Mark and Azhra McMahon were only toying with a move following a meeting at their daughter’s new school in Rockcliffe Park. Then, they decided to take a drive through the surrounding neighbourhood. Little did they know that just around a few bends and down a slight hill, a stately yet charming historic house was waiting to beckon them in.
Built in 1927, for well-known local ornithologist Hoyes Lloyd and his family, the lush and generous property still proudly wears a sign bearing its name, The Wake Robin.
The McMahons were instantly drawn to the home as “it just had a nice feel to it.” However, the couple recognized that it would take major restorations and renovations to both preserve the timeless elegance of The Wake Robin and transform it into the ultimate dream home for an environmentally-conscious modern family.
Known professionally for their successful partnership in business, Mark and Azhra knew that with his skills as a self-taught builder and craftsman and her love of design and décor that they could restore and improve The Wake Robin, literally using their very own hands. So, with their two daughters, then ages 3 and 4, they moved in.
Once engineers had attended to structural problems in the basement, radiant heat flooring was installed to complement a new geothermal system and topped with stately oak and Italian marble. The walls were freshened and also treated to an efficiency upgrade with soy-based foam insulation.
Loving the look of The Wake Robin’s windows, the couple studied early photos of the house and commissioned Lepage Millwork to replicate and replace each one to match in solid wood. The new window frames, now darker in colour, serve to enhance the home’s exterior look along with historically accurate red cedar shingles ordered from British Columbia. Tired exterior and interior doors were exchanged for high-quality replicas, handcrafted in solid oak by a family company, Desboro Doors.
After concluding that the home’s current kitchen, situated in the front of the house, could be moved to a large underused living room and sitting area in the back of the house, Mark designed a breathtaking kitchen perfect for entertaining and daily life. He also built the coffered ceilings which are Azhra’s favourite feature.
To brighten the open concept space, Azhra chose light granite countertops, cream-coloured cupboards, crystal knobs and an open-sided chandelier. An impressive DCS Range and high-end Miele appliances flank a large island outfitted with tuckable stools. The luxury space also includes dual dishwashers (one with a crystal and fine china setting), a practical pot filler and a pet-watering station.
A warm walnut banquette made by Mark from the wood of a fallen tree sits in a cozy corner dressed in shimmery fabric. To reduce kitchen traffic during times of food preparation, a refreshment station with a smaller fridge for drinks and snacks sits on the border between the kitchen and a sunny family room, which features a unique and eye-catching square fireplace.
The home’s former kitchen is now a vibrant sitting room with vintage appeal, outfitted in bright wallpaper. Locally-sourced furniture from Ormes was chosen for comfort and flair, while gold accents, antiques and an heirloom rug all pay a cheery tribute to the past.
Across the marble hallway, a grand dining room also honours the old while welcoming the new, with two antique hutches and table partnered by plush and regal dining chairs from Restoration Hardware. To eliminate the look of an existing walkway leading from the dining room to an office added by Hoyes in the 1940s, Mark changed the visual flow of the room by turning one papered wall panel into a secret door undetectable to the eye.
Views through the abundant main floor windows showcase a large yard complete with a salt water pool, waterfall, limestone patio and multi-sport paved courtyard.
Nine years later, Mark and Azhra could not be happier and have achieved their aim of restoring The Wake Robin by keeping all the traditional looks and features, with updates to surpass modern home efficiency. They are proud to say that the operating costs are extremely low, and the home is “now a place for our family to entertain, live and love.”