Friday, February 26, 2021

Living the dream from home


Working from home became the new normal in 2020, but for Gary Hewitt, it’s something he began earnestly working toward in 2016. A contractor with many skills under his work belt, Gary had just been involved in building a custom home for himself but now it was time to aim for the stars and build his dream home. That’s where he could showcase his lifetime of craftsmanship and skills in a home that would serve as his resume for future clients.

 Designing a home from scratch seemed like reinventing the wheel so he started researching plans and packages. It wasn’t long before he discovered the perfect partner was Home Hardware’s Beaver Homes & Cottages program. With a vast collection of plans to choose from, and then access to tried and true suppliers and a top-notch delivery system with a guaranteed package pricing strategy, it was a match made in heaven.

John Oliver at J&K Home Building Centre, Brantford, became Gary’s right hand man as they went through numerous architectural revisions, part of the comprehensive package. J&K is one of a trio of Home Hardware locations under the umbrella of Dealer-Owner Jesse Buchan who has brought together locations in Brantford, Burford and Paris. It puts a range of expertise within reach of customers when they need it.

Learning from his stepdad who harkened back to the Beaver Lumber days of 40 years ago, John Oliver had a history of thinking outside the homebuilding box, which made him a perfect partner for Gary’s project. All begin with a sky-high limit of dreams so that plans can be drawn and then amended to meet budgets and needs. “Then there are no inhibitions,” says John. “We know what the goals are from the beginning.”

Waiting in St. Thomas, there was a gorgeous piece of property on a ravine lot that stepped down toward a valley while absorbing the phenomenal view beyond, just waiting for Gary’s perfect house.

Not your standard Beaver home, Gary had definite ideas of what to include and was able to revise and revise and revise again to design his own version of the Thompson, a one-bedroom, one bath home with a wrap-around deck over a lower walkout. Taking the existing A-framed front, he made it four feet wider, added a two-car garage with a two-level master suite above. It was now the chalet-style home he’d been envisioning. And at the back of the house a two-tiered deck; one level for barbecuing off the living area, and one level for hot-tubbing.

But there were a few challenges. The ravine setting posed some delays. The site was within the Kettle Creek Conservation Authority so, although Home Hardware has its own in-house Architectural Solutions Group, local engineers were brought in to view the site, design the foundation and liaise with the conservation authority.

And while the foundation would have been a two-week building process in the early spring, the municipality’s road construction delays took them into the fall. And then the rain came. Through the delays, Gary was able to focus on staircase design and all the finishing details within the home – flooring, fixtures, trim -- decisions clients normally rush through on an as-needed basis. And then he went shopping -- accumulating his finishes and fixtures in a storage locker so he’d be ready.

With Beaver Homes & Cottages on call, they held back materials when there were delays and provided prompt delivery as soon as the project could move ahead.

There would be no guesswork involved in estimating exterior materials and lumber right through to the framing, siding, roofing, decks and stairs, and then to interior finishes that include drywall, doors, paint and trim. When each stage was completed, even through delays, supplies were delivered on time for the next step. The site had space limitations so supplies needed to be delivered more frequently, and the customized roof trusses needed to be lifted over existing power lines so a larger crane was brought in.

“I got more than I expected and I’m really glad I went with them,” says Gary. “If you’ve got plans and can’t follow through with suppliers and deliveries, you lose clients. They have the resources that most people don’t even know they need – architects, engineers. It’s all included.” As a contractor, Gary found the supply estimates were right on the money.

With his own renovation experience, Gary upgraded much of the interior finishes. He called on his own resources while relying on Home Hardware for other finishes like trim packages (with custom work done by the same supplier). For the wrap-around deck, now a double tiered deck, the glass panels and railing were provided by an existing supplier. John Oliver explains, “Our suppliers were pleased to step outside the box to take it up a few levels to show the range of their offerings.” Gary included details like LED lights along ceiling mouldings, and customized barn door sliders. There’s a waterspout for pots right above the custom gas stovetop, elliptical windows and the details go on.

“It really increased my passion for building to see so many others invested in this project,” says Gary of the experience. He forged an even stronger bond with the Home Hardware family as his company, Sunset Dreams Home Building Services, has partnered to have his services offered as a project manager/contractor for those embarking on their own Beaver custom home. He’s even got a travel trailer outfitted and is ready to set up on-site to be hands-on for these builds.

