Robert Lemon’s house stands out, and he knows it.
“It’s not at all a typical house,” says the architect and preservationist. “It wasn’t intended to fit in.”
Mr. Lemon is now putting the finishing touches to his rejuvenation of the house – actually two adjacent properties, which he has dubbed “Seven&Nine”– built 20 years ago by Shim-Sutcliffe Architects on Stratford’s Cobourg Street overlooking the town’s central Lake Victoria.
The properties were originally built for restaurateur Jim Morris, who operated No. 9 Cobourg St. as Rundles Restaurant, and lived in No. 7, dubbed Tower House. Mr. Morris put the properties up for sale in 2017. No. 9 is now being converted into an inn with an expected opening next year. No. 7 will soon be open for short-term rentals. Mr. Lemon, who is originally from St. Thomas, Ont., but now lives in Vancouver, says he’ll eventually move back to live in No. 7.
“My idea was … to have [the Tower House] as a second home and ultimately a retirement place,” he says.
Mr. Lemon has been careful to preserve the modernist pedigree of the Shim-Sutcliffe structures. Mr. Morris, who was a fan of Japanese architect Tadao Ando, commissioned the Toronto firm to build along the same modernist lines. Mr. Lemon says the results were brilliant.
“It’s intended to be a statement about good modern design,” he says.
Architect Brigitte Shim says the massing was meant to emphasize the location. “You have a restaurant, a house, this vertical tower and they’re all part of this elevation that’s really reinforcing the river,” Ms. Shim said.
The 1,800-square-foot house is organized as open space on six different levels grouped around a central atrium that is the full height of the building topped with a large sky light. Walking up to the sixth floor, the feel of the outdoors is ever present because of the bright, open sky-lit space.
Along with the buildings, Mr. Lemon purchased all of Mr. Morris’s original furnishings. He has also added his own collection of modern art. “Jim had quite a specific arrangement of very contemporary, very modern furniture,” said Mr. Lemon, who says he wanted to preserve “both the interior and architecture in the way that it was intended in the first instance.”
Mr. Lemon has carefully curated the furnishings and art to complement each other. The heavily outlined rural scene of Stelco Gate by Clark McDougall (1977) sits above a Flexform Loveseat, a green teal sofa designed by italian architect Antonio Citterio. “The painting has the exact same shade of green as the sofa I got from Jim Morris,” Mr. Lemon says. In the dining room, the sculpture Polyhedron III by Greg Murdock (2013), echoes the angularity of the house. Terra Cotta (1990) by South African sculptor Kathy Venter sits above the fireplace in the Tower House’s living room.
“There’s a story about each piece that I have brought,” Mr. Lemon said. “There’s a reason why I brought them to the Tower House.”
Architect Neil Ironside and his wife Judith Kaufman, friends of Mr. Lemon, recently spent a long weekend at the house. “The house sets the standard of design intelligence,” Mr. Ironside says. “Everything about the house is so well thought out. You’d never want to just put up a poster of The Beatles on the wall.”