The Making of AWAY

The House before the renovations


AWAY Bed & Breakfast sits on the original homestead of United Empire Loyalist Alva Stephens who purchased the land in 1822. The original post and beam house is 190 years old.  Eighty years after the original house was constructed, a brick addition was built on the south elevation.

We purchased the 3 acre property in 2003 with the intention of eventually renovating it into bed and breakfast, which would also include an encaustic painting studio.  Having traveled throughout North America and Europe staying at numerous bed & breakfasts we had a good idea of the type of experience we wanted to provide for our guests.

The process began with hiring local architect Brian Clark to assist us in refining our ideas, which in turn set about a four-year project to transform the house. Glen acted as the main contractor and set about sourcing local suppliers and carpenter’s to assist him with the project. He has been totally hands on with every aspect of the project.

From the start it was important to us that the house would be as energy efficient as possible and so the decision was made to install a geothermal heating and cooling system.  As part of the geothermal installation the back yard of the house was backfilled to create a level yard that was edged with three layers of large limestone blocks. In addition a new septic system was installed within the bounds of the stonework.

The decision to build all of the doors, windows and wood floors from scratch has made an incredible impact on the house. Because none of these elements are store bought or factory made they appear to be timeless as though they have been here for the last 190 years.

The herring bone floor in our private living room laid by our son Dylan is made from a mix of maple, birch and beech felled in Muskoka 40 years ago, rough sawn and left stacked in a barn for the duration.  Glen purchased 2400 board feet of the material in 2009 and proceeded to produce the planks for the herringbone from the curved and warped boards, leaving the straight maple boards for the plank floors in the Carpenter’s and Gardener’s room. To continue the feel throughout the house brown maple was chosen to produce the balance of the flooring. After installation all the floors were treated with multiple coats of tung oil for a natural look.

The back patio is another example of a truly unique find made from marble removed from the exterior of the Bank of Montreal headquarters in the First Canadian Place tower in Toronto.  Glen ended up buying 15,000 lbs of the carrera marble for less per square foot than traditional interlocking pavers.  The marble was cut by him in the back yard into manageable blocks and laid by local landscapers. From the back of the house the look is incredible especially in the evening when the interior lighting makes the whole main floor sparkle. The marble clad foundation allows the nearly unobstructed glass wall of the back of the house appear to float.

The site itself allows for so many wonderful features. With East Lake to the north, there is no restriction on the views from inside the house.  Every principle room has a view. The living room, kitchen, and dining room have floor to ceiling views and the upper bedrooms and studio also have generous views.  Special thermal units have been installed on the large windows to retain as much energy as possible.

In the end it is the design itself that is the most unique feature of the house.  Not wanting to lose out on one of the last remaining features from the original house, the beams were exposed in the kitchen and dining room.  The dining room has a feature wall made of items found both on and off the property that is truly a work of art contributed to by all of the extended Wallis family.  The stairs in the foyer are planed hemlock boards that were once the interior walls of the original 1822 house.  Glen also used some of the same boards to make the bed frame and headboard in the “Carpenters” guest room.  The ceilings in the front porch and the screened in porch are made from a beautiful clear cedar that add immeasurable richness to both spaces.

The house is a wonderful balance between old and new.   The cedar back wall of the house with its floor to ceiling windows is as easy to imagine being from the seventies as it is from today.  The use of so much natural wood is the key unifying theme of the house.  From the exposed beams and hardwood floors to the extensive use of cedar and walnut in the exterior and millwork it is the warmth of the wood that gives the house an earthy but modern feel that has so far been a hit with everyone who has had the opportunity to visit.

We are happy to announce that AWAY Bed & Breakfast won the 2013 award for excellence in Residential Construction for projects under $300,000 by the Prince Edward County Construction Association.

Susan & Glen Wallis