Story and photo by Pamela Steel
Port Sydney’s newest build is the source of great curiosity in the village. The modern structure overlooking the falls is a departure from most of the small community’s architecture.
Some love the cool crisp lines of the building and others are less than enthused by its modernity. But, say what you like, the home is eye-catching.
Minister of Parliament, Tony Clement and his wife Lynne Golding are pleased with their new home and its contemporary look.
Golding’s great aunt bought the cottage just behind the couple’s current property in 1939.
“I spent my summers at the falls,” said Golding. ‘We wanted to give our kids the same experience.”
That family cottage belongs to Golding’s parents now and has been a cherished destination for the Clement family. So, when the adjacent property came up for sale eight years ago, they jumped at it.
The intention had always been to tear down the existing cottage and rebuild.
“But we got attached,” said Clement. “It was really quaint.”
There is a wistful quality to his voice, you get the feeling that, even surrounded by the beautiful new build, he misses the old place.
The home is on Port Sydney’s main drag, beside a public lane that leads down to the falls. For a small community, that makes it pretty high profile.
Just last weekend, the minister was barbecuing on the back deck when he looked up to find a man standing in the yard observing the house.
“Can I help you?” asked the minister. The man shook his head, he was just looking, he said.
The rear exterior is mostly glass. This means stunning views of the falls from inside.
There is a short stone fence and gate, preserved from the original. The design of the new build mirrors that element, with Muskoka stone on the first level, then a Douglas fir level and finally a top level, also Douglas fir but treated with a brown stain that is meant to last 30 years without maintenance.
The four-bedroom home has plenty of room for the family of five, including a guest bedroom that is occupied by Clement’s father, Peter Panayi, at the time of this writing.
The entrance foyer is large and spacious, dominated by a glass chandelier meant to resemble a glass ball of calla Lillies.
Although they’re still putting the finishing touches on decorating, the light fixtures stand out throughout the home.
Beyond the foyer, the open concept space encapsulates a kitchen, dining area and two living areas.
An island of faux zebrano wood and wenge dominates the kitchen. Countertops are Caesar stone, a type of ground granite composed with antibacterial properties. The floors are large, dark ceramic tile.
Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves run to the side of the kitchen. A welcome spot for the minister to display some of the many gifts he receives.
Warm pendant lights are suspended over the island.
The long dining table, as happens at any lived-in home, is currently a catch-all for the family’s various papers and projects on the go.
In fact, the entire home speaks of a busy family. An office off the main space has been outfitted with a room-long work surface overlooking the falls that will serve as a desk for all the family members’ laptops. Golding quips that she imagines the family working on their laptops side by side, emailing each other to meet for lunch.
The home’s only fireplace is in the office, natural gas with decorative stone set into granite. Golding said that choosing the granite accents for the home involved going to a showroom that was much like a museum.
Clement is just happy to have wrangled one fire feature in the home.
“Lynn’s not much on fireplaces, but I managed to get one in the office,” he joked.
Bedrooms for the three teenagers have attached baths; the boys’ with a steam bath that still has a few kinks that need to be worked out. Currently, it steams away at will, going off in the middle of night of its own accord.
As we tour the home, the couple chats away about ironing out this and many other details.
On the top floor daughter Alexis’ room is the only one painted with colour.
“She advocated for purple,” said her mom.
The boys share a room with luxurious shag carpeting.
“Shag is back,” insist the couple.
Off this bedroom is one of the planned green roofs that will be planted with fescue.
The guest room has four large floor-to-ceiling windows that open up onto a Juliet balcony and yet another stunning falls view.
The lighting in the hall is uncharacteristically vintage, sconces reclaimed from the old cottage.
“The architect wouldn’t let me put them anywhere you could see them,” laughed Golding.
The deck on the top floor is home to the family’s bromine hot tub, where they enjoy marvellous views of Muskoka’s night sky.
The balcony off the master bedroom features a view of a masterful old white pine.
“What a grand old tree,” said Clement.
Like any boy with a new toy, he demonstrates how the remote works on the blackout blinds that shield sleepers from early-morning sun.
There is a walk-in closet that leads to the en suite bath with more gorgeous granite.
The home will eventually be decorated with handpicked art. The couple’s previous collection has gone into storage and they plan to start fresh with a select few pieces for the home’s new look.
“I keep going to these Muskoka Arts and Crafts sales,” said Clement. He comes home and says, “Look honey, what I’ve got.”
They have a new rule about art purchases for the new home. They have to be together when a new piece is chosen.
Architect Trevor McIvor points out some of the environmental features of the home.
“The house is planned around good passive ventilation principles. The tall entry space with big opening windows at the top helps to exhaust hot air above and draw in cool air below and create air movement in the house,” he wrote in an email. “This with white, heat-reflecting roof membranes and a good building envelope helps to eliminate the need for air conditioning. We wrapped the outside of the building with R10 insulation in addition to the standard R-19 insulation in the walls. The ceilings are spray foamed for air tightness and thermal performance.
“The thermal mass of the concrete floors with tile finishes will store and release energy from the winter sun when it shines in. This plus the consistent, direct-to-occupant (i.e. warm feet) radiant floor heating will make the place very comfortable in the winter. The radiant system is powered by a high-efficiency gas boiler.”
And the house is comfortably cool on a hot August morning without any air conditioning.
It also has a full heat recovery ventilation system to bring in fresh air while minimizing energy loss. It was framed with engineered wood products the architect says make more efficient use of renewable forest resources.
Golding said she went over every detail of the home with McIvor at least three times.
There’s still work to be done. It can easily take years to put the finishing touches on a build and to make it a home. But one thing is certain; the couple loves the village life.
Landscaping is natural and low maintenance
“I would never go back,” said Clement of full-time city living.
As we leave, he’s just leaving to walk the family’s 11-year-old Brittany spaniel.
“See you at Zanetti’s,” he calls.