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The Globe and Mail

Home of the Week: Filmmaker builds a house with star power

Home of the Week, 1218 Lakeshore Rd. W., Oakville


ASKING PRICE: $4.5-million

TAXES: $34,840

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Lot size: 1.2 acres

Agent: Trish Knight (Sutton Quantum Realty Inc.)

The back story

Documentary producer Philip Osborn, whose best-known work is the series Clash of Wings on the Discovery Channel, moved to the Toronto area from Washington in 2000 to work with Alliance Atlantis.

He and his wife, Carole, a nature lover, settled on Lakeshore Road West in Oakville, where they could be close to the city and still enjoy a lush green setting on Lake Ontario. After renting for a couple of years they bought the property next door – a bungalow on 1.2 acres – tore down the house and built their dream home, where they have lived for almost 10 years.

The couple, originally from rural Tasmania, wanted to recreate as much as possible what they had there. "We wanted something that got us away from city centres," Mr. Osborn said. "We had a big river going through our property and we liked the idea of being near the water." So the heavily treed, 670-foot deep lot with riparian rights was ideal. "It reminded us of our home."

A second goal was to have the space to entertain buyers and producers, as well as visitors coming to Toronto for events such as Hot Docs. "It's been very good for us from a business point of view," Mr. Osborn said. "It's a great house for entertaining."

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The house is 7,300 square feet, which includes a wing housing a guest suite with a separate sitting room. There is also a fully equipped nanny or in-law suite over the three-car garage. Both have been put to use housing visitors for extended stays.

With Mr. Osborn now in semi-retirement, the couple is looking to downsize. They plan to spend more time in the United States to be closer to their grown children and scaling back the business means they will need less space.

The house today

The house was built in what the owners describe as classic Old-English style.

The gourmet kitchen, with butter-coloured cabinets, light granite counters and a raised centre island, is open to a breakfast area with a view of the lake. The kitchen leads into an elegant great room with cathedral ceilings and a gas fireplace. The adjacent formal dining room, with a bay window and sitting area can, be closed off with pocket doors or left open to entertain larger groups of guests, while keeping an inviting flow to the space.

The first floor also has a study and a butler's pantry.

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Upstairs there are four bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms, for a total of six bedrooms including the guest suite and nanny quarters. The 24-by-14-foot master bedroom has a picture window with a view of the lake as well as a five-piece ensuite with a soaker tub that also has the sweeping view.

A second large bedroom also has windows facing the lake.

Both the first and second floors have beautiful Brazilian hardwood throughout. An interesting feature on the first floor is the five antique cut-glass, hand-crafted wood doors that were made by a builder of stained glass windows and preserved and restored by the Osborns.

A finished attic, which can be accessed by both elevator and stairs, makes a great retreat. With a vast amount of storage space it has been an ideal craft room for Ms. Osborn, but would also make a quiet study or yoga room.

The finished lower level, now used mainly by Mr. Osborn's employees, has loads of potential with heated floors, a partial kitchen, above-ground windows, a walkout through French doors to a stone patio, a steam sauna and provisions to install a hot tub. A wine cellar is roughed in and a soundproof home theatre is wired for state-of-the-art equipment. There is a soundproof audio room for professional voice recording.

The best feature

This house is on a stunning lot and was designed to take maximum advantage of its proximity to the lake and the mature trees and lush foliage that surround it.

The unique setting is showcased as soon as one enters the dramatic front hallway. Visitors are invited in by a custom crystal chandelier and maple staircase. But at the same time, a large interior window invites them to look into the great room and out through its doors to the yard and the lake.

South-facing first-floor rooms all have plenty of glass. If you don't have a lake view from your bedroom or your bathtub on the second floor, you can count on trees and birds being outside your window.

The Osborns have enjoyed being this close to nature, watching foxes, baby raccoons and other critters stroll through their yard. They have shared many meals on the stone patio, which has also been a boon for business. "About a dozen deals have been done here," Mr. Osborn says.

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