Images: Robin Stubbert
With a mix of modern art and furnishings, the old-world grandeur of this heritage house gets lovingly restored into a family home full of contemporary flair.
For nearly 160 years, the magnificent Ker Cavan house in Guelph, Ont., one of Canada's few remaining examples of the Tudor take on Gothic revival style, has been a point of architectural and historic interest. But to urban heritage property developers Kirk Roberts and Peregrine Wood and their two children, Ker Cavan is simply home.
When the couple purchased the house five years ago, it hadn't been updated in ages, and its gorgeous Gothic features had become a backdrop to poor design - think outdated fixtures and finishes, as well as lots of pine furniture. But the task of correcting these cosmetic glitches paled in comparison to the actual home renovation, which presented manifold demands. Some were expected, such as the strict compliance to heritage bylaws, and some not-so-expected, like the armies of carpenter ants hidden in the kitchen ceiling and garage and the water entering the house in 18 places (none of which came from the roof) on four levels.
Gothic revival overhaul
The extensive inside-out top-to-bottom renovation took almost three years and included gutting each of the five bathrooms, the kitchen and the basement; restoring plaster work and mouldings; updating the fireplaces, plumbing and electrical systems; landscaping and regrading the entire property to bring it to code; and installing proper drainage.
A 19th-century marble fireplace is a focal point in the library's sitting area, as is the plaster moulding on the ceiling.
In this historic Guelph, Ont., home, the library's original ornate built-in Honduran mahogany bookshelves, complete with glass doors, house the family's collection of close to 2,000 books. It also serves as a back-drop for a contemporary sofa dressed with colourful toss cushions.
The great room
The grey-painted ceiling punctuates the intricate 19th-century moulding in the great room. The original marble fireplace is flanked by bright red leather sidechairs to help distinguish the living space from the dining area.
For help with the decor, Peregrine and Kirk enlisted designer Linda Leibel of Linda Leibel Designs, who recommended paint colours and sourced antiques to balance out all the modern furnishings, and Ivan Valvassori, owner of Urban Lights, who assisted with lighting options, sourcing traditional fixtures for the exterior and unexpected modern ones for the interior. "Ivan helped us pick things that would jar the senses a bit, like the Zeppelin suspension light in the great room," says Peregrine. "It catches your eye because of its sheer scale."
19th-century floral moldings retain the Gothic feel in contrast to the contemporary decor.
The custom-made stainless steel range hood, charcoal-tinted glass kitchen cabinetry and bright orange Philippe Starck Charles Ghost stools in the kitchen maintain the home's sleek, contemporary aesthetic. The modern look here is amplified by the lack of heritage features, which are visible throughout the rest of the house.
A bit of light shines through this hidden stone-surrounded workspace nook.
An outdoor dining retreat with a time-transporting Gothic view.