As if by some miracle, an amazing collection of furnishings, antiques and artifacts travelled from around the world to settle in a quintessential Canadian setting. Or so it seems!
Perhaps, the rare and massive oak beams of a lakeside home in the Gatineau Hills magically summoned the new and old-world belongings, lovingly picked from multiple global locations. Certainly, the home cast a spell on its new owners, an Ottawa family who have lived in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the U.S. on diplomatic postings with Foreign Affairs.
The Fairytale Spell . . .
A jubilant Carol Bujeau was convinced as soon as she set eyes on the lovely log house that this was finally the right home for her collected treasures, as well as for her husband, son and daughter. "I always dreamed of living on the lake. It's like a fairytale fantasy of coming across a hidden house in the woods overlooking pristine water."
The fairytale house, built 25 years ago from BC fir logs and old-growth oak beams, is an arts and craft beauty with soaring arches and stunning window designs. But it was still a "work-in-progress." It took the special contracting powers of Richard Macartney, with a team of craftsmen and designers, to renovate the three-storey home for its new inhabitants.
On the main floor, the major work involved opening up the great room and reinforcing the new red oak floor to install a gorgeous gourmet kitchen with a separate cook's pantry, a powder room and entryway. The white-on-white kitchen was designed by Lorin Russell of Muskoka Cabinet Co. with oodles of customized and contemporary features to suit Carol's culinary needs as a gourmet cook who studied at Ottawa's Le Cordon Bleu school.
A massive eight-seat island, topped with 1,200 pounds of white Calacatta marble from Italy, is an impressive focal point. Carol admits it took six guys (amid much swearing) to carry the marble in, but it was a luxurious must-have.
"I wanted the kitchen to be an inclusive area where guests can sit and be actively engaged in the cooking process. It's such a contrast to the very formal and official entertaining we do overseas."
For the cook's culinary creations, the choice was a high-performance, hand-crafted Lacanche stove from France. Finished in black enamel, the cast-iron stove has a propane gas top with a special simmer plate for French sauces and wok cooking, plus a double gas/electric oven. And under a wall of windows overlooking the lake sits a deep farmhouse sink by Shaws of England.
The combination of smooth materials, including polished nickel hardware and industrial pendant lights over the island, complements the warm wood and décor to create a refined rustic style. Modern appliances are tucked beneath recycled oak beams, an ancient fossil from the Jordanian dessert is embedded in the new tiled backsplash, and counter stools from Restoration Hardware stand nearby a 250-year-old piece of carved wall art from a Damascus souk.
It all works perfectly to make the kitchen a real reflection of the family's life. Every room in the house contains both small and dramatic details culled from everywhere they have visited or lived.
Happily ever after . . .
One of the secrets of this renovation's success is the way it has been crafted so that a diverse collection of unique furnishings and artifacts appear to be hand-picked for the space. But with an irrepressible spirit, Carol started accumulating them long before she found her fairytale home, and had no idea where they would eventually end up.
"I had no master plan when I started collecting - I just bought what I considered beautiful and what I thought would give us a visual memory of places we'd lived in," says Carol. She adds she was inspired by an astute collector friend who told her: "Buy the best that you can afford, even if it's just a small piece of wood."
And so, she did! But it went way beyond a few little pieces . . .
Semi-precious stones glint in a beautiful tile mosaic from Jordan that is now the centrepiece in the floor of the entranceway. A specially designed niche and spot-lighted shelf display 400-year-old ceramic pots and cooking dishes. In the open dining area stands a teak Dutch Colonial style table from Indonesia with chairs upholstered in fine French linen.
Nearby, a black lacquered Chinese cabinet holds two three-foot-high gargoyle statues, carved to ward off evil spirits. They share the limelight with porcelain Ming vases, a pair of Indonesian rattan chairs and, surprisingly, a swing hanging from an overhead beam.
The swing, left by previous owners, is a whimsical touch that 14-year-old Kayla sweetly insisted on keeping. It dangles into a sunken living room featuring a Finnish heating system with a wood-burning stove built into a 40-foot-high brick chimney.
Years ago, Carol somehow knew that a deep oversized sofa from their New York days, placed together with a carved weaving table from Bali, would fit beautifully by that fireplace. And of course, like everything else in the house, they look right at home!