The listing: 1761 County Road 1 East, Napanee, Ont.
Asking Price: $2,895,000
Taxes: $7,752.45 (2021)
Lot Size: 6½ acres
Agents: Paul Johnston (Right at Home Realty Inc.)
Linda Corbett and Andrew Fee searched for a country property in Eastern Ontario for about two years before they found the setting they were looking for near Napanee in 2017.
Their search led them to a 6½-acre parcel of land carved from one of the area’s original farms. The site is traversed by a stream and natural spring that cascades over limestone boulders.
“No one has ever lived on this land before,” Mr. Fee says.
At the time, the founders of the Toronto-based design firm SOMA Studio were already intrigued by the ways technology was allowing people to blur the lines between home and work.
“We saw that the pace of life was changing – and this was way before COVID,” Ms. Corbett says.
The couple spent the first year having a road into the property built, adding a septic system and running underground power lines.
“You can’t ruin the landscape by putting hydro poles in,” Ms. Corbett says.
A meadow overlooking the Napanee River was an obvious building site, Mr. Fee says. The couple set out to design a rural modern house. “Longhouse”, as they call the completed building, was inspired by Canadian historic and vernacular architecture.
“The idea was to build something that looked like it had evolved instead of being dropped on the landscape,” Ms. Corbett says.
The house today
One of the first challenges arose when workers started to dig a hole for the basement and hit solid limestone after five feet, Mr. Fee says.
The pair have built many homes over the past 30 years or so and they know that every project requires some innovation and creative solutions along the way.
In this case they raised the house using insulated concrete form. The modern technique creates a solid structure with hefty insulation and weatherproofing.
Mr. Fee, a master carpenter, put a full shop in the basement. The couple also hired local trades skilled in 17th-century stone masonry and traditional timber framing.
“New people brought new ways of working that we would never know,” Mr. Fee says.
The completed house – clad in wood siding from Quebec and topped with a steel roof – provides more than 2,700 square feet of above-grade living space in the main building and two wings. The basement, with 10-foot-high ceilings, adds another 2,039 square feet.
Today, guests and residents arrive to an entrance hall with a mudroom and powder room.
Inside, cooking, dining, lounging and gathering around the fireplace all takes place under a timber frame structure 35 feet high.
The centuries-old timber framing technique allowed the couple to have large glass walls that open up the interior to the landscape, Mr. Fee explains.
And while the wood exterior has a traditional appearance stained in deep charcoal grey, the interior is light and modern.
“It’s a juxtaposition that I think makes the design more exciting,” Mr. Fee says.
The couple looked to Scandinavian style in creating simple, well-crafted wood doors and cabinets. They chose subtle tones and unfussy design.
“Scandinavian furniture has its roots in rural simplicity so it seemed a natural fit,” Mr. Fee says.
The kitchen is designed for serious cooking and casual socializing, with a chef’s range, white oak cabinets and a 12-foot-long island.
“I wanted the kitchen to be very much part of the living and dining area,” Mr. Fee says.
In the living area, a wood-burning fireplace imported from Belgium is set in a surround of handmade Spanish tiles. Doors slide open to an outdoor terrace with views of the river.
Stairs lead to a loft above with two bedrooms, a bathroom and a 28-foot gallery overlooking the living area.
The wing containing the primary bedroom is set a couple of steps down from the main living area and has a cathedral ceiling 16 feet high.
There’s a dressing area and an ensuite bathroom with a stand-alone tub and a walk-in glass-enclosed shower.
The bedroom has a wall of windows looking toward the river and a door opening to an outdoor terrace.
“You can see the stars right above you when you’re lying in bed,” Ms. Corbett says.
The completed house is serene in all seasons, the couple says. They often see wildlife wandering by, and bald eagles circle above the river.
“There’s a sense of calmness about it. The whole focus of the house is living on the landscape,” Mr. Fee says. “It’s like a theatre. Every day is different.”
The best feature
Ms. Corbett and Mr. Fee enjoy spending time outdoors in the pastoral setting.
“Our closest neighbour is a shepherd,” Mr. Fee says. “He’s got 30 little lambs we could watch running around outside.”
The landscape includes meadows of hay and wildflowers, a stream with a natural waterfall, and the winding Napanee River.
Mr. Fee created a large river porch, which sits on the edge of a cliff, cantilevered over the water.
Maple and Burr Oak trees line the drive, and an elevated garden of grasses and native flowers surrounds the house.
Mr. Fee grew up in nearby Kingston and has always admired the many buildings built from local limestone. He obtained some stone from a quarry near the property and had a partial wall built alongside the house.
The folly could be one of the remnants of old stone farmhouses that often appear in the landscape, Ms. Corbett explains.
“Imagine you might have an old limestone ruin because you see a lot of that around here.”
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