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MULMUR RESIDENCE
                                   
Burrowed comfortably into the side of a hill, on 75 acres of bucolic farmland on the Niagara Escarpment, is a charming rural homestead. Although it appears at first glance to be an antiquated farmhouse, modernized to include lofty panes of glass and a walk-out basement level, the original building is, in fact, a mere twelve years old. Standing on the rather ordinary front porch, the home appears to be an archetypal model of a two-storey ranch house, complete with weathered wood exterior and a pair of field stone chimneys. What gives the home the illusion of age is the weather-worn board-and-batten cladding and an abundance of stonework. The result is an authentic-looking reproduction which is at once impressive and humble.

However, at some 6,500 square feet, the interior of the house is anything but modest. Stepping inside, one is immediately struck by the sheer mightiness of its features: four storeys of massive barn beams, hefty wooden staircases, and all the natural light that a breathtaking wall of windows can capture. The heavy solid wood, the time-honoured construction methods and the reflection of rural architecture are nothing short of awesome.
This is thanks to the vision of Jamie Wright, of Young + Wright/IBI Group Architects, based in Toronto, and now the country’s largest architectural firm.

In 1994, Wright’s clients, who, at the time, lived in an existing farmhouse on the property, asked him to design and build a second house which would offer more comfortable, spacious accommodation for their family and visitors. Wright’s design was to evince the client’s appreciation for rural architecture and to showcase their somewhat eclectic collection of native and exotic artifacts, and local folk art.
They offered up the bounty of two abandoned barns. Beams were salvaged, sawn and reused for virtually all the interior walls, floors, and bearing members. The 10” x 10” and 12” x 12” barn beams were custom fabricated to give them their rough, hand-hewn appearance. Then posts and beams were joined together using the traditional mortise and tenon method, which allowed them to maintain their appearance without the distraction of metal brackets and fasteners. (Since the reclaimed materials were being used as structural support – which raises red flags to building inspectors – a structural engineer was employed to approve and oversee their use.) New cedar lumber was used for the board and batten siding, but rather than being stained and finished, it was left untreated to turn a natural, rustic gray. What few materials were not harvested from the barns were sourced locally wherever possible, including the limestone rocks used for the chimneys, garden walls and some interior facades. Cedar shingles from B.C. are the crowning glory of the exterior finishes.

The main living area is down one floor from the entrance and features a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace. On the south-east face of the home, Wright created what in essence is a glass wall, to allow in not only maximum light but a spectacular vista as well. A triplet of French doors lead to a stone-paved patio at the rear of the house. Stairways, corridors and bedrooms overlook the great room, which soars three storeys. However, the majestic proportions of the beams manage to keep the space feeling homey and intimate rather than cathedral-esque. The kitchen, situated in an alcove off the great room,  features pine cupboards, ceramic tile flooring and, behind a pair of wrought iron gates, a well-stocked underground wine cellar. The adjoining dining room, on the same axis as the fireplace, is defined by an overhead beam, but is very much a part of the great room.

The open staircases themselves are works of art, winding their way up and down through the centre of the house. The simple newel posts are also made from barn beams, and the pickets are lathed round and smooth without the adornment of spooling or curves. Railings were carved with hand tools to give them the appearance of rough chiseling while having a pleasing, comfortable handgrip.
Set apart on the top floor, in a space created essentially by shed dormers, is the  master suite. With its rugged stone fireplace, reclaimed pine board floors and multi-directional view, it is country luxury at its best.

Walking outside from the front entrance to the rear, wide stone steps lead down the slope to a flagstone patio, where a pair of wide doors access the basement living space. Another set of steps will take you down to the beautifully landscaped back garden.
Recently, a 650 square foot screened-in porch has been added behind the dining room. Informal seating and a barbeque make this outdoor living space, protected from rain and insects, the perfect spot to relax on a warm summer evening.

What Wright and his clients have created here is a home for the ages. Its style and craftsmanship blend as easily and seamlessly with the rural Ontario landscape as the barns from which they were fashioned.