An Ontario couple found everything they wanted and more by moving to New Glasgow
Photos by Steve Smith, VisionFire Studios
Robin and Wayne Roy say the number five is their lucky number. There is a five in all of the family birthdays. It was the civic number of their home in Stouffville, Ontario. They love the number so much they gave it as the middle name to their son Mackenzie and Robin has a number five tattooed on the back of her right calf. It’s no wonder that during their search for a new house in New Glasgow that the couple stumbled on 55 Alexander Street, or that it took no more than five minutes for them to know that the house they found themselves standing in was exactly what they were looking for.
When I met Robin and Wayne together for the first time on the verandah of their classic white and black trimmed century home on a hill on the east side of New Glasgow, I knew in less than five minutes that I was in the company of really good folks. Robin poured me a tumbler of ice-cold water she had collected from the Greenhill spring. Their pooch Simon, a rescue from Israel, sits under the big shade tree in the front yard and keeps a watchful eye on a doe that emerges out of the wooded lot across from their property. “It doesn’t get better than this,” says Robin as she grabs a seat to begin our chat.
Three years ago—I know, not five—Robin and Wayne came to Pictou County to visit their eldest son, his wife, and grandchildren not long after they had made the move east.
“We instantly fell in love with Nova Scotia,” says Robin as she begins to share the tale of how their life at this moment came to be. “We went back to Ontario and immediately started to entertain moving here. We were both at the point where we could work from anywhere, and we wanted to be closer to our grandchildren.
Robin had wrapped up a career in retail. While her most recent employment before moving to Nova Scotia was front-of-store manager of a pharmacy, she spent 15 years with IKEA and another handful of years with the clothing chain Thrifty’s doing visual merchandising and styling for photoshoots.
While Robin’s only responsibility today is keeping her husband’s job jar and kayaking schedule full, Wayne is working remotely on a job that, until the pandemic, kept him going back to Ontario at regular intervals.
For the last 15 years, Wayne has made a career as a Construction Co-Ordinator for Proper Television, the company producing shows like Master Chef Canada, Canada’s Worst Driver, and the Great Canadian Baking Show. Wayne is behind the design, building, and breaking down of different TV sets. “I am the first one on the job and the last one on the job,” adds Wayne.
Going back to Ontario after their holiday, the couple quickly made up their mind to head to Nova Scotia. While their grandkids were in New Glasgow, they thought that pretty much anywhere in Nova Scotia would work for them. But they couldn’t get the little town with a river running through it out of their system.
“When I came for my holiday that summer, I went to a few classes at the Y in the Wellness Centre. I had so much fun and met a few people instantly. Part of my retirement dream was to live in a place where I could go to a gym almost every day. The Y, and the people at the Y, really cinched it for me. It’s amazing to live in a community with such an incredible facility,” says Robin, who makes an active lifestyle a priority.
The couple hired a local real estate agent to start the search for properties.
Their son and daughter-in-law would Zoom with them and walk them through the houses. When they flew back to Nova Scotia a few months later they had eight houses to see. While they were all lovely, Robin and Wayne were just not feeling like they hit the mark. While driving up Alexander Street on their way to look at another home in the neighbourhood, they saw a sign on the lawn of a white house with black trim on a corner lot.
“I said, what about that one,” says Robin, and with a few quick phone calls, their agent had them inside the house.
“We walked in and we could feel this beautiful calm vibe. Immediately, it started to feel like home. When Wayne and I walked into the kitchen and dining area and Wayne said let’s flip this floor plan around and open the kitchen, I was sold,” explains Robin.
They bought the house in September of 2019. The couple made it into Nova Scotia the day before the province announced it would be closing the borders to travel. Wayne was still working on an episode of Master Chef when they made the move. He continues to work remotely with a solid crew still in Ontario.
The hiatus from travel and the temporary work shut down during the height of the pandemic meant that Robin and Wayne could give their new home complete focus.
“I have three trade tickets,” says Wayne. “We didn’t need to hire anyone.“
In 18 months of pandemic restrictions, the couple completed extensive renovations to most of the house. They started the upstairs renos first. Having no idea the pandemic was going to last as long as it has, and they wanted guest rooms for friends and family to visit.
Still sitting on the front verandah sipping our Greenhill spring water, Robin asks, “Do you want to go for a tour?”
We start with the second storey to see where their work began.
The main staircase in the front foyer bends to a landing where a wall of stained-glass windows casts a prism of light across the floor. I step into the first room designed for guests; a gallery of birdhouses festoons the wall behind the bed. There are no feathered friends to be seen, but I think if I was an overnight guest I would love to nest in this little room.
Across the hall is Robin’s project room. Robin is a collector of found things. On her hikes and beach walks that happen every week, if not daily, she picks up stones, shells, pieces of driftwood, and even lobster bands. She sorts her objects and makes pretty things in a pretty room with yellow wallpaper and a sparkling chandelier. An old cabinet in the attic was given a fresh coat of white paint and installed in her room. The shelves filled with the odds and sods of her roamings, and all meticulously sorted. Robin and Wayne are very tidy.
