It’s not often you know a house is The One without even stepping through the front door. But for artist Ronda Diamond and Richard Cherney, a lawyer, a video tour was all it took to fall head over heels for this Knowlton, Que., charmer — which came impeccably furnished, down to the last detail. “It was just so pretty,” says Ronda.
Luke Havekes had bought the hilltop house as an investment, then gutted and decorated it. Having already renovated a condo and house in Montreal for Ronda and Richard, he knew they’d appreciate his fearless take, and the location. “It’s in an area that’s more Hamptons than mountains, with pastoral fields, farmland and horses,” says Luke. That said, the house, built in 1977, was a mess when he started; it needed everything from new plumbing and electrical to better balconies, windows and a roof. Luke’s makeover took just over a year, and he gave himself carte blanche on the decorating. “This house is layered and eclectic in a pared-down way, not packed to the rafters — it feels full and cozy,” he says.
Scroll down to tour this country home in the treetops!
The curated mix gives the impression the house has slowly evolved over time. Invigorating color, vintage wallpaper, and patterned fabrics and rugs infuse the rooms with personality.
Jitney, a warm neutral by Farrow & Ball, links the spaces and creates a cohesive flow. A patterned carpet elevates the foyer, where an antique bench is covered in Loro Piana wool.
For owners Richard and Ronda, the idyllic setting was just the cherry on top. “We’re outdoorsy, country people; we spend time skiing and biking,” says Ronda. The plan, she says, is to hop between homes: three months or more in Knowlton, three months in the city condo and six months in Vermont, with stints to Los Angeles to visit their children and grandchildren, whom the couple love to host at Knowlton.
All that color and texture is set within an unusual layout. There are five floors (with full staircases between all but two levels) across 3,000 square feet, giving the place a tree house feel. “It’s like you’re in a tropical jungle that’s very lush because of all the beautiful bright green leafy trees,” says Luke. Bookshelves fill in a dead spot beside the stone fireplace and, for an eclectic flourish, the mantel is lined with vintage clay cacti from Arizona.
A vintage brass tray holds treasures like blue and gold Moroccan tea glasses.
The sectional is loaded up with a mix of throw pillows while a graphic rug adds warmth underfoot. There are wraparound balconies on three floors, with connected staircases leading to verdant grounds and a saltwater pool.
Unlike a traditional country house, the great room isn’t on the ground floor — it’s in the treetops, a cool vantage point for when the family gathers at the dining table.
A splendid lacquered china cabinet from Germany, placed between the kitchen and dining area, contains glassware and other bar and dining essentials.
The grassy green kitchen — in Farrow & Ball’s
Bancha — is perfection. “I like solid wood, colorful kitchens in the country,” says Luke. “A fun shade gives wow factor, and it’s very easy to repaint if you get bored.” Originally, the kitchen ceiling had varying heights. Luke lowered them to one plane, added vintage wallpaper and brought in a custom banquette — a perfect spot to enjoy a coffee.
Vintage block-printed wallpaper on the ceiling has a swaddling effect, making the space especially inviting. Maple counters, leather cabinet pulls and the vibrant green paint give the kitchen rustic appeal. “That kitchen warms my heart; I wish I was smart enough to do that in my house in Stowe,” says Ronda, referring to her property in Vermont, which is more neutral. She adds, “He could have done a standard white stone counter, but that wasn’t what the room needed. Luke has good instincts.”
The kitchen walks out to one of three wraparound balconies.
“To most people, all of those floors seem like a nightmare,” says Luke. “But in a house where you’re entertaining guests, the separation between the bedrooms is what makes the space great — the kids can set themselves up on different floors with their own bathrooms.” The largest guest bedroom has a well-travelled, bohemian vibe. An African textile is framed in a shadow box above the bed and the rug is Turkish.
Vintage palm-print wallpaper energizes the treetop dressing room off the principal bedroom.
The cosy principal bedroom has vaulted ceilings and casual country furniture.
Tongue-and-groove walls and a pair of vintage American Standard pedestal sinks are quintessentially country in the principal ensuite.
The property includes a forest of ash, maple and cherry trees, along with a saltwater pool.
“The pool was existing but poorly done,” says Luke. He completely overhauled it, and now it’s an inviting outdoor space.
Ronda says it took a while for her to get over the sensation of invading someone else’s house, but now appreciates the old-school charm, warmth and colors. She’s also adapted to the style of house itself. “I was more into modern, contemporary Frank Lloyd Wright architecture,” she says. “But this architecture is interesting. I’ve lived in varied homes, from ranches to cottages, but I’ve never lived like a kid in a tree house. It feels like home.”