On her first walk through, the dark wood panelling in this historic Collingwood home reminded Susie Taylor of the convent school she attended growing up. She pictured nuns walking the halls. But her husband Dean Taylor immediately fell for the character of this grand Queen Anne revival home, and, after agreeing to relocate the 100-year-old gun rack out of the front parlour, Susie, too, saw the home’s potential. A mere block or two from every amenity downtown Collingwood has to offer, they would be close to schools for their two teenage daughters and to Susie and Dean’s offices at Assante Capital Management Ltd.
A generous formal dining room would let the family host the dinners they so enjoy with friends. While moving full time from Toronto to Collingwood would be a change for the family, they know the area well. The whole family are skiers. Dean grew up in Collingwood – his parents’ legacy was the iconic Beaconglow Motel on Highway 26 that welcomed skiers and vacationers to Georgian Bay, running it from 1969 to 1999. Even after moving to Toronto and marrying, Dean kept property near the ski hills.
This home’s grandiose hallway, two sitting rooms, four large bedrooms, an attic loft and an upper balcony were common for big homes like this in their time, but to add to these luxuries, it uniquely boasts a finished basement with an original coal furnace room that exposes the limestone foundation. Plus, the former owners had completely renovated the kitchen to bring it into modern day. The kitchen had been expanded from little more than a small galley and pantry, to a big, inviting space complete with a granite island. The house needed some serious work, but the design was already breathtaking.
So how do you modernize a century home, while retaining its historic character? The Taylors beautifully walk this fine line. They brought in Fuhre Construction Ltd. as a general contractor to oversee most of the work. They repaired cracks in the plaster, renovated the front-facing living room and second-floor bathrooms and laundry and restored all of the wood trim throughout the house.
The Taylors stumbled upon a mystery during renovation when they found a ticket inside a wall for attendance to the Rose Ball dated March 28, 1910. Dr. John H. Irwin, a local dentist, purchased the land for this stately home in April 1907, and subsequent owners of the home dated its construction to 1917. But since a fire in the town of Collingwood destroyed town records from that era, no conclusive record is available. The Taylors wonder if the ticket reveals that the home was constructed closer to 1910.
The Taylors brought in designer Catherine Staples of Catherine Staples Interiors to update the formal dining room, front entry, powder room and living room. It was Staples who designed the gorgeous ivory fireplace in the living room and brought colours and fabrics together that hint at early 20th century style while being sophisticated and chic. She told Susie, “This house deserves wallpaper!” And so a subtle paisley adorns the upper walls in the dining room and a magnificent floral appears in the main-floor powder room.
Aside from incorporating some modern conveniences and style, the home is filled with references to yesteryear. The front-facing living and sitting rooms each have their original chandeliers, which have been rewired by Dean’s father, Bev, an electrician. The sitting room, historically called the “card room,” was where the early homeowners displayed their gun rack, made with deer hooves to hold the guns in place. The Taylors still use the rack, but relocated it to the lower level where it now showcases Hungarian wine skins and a herding whip, pieces of Susie’s family heritage.
Parts of the basement feature the exposed stone foundation, which, like the face of the home, has a curved wall. The Taylors will be turning this room into a wine cellar. The wooden door to the room is original to the home and features markings from previous owners or attendants who stoked the coal-burning furnace indicating how much coal they had received in shipments or how much they needed. Other markings include references to tonnage of Elk horn stored before shipment on the Great Lakes. Years like “1927” stand out clearly.
On the second floor, the two bathrooms and laundry room were updated and designed by Shannon Soro of Shannon Soro Interior Design to include elegant colours, tiles and fixtures. Susie and Dean’s en suite is a modern getaway with an energetic yet serene shade of aqua, a big bathtub, shower and fabulous vanity, all sourced at Georgian Design Centre. Some bedding sourced at Clerkson’s Home Store.
The Taylors are only the seventh owners in the home’s community-oriented lineage, and they continue that legacy. Susie and Dean host dinners for family, friends and clients regularly, so much so that bidding on their extensive hosting has become a favourite silent auction item for Home Horizons, the Collingwood General & Marine Hospital Foundation and the National Ski Academy. The family cooks and serves five-course, wine paired meals for their guests, who are welcomed into their formal dining room. It’s a classic setting in a modern world, which is also exactly how the Taylors have made this house their home.