There is a certain irony to a firefighter losing his home in a fire. But it takes the creative force of a firefighter like Corey Gladish to turn the fiery destruction into a blaze of innovation. Which is exactly what happened when Corey overcame the ravages of a fire to rebuild a log home in Chelsea, Que., with wonderfully inventive new spaces and fun features for his young family.
BURNING DOWN . . .
The devastating fire took place six years ago, as Corey and his wife Christal were flying home from a working trip and vacation in Africa. They knew something was wrong when they were met by their upset family at the airport. Immediately assuming someone had died, they were almost relieved to hear the bad news was only that flames had gutted their home!
"Everything inside was gone," says Corey, explaining that the exterior walls were still standing as it takes about 24 hours to burn through the solid logs. He was told that the probable cause of the roof fire was a rodent's nest that ignited when it was built next to the hot pipes of the wood stove.
With no prior experience, Corey decided to design and build a new log home himself, with the help of local experts and Christal's approval of his ideas. "I studied a friend's do-it-yourself design program which is similar to Google's SketchUp. As the foundation of the house was still good, I used the same footprint and just played around with walls and features." He adds that the only difference from the original size was filling in a 75-square-foot corner of the house and adding a new loft level.
Described as chink-style log construction, the home was rebuilt with white pine logs, beams and posts that came from a Mont Ste-Marie sawmill. A Wakefield craftsman did the dovetail log work and timber-framing. The expanded one-and-a-half storey provides two main-floor bedrooms with an open-concept master bedroom and bathroom, plus an office in the loft. With two preschool children, Nellie and Oscar, and a baby on way, the extra space is a bonus.
RISING ABOVE AND BEYOND
Having lived in the older log home for five years, the couple opted for a more contemporary, lighter interior. "I wanted a change from the cottage-style log home, and (to) go for some modern touches with a few industrial-style features," says Christal.
With this plan in mind, they used a clear stain on the logs and added more and bigger windows to the design. Corey then came up with some innovative ideas that combined practical efficiency with contemporary elements in a fun way. At first, Christal dismissed a few of the ideas as crazy. "But his favourite phrase when we were building this home was Ďtrust me,'" she recalls with a laugh. "And I did."
One of the "trust me" moments came when Corey brought home a sliding steel door that he found on a training exercise. It was an industrial fire door with a weight on a rope that would burn through during a fire, so that the weight would fall to close the door and protect the room. It now has pride of place as a show-stopping door to the main-floor bathroom. Another interesting feature is the incorporation of a tree into the construction of the wood and steel stairs that lead to the loft level.
"We needed to modify the stairs to make them wider, but had nothing to anchor them," says Corey. "So I used a fallen beech tree which is mounted to the ceiling."
Christal readily admits that his ideas are really cool and have turned out well. She notes proudly that his economical and attractive construction of the stained-concrete countertops and island in the kitchen has made him the go-to guy to help his friends. In addition, he researched passive house concepts and laid concrete floors in the entrance, bathrooms and basement, which are all heated underneath by the boiler's water pipes. Not only are the floors warm, but the low-maintenance concrete is non-slip and dries quickly when the kids get out of the bath and come in with wet boots.
In the amazing playroom in the basement, the concrete floor has been painted blue with the look and texture of water. A real maple tree acts as a structural post and swings hanging from the ceiling complete the outdoor playground effect to ensure hours of fun for the kids.
It's clear that the parents had fun too in the creation of their lovely home. Corey was excited to discover an online site for Big Ass Fans and has a 10-foot-wide fixture hanging from the high loft ceiling. At a slow speed, it gently but effectively moves the hot air around to keep an even temperature in the house. Which all helps to keep things cozy when Corey and Christal relax in the tub under the cathedral window in their bedroom to enjoy the moonlight view outside, while the happy family is warmly tucked inside.
For fire safety information for your home, visit Ottawa Fire Services online at: ottawa.ca/en/residents/emergency-services/fire-services/ottawa-fire-services