Name: Cynthia, her husband Graham, their three children Ben, Ruby Mae and Theo, and black lab George
Location: Keene, Ontario, Canada
The basics: 7 years, owned — 2,400 square feet
Cynthia and her family can escape to their historic farmhouse slash flower farm for a quick weekend getaway. Having preserved and updated many a historic property, Cynthia and her husband turned their eyes towards this house and its large parcel of land. Keeping things simple and chic, the home blends old and new to great effect.
Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: Graham and my story started as an office romance more than twenty years ago – a marriage, three children, numerous pets, successful marketing careers, and many houses later, we are still excited to work together every day. We share a passion for growing flowers and renovating character homes. Together we have saved some remarkable spaces including a Victorian row house, a Tudor cottage, a turn-of-the-century duplex and this one-hundred-year-old farmhouse, our rural retreat.
We bought this 113 acre parcel with a serviceable old farmhouse on it seven years ago. Located about an hour and a half east of Toronto where we worked, it was an ideally situated weekend getaway. We have stunning views over a popular fishing lake and own a huge swath of designated wetland – the wildlife and scenery was a huge draw for us. Equally so was the abundant space to have a large garden where we could teach our children about growing vegetables and flowers in a rural setting. Graham grew up in the country and his dad was a renowned agricultural researcher and advocate, so this was really important to us. Over the years we expanded the arable area and now have a mini flower farm that is currently overflowing with snapdragons, zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos, etc.
The original house came with four bedrooms, a basic bathroom, a tiny kitchen and dark living room that didn’t take advantage of the sweeping views. Graham and I are sincere about restoring character homes – we believe keeping the integrity and respecting the soul of the place is important, but that making it functional and fresh for how we live today keeps older homes relevant (and safe). So when it came time to renovate a few years ago, instead of taking down the original farmhouse, we updated it and added a large new wing with great room and master bedroom suite. The most important aspect of the design plan was to take in the magical views over the lake. We wanted a casual, organic-feeling interior space that mirrored and respected the natural environment outside – so you’ll see a lot of rough-hewn wood, simple cabinetry, marble, linen and a palette of white with a little grey and green. Decorative elements are sparse but impactful, like the floor-to-ceiling wood wall, the over-sized barn lighting above the kitchen island, or the rotating display of seasonal foliage that brings a bit of the outside.
We love the home and have created so many memories here. It’s still a place that our children Ben (17), Ruby (15), Theo (10) are happy to come to – and of course, George our black lab, is in heaven as soon as he jumps out of the car.
What is your favorite room and why? There is an old workshop/shed next to the house that has big barn-like doors that open on three sides to magnificent views and breezes. We especially love to go in there when it’s raining. It has a huge workbench that I use for my floral arranging. We also use the place to store our rotating collection of stuff that has been edited from the house, like duck decoys, old road signs, bird nests, and a bunch of animal bones and bottles we’ve found on the property. I love the collected chaos. We’ve had Thanksgiving dinner in here and our dance parties are legendary.
If you could magically change something about your home, what would it be? I’d put in a full window wall in the living room – you know those accordion ones. And, oh ya, a pool with a cabana would be nice.
What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? Aside from stocking our fridge with local beer from Smithavens, we’re all about the flowers right now. I’m so inspired by Floret and the slow flower movement and have bought packets and packets of her seeds.
Which fictional character would be most at home in your place? Peter Rabbit. He’d love the garden and organic nature of our home. He’s a natty dresser, so I think he’d appreciate our farm-chic style.
Cynthia’s words of wisdom: Fill your home only with the people, creatures and things that bring you joy and make you smile. When you surround yourself with what you love, it will all go together.
And, always have flowers.
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