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home of the week

The original arched brick of a rich orange clay hue common to the era, along with its stone trim, give the house a solid and serious aspect without feeling institutional.Tom Vogel/Vogel Creative/Tom Vogel/Vogel Creative

5 Emmons Lane, Flamborough, Ont.

Asking Price: $1,975,000

Taxes: $7,284.44. (2021)

Lot Size: 1.25 acres

Agent: Craig MacLean, Judy Marsales Real Estate Brokerage

The backstory

The ability to have separate spaces for work or play is a huge feature of the house.Tom Vogel/Vogel Creative/Tom Vogel/Vogel Creative

Procrastinators everywhere can rejoice; it’s possible to stumble upon your dream home in a last-minute stroke of luck. At least, that’s the story Luke Townsend tells about how he found a grand old restored schoolhouse in Flamborough, Ont.,: “I was being lazy, I hadn’t looked for anything,” he said.

Reminded by wife, Amanda, that he had yet to do his share of house hunting, he went online and turned up an almost 5,000-square foot-brick house priced near the top of their budget. “We booked an appointment, drove up Sunday morning and as soon as we pulled in I said, ‘Wow,’” said Mr. Townsend, who grew up in a similar red-brick farmhouse in Bellwood, Ont.

“When we walked into the great room with the windows and the kitchen, that sealed the deal for me,” Mrs. Townsend says. “I showed my parents and they said, ‘You have to get that house.’”

It was quite the contrast from the house hunting in Toronto, where the couple had been living for 18 years after initially meeting in the Hamilton area (where Amanda grew up) while Luke was attending McMaster University. They estimate they put offers on 80 houses in Toronto, losing out to multiple bids in most cases, when a Luke got a job offer in Burlington, Ont., (he’s a vice-president of information technology for a manufacturer). A desire to be closer to family as they were expecting their first child provided an extra push.

The first job was to change the 1980s-era decor of dark greens and baby blues, and almost every wall has been painted; Amanda’s professional preference for the Benjamin Moore Dove White shade got a serious workout with some of those 14 foot walls. The strip oak flooring and natural-stain wood trim – 18-inch baseboards -- provides most of the warmth and colour throughout. Another job was for the IT master to wire the place up for the Internet of Things. “There’s gotta be 50 light switches - we just ask Alexa to turn off the lights,” Luke said.

The house today

The first job was to change the 1980s-era decor of dark greens and baby blues, and almost every wall has been painted.Tom Vogel/Vogel Creative/Tom Vogel/Vogel Creative

The house has two wings. The original, built as a schoolhouse in 1915, has a plaque inset into the façade: “SSA 1915, West Flamboro and Beverly.” A newer wing extends toward the side yard and a two-car garage/shed.

The original arched brick of a rich orange clay hue common to the era, along with its stone trim, give the house a solid and serious aspect without feeling institutional.

In the front foyer there’s a good reminder that this was until the pandemic a live-work home. A tiled waiting area spans the hallway between the stairs up to the main living area on the left and the large open office of the right-side wing (a laundry room is tucked off this hall as well). A previous owner had a bridal shop in here according to listing agent Craig MacLean, and Ms. Townsend ran an interiors and staging business. “We had eight or nine groups go through, some were kicking the tires but only two were private home purchasers, the rest were after some sort of home office,” Mr. MacLean said.

With wood-paneled ceilings and broad pine planks on the floor this space is now converted into an adult retreat, with a wine-bar, mega TV and fireplace.

This space is an adult retreat, with a wine-bar, mega TV and fireplace.Tom Vogel/Vogel Creative/Tom Vogel/Vogel Creative

Just downstairs is a huge in-law suite, almost its own apartment (except the main living room has a wet-bar counter, but not a full kitchen). The basement is two-thirds above grade, so the windows are double the size you’d expect in a lower level, filling the space with light. There’s a chalkboard on the wall, ready for yet another long period of digital schooling. It does have another fireplace, it’s own huge bedroom and a full bath with shower stall.

Up to the second level from the foyer is more of that strip oak flooring (as seen in the basement) and a pass-through window on the left that looks into what looks like it was the either the principal or the secretary’s office. A cozy workspace with an exposed brick wall, you can get your late slip signed and carry on through a door with original transom windows (the wire-mesh safety glass tells it’s own tale).

Through this door is a huge kitchen, living room and dining room atrium in what was once the gymnasium. One might expect a huge central chandelier, but there’s just a modestly big one above the dining space, with pot lights in the perimeter bulk-heads that form a sort of ceiling tray and pendants hanging down to the middle of the wall of industrial windows that fill the back wall. Bold blue cabinetry wraps one wall and then a course of lowers continues around a hefty triangular island. There’s granite countertops for days, and the sink sits below a window with a view of the rear yard.

“Our neighbour’s own the stables back there, and have four pet horses – we feed them a lot of carrots – while you’re doing dishes you can watch the horses,” Amanda said.

The dining table sits on a raised platform three steps up, like it’s own stage, overlooking a sitting area facing a large brick chimney and fireplace. Just off this room is a large bathroom, with a huge soaker tub but no shower. Up a short course of stairs is another level tucked away; it’s set up as a study/den and might have been the principal’s office.

On the right is the other wing, heading up two flights of stairs to the addition. A door just next to these stairs leads to a small backyard deck and barbecue grilling station behind the kitchen.

Up the stairs at the first landing is full bath with glass-walled shower set into the dormered ceiling, which serves as the main bath for the homeowners. Up on the next level is the remaining three bedrooms, the first two are children’s rooms (the large of which looks onto the front yard). At the end of the hall is the primary bedroom, which has two closets (one a walk-in) but not it’s own ensuite and vaulted ceilings and a gas fireplace.

Favourite space

Downstairs is a huge in-law suite, almost its own apartment.Tom Vogel/Vogel Creative/Tom Vogel/Vogel Creative

What was the working office off the front foyer was converted to the family room the couple uses 90 per cent of the time, in part because it’s close to the basement. “In the last year I’ve had my home office in four different locations – my son likes to interrupt my work – and I finally ended up down in the basement,” said Luke. The ability to have separate spaces for work or play is a huge feature of the house. There’s also a new 500-square-foot deck with a fire pit on the other side of those sliding doors.

It’s also a good spot to keep an eye on the driveway for when the occasional stranger pulls up to the house with a story. “I was on the deck and a couple in a minivan pulled up and the lady said ‘I used to go to school here,’” Luke said. She promised to send pictures, but rather than pictures of the historic school it was her class photo. The schoolhouse has also starred in a commercial or two, and is a regular stop on film scouting location tours. There’s an offer on the house now (at press time still conditional).

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