When two siblings asked designer Mazen El-Abdallah of Mazen Studio to make their country house as comfortable as possible, he was inspired to update the typical farmhouse formula. “There’s a beautiful simplicity in the familiar volumes of the house and its restrained palette,” he says. Designed by Toronto architect John O’Connor of Basis Design Build, the two-storey retreat’s quiet ornamentation and dignified symmetry have a curious effect: although the primary reference is traditional, the home is decidedly contemporary. Click through to take a virtual tour of the idyllic space with 21st century flair.
The architect configured the 5,600-square-foot house as two barn-like forms at perpendicular angles to each another. “Across Ontario farmland you see barns fitted together like this,” says John. The area between the two halves serves as the home’s entrance and contains a steel staircase. This zone also offers picturesque views of the pond beyond.
“For me, designing a space like this isn’t about color or showy shapes,” says designer Mazen. “It’s about subtle textures that all work together.” With this in mind, he had the living room sofas covered in a woven material that mimics linen and the armchairs slipcovered with fabric that has a fleck of color for added dimension. The architect designed the ceiling with rough-sawn white pine painted the same white as the walls.
To give the kitchen subtle presence, the architect set the cabinetry into the recessed wood wall that continues into the living area. The driftwood tone of the stained oak was chosen to complement the oiled wide-plank flooring.
The kitchen island and solid walnut dining table create a sense of flow that visually guides you toward the sitting area and fireplace at the end of the large space. “The way we placed these elements was quite formal in that regard,” says Mazen. The island is a popular spot to gather around; the owners’ five kids often sit on the stools during meal prep.
A dark-stained vanity grounds the otherwise airy principal bathroom. Mazen kept the accessories understated. “I think a farmhouse should have lots of pottery, things that are chunky and slightly odd,” he says.
We wanted to make a nice suite for visitors,” says Mazen of the guest bedroom. An upholstered king-size bed topped with striped linens offers comfort and softness. “That’s what I imagine a farmhouse should be: lots of ticking fabrics with layers on a bed,” he says.
In the bedroom shared by one homeowners’ two sons, fish prints that once hung in their grandparents’ farmhouse decorate a wall. “It’s nice to have that generational connection,” says Mazen. Linen skirts were made for the beds so the kids can stash stuff underneath.
The bench in the mudroom originally belonged to the homeowners’ parents. Mazen offset the heirloom piece with round rosewood hooks to add a playful element. “They’re different colors and sizes, and they animate the space,” he says.
For the covered porch, Mazen chose boxy teak sofas and chairs to echo the wood-framed windows. “They’re deep and low, and great for reclining,” he says. Blue and white throw pillows make the seating feel extra plush and were inspired by Mazen’s appreciation for the Japanese shibori dyeing technique. The dining table was custom made in metal and teak to seat 12 people comfortably, and was surrounded by classic Navy chairs that will stand up well to moisture and changing weather.
Like many traditional farmhouses, the home is clad with rough-sawn board-and-batten siding. A gray stain helps the house blend into the landscape. The chair is an antique that’s been passed down through the family.
In the fall, the property’s deciduous trees brighten to dazzling shades of orange, red and yellow.
A dock overlooking the pond offers a quiet spot to sit.
Author: Alison Garwood-Jones
House & Home October 2018