The listing: 26 Fredas Point Extension, Chester, N.S.
Asking Price: $2,750,000
Taxes: $9,715.00 (2019)
Lot Size: 1.6 acres
Agents: Margaret Craig (Engel & Völkers)
Tim Unwin and James Wright were friends at Dalhousie University in Halifax decades before the lawyer and the architect would collaborate on a project on the shores of Nova Scotia’s picturesque Mahone Bay.
In 1997, Mr. Unwin was a partner at Toronto-based Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP when he purchased two vacant lots on a peninsula in the village of Chester and asked Mr. Wright to design a house for the property.
“Jamie is from Nova Scotia and he had a very good sense of what is Nova Scotian,” Mr. Unwin says.
The firm of Young + Wright was part of a partnership that designed Toronto’s SkyDome stadium in the 1980s. The architects’ other notable projects include the Rexall Centre, York University’s Schulich School of Business and OCAD University. Mr. Wright currently sits as a director at IBI Group Architects after it acquired his firm in 2008.
While he built his career working on large, public buildings, Mr. Wright welcomed the chance to design a family’s seaside escape.
“He was delighted to do this more residential project,” Mr. Unwin says, describing how the two spent many evenings together with pencil and paper, and the help of a little whisky.
Mr. Unwin describes the peninsula as “a very special part of Chester.” The land is actually an island, but today it is joined to the mainland by a causeway.
“Everyone calls it the peninsula,” Mr. Unwin says. “It’s a very desirable and lovely location.”
At one time the peninsula was entirely owned by the Pew family, he explains.
Joseph Newton Pew was a Philadelphia-based industrialist who founded Sun Oil Co. in 1886. The company grew to become one of the largest gasoline distribution companies in the United States and was later renamed Sunoco. As their business interests expanded, the Pews added shipbuilding and chemical operations to their holdings.
The Pew descendants had been summering in Nova Scotia since the late 1880s. Over time, they sold off land for development. Mr. Unwin purchased the last two parcels, next door to the original Pew family home.
The south shore of Nova Scotia continues to draw an international crowd, with visitors drawn to the area’s rocky promontories, fishing villages and sailing on the Atlantic Ocean.
“Because of the Pews, Chester has been a very popular destination for Americans over the years,” Mr. Unwin says.
The house today
Mr. Unwin and his wife, Anne, favoured a dwelling in the traditional Cape Cod style.
Mr. Wright also introduced the couple to the work of celebrated American architect Robert Stern, who designed many significant coastal homes.
The six-bedroom home at 26 Fredas Point Extension, completed in 2000, has 5,850 square feet of living space under its cedar-shake roof. Grey siding and white trim add to the traditional maritime appearance.
“It’s totally consistent with Nova Scotia,” Mr. Unwin says.
The building’s setting atop a spine running along the peninsula means the residents can gaze toward the bay and the Atlantic Ocean from all of the main rooms.
“We’re elevated, so we have a particularly nice view,” says Mr. Unwin, who can also see his golf club across the water.
Many windows face east, giving early risers a good view of the sunrise.
“That old sun comes up, it blasts you if you forget to close the curtains or you’re not up early,” he says.
The opposite side of the property provides sunset vistas.
During the design process, one of the places the Unwins looked to for inspiration was Mr. Wright’s own country property.
The architect had converted a barn north of Toronto into a spectacular home, Mr. Unwin says.
“I had been several times and admired his great room.”
The expansive room was noteworthy for having a fireplace at each end, says Mr. Unwin, who asked for the same configuration in Nova Scotia.
The main floor great room has a stone fireplace in the living area and another framed by a wooden mantel in the dining area. There are oak floors, panelled walls and a beamed ceiling lightened with a wash of white. The built-in window seats also provide amazing views over Mahone Bay, Mr. Unwin says.
The kitchen – large enough to accommodate an East Coast kitchen party – has a vaulted ceiling, a large island and French doors leading to a stone terrace.
The master suite is separated from the main home by a slate breezeway. There are two bedrooms, an ensuite bathroom and a sitting room.
Upstairs, two additional bedrooms have ensuite bathrooms and access to a long, wooden veranda.
Throughout the house, round and oval windows add a nautical feel.
The lower level has a home theatre and a recreation room with a fireplace and a bar with a granite top fashioned after one of Mr. Unwin’s favourite watering holes in New York during the time he was managing partner for his law firm in that city.
Outside, the home is surrounded by slate verandas and terraced perennial gardens. Mr. Unwin says the cedar-shake roof adds to the home’s character. To keep maintenance low, the roof is treated to prevent lichen from growing, he adds, and the exterior siding is made with a grey finish that doesn’t require painting.
Additionally, the property offers 30 feet of waterfront, and a 90-foot dock that marks the finish line of Chester’s annual sailing regatta.
“We’ll go down on the wharf, take a picnic lunch and be almost part of the action.”
When the couple’s two children were younger, Mr. Unwin says, the family often ventured down the coast to visit Hirtle’s Beach and other favourite stretches of shoreline. Longer excursions took them to the Annapolis Valley and the province’s wineries.
Mr. Unwin does not sail, but the family sometimes hires a local fisherman to take them on an offshore outing on a fishing boat.
“We’ll have a Cape Islander come and pick us up and off we’ll go to an island for the day.”
The best feature
One of the elements inspired by the work of Robert Stern is the octagonal wing, which provides a serene sitting area and library for the master suite.
“It’s like a lighthouse,” Mr. Unwin says. “It has a vaulted ceiling and a cupola above.”
There’s also a walkway around the exterior.
The lower level of the octagon has a bedroom with a full bathroom and French doors leading to the outdoors.
“Guests that want a little more privacy really like it,” he says. “They can come and go through their own entrance.”
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