“Home is where one starts from” – T.S. Eliot
It’s been more than a year and a half since we broke ground on our new build. While most of creating a new home involves looking forward, gratitude has had me spending at least some of my time, looking back, reflecting on what just happened here and thinking about what had to come together in order to make this a reality. And for the most part, it’s down to a series of serendipitous circumstances; it’s a love story.
Long ago, I was a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him not to get on a plane. At 13, I stood in front of my now husband, wishing he didn’t have to return to his home in Scotland, scheming for a way to bring him back to Canada for good. Fast forward and he has been my life partner for almost 42 years and has accompanied my every adventure, including this one, our biggest and boldest to date.
From our own beginnings to this one, finding someone who would truly understand what we were trying to accomplish was easier than we imagined. There are plenty of architects and designers out there, but we needed someone who understood our vision; a place to age and die, a smaller footprint on the earth, a sustainable and somewhat self-sufficient lifestyle, a home amongst homes; houses where our grown children could join us later on, a place that would meet our needs and comply with government zoning, and a build that didn’t require experienced builders; we were going in blind. Luckily, a work colleague recommended a beautiful soul who not only has a love for family and multigenerational living, but a passion for design and building; enter John Shields of Edda Creative. From our first cup of coffee together he understood our vision, respected our modest budget, and listened, and then leaned in and listened more. He drew up plans that met us right where we were. We know there are others who would have simply said no, or told us to come back with more money and experience; John believed in us and our family and that initial faith spurred us on.
It takes a variety of skill sets to construct a house, and while most residential builds include a crew with many of those skills, our talent behind the tools are four young men with varying levels of experience, almost none of which included building a bespoke home. They had all worked on various types of builds including roads, bridges, house framing, decks, pergolas, and even cruise ship interiors. This however was a very different build; a custom designed house, in a somewhat remote wooded location, with limited power and no running water, constructed during a pandemic. They were starting from the ground up, literally. What they lacked in new home building experience, they made up for with a combination of determination, passion, and curiosity. There’s a line from a 1989 movie that states, ‘if you build it, they will come’ and while I know it was written about a baseball field, it certainly resonated with us when an outpouring of love had our family builders (sons by birth and by love) accepting help and support from a long line of new neighbours, old friends, work colleagues, and a group of grateful and grown young men and women who had spent many hours in our former house during our kids’ growing years. Payback for the friendship, dinners, overnight stays, and shared wisdom; we accepted it all.
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that the best part of many of life’s experiences, is reciprocity; connected hearts and hands, mutual needs and benefits, communal collaboration, shared gifts, exchanged ideas and kinship. Add in four creative and soulful young men, dedicated to the craft and fueled by a love of family and adventure, and you have a recipe for success.
So, while Tom and I enjoy this last chapter, knowing that our own love story will end some day, what will last is this house, the memories that were built alongside it, and the 45-year-old love letters that we buried just behind the drywall at the end of the hall.
*As part of our research for the build, we watched more than 100 episodes of Grand Designs, a TV series that features home owner builds in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. The music in the first half of our video is the theme song from that series.