Another guest room tucks in on an angle at the crux of the hall. A chandelier gives the room its own sparkle. Their bedroom is painted in tranquil blues, a little more serenity in their private space.
“So, I have to explain this,” says Robin pointing down the hallway to Wayne’s study and bathroom to what looks like the inside components of an old piano hanging on the wall.
“When we bought the house it came with an old upright piano. We don’t play and we could not find a home for it anywhere. Wayne decided to pull it apart,” says Robin.
“I spent hours on this thing and saw how it could make an interesting art piece,” says Wayne with a chuckle. Making a career out of building things and then taking them apart made the deconstruction of the piano a bit of a fascination for Wayne. He was able to keep the piano harp and board intact. “You have no idea how heavy these pieces were. I did need help getting them installed on the wall.”
Wayne cut the front face off of the piano and installed it on the centre of the wall in his study. A room full of curiosities from his work in TV production, and shelves of antique Tonka trucks, a collection he started with his Mum. In the corner, he has a bike on a trainer, a flat-screen TV on the wall above a mantle that was once a working fireplace, and an electric guitar that sometimes gets used rests in a stand next to the door. Wayne does a lot of his work from this room, and he says he likes to watch his own shows in his study, taste in TV is just about the only thing that couple doesn’t agree on.
Back downstairs we walk through the front living room. A large metal globe makes a statement in the room. Like the birdhouses in the guest room, the round flat panel, eight feet in diameter and salvaged from a set, was once outside in their garden but now they have the space to bring it inside. It’s a great conversation piece. Figures of animals are hidden in the design of the continents.
The dining room, relocated from the kitchen reno that is still to be revealed, is a welcoming space where Robin displays more of her collections. A photo of a jumble of antique silverware hangs over the fireplace and a cabinet filled with jars of beach glass, smooth heart-shaped pebbles, and pieces of fishing rope. There is a tiny birdhouse made from pieces of driftwood. Robin says it was her prototype and she intends to make a few more this winter.
Robin and Wayne lead me into the kitchen. While they love every nook and cranny, it’s the kitchen that was started as a blank canvas and creates the new in the old house that they really enjoy.
Following through on that initial inkling of inspiration on their first visit, Wayne redesigned the space. The kitchen had been located at the very back of the house, and was small for such a big home. They opened the wall between what was the kitchen and the dining room and started from scratch with new plumbing and wiring. They were able to maintain the original hardwood flooring. With Wayne’s set design experience and Robin’s flair for staging in retail, the kitchen concept came together quickly.
“We know what we want, and we can make decisions very quickly,” says Robin. “And we
“Yeah, that’s true,” Wayne confirms. “We don’t fight. Never have.”
The couple chose a crispy white palette infused with traces of soft grays in the hexagon backsplash. Cabinets were planned so that everything has a place. Because this home is almost twice the size of their home in Stouffville, Robin once wondered how they were going to fill all of the cabinets. A bay window with tall blue wing back chairs is a favourite spot for coffee and a chit-chat.
The mudroom, now in the space where the kitchen once resided for a hundred years, took a little more time to complete, but is now finished and includes a little condo for Simon. He also has a second residence upstairs in the closet in Robin’s project room.
As we wind up our conversation, I hear again how grateful the couple are for their new life. Every morning, Robin begins her day with a gratitude walk through her neighbourhood. She tells me about the day their moving truck arrived and how, now very good friend, Shelley Ballantyne landed on her doorstep.
“Shelley saw all of the guys moving things in and she came up to me and said, ‘Hey, looks like you could use a girlfriend,’ and we have been the greatest friends ever since,” says Robin with an enthusiastic and contagious smile that has no doubt helped garner her new collection of friends.
Wayne tells me that there are still a few things left on the to-do list. However, the couple is now busy renovating the house next door that they purchased this summer and will be the new home for their other son and his partner who think that they will give East Coast life a try. Wayne extended their back deck and built stairs to connect the two properties.
Keeping their days full of reno projects, hikes, gym time, and work, Robin describes the vibe here as “Jamaica-Scotia.”
“We are busy, but everything is just so chill here,” says Robin.
Soon, Wayne will start making his trips back to Ontario for work. Saying he is not as much of an extrovert as his wife, he is loving their home and experiences just as much as Robin.
Robin walks me back out to the front door where I came in. We pass through the last room on the tour. A TV room pulled together with some funky antique elements, is the place where Robin will put her weary feet up after a long day of doing what she loves. Her armchair, under a fading number five painted on a worn wooden sign, another salvaged item for an old TV set, is perched behind her as a reminder of her how lucky she and Wayne have been in finding their new life in New Glasgow.