The Little Yellow House that Built New Friendships


Thornbury family replicates 175-year-old Ontario farmhouse in 600 square feet.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of  OUR HOMES Southern Georgian Bay, p.106. Find local businesses in our Southern Georgian Bay directory.

Andrew Lansdale and Kristin Schnelten  relocated to Ontario from the Maritimes in 2015, hoping to find a small, older home in the country. But when a tiny bungalow in Thornbury presented itself instead, they made the quick decision to start their new life in town. The temporary house, however, quickly proved it would need a complete rebuild. 
The couple searched the area for the right historic design, and stumbled upon a 175-year-old home in the nearby community of Heathcote with similar dimensions to their 600 sq. ft. footprint. They researched historic styles at local libraries, online and on “many, many drives through southern Ontario,” Lansdale laughs.
The couple acted as general contractors for the build. Steve Hanley Construction Ltd. tackled the initial stages of the project – framing, siding, roofing and window installation, while working closely with Batchelor Plumbing, NX Generation Mechanical, and Beaver Valley Electrical. “These guys worked so well together, and have continued to collaborate on other projects. I recommend each of them every chance I get,” says Lansdale.
Schnelten notes, “Because our home is so small, we knew the finish carpentry really needed to shine. We wanted the best carpenter in the area, and I believe we found that in Mike Millard of Millard-Bautista Designs. He is a true craftsman, in every sense of the word. He and his partner Venecia Bautista are simply top notch.”
The home is filled with small details and endless stories. For example, doors leading into the spare bedroom and powder room are custom-made, with antique hand-painted glass panels salvaged from an office building in London. An antique door from a Collingwood farmhouse leads into the panelled mudroom. “We’ve been collecting and moving old doors for a decade, knowing they’d come in handy one day,” says Schnelten.
When it came time to choose paint colours, they chose a Farrow & Ball colour palette with both historic and classic tones. Birch and Benjamin recreated those colours with custom Benjamin Moore paint. Jim Keast Painting paid meticulous detail to the interior finishing. 
Custom kitchen cabinets in poplar were brush-painted, rather than sprayed or rolled, to achieve a more aged finish. All three sinks in the home are salvaged, while City Stone provided countertops – quartz in the kitchen, and slate in the washrooms – to keep with the historic aesthetic. Slate, sourced from Floorcrafters, was also used as flooring in the mudroom and washrooms. Appliances sourced at MacDonald’s Furniture & Appliances. Flowers provided by Sideroad Farm Floral, and displayed in vases by Marcelina Salazar
Lansdale, a landscape designer, tackled the landscape design and installation. He chose simple, classic lines and materials appropriate for the time period, including hydrangeas found in photographs of old Ontario homes. Although the front yard is small, he was able to create a sense of privacy in the small seating area with a clear view of Georgian Bay. “We’re so close to the street and all its activity in the front, yet the backyard, next to the river, is quiet, peaceful and really very private,” says Landsale.
Says Schnelten, “We realize you can’t manufacture old-home character, but by making the space warm and filling it with life, we certainly hope we’ve given character a place to grow.”