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the architourist

The home is so well insulated, energy bills are a paltry $40 a month.Nanne Springer

Don’t let the slick photographs fool you, this is a kitchen for two cooks to cook in. And bake in. And make messes. And chat. And, heck, sing and dance probably.

While being the largest room in the house is nothing new, that this kitchen takes up as much square footage as it does – about two-thirds of the main floor – in this 2,400-square-foot custom house in Paris, Ont. is telling, but we’ll let Stephen Grant tell it.

“Well, that’s where we spend a lot of time,” Mr. Grant, 75, says simply, his English accent still shaping his words slightly after a half-century in Canada.

“And we’re not the kind of couple that just raids the fridge and calls it dinner,” adds his partner, Linda Milrod. “We cook every day, and we treat ourselves very well that way.”

A quick scan of the bright, cheery room bears this out. There is a big island with a sink; inset into the massive IKEA storage wall are two Corian-topped work surfaces, the walls behind painted in the couple’s favourite shade of orange; there is a great deal of space on either side of the induction cooktop and, above, a magnetic strip holding plenty of knives; best of all, to the right of the cooktop is a walk-in pantry. And, in that pantry, opposite the wall of hanging pots and pans is another sink – something the couple had to convince their architects to include – because that’s where coffee gets made, food is stored and the toaster creates crumbly bits.

There is a great deal of space on either side of the induction cooktop.Nanne Springer

It works for their lifestyle, in other words. And that’s to say nothing (yet) of the music room, the craft room and the elevator.

Knowing what one wants is a privilege of age. Both now retired, when Ms. Milrod and Mr. Grant put their Toronto house up for sale about four years ago, they took their time searching for the perfect spot to spend their golden years. They also hired Tom Knezic of Solares Architecture to vet their choices. While their first thought was to have a one-storey bungalow built near Cobourg, Ms. Milrod quips that “it felt like all of Toronto, at that time, was looking for property out there.”

So, off to Southwestern Ontario, where they found a lot “rather quickly.” The only wrinkles? Since it was a severed piece of the neighbouring lot, it was too narrow to build a bungalow, plus, it sloped upward. Continuing to employ Solares because they wanted a “21st-century” sustainable house, architect Christine Lolley (the other principal and life partner of Mr. Knezic) and designer Lilia Sosedova came up with a rather novel solution: a small “tower” house, complete with an easy-peasy, at-grade front door right off the driveway. Step inside and just a few steps away from Mr. Grant’s small and efficient music studio (he was a folk singer as a young man), there is an elevator (which this very active couple now uses to send groceries up to the second floor). Beyond that, there is a small television room/den with a Murphy bed because guest rooms “don’t get used,” Ms. Milrod says.

The living room faces the street.Nanne Springer

As for how the rest of the floor plan would play out, Ms. Milrod tapped into her former life as liaison for both the Transformation AGO project, where she worked with Gehry Partners, and her work with the Aga Khan Museum, where she worked with Maki and Associates. “It’s called adjacencies, all the adjacency planning, what needs to be next to what, so I was ready with a functional plan,” the 67-year-old says with a laugh. “It was a conversation [with Solares] that we just jumped into, they didn’t have to ease us into anything.”

From the street, the main floor – which contains the living room, a small powder room and that large kitchen – reads as the second floor. This allows the couple to watch the sunset from their street-facing living room, since there are no homes across the street, only the treed slope that eventually leads to the Nith River and Trail. The third floor contains the project/craft room (Ms. Milrod recently took up rug hooking) and a somewhat small master bedroom, which allows for the master bath’s generous walk-in shower, a urinal for Mr. Grant and a spacious walk-in closet. And Ms. Milrod’s adjacency planning dictated that a good-sized laundry room be located beside the master bedroom.

The master bedroom washroom has a generous walk-in shower and a urinal.Nanne Springer

Throughout, however, practicality and cost-savings have been considered, since the couple didn’t have a king’s ransom to spend (speaking of which, the home is so well insulated, energy bills are a paltry $40 a month). “We started off with a much bigger, more ambitious house, then iteration after iteration we slowly whittled away all the excess until we were left with the essential basics,” Ms. Lolley said. “It was such a healthy and satisfying process; Linda and Stephen were realistic about their budget and what was important to them.”

A self-taught welder, it was also important to Mr. Grant to design a welding studio for the backyard and then watch as their builder, Paulsan Construction, put it up and matched the corrugated steel siding of the main house. And about that siding: not only are large portions powder coated in that same orange as in the kitchen, it will last for decades and decades with zero maintenance.

While all of that bright orange, the dramatic shed roof and that phalanx of big, triple-pane windows may look a little more, er, playful than what Ontario Parisians are accustomed to, this is a house that fits this fun, busy couple and their seven-month-old golden doodle Steinway to a T. And while that means things might get a little messy while cooking or creating, that’s okay too.

“We love it,” Ms. Milrod says. “It’s such a comfortable house.”

Nanne Springer

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