At 9 A.M. on a Tuesday, Colin Blanchard and Kenneth McRobbie are sipping coffee on two round-backed velvet chairs in the front window of their house on Shore Drive in Bedford, N.S. “We
live in the front window,” says Kenneth, gazing out at the Bedford Basin, just beyond the deep lawn.
Later, they’ll meet with one of their interior design clients and stop in at their furniture and lighting shop,
31 Westgate, in downtown Halifax. But early mornings are for delighting in the summerhouse feel of their Cape Cod–style home, and watching the sun cast its sparkle over the harbor (to be continued at sunset).
Scroll down to see more of this East Coast retreat!
Homeowners and designers Colin Blanchard (
left) and Kenneth McRobbie stand at the home’s back entry. “The Westgate Boys,” as their neighbors are wont to call them, have seen a sea change in their lifestyle since moving from their unassuming century home in the city — a house without a compelling backstory they admit they “settled for.” Even their East LaHave summer cottage, with its pop-up shop and studio, can get a bit frantic. This home, on the other hand, with its generous rooms and extensive wraparound gardens, has the feel of a permanent refuge.
Built on a raised setback overlooking the water, the house is special for more than its lovingly preserved detail and deceptively large 3,200-square-foot plan. It was built 85 years ago by Nova Scotia’s first “starchitect,” Andrew Cobb, who designed hundreds of homes and public buildings across Atlantic Canada, yet chose to live right here in this house until his death in 1943. Andrew designed the house and gardens in 1937 with an eye to entertaining. Colin and Kenneth added a deep terrace in the backyard.
“The garden was the one big draw for Kenneth,” says Colin. “It has a sense of privacy and retreat. We’re downtown all the time, rushing around. It’s nice at the end of the day to come home and have that.”
Andrew laid out the house for entertaining, with the living room acting as a traditional English-style greeting space, plus terraces and a vast second-floor dance studio.
Botanical wallpaper in the kitchen reverses the “beige” look left behind by the home stager. “The rooms are large and deep,” says Kenneth. “If the colors aren’t cheerful enough, they can look flat.”
The couple kept the kitchen’s original sink and pantry configuration, but remodeled the cooking and fridge wall, adding granite counters and custom cabinets.
A hutch that stores their mid-century crockery collection was outfitted with a white oak counter.
For the dining room, they brought in an Althorp reproduction table from Theodore Alexander and sourced antique mahogany Chippendale chairs from a New England flea market — all eight for $100.
The mudroom–laundry room is just off the kitchen and shares the same palette.
The office is a showcase for unique pieces Colin and Kenneth have amassed over time: a French writing table, vintage campaign desk chair and fox-green suede Theodore Alexander billiard room chair.
In the office, an antique Serapi rug is a bold contrast to the Morris & Co. wallpaper and vintage photographs.
Pieces including the contemporary turntable and Art Deco–style lamp topping a mid-century modern cabinet keep the living room from feeling too formal.
Converting the upstairs maid’s quarters into a bright principal bedroom was one of the few changes made over the years by two successive owners. “Cobb houses have this quirky, interesting feel, like they’ve always been here,” says Kenneth. “That was part of this home’s charm — that nobody had played with the layout.” In the principal bedroom, an antique mahogany table complements the vintage Ralph Lauren bed frame.
The guest room’s custom headboard is upholstered in a floral velvet linen.
White and brass-toned sconces that flank the retro-style mirror have a vintage feel in the principal bathroom.
The ensuite’s new checkerboard marble floors and glass shower enclosure give the traditional fixtures edge.
Finding their way here seems to be a result of the stars aligning. When the house came on the market three years ago, the owners, heartbroken to be leaving their home of 50 years, were entertaining an offer from a buyer who planned to gut it. “He told them he was going to ‘open it up,’” says Colin. “They were completely horrified.” Colin and Kenneth drove out for a drizzly viewing with a real-estate friend who was certain they’d hate the commute (only 20 minutes from downtown Halifax, to be fair). It should have been a drag, but the whole package had a “Cotswolds vibe” that reminded them of the English country house tours they sign up for on vacations abroad.
The owners were pleased to have interested parties who were equally excited about the home’s architectural provenance. “They wanted to share so much about the house — what the plant in the corner was named, how they lit the fire,” says Kenneth. “And once we settled on the deal, we kept coming back for tea. We indulged every moment.”
They moved in in 2019, ahead of the pandemic real-estate boom, and began landscaping and installing a new terrace and firepit. They celebrated Colin’s 40th birthday with a garden disco in a big tent strung with a chandelier. “We love to entertain like Andrew Cobb did,” says Colin. “We’re just a little more modern.”
Author: Ellen Himelfarb
House & Home July/August 2022
Colin Blanchard & Kenneth McRobbie