With the unavoidable delays, this was a 16-month timeframe. But this was a dream home, on a dream piece of property and worth every minute of the process. Any regrets? Anything he wished he’d done differently? Not a thing, says Gary. When you’ve spent your life working toward your dream home, you’ve got every detail memorized.

The Thompson is a perfect example of a home that showcases the ideas of one client and combines them with the flexibility that Home Hardware offers to all of its customers.

Home Team Advantage

 How a hockey couple built their lakefront dream house with the help of Beaver Homes and Cottages

There’s no escaping it. All cottage owners—and even their guests—have entertained the same thought while gazing out over the water on a summer weekend: I could live here. But could it really be that simple to go from “cottage” to “home” and build a life at the lake? Rob and Heidi Wilson dreamed of rebuilding their cottage on Chemong Lake near Peterborough, Ont., into a year-round family home for their two daughters and son. And they discovered that building their dream home in cottage country was easier than they could have imagined.

While many cottagers have jobs that tether them to the big city during the week, Rob’s career as head coach of the OHL hockey team the Peterborough Petes put full-time lakefront living within grasp. “I bought a cottage up here about twenty-five years ago,” Rob says, “We had a lot of great years in it, and we always knew we wanted to build a home here. Heidi absolutely loved it on the lake and thought it was the most beautiful place.” For Heidi, the community was just as important as the cottage. “Every day, people are out on the lake doing yoga in boats, or they’re walking their dogs in big groups,” she says. “It’s like a mini village.”

But to make it work, they knew they’d need to rebuild—which can be a daunting task when you’re trying to combine the charms of a cottage with a functioning home for a busy family. Luckily, they started off on the right foot. “We were looking around at a lot of companies, and a friend mentioned that Chemong Home Hardware Building Centre is just up the road from us,” Rob says. “So we went in and saw some really nice designs in their design book.”

“The design book is the perfect starting point for the process,” says Wayne Sellars, the Beaver Homes & Cottages design consultant at Chemong Home Hardware Building Centre. “It gets the creative juices flowing, and from there you just have to ask the right questions. What’s your style and budget? What don’t you like? What is your land doing? You might love a bungalow look, but then you realize your land is sloped off and you have a natural walk-out.”

Once they had an idea of what they wanted in their new home, the couple began collaborating with Wayne on how to make the best use of their lakefront property. “When I first met Rob and Heidi, they already knew they wanted to tear down and rebuild,” Wayne says. “So I went over and sat with them on their deck one afternoon, and we started brainstorming. They had already gathered some pictures, so we started designing and pulling things together.”

Right away, Wayne suggested a Beaver Homes & Cottages design that combined everything they had in mind. “We had just introduced the Caribou model at that time,” Wayne says. “I showed it to them, and they fell in love with it, so we started working together to modify it and change a few things inside.”

The ability to customize is a key part of working with Beaver Homes & Cottages. “With a lot of other companies, it’s more cookie-cutter,” Wayne says. “They have a model and they can maybe move a couple of walls, but the footprint’s the footprint. But Beaver Homes & Cottages has a lot more options and can basically customize anything you want.”

For Rob and Heidi, who had specific ideas for the flow of their home, that process was surprisingly smooth. “When we first saw the design, we loved everything about it,” Heidi says. “But we also wanted to change the floorplan a little bit and make it our own. We had our own ideas for little things we wanted to do, like vaulted ceilings.”

“We loved the outside of it, especially from the lake when you first see it,” Rob adds. “It really stood out and had that wow factor. And then Heidi did some of the designs inside, like moving the fireplace and making it more of an open space.” Keeping bedroom choices civil between three kids was a crucial part of the design process. “The girls wanted their bedrooms facing the water, so we had to make their rooms exactly the same, not one centimetre difference,” he says.

The ease of adjusting the Caribou model’s floorplan wasn’t the only thing that impressed the couple—they were just as floored by how foolproof the building process was. “You hear a lot of stories from people who say it was one of the most difficult things they’ve ever done,” Rob says. “They had a builder who wasn’t great or a designer who didn’t work out. But we can honestly say that our process was very simple. We were pleasantly surprised with how smooth everything went.”

