The Most Demanding Client

“I took all of the ideas from all of my other clients, fit them into my lifestyle and designed a show home that I would like to buy,” says builder Brad Oke.

By Judy Liebner

As a residential designer, Brad Oke takes his clients’ ideas and transforms them into a distinctive home that reflects their lifestyle. He was recently both client and builder when he designed a show home based on his own family’s preferences in Grand Bend, Ontario.

Oke, who is a partner in the family-owned company Oke Woodsmith Building Systems of Hensall, designed the main floor with his wife, Janice, in mind. Multi-tasking within a compact kitchen and laundry area was important. He also created a three-bedroom lower-level walkout to accommodate grown children who could each have a bedroom when they came home to visit.

“I took all of the ideas from all of my other clients, fit them into my lifestyle and designed a show home that I would like to buy, hoping that other people might take to it,” Oke says. His plan was so inspiring that the London Health Sciences Centre took on the home for their Dream Home Lottery. The home has been so popular with visitors that ticket sales have exceeded expectations, Oke says.

Although the home is a permanent residence, Oke incorporated many features of a cottage. He particularly wanted to capture views of the Ausable River, which flows through the rear of the property. The brilliant greens and golds of oak and maple trees on both sides of the river give way to miles of open fields beyond.

To maximize the views, Oke decided to position the 4,050-square-foot house further back on the half-acre lot than he had originally planned. From the main living areas at the rear of the home, it’s impossible to see other houses – no small feat on a 75-foot-wide lot in a subdivision.

“Everything was designed for privacy,” Oke, an architectural technologist, says. “In this house, other than the front window looking out from the office, you don’t see a neighbour. All of the priority rooms are at the back where the river is. You can bring a 26-foot boat right to your backyard and be at the lake in 15 minutes.”

Because of Grand Bend’s temperate climate, Oke decided to extend the home’s indoor living areas outdoors. Glass doors in the great room and the dining area open on to a 250-square-foot covered balcony, which features an outdoor kitchen with a built-in barbecue, a wine cooler and sink. A concrete floor, etched in a diamond pattern and stained in shades of green and bronze, mimics the colour of autumn leaves.

Directly below, Oke created a similar effect in a recessed 250-square-foot patio with a salt water hot tub. Framed by a stone arch, the patio overlooks an outdoor living and dining area that’s dominated by a towering stone fireplace. Natural stone forms steps that lead from the patio down to the river.

The exterior of the home was also influenced by nature. Constructed of cultured stone, the front elevation features stucco accents and pine board-and-batten siding in a soft shade of moss green. Round columns anchored by stone piers at the front entry add a traditional flair that complements other homes on the street.

“Brick homes have a tendency to be more of an urban look, whereas stone and board and batten have a better dimension and more texture for the environment of the woods,” Oke says.

The 2,020-square-foot main floor is an open-concept plan with living areas defined by ceilings of varying heights. The mood of each area changes accordingly, from the volume of space created by a 14-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling in the great room to the more intimate nine-foot tray ceiling in the kitchen.

One of the home’s strengths is its ability to capture views of the outdoors in unexpected places. A gracious study, to the left of the front foyer, overlooks flowerbeds studded with spiky ornamental grasses, evergreens and flows of river stone. A long window provides a view into the recessed front entry where two steps of Owen Sound ledge rock lead up to a flagstone-covered porch.

From the foyer, a curved oak railing with black wrought-iron spindles sweeps down to the lower level and up two steps to the main floor. A cambered window in the great room is mirrored by arched stonework on the balcony, drawing the eye magnetically to the view beyond.

The colours of nature are evident in the home, from sage green walls to dark, distressed, engineered wood flooring. In the great room, a flat-screen television is displayed in a wall of built-in oak cabinets and open shelves. A leather sofa and loveseat with floral patterned cushions form an intimate conversation area in front of a fireplace.

The great room is separated from the kitchen and dining area by a raised-ledge breakfast bar that combines oak and glass display cabinets with charcoal-coloured quartz counters. The cabinets and the stainless steel appliances are arranged on a rear wall behind the island, a few steps away from two pantries – one for small appliances and another for dry goods – as well as a laundry room.

“Everything is very compact and it’s quite tight,” Oke says.
On the opposite side of the great room, a vestibule connects a guest powder room on the left with a luxurious bedroom on the right. The bedroom features a spacious sleeping and reading area with a view on two sides of the woods and river. An ensuite bathroom finished with porcelain tile floors in shades of cream and caramel includes a corner soaker tub, an oak vanity with a makeup area, and a glassed shower.

In the lower level, concrete has been used as a finish to create a sense of understated drama. Concrete floors, stained a warm taupe colour, are etched in a diamond pattern and edged with dark brown bands. A similar treatment has been used, on a smaller scale, in the bathroom and in a hallway leading from the garage.

An open-concept living room houses a games table, a pool table and an entertainment area; a large flat-screen television is positioned below a bank of four smaller televisions, allowing for the ultimate in channel surfing in the home theatre. The focal point of the room is an oak bar with a concrete counter, tinted dark brown and finished with a surface of cut stones and a traditional beveled edge.

Concrete, in addition to its use as a surface finish, was used architecturally. All of the exterior walls in the home, to the roofline, are constructed of insulated concrete forms, which maximize energy efficiency and create a quiet home that can withstand strong winds. “All in all, it’s a very good way to build,” Oke says.

The floors in the home are also constructed of concrete and incorporate a Hambro composite floor joist system. The combination of steel joists and poured concrete allowed for wider rooms and reduced the need for structural supports.

Radiant in-floor heating, which heats the home, was installed in both levels. Because of it, Oke finished the floors with engineered wood flooring to decrease the possibility of shrinkage that’s inherent in natural hardwoods.

Since building the show home, Oke has purchased a lakefront property where he plans to build a permanent residence for himself and his wife. As his own client, Oke acknowledges he’s hard to work for. “My dream home is already drawn, but it changes on a quarterly basis. I’m worse than any client I’ve ever had as far as evolving a plan. The longer I have before a client’s going to build, the harder it is because the plan changes too many times. You’re not forced into making that final decision.”