PHOTOS BY STEVE SMITH, VISIONFIRE STUDIOS
Take an old house, a cute dog and a sweet couple in love and you have the makings for a fairy-tale Christmas movie.
But don’t think they stripped the character and history out during the renovations. They re-purposed the old living room floor as the kitchen ceiling, the old heat grates were kept, and the beams in the living room are original. Even the original doorbell still lets Kristina and Mitch know that company has arrived. They salvaged all the interior doors and reused them, but all the windows and exterior doors were upgraded. The kitchen sports a farmhouse sink and above it hangs a ‘farmhouse’ sign painted on a board from an old barn that once stood on the property. Even the horseshoe above the door is from one of her great-grandfather’s horses and is held up with old square nails.
And along the way Kristina met a boy, a certain Pictou County boy that caught her eye and Mitch Fraser entered the picture. He was living in his grandmother’s house at the time and working as a general contractor with his dad at CF Construction. Things got more serious and when the renovations were completed, Mitch moved in, too. And here’s the part of the story that I love…little did Kristina know that Mitch had already asked her father’s permission to marry her when the photo shoot for this feature took place. And apparently, the fact that secret had been kept is quite noteworthy! Weeks later, just days before Christmas, Mitch asked Kristina to marry him in the very kitchen they worked so hard to create. She said yes and fast forward to this Christmas that they will spend as husband and wife!
Now, Mitch, with his construction knowledge, is very handy to have around, as things are bound to come up when living in a centuries-old house. He was awarded the Reader’s Choice House Builder of the Year in 2018. During the slower construction months, he also takes care of plowing the long, twisting driveway that was once part of the road to Foxbrook.
Cash joined the mix at the farmhouse, a friendly, lovable four-legged addition that loves having lots of yard to roam in, greeting each visitor warmly and soaking up the sunshine on the back deck. They enjoy taking Cash for walks into the woods in the 160-acre lot, exploring the paths that all the other dogs who lived here before them roamed, too. He also takes his job of alerting them to the deer that wander in to enjoy the apples in the old orchard very seriously.
The reno was truly a family effort, Kristina and her mother made up the design team, while her dad, Gerald, did a lot of the physical work of the reno, along with the help of Travis Spears, over the 18-month period it took to breathe life back in the old house. Kristina’s mom, Nancy, and her Aunt Judy, also play the roll of Christmas elves, decorating the farmhouse for Christmas while she’s away at work.
Most of the decorations have a back story to them and things are kept relatively simple. The Christmas village once belonged to Kristina’s grandmother, the trees are from their own woodlot and the decorations on the trees are special gifts from a variety of people including Kristina’s students, Mitch or from her mom, each one with special meaning. The trees are also decked out in coloured lights, and each window has a set of candles glowing throughout the season. Kristina and Mitch prefer to use simple, inexpensive things in their decorating, like the chopping block that belonged to Kristina’s great-grandfather, the axe and wheelbarrow that belonged to her grandfather – personal things that mean so much and add such an interesting layer to the festive decorations. Even the boughs are real greenery gleaned from their property.
One of Kristina’s favourite Christmas traditions dating back many years is listening to Jim Reeves Christmas album, the very same album that Kristina’s mom listened to as a kid on her grandfather’s record player.
Kristina has fond memories of lots of social gatherings spent in the farmhouse over the years. They are continuing the tradition by cooking big meals for friends and family in the kitchen, which is well-suited for a crowd. Kristina has lots of great display space in the inviting kitchen, too, and switches things up using lots of interesting items she has gathered. Some items have history, such as the little chalkboard that belonged to her mom, or an old cookbook, mixed in with new things found in home décor shops. Kristina has a special knack for perfectly mixing the old with the new and creating a space and home that reflect both her and Mitch.
A house that has been so lovingly brought back to life and carefully rebuilt is not just a house, but a home. Kristina and Mitch are starting their life together inside the walls of a home that they have poured their hearts and souls into and they know with hard work and determination, some blood, sweat and tears, that anything is possible. And once again, smoke drifts out of the chimney and ‘love fills the air.’