For Wayne, the only challenge was the distance between him and the Wilsons during the initial stage. “Rob was coaching hockey overseas for most of the design phase,” he says. “So most of our communication was through email.” But when it came time to finally build, Rob and Heidi couldn’t stay away. “We work close by,” Rob says, “so we were literally here every day. I’m sure we were annoying, but they accommodated us really well. It was fun because we’d get excited about every little thing, whether it was a new door or a finished closet. But the initial feeling when everything was done and we first walked in was—wow.”

One of the main reasons that building with Beaver Homes & Cottages is such a smooth operation is their management of the end-to-end process, which meant Rob and Heidi didn’t need to worry about juggling different contractors or buying materials. “The lumber and all the pieces are covered by your package, right down to your doors and trims and hardware,” says Wayne. “We have contractors who’ve changed their whole business model because of us, because we do the managing, we look after the ordering, and we make sure everything’s on the job site on time. It’s a one-stop shop.”

Thanks to that organized approach, construction took six months. And were they happy with the final product? “It couldn’t have been any better,” Heidi says. “The people at Beaver Homes got everything that we wanted, and they made this perfect home for us that suited everything we asked for.”

Friday, June 12, 2020

There's no place like Home

Every summer the town of Otter Lake increases in size eight-fold as it comes to life with cottagers and recreation enthusiasts. Visitors come for the abundance of lakes and outdoor activities.  It’s where the swimming is fabulous and the view is simply breathtaking. 

Butch and Sandra Lepack are not strangers to the area and have longstanding ties to Otter Lake. It’s Butch’s hometown and Sandra has been a regular visitor to the area since her teens. Their busy lives over the past years have involved living out of a suitcase. That’s what happens when you’re an IT consultant from Canada, like Butch, but working for a California company and travelling throughout North America. Fortunately, Sandra is retired and can travel with him during his California sojourns. Still, with adult children living in Texas and Toronto, much of their free time is still spent in transit as they visit during Butch’s time off. 

With all the travelling, looking ahead to retirement and having a dream home to come home to was a goal of theirs, one that was to become realty sooner rather than later. 

A peninsula of property caught their eye where it reached out into Farm Lake, surrounded by the Otter Lake community. They waited patiently until the opportune moment arrived – and the land was theirs.  Just northeast of Ottawa, it’s within an hour and a half of the Ottawa airport which is integral to their lifestyle. They’d found their dream location and now needed a dream home to match. 

Their first and only stop was to see Brad Dale at Dale’s Home Building Centre where the Beaver Homes & Cottages desk was a busy spot for those wanting a choice of designs and with the ability to adapt a plan to their needs. Brad has been part of the Home Hardware family his entire life.  Parents Bob and Grace have had their Home store since 1979.  Brad used to work there after school. Now he co-ordinates the Beaver Homes & Cottages Program.

As Butch and Sandra explained: “From the outset, we wanted to do something different, to build a home for all seasons, with a design that encapsulates the best elements of the past with an eye to the future. The Beaver Homes & Cottages program gave us the design, flexibility and price we wanted.”  

Brad speaks of a clear vision for this overlooked property, the quality of life it presented, a design concept that has resurrected the area. He began putting together a partnership between Beaver Homes & Cottages, Denis Paquette Construction, highly recommended and already in the throes of other Beaver home builds, and the homeowners that resulted in a seamless process. “Denis made it happen,” says Brad. “I knew he would be perfect for this and he was. It was a great three-way team. There were so many components to this project that made it a perfect showpiece for our program.”

Construction began in May 2018 with completion and final touches taking place in August/September following what Brad describes as “an aggressive time frame.” Key to the process was Home Hardware’s ongoing relationship with suppliers that enabled them to deliver supplies as needed without stockpiling them onsite. The property also had some tight access constraints, but due to Dale’s Home Building Centre’s versatility and specialized equipment for store-level and drop shipment requirements, deliveries were on time from beginning to end.  Due to their frequent absences, the Lepacks confidently relied on the Beaver team onsite to manage and execute the project and keep them informed.

