Photos by Steve Smith, Visionfire Studios
Kids dart around the yard, coming from the surrounding streets to play and skate on the backyard rink. Footwear and warm layers get peeled off in the back porch and a parade to the playroom ensues. Meaghan and Mark Denholm have dreamed and planned for a life like this. Life on Broad Street in the hub town of Truro has come full circle for Meaghan, having grown up across the street and Mark is thrilled to have the house where all the kids end up, recreating his own childhood experience for their two boys, Rory and Finn.
The Christmas season is exceptionally fun in the Denholm household. When it comes to decorating for the season, Meaghan said, “I enlist the help of my mother and sister, and they help out a lot.” There is no set day on the yearly calendar, it just depends on when the schedules of the busy households align, then they will get together and make the house look and feel festive. Gnomes tuck into greenery on windowsills, the tree graces the living room, and the four stockings get hung with care on the mantel of the wood-burning fireplace. Nothing too over-the-top, simple and classic tie in very well with the design of the century home.
Now, the stockings need to be hung in a specific order, make no mistake – the boys’ stockings are on the outer edges of the mantel so Santa can leave their gifts in and under their stockings.
I wonder what he’ll leave them this year?
Over the years, the Christmas season has become considerably busier since the boys came along and now there is a little niece that joins in the holiday fun. Every Christmas while the kids open their gifts and play with their new toys, Meaghan and Mark host the family for brunch. Breakfast Bake, a family favourite recipe has become part of the tradition, from across the street Meaghan’s mom brings a fruit salad, and there’s lots of coffee to go around. Meaghan’s sister and her family join in every year, and about every other year or so, Mark’s family comes from Scotland to celebrate the holiday in Canada and they get front row seats to the joy of being a kid at Christmas.
After the chaos of the gift opening settles down, the family disperses for a little while, but all come back together for a large, traditional Christmas dinner. Again, parts of the meal come from across-the-way, and once again they continue to celebrate.
In November of 2009, when Meaghan and Mark bought their home, they realized that it had once been a two-family dwelling. The exterior lacked balance due to a past addition that didn’t tie in with the rest of the historic structure. But, if you love the neighbourhood and have the vision, then you jump on the chance when it comes along. When Meaghan and Mark heard this particular house was coming on the market they made arrangements to see it as soon as they returned from a weekend away hoping no one would snatch it up before them. This was the beginning of a new chapter for the Broad Street home with the Denholm family writing this part of the story.
After living in the home for about a year, they started a renovation with contractor Victor Mingo at the helm. The plan that would see an addition to the second storey added over the previous owner’s flat roofline. They incorporated a lovely master suite in this space which included an ensuite bathroom and walk-in closets. The exterior received a facelift with new siding, windows, doors, and roof, vastly improving the curb appeal of the house that had started to look tired. The existing master bedroom became what would eventually be the well-used playroom on the main level when their boys came on the scene. To help tie the new and the old, they mimicked the front door arch on the street-side window of the master bedroom.
The main level bathroom also got what would be the first of two upgrades, and the laundry facilities were moved from the second floor to the basement after a water leak met Meaghan partway down the staircase. This meant the sweet feature of a clothesline door out the back of the house became redundant and was filled in with a window.
Busy with two little boys they decided to take a break from renovations. In 2018 they enlisted the help of Robyn Manning, owner and designer of Bricks & Birches, to tackle the galley kitchen, which was no longer working for the family of four. The kitchen space was enlarged to take over the existing kitchen and dining room, and the morning room became their new dining room.
Meaghan and Mark had a list of must-have features for their new kitchen. They wanted a huge island, which was definitely the right choice as it gets well-used in their day-to-day living. Also, since their previous kitchen lacked storage, pantry space was on the list, too, as was a wine fridge. Meaghan also knew she wanted a white kitchen, to keep things fresh and bright, but the navy island provides some nice contrast.
The back porch got some attention creating a functional space for the family’s primary entrance. Boots, book bags, and coats all have a spot in the attractive porch. And the main level bathroom received its second renovation, bringing it up to par with the rest of the house.
When I asked about why they opted to buy an older home as opposed to building a new one, Meaghan and Mark shared a look and chuckled, saying they might as well have bulldozed this one and started fresh, but they certainly were only kidding. You can see the pride they have in the home they have created with the guided help of both contractor and designer. They find that it is difficult to replicate the character of the older homes in a new build. The trim work alone speaks to the keeping of the old but making it fresh and new. The walls may have been brought back to the studs but the trim work was built back up to marry with parts of the house where not much had to
The couple also loves where the house sits, located in the heart of the town, they can walk downtown for a meal, Mark can walk to the golf course and there are lots of friends nearby for the boys. I witnessed exactly that when I was there, the backyard was full of boys running around and then a stream of kids filed into the playroom where you could hear conversation and giggles. Their backyard rink is a big hit with all the kids, too. Having grown up on Broad Street, Meaghan recalls that it was filled with young kids, but when they bought this house, they were the youngest couple in the neighbourhood. But as time goes on, the street is becoming filled with the laughter and play of children again and the Denholm’s are part of a new generation that brings the smile of holiday cheer that lasts all year to this family-friendly street.
Broad Street Breakfast Bake
Savoury Prosciutto and Cheese Bread Pudding
Make-ahead, easy and delicious, this crusty casserole
is perfect for a morning or evening festive meal.
3 Tbsp butter
2 leeks, sliced
(white and light green parts)
3 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
6 oz prosciutto, chopped
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
13 baguette (French stick),
2 cups Gruyère cheese, shredded
3 cups milk
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp pepper
- In large, deep skillet, melt butter over medium heat; cook leeks, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook for five minutes. Add prosciutto; cook for two minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup of the parsley and thyme; set aside.
- In a greased 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish, arrange baguette slices in single layer, cutting to fit. Top with three quarters of the cheese; spread leek mixture over the top.
- In a blender or bowl, mix together eggs, milk, mustard and pepper; pour over leek mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours.
(Make ahead: Refrigerate for up to 24 hours)
- Uncover and bake at 325° F
(160° C) until golden and the center is set, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with remaining parsley. Cut into squares.
Makes 8-10 servings.