The listing: 7132 Campbell Rd., Campbellcroft, Ont.
Asking Price: $1,895,000
Taxes: $7,528 (2018)
Lot Size: 26 acres
Agents: Dee McGee and Tina Hubicki (Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.)
The back story
Moya McPhail and Ralph Walker discovered soon after they met that one of the things they shared in common was a desire to live in an antique English barn.
That was many years ago and the couple lived in historic Port Hope, Ont. for a time before they decided to move outside the town and find an old barn they could transform into a comfortable home.
The couple soon discovered, however, that converting a rustic barn into a house brings all sorts of challenges – including the potential for a colony of cluster flies that never want to leave.
“We said, ‘Okay, we’ll build a new barn,'” Ms. McPhail, principal at Moya McPhail Design, says.
About eight years ago, the couple purchased 26 acres north of Port Hope, near the tiny hamlet of Campbellcroft, Ont.
The land was undoubtedly carved from one of the old 100-acre farms in the rolling hills of Northumberland County, Ms. McPhail says.
One of the existing buildings was an industrial shed that a previous owner used for storing large equipment, then turned into a bungalow. Ms. McPhail eyed the 12-foot high ceilings and decided that the space would be ideal as the starting point for the new house.
“It was, for us, the perfect opportunity for the barn idea.”
There was also a garage with an addition on the rear that could provide living space while construction was underway on the main residence.
Ms. McPhail then set out to design a new house in the style of a barn that wouldn’t look out of place in the countryside of England.
The house today
While Ms. McPhail designed a new house, Mr. Walker was scouring Ontario for salvaged beams from tumble-down barns. His search took him north to Orillia, south to Dunnville and east to Kingston and Napanee.
Today the new part of the house has an open living area with a height that reaches 22 feet in the glass lantern atop the building.
The antique beams weren’t sturdy enough to support the structure so the builder used beams of new material. Mr. Walker found an old-fashioned sawmill in Northumberland and worked with the owner to reclaim the surface of the old wood and use it to clad the modern beams.
“I was his helper,” Mr. Walker says.
The couple documented the laborious process of skimming wood from 18-foot beams in photographs that now hang in the mud room.
Ms. McPhail, meanwhile, started by creating a dining room large enough to accommodate the heirloom furniture that was passed down to her from her mother.
“This was really important to us,” she says of the large dining table and chairs. “My grandmother had it shipped from Scotland.”
Sliding glass doors in the dining room provide a view of the pond. They also let in the breeze when the weather’s warm.
Ms. McPhail and Mr. Walker often have dinner gatherings for friends from Port Hope or visiting family.
The kitchen at the centre of the home has an 11-foot island where guests can gather during dinner preparations.
“I wanted it to be a community kitchen and I wanted it to be part of the living space,” Ms. McPhail says.
A large picture window overlooks a stand of evergreens and a feeder where woodpeckers, chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches regularly stop by.
Built-in appliances and lots of storage space keep the kitchen uncluttered. A wood floor with an antiqued finish is comfortable underfoot, while the rest of the main living space has heated concrete floors that have been stained and polished.
“We wanted it to be kind of unique, but we didn’t want it to be too pretentious,” Ms. McPhail says of the interior.
In the living area, a Rumford fireplace has a surround of metal panels with the appearance of oil-rubbed bronze.
“I think mantles are overrated,” Ms. McPhail says, of her choice to eschew a more traditional fireplace design. She adds that the finish ties in well with the hardware on the doors and windows.
The original part of the house has been converted to a bedroom wing.
Rondelle windows in the main living area bring light to the bedroom wing, which was rebuilt with new floors that accommodate the home’s geo-thermal heating and cooling system.
The former entryway has been turned into a garden room with a sink useful for potting plants.
There are four bedrooms and a semi-ensuite main bathroom.
In the master bedroom, tall windows provide views of the land and forest outside. Floor-to-ceiling built-in cupboards provide closet space.
An ensuite master bathroom has a stand-alone bathtub with views to the outdoors. There’s also a walk-in shower and a water closet.
The area behind the separate garage now provides separate home offices for Ms. McPhail and Mr. Walker. There’s also a bathroom and an outdoor terrace.
Real estate agent Dee McGee of Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. says the space could easily provide a guest house with two additional bedrooms.
The best feature
The 26-acre parcel of land includes five acres of perennial gardens, a meadow, hardwood forest and stands of evergreens. The couple dubbed the property “Willowae” for the black willow trees which grow there.
“It’s like a little mini provincial park,” Mr. Walker says.
A former wetland has been turned into a pond stocked with fish.
“I had to learn how to grow things in wet soil,” Ms. McPhail says of the area around the pond.
Ms. McPhail also created a spiral garden around a well.
Mr. Walker built stone walls and a set of stairs to partially enclose the raised septic bed at the rear. The design is known as a “shepherd’s pass” in Europe because the sheep are funneled into the narrow stairs in single file.
Ms. McPhail says trails through the forest provide a tranquil place to walk.
“That’s where the deer sleep in the daytime,” Mr. Walker says.
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