of their four young sons, who have been coming to Chester, N.S., with their mom and dad since they were born.
“We built this house for them,” says Shaw, who finally put the finishing touches on the six-bedroom house last year. “It was designed to be all about family. With big open rooms for cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles and long-time friends. Our hope is that our own kids will bring their children just like we did.”
Shaw, who is a family doctor, and her husband, an investment banker, both grew up in Halifax, where – and it’s no joke – they car-pooled to preschool together. “My cousin was his best friend growing up and I’ve known him forever. This is our happy place. This is where we come to step away from the busyness of our life in Toronto to just enjoy being together.”
The countdown to Chester begins the instant the last child is done school. “This year, my boys finished on a Thursday and we were in the car headed east by 5 a.m. Friday.”
The couple gave their Toronto-based architect Omar Gandhi, who has a fast-growing reputation for building beautiful contemporary homes on the East Coast, one simple request: “Make it feel like we are living outside,” says Shaw, who adds their front yard is about 75 yards from the beach.
“There isn’t an exterior wall on the main floor that isn’t glass. We’ll be coming back for Thanksgiving and again for Christmas. So we get all the leaves, and then the snow. Each season is gorgeous in its own way, and it feels like we’re immersed in it,” she says.
The open-concept great room was designed to accommodate an overflow of people. “We have a 13-foot bench at the dining table that is regularly filled with 12 children. The whole point of this room is to have great meals and wonderful times,” Shaw says.
The Chester property couldn’t be more different than their city abode, a 115-year-old semi-detached brick home in midtown Toronto. “We love our Toronto house,” she says, “but it’s pretty tight for space and it’s very traditional. This place is a wonderful contrast.”
Unobstructed views were so important to the couple that they decided there would be no hanging light fixtures. They chose the decor – all muted greys – to fade into the background. The custom-made sofa from Sarah Richardson Design easily holds four tired boys and a few pals after days filled with sailing, tennis and biking around the island.
“There is no TV in the family room – it was banned – and Lego sculptures routinely take over,” Shaw says. “I really wanted this space to be about focusing on each other and not on screens.”
The bedrooms, too, are deliberately small to encourage everyone to hang out in the public places.
“This house is more than a home away from home,” Shaw says. “It’s where we reconnect with each other – and with ourselves.”