18 Paul St., Picton, Ont.
Asking Price: $1,799,000
Taxes: $4,114 (2021)
Lot Size: 62 feet by 132 feet
Agent: Faye Moxam, Century 21 Lanthorn Real Estate Ltd.
Kevin and Sarah Reid-Morris are design and innovation consultants who were living in Oakville, Ont. when the world moved to remote working at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, 2020.
The couple were quick to seize on the opportunity to escape the city and its lofty real estate prices. Their property search led them to a circa 1890 red-brick house listed for sale in Picton, Ont.
The small town about two hours’ east of Toronto is set in bucolic Prince Edward County, where the couple often spent time unwinding. The headland jutting into Lake Ontario offers a laid-back lifestyle in the midst of rolling farmland, beaches and wineries.
The house needed extensive work to bring it up to date. But the two were drawn to the sizable lot and the original details in the Victorian-era house. There was also a stand-along garage with space above for a spacious studio.
After they took possession, Mr. Reid-Morris began to delve into the home’s history. He discovered that the first owners were grocers Ellen and Thomas Reid, who purchased a parcel of land from the descendants of a United Empire Loyalist in 1868.
The Reids continued to live above their store on Main Street even after the sturdy house was built. They leased the house to Picton residents – including a merchant and a tailor – and never lived in it themselves.
Over the years, the house belonged to a series of owners, including a former blacksmith, retired farmers and a school teacher.
“It was really well-maintained over the course of its life,” Mr. Reid-Morris says, “but the design choices were dated. There was no light making its way into the house because there were three or four layers of velvet curtains.”
As soon as the couple picked up the keys and walked through the door of 18 Paul St., Mr. Reid-Morris tore down the curtains and packed them into a box. Then the couple got down to work.
They were married on the front porch six weeks later.
“It’s an important life milestone,” Ms. Reid-Morris says. “It’s not only a special house but it’s our wedding venue.”
The house today
The work continued long after the wedding as the couple bolstered the insulation and sealed up cavities to make the house more energy efficient.
Today the house has five bedrooms and three bathrooms in 3,000 square feet of living space.
The footprint on the main floor remains much as it was when the home was first built.
There’s a front parlour, a grand foyer, the original staircase with a wood banister leading to the second floor and another staircase in the kitchen.
The two loved the rear staircase and quickly decided it needed to be preserved at all costs.
“For someone who have never owned a house, we not only had a home but one with two staircases,” Mr. Reid-Morris says with a laugh.
The couple kept a 1,000-square foot addition at the rear and created a family room with an office above. The space also doubles as a guest suite with a private bathroom. The addition, built sometime in the last century, lacked the ornate woodwork and plaster of the original house so the two added trim and other details to blend the two parts together.
“That made that space so much more cozy and intimate,” Ms. Reid-Morris says.
Upstairs, the primary bedroom has large windows with views of landmark Macaulay Mountain and an ensuite bathroom with soaker tub.
The 800-square-foot double garage at the rear of the house stands where a coach house likely stood, Mr. Reid-Morris says.
During the renovation, it became a workshop below, while Mr. Reid-Morris set up his office above.
“The saw was always going out there with something we were working on,” he says.
The backyard provides a spacious patio under the canopy of a massive maple tree.
Mr. Reid-Morris is a photographer who sits on the board of OCAD University. He put his arts background to use when he became much more hands-on with the reno than he planned.
The couple ran into many of the challenges that contractors and homeowners faced while trying to build during the pandemic: lumber was in short supply, stores were closed and artisans were hard to get.
“You realize the importance of leveraging the skills you have,” he says.
When Mr. Reid-Morris was trying the match the home’s 130-year-old trim, he spent hours searching trim profiles online. If he’d been able to walk into the local lumber yard with a sample, he would have been done in an afternoon, he points out.
For Ms. Reid-Morris, painting the intricate woodwork of the front porch – and the 38 shutters on the home’s exterior - was a daunting task.
The couple found a photo taken in 1912 which showed a black-and-white trim and shutters on the red brick house. They loved that the classic scheme honoured the house while also feeling very contemporary.
“We went in over-confident of the time it would take to repaint,” she says with a laugh.
Despite the challenges, the couple feels ready to put their newly acquired skills to work restoring another old house.
“It was definitely blood, sweat, tears and gut – and some frustration – but also a sense of tremendous satisfaction,” Ms. Reid-Morris says of the project.
The couple have enjoyed living in the house, which is a short stroll from the restaurants, bars and theatres of Picton, but now they are heading back in the direction of Oakville to be closer to family. They’ve already purchased a 1904 dwelling in need of an overhaul.
The house at 18 Paul St. sold after a few days on the market for $1.76-million.
The best feature
The kitchen was an epic challenge, Mr. Reid-Morris says, because there were five additional layers of flooring beneath the surface. He spent weeks stripping the materials.
“There was lots of stuff you had to do just to get to the starting line.”
The couple laid a new floor, painted the cabinets and brightened the room with new quartz countertops. Instead of an island, they added a slab of marble that sits on a cast iron base. The vintage light fixture is also reminiscent of a French bistro.
“You don’t want to insult the house but you also do not want to be restricted by seriousness,” Mr. Reid-Morris says. “We wanted to add fun and quirkiness.”
Mr. Reid-Morris says the vintage finds add character but the kitchen provides the conveniences of the 2020s, such as a 36-inch gas range.
“We are so proud we were able to have something appropriate for the house but also suitable for modern life.”
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