Growing up in the port town of Yarmouth, N.S., Mandy Rennehan developed a fascination for an abandoned windmill on a hill overlooking the Bay of Fundy. Her school bus passed it daily, and as she gazed at it through a foggy window, the daughter of a local lobster fisherman early on determined that one day she would own the building and transform it into her home. Well, some dreams do come true. In 2005, Rennehan bought the windmill and, harnessing the team of reconstruction experts at Freshco, her retail restoration and maintenance company whose clients include The Home Depot, Nike, Restoration Hardware, Starbucks, The Gap and Apple, within 10 months had converted the 1950s structure into a handsomely handcrafted home. Sharing it with Toronto nutritionist and personal trainer Ashlee Wilson, her life partner, Rennehan augmented the living space with an addition housing a 30-by-60-foot great room made of local materials like driftwood, beach stone and Douglas fir. "It encompasses everything I love," says Rennehan, a self-taught entrepreneur whose next restoration project is a 19th-century granite jail in Yarmouth, which she hopes to re-open as a restaurant and music hall. "This is the place where I am able to relax at the end of the day."
The beams "They are made of Nova Scotia-milled Douglas fir. Post-andbeam construction is one of the most effective ways to integrate structural architecture with an interior design. Using Douglas fir, which is local to the area, also formed a seamless connection with the original building, which a local framer had made of oak. But I also just like how it looks. It's very majestic."
The paintings "The frames are made of the extra millwork we had left over from the windmill, which we then hand-carved. The images are of Ash and me. Our nicknames are Kitty and Bear. We were in Toronto at a dinner party where we met a Spanish painter. We told him about our nicknames and then he asked us if we believed we might have been animals in a past life. After getting to know us, three weeks later he arrived at our doorstep with these paintings in hand."
The chair "It's a Victorian wing chair, and I found it at a flea market in Nova Scotia, Cape Breton I believe. I had it reupholstered in a sand fabric. It's a wonderful place to work on your laptop because it hugs you and puts your hands at the perfect level."
The side tables "These are two commercial lobster-fishing rope spools that my father kept for me for years in the windmill, knowing that one day I would refurbish them into end tables. They provide a lot of space. I eat in this room and also entertain here so they are useful." 5. The fireplace "It's very special to me because I had local masons hand-pick beach stones to construct it. I wanted all the stones to be in tones of grey, and they delivered. The opening is so big we had to bring in a damper from Europe. At 40 feet high it's the highlight of the room, the sexiest feature, absolutely."
The couch "I love this piece. It's a vintage leather Kensington cigar couch I got at Restoration Hardware, one of Freshco's clients. When Restoration Hardware first opened in Canada it was one of the pieces they featured in the store. I got one right away and have been carrying it around with me ever since. It's like my baby sookie blanket. I can't live without it."
The sailboat "My grandfather made that piece. He was a woodworker. The model was likely a no-name boat belonging to one of the local sea captains that he had admired and wanted to replicate."
The poker table "The one thing I love is bringing a bunch of people together and getting everyone to throw money into a pot that we then give to a local charity. I'm a great hand, I hate to say, so my friends hate playing with me. But because there's a good cause involved they indulge me."