An Elevated Design

The addition of separate living quarters and an elevator to this rural home allows a retired couple to continue living on their former farm.

Written by: Judy PenzSheluk
Photos by: Miguel Hortiguela

When William and Jane Pleasance moved to their 100-acre farm in Adjala Township, Ontario in 1963, they knew they had found the perfect place to raise a family. In the 1970s, the couple went one step further, and severed off three two-acre lots – one for each of their children.

Daughter Sandra was the first to build in 1983, raising her own three sons in a 1,200-square-foot bungalow. In 1990, she expanded their living space by converting the two-car garage into a family room.

That same year, William and Jane sold the original farm and farmhouse. “One of our sons was living in Toronto, so we decided to purchase his lot and build our dream home,” says Jane.
Dream home or not, it was quickly apparent that a 3,800-square-foot house was far larger than the couple needed.

“By the late 1990s, my parents began looking at retirement properties, but nothing seemed right,” says Sandra. “They had lived in this rural area for more than 30 years and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.”

After several family meetings, William and Jane decided to sell their oversized home and use the money to fund an addition to Sandra’s bungalow – with one condition. “It was extremely important that we each maintained our independence, which meant completely separate living quarters,” says Jane.

A home renovation article in the local newspaper led the family to Jane Cameron, an architectural technologist with 27 years experience, and the owner of LifeHome Design.

“The first step was to find out whether the local township’s zoning would allow a second dwelling as part of the house,” says Cameron. “Fortunately, Adjala was very accommodating, and even permitted two septic systems. They did have two requirements: the addition could not exceed the size of the original home, and it needed an adjoining doorway inside the dwelling.”

The next step was developing a plan that would accommodate the Pleasance’s wish list. “We wanted bungalow living with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an open-concept living room/dining room/kitchen,” says Jane. “William also wanted a double garage and a spacious workshop, so he could continue his hobby-turned-small business of carving walking sticks.”

The planning was not without its challenges. The long, narrow property allowed for only one option – an L-shaped addition with the garage/workshop attached to the front.

“The difficulty was the original home had been built far back from the road, and the best views faced the front. Putting a garage there entirely eliminated the view,” says Cameron. “In addition, the land sloped downward, toward the street, which meant a lot of fill. Finally, a long, skinny structure attached to the original house was aesthetically unappealing.”

Cameron suggested building the main floor above the garage – with a twist. “I recommended installing an elevator that would go from the garage to the main living area. While the cost of the elevator would exceed $20,000, much of that would be recouped by using stacked construction.”

Cameron consulted Richard Piatti of Federal Elevator, a professional engineer with 25 years of elevator experience. “We needed to determine the configuration that best suited the house and the occupant’s needs,” says Piatti. “This particular residence had access from the outside at two different levels – the garage, and the upper (main) floor – so elevator access needed to be convenient from either location.”

Other factors included the location of the hoistway in relation to the kitchen, bedrooms and entrances. Finishing touches, such as colonial doors, would be added to make the elevator entrance look like any other doorway.

The decision was made to install Federal Elevator’s Panoramic Design D, a model with front and side access, and a 90-degree turnaround space inside the cab. “This allows for wheel chair accessibility,” says Cameron. “While that wasn’t a current requirement, it seemed only prudent to allow for the possibility.”

As for the end result, the Pleasance’s and daughter Sandra are delighted with the addition. “Some people might think an elevator is an expensive option,” says Jane, “but what it offers is peace of mind – the knowledge that William and I can stay in our home, even if we experience the physical restraints so common with aging. That elevator is one of the best investments we’ve ever made.”