A New Classic

The use of timeless architectural features brings instant character and elegance to this new home.

By Judy Liebner

When Rick and Gabrielle Corrent began planning the design of their home, one of their objectives was to infuse it with a sense of character. The couple, who live in LaSalle, near Windsor, Ontario, have traveled extensively in Europe and admired the architecture of older, traditional buildings.

“It’s difficult to achieve character in new construction, but that was a main objective throughout the process for us,” says Gabrielle.

The Corrents had a different perspective on their home than average home buyers. Both are engineers and Rick operates his own home building company, Bellagio Custom Homes. Rick collaborated on the home’s design with a Michigan-based architect, Walter Melonio. He helped the couple incorporate the timeless architectural features normally found in much larger homes to reflect their 4,200-square-foot floorplan.

The home was completed in March 2006 at a cost of $760,000, excluding the property.

During the four-month design process, Rick and Gabrielle paid several visits to Willistead Manor, a local mansion built in 1906 for Edward Chandler Walker, second son of Hiram Walker, who founded the world-renowned distillery.

The Corrents were drawn to the mansion’s natural materials, particularly the warmth of the woodwork. “Even walking through it, it has a certain richness, a certain elegance and similar types of elements we tried to capture in our own home,” Gabrielle says.

Rick and Gabrielle borrowed the concept of a reverse staircase that is oriented toward the rear of the home and not the foyer. Because the stairs aren’t visible from the foyer, the openness of the area gives visitors a clear view of the backyard through a wall of windows. “With that open foyer, the staircase isn’t an obstruction,” Rick says.

The couple chose maple hardwood flooring throughout their main floor for its silky texture and durability. They paired it with exceptionally deep walnut baseboards, trim and crown mouldings, as well as cherry cabinetry in the kitchen and bathrooms.

The exterior of the home has a commanding presence with two sets of double limestone columns on square bases that anchor the front entry. Pale limestone window surrounds provide a contrast to the dark brown brick. The Corrents’ love of formality can be seen in the boxwood hedge and ornamental grasses that line a walkway leading to the front entry.

“One of the nicest compliments I’ve heard is that it looks like our home has been here forever even though it was just recently built,” Gabrielle says. “I just like the fact that it has that older appeal.”

Inside, the home’s Tuscan ambiance with its warm yellow walls and dark woods is evident from the front foyer. Polished marble floors provide a grand entrance to the main floor, which features a centre hall plan.

The foyer opens, on the left, to a dining room distinguished by two columns connected by an arch. Like the double front doors, the columns are fibreglass, stained to resemble a wood-grain finish. The dining room incorporates a reverse tray ceiling with rope lighting in the crown mouldings, as well as large casement windows that overlook the front garden. A dining suite with ornate carvings enhances the room’s traditional appeal.

A home office opens off the foyer to the right through french doors. The office features deep bookcases with fluted pilasters, as well as a desk with simple panel details. The dark woods in the room are complemented by taupe-coloured walls treated with a faux finish.

The foyer leads past an oak staircase with boxed newel posts, recessed panels and black wrought-iron spindles. From the foyer, visitors have an all-encompassing view of a wooded area through a wall of arched floor-to-ceiling windows in the great room. Panels of rich copper draperies with heavy tassels soften the expanse of glass.

The Corrents took advantage of their view by positioning their two-sided gas fireplace on a wall that separates the great room from the kitchen. The fireplace features a cherry overmantel that reaches up to the full height of the 20-foot ceiling. John Recchia, a local wood carver, paired the marble surround with fluted pilasters, dentil mouldings, and a scroll and leaf motif below the mantel.

The two-storey great room is furnished with a sense of understated elegance: two silk and chenille sofas in a soft shade of copper form a conversation area around a square coffee table. Deep crown mouldings, formed from five pieces of trim, balance the room’s immense proportions.

Two arches lead from the great room into the kitchen where the couple’s fondness for natural materials is evident. The focal point is a cherry breakfast bar with a curving granite counter supported by hand-carved corbels. The bar separates the workspace from a breakfast nook beside an octagonal bay window, and a hearth area in front of the fireplace.

The perimeter of the kitchen features cherry cabinets of staggered heights and depths, and granite counters in shades of yellow, charcoal and coffee. A limestone range hood defines the cooking area, which consists of a gas range with a cooktop and grill.

A hallway off the kitchen provides access to a laundry room, a powder room and a butler’s pantry. Located between the kitchen and dining room, the butler’s pantry allows Gabrielle to be part of a gathering while she’s preparing coffee and dessert.

Rick and Gabrielle decided to keep all of the main elements on the first floor, including their master bedroom, which is located off the great room and connected to it by an anteroom. The bedroom is furnished with a traditional carved bedroom suite and features a 14-foot tray ceiling with pot lights and a triple casement window that overlooks the backyard.

A small hallway leads to an ensuite bathroom with a Tuscan theme. Limestone floors and fibreglass columns that resemble stone provide a dramatic backdrop to a raised whirlpool bathtub. A glassed shower and a vanity with a granite counter and cherry cabinets contribute to the spa ambiance.

The couple extended their main-floor living area to the lower level, which features ceiling heights of 91⁄2 feet. The living space includes an open-concept entertainment area with a bar and a pool table, as well as a home theatre room, an exercise room, a full bathroom and a storage area.

The second floor of the home incorporates a library area at the top of the stairs with built-in bookcases. Four bedrooms – each with its own walk-in closet – and two bathrooms complete the second storey.

The Corrents are delighted with their home and acknowledge it’s the result of good planning. Rick says it’s important for buyers of new homes to assess how they plan to live in a home and make a list of their priorities.

Gabrielle agrees. “I think you really have to be honest with yourself, with the way you live day-to-day and how you plan to use the home. I think it’s really important to be open to different options or different ideas. Don’t let history dictate the way you plan your home.”