This kitchen has led a previous life in the Thompson’s Ontario home. They loved it so much they took it with them when they moved east. The waterfall island is made from a combination of solid block Honduran Mahogany and high-gloss white laminate. The long span along the wall is topped with Carrara marble that once lived on the exterior of the First Canadian Place in Toronto. When it had to be removed as it poised a safety hazard, Thompson split on a semi-trailer load of it with his sister who owns a house next door.  There is also a section of four-way book matched burl walnut beside the stove, adding some warmth to the white high gloss of the cabinetry. The edges are finished off with walnut to create a linear movement throughout the kitchen.

Watch for Part II of Hybrid House in the next issue of At Home, when we go downstairs to the workshop of Daniel Thompson.

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From the road, the question is often asked….is it a barn or a house or what exactly is it? The large two-storey structure along the East River in Pictou County is a hybrid of sorts; part traditional workshop and part modern house, although it didn’t originally start out that way.

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When Daniel Thompson and his wife Monika decided to give in to the pull of the East Coast magnetism and move from Toronto to keep his grandfather’s farm going, the structure was originally being built to house Daniel’s furniture building business. To eliminate the building of a second structure for the living quarters, they decided to add an upper storey to the structure and make that their personal space. The extension meant that the originally planned clerestory windows that would shed daylight into the workshop would be eliminated in favour of the living space.Daniel says he has a very ‘centralized’ outlook and combining the workspace and living space all under one roof carried out this ideal.

Daniel worked with architect Don Chong (williamsonchong.com) in designing the clean, modern structure but it was his own sweat equity and that of a few locals that built the bones and gave dimension in the realization of the plan. They started with Dan’s vision and like most design projects worked backwards. They developed the hybrid building that stands out and yet suits the landscape at the same time. One of the unique and interesting aspects is the ‘punch in, punch out’ feature leading to the unique lines in what could be a very linear build – the recess on the front creates the bump out on the end and then the building appears to inhale from the deck extending into the living room.

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While designing this structure, they turned to the pioneers of the region to study the methods they used to construct their buildings. They looked beyond house construction and turned their attention to the construction of the bigger builds of churches and barns, taking clues from the enduring and hearty structures. Most notably, Thompson eliminated the eaves, giving the high winds nothing to catch hold of. His plan also keeps the main area open for sociability, as did placing a small wood stove in the heart of the home that keeps the family cozy during the cold months.

The building itself is a modern post and beam build.  The 12×12 support beams were felled on the family land and hewed on site. The post and beam structure is held together with a special knife plate system that allowed for an easier assembling of the main structure and mimics mortise and tenon joinery that shows up frequently in Dan’s work. The goal was to build economically but essentially as well. The off-cuts from the posts were used as flooring throughout the bedroom spaces. The majority of the framing lumber was cut from the family land and sawn on site as well as the 4” hemlock siding.

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The numerous windows throughout the living space create snapshots of farm life and of close family connections. The west windows overlook the barnyard, giving Dan a quick overview of the herd where the beef cows gather and the chickens peck around. The east side offers views of summer pastures and other family homes on the hill. The east and west windows are repetitive; same style and same size used the length of the building, again a nod to its modern roots. With only a few decorative windows that mimic artillery holes on the north side, they help keep those cold winter winds at bay while one window on the south prevents the space from heating up during the warm summer months.

When it came time to plan the living space, the reins were passed over to Monika. Even though Monika is now practicing nurse, she is also trained as an Interior Designer and it was now her turn to breathe life into the posts and beams. Dan jokes about their traditional roles as Monika fills up the kettle and credits her for the interior aesthetic that transformed the 100’ x 22’ space into a four-bedroom, two-bath home for their family.

Keeping the space open in the social areas speaks to the legacy of the farm and creates the atmosphere for the mixing of generations with laughter and conversation that comes with the large gatherings of family and friends. While they admit there are still features of the home still in progress they enjoy the fact that their home will evolve with them as a family. Dan says that he hopes their home will be as welcoming and inviting as the farm house he remembers visiting as a youngster, where there was always another chair to pull up to the supper table and another spot for an overnight guest to sleep.

As modern as the structure may appear, the roots of this home run deep in the ground of tradition and they speak of things that will last beyond this lifetime.  Dan and Monika are making a life steeped in the tradition of farming, but gilded by the dust of the fine workmanship of a master wood worker.

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Lori Byrne
Lori Byrne is an Interior Decorator and a country-girl at heart. Fall is a personal favourite – rich colours, warm layers and a good reason to snuggle in! Exploring the Stewiacke Valley Barn Quilt tour has already been a highlight of my Fall since learning more about the history of barn quilts. If you need me, I’ll be planning decorating projects or painting more barn quilts in the studio! You can find me over at www.farmfreshstyle.ca