For many, a move to the country is viewed as a retirement option after years of commuting, ferrying kids around and rising for early morning meetings. But for Andi Marcus, CEO of the Ottawa-based cosmetics company Mistura, and her husband Hayden, the recent decision to leave city life behind meant the opportunity to recharge and reinvigorate, refurbish and refresh.
It was an annual barn dance hosted by a family friend that first brought Andi and Hayden to the small Ontario village of Douglas in Renfrew County in 2011. Over the course of the next few years, they would return for euchre tournaments, dinner parties and getaway weekends. With each additional visit, Andi felt herself falling under the spell of the beauty of the topography and the crisp country air.
We could live here—she and Hayden jokingly surmised each time they made the trek back home to the city from the Ottawa Valley.
But, having lived in Rockcliffe Park since 2002, Andi was well accustomed to the amenities of urban life. Her two boys went to school within walking distance from their 2,300 square-foot granite bungalow near MacKay Lake with its pool, soaring hedges and mature trees.
“It was ideal during that phase of our life, in many ways,” recalls Andi. “We celebrated some incredible milestones in that house.”
Three years after that first barn dance, the couple started to question their future. The business was growing at a rapid speed, her boys had moved out and despite extensive renovations, her beloved home was in need of more investment. Their daily routines were becoming monotonous and Andi was itching for something more. By the fall of 2015, they made the decision to put their Rockcliffe house up for sale and head to Florida to live with her parents for several months.
“While we were away, we were able to relax and think more creatively about where we wanted to settle for our next life chapter,” says Andi. “On a whim, I sent out a note to our friends letting them know that we were looking for a farmhouse.”
Almost immediately, she received a response that seemed too good to be true. There was a 3,000 square-foot farmhouse on the market just 20 minutes from the Bonnechere Caves, and several kilometres from Highway 60. It sat on a working farm on 350 acres with soybeans and corn feed, complete with its own lake, sandy beach and fish.
They bought it, sight unseen!
Built in the late 1800s by the Briscoe family, the house features four bedrooms, 10-foot ceilings, original baseboards, and all the charm and character you could expect in a home of that era. They named it Atworth Cottage, which means “homestead,” and is also the name of the English town in Wiltshire County where Andi’s son Michael was born.
The sprawling property is now their home, along with 30 Holstein cows, one Pekingese dog, and two cats. Andi is taking her time to unpack – there are stories to learn, plans to be made and a long renovation list. Ultimately, she hopes to curate a space that both inspires and relaxes; one that would get two thumbs up from her favourite designer, the legendary Bunny Williams.
She has whittled down an extensive furniture collection, gathered from world travels and whimsical auction finds, to combine sturdy, timeless pieces with modern reproductions and a love for Chinese art. Her vision to achieve a “rustic-chic” look for Atworth Cottage, includes a custom 20-foot barn-board table, and a newfound penchant for old wooden chairs, wooden barrels, benches and field stone.
“I have purposely left chips and wear on the wooden stairs and original doors to keep some of the authentic feel in the house,” explains Andi. “I like things to look perfectly imperfect, if you will. I want guests to feel comfortable and relaxed.”
And that is exactly how Andi and Hayden feel right now. “Not one morning has gone by where I do not stare outside in wonderment at how beautiful it is here,” says Andi, whose creative energy has been re-established on the farm.