Tommy Smythe Takes Us Inside Great Canadian Homes
Canadian design personality Tommy Smythe returns to HGTV with Great Canadian Homes, a one-hour documentary airing on June 18 on HGTV in honor of Canada’s 150th birthday. The show takes viewers on a cross-Canada tour of some of this nations’ most ambitious architectural gems from Confederation to present. We couldn’t think of a better host than Tommy to knock on the doors of the country’s most iconic and significant historical masterpieces. He gives an exclusive sneak peek into the show’s highlights below.
Once the home of the father of Confederation and Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald, this historical property in Ottawa is currently occupied by the British High Commissioner to Canada, Howard Drake. “When I met the High Commissioner, he talked beautifully about how comfortable and lovely a home it has been to live in,” Tommy explains. “Even though he’s a foreign diplomat, he felt a strong connection to this Canadian home.”
The dining room of Earnscliffe is perfectly poised for formal entertaining. “These aren’t just historically significant homes; they are lived in by real families. There are amazing houses that are museums, but you don’t get the sense of lives being lived in them. This makes the show really special,” says Tommy.
One of the most iconic private homes in Canada, this modern-day masterpiece includes a performance space designed to hold 200 guests. Architects Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe’s design sited the 18,000-square-foot, open-concept home into a hillside, facing a dense wooded ravine. “I think viewers will like the voyeuristic aspect of this show. Getting inside the homes of people who push the boundaries of architecture and technology in many eras — those aren’t the people we meet everyday on HGTV.”
The kitchen of Integral House echoes the tree canopy outside, with green cabinets and a stone backsplash that resembles bark.
A Mad Men-style, modern home by architect Eb Zeidler (designer of the Toronto Eaton Center) in Kitchener, Ontario, represents a perfectly preserved time capsule. Owned by the same family since it was built in 1959, this home contains much of its original mid-century furniture, as well as appliances. “This was one of my favorites. It’s a totally preserved interior, but living in a museum isn’t for everyone. You literally couldn’t cook with those ovens, and the dishwasher is a vintage piece,” he laughs.
Located on the Pender Island near Vancouver, Origami House (the sharp angles reference the Japanese term for folding paper) is a pre-fabricated home that was delivered to the island on 23 flatbed trucks. “As far as modern homes, I was wowed by Origami House. It’s a family home that’s the ultimate party house.” It even incorporates a fun slide to the ground level at the rear.
This 6,500-square-foot, seaside property is clad in rusted Corten steel which blends into the surrounding trees. Expansive windows allow the owners to drink in the spectacular views.
Origami House has seven ocean-view decks, and an infinity pool. “This defines the indoor/outdoor lifestyle you think about when you think of Vancouver,” says Tommy.
This house in Victoria County, Nova Scotia, represents a uniquely private glimpse into one of the country’s biggest innovators. “His residence was his heart home, where he retired, where he loved to be,” notes Tommy. “It revealed the character of the person who lived there in such a special way. There were artifacts from his time at National Geographic (he was the president). Helen Keller’s name is in his guestbook.” Descendants of Bell still use the home for family gatherings. “This is the number one house that I could see myself living in. I love its coziness and warmth.”
Located just a few hours away from Calgary, the 11,000-square-foot luxury Canmore Lodge boasts a hidden staircase, two secret passageways, five fireplaces and a grotto with waterfall.
The rotunda has four 28-foot handcrafted totem poles, mounted on ballbearings so they can be turned to be viewed equally well from all sides, and they also function as support beams.”The family that built this home appreciates aboriginal culture and art, and they didn’t need to go any further than the communities outside their door to honor that spirit. Find Canadian furniture online or in antique markets. When we buy things made by us, we support our makers and artisans and live an authentic life within our homes,” says Tommy.
Built by world famous architect Arthur Erickson, the steel and glass house built for Hugo and Brigitte Eppich is one of the most important early modern homes in Canada. Eppich owned a large metal fabrication factory and much of the house was manufactured there. “The Eppich house is completely preserved, the bathrooms and kitchen are original but the real surprise to me was the furniture. Erickson and designer Francisco Kripacz designed the dining room table, chairs, even the steel placemats — all custom pieces to live within this architecture.”
“We know about Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe’s furniture designs, but we have important Canadian architects who also design furniture. It’s a great thing to remind Canadians of. And there were other Canadian designs included: a lot of the furniture was Nienkämper, and Klaus Sr. was involved in making custom pieces for the family.”