With the keen insight and skills of Paquette and his team, the plan was revised to fit the footprint of the land while meeting all the setback requirements of a waterfront property. There were aesthetic revisions – such as the sizes of entry doors and windows to maximize lakeside views, and insulation upgrades as well. Inside, Paquette’s skills are also on display to incorporate cathedral ceilings throughout, even in the bedrooms. One bedroom was eliminated to expand the kitchen and living area creating a light-filled space for the family gatherings that are to come. It’s a perfect blend of rustic chic and refined elegance.

Different is what they wanted and different is what the Lepacks achieved. From its linear exterior with oversized windows facing the lake and wood-grained accents, it elevates the home from attractive to spectacular. It’s on view from its point on the peninusla where a flat roof rises up to reveal a raised basement level with walkout to the waterfront, a lower level that is a suite unto itself with bedrooms, bath and living area. Above, a wrap-around deck, modern in every sense of the word offers unobstructed views and a double pergola over patio doors at both sides of the deck. 

“It showcases a great blend of stock elements and the customization elements that are a hallmark of the Beaver Homes and Cottages program, as well as our ability to outfit a home from beginning to end,” says Brad.

The Lepacks say they’d build a Beaver home again in an instant because of the ease of the process. “There were no unknowns,” says Butch. “The package included the materials, contractor and labour costs and all turn-key elements.” It was so easy that when Butch was at the Home Hardware counter talking to Brad, he turned to another customer and highly recommended the Beaver Homes & Cottages  program.

“We’re very proud of the house,” says Sandra. “We wanted to build something modern to suit us and we’ve achieved that with their existing plan.” They were able to keep the trees surrounding the home and even added new ones.

While they aren’t able to be there as much as they’d like, whenever they are, they call it home. With two separate living spaces they can offer comfortable quarters to guests or visiting kids.

Still to come, the Lepacks plan on adding beach sand and volleyball nets and a firepit to create a summer paradise. They’ve even included a 1970s fireplace and wine bar. In the winter, they will be steps to the lake for ice fishing, skating, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Butch and Sandra also have access to one of the largest networks of snowmobile and ATV trails in the country. Autumn brings with it radiant fall colours that can be enjoyed from the deck. When winter subsides, the loons on the lake announce the arrival of spring, and vacation season will begin again. But for Butch and Sandra, it will never end.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

New Home, New Baby, New Beginning

The Hartland plan was perfect, not only for their growing family but for their future. As a farming family they wanted this to be where they would raise their family and they knew they would be here for years to come.

From Andrew and Heather Towns’ kitchen window, the neighboring dairy farm is in view while the land they farm and nearby fields spread as far as the eye can see. They’ve just said good-bye to family and friends who gathered here for the holidays and Christmas dinner. This is their dream home where they love holding family gatherings... but it was only two years ago that the family farmhouse standing on this very spot and everything they owned was lost in a fire.

It’s been a whirlwind of changes for this young family who have come full circle in 24 months from the fire, to the birth of their son Landon, to the rebuilding of their home and their lives.

Heather and Andrew lived in the family farmhouse in Norwood when fire struck taking almost everything they owned. Everything, except the support of family and friends and a whole community.

Norwood is a small rural farming town just northeast of Peterborough, where everyone knows each other by name. In the spirit of a barn-raising from decades past, the community banded together to help this family in need bringing everything from food and blankets to toothbrushes. “One neighbor even offered their farmhouse to us to live in... we received unbelievable support. It was such a humbling experience”, explains Heather.

When the smoke settled they knew it was time to rebuild. Andrew, a long-time fan of Beaver Homes & Cottages, knew where to find the plans for their home. Almost instantly, their hearts settled on the Hartland. It was so similar to their lost farmhouse that there was no question this would be their new home. Even the artist’s rendering setting it in farmland, surrounded by pastures, reflected their own property in the countryside of east-central Ontario in Peterborough County.

Their first and only call was to Chemong Home Hardware Building Centre in Peterborough where the Beaver Homes & Cottages Program is offered. Consultant Wayne Sellars was there to answer their questions and walk them through the home building process.

They developed an immediate rapport and a bond of trust with Wayne. He put together the package with one price, which was especially helpful with budgeting and when dealing with insurance issues. Standard features were impressive and considerably upgraded from what was expected, making them perfect for their needs. They customized their home by adding pine trim for a rustic look and Chemong Home Hardware Building Centre designed the kitchen as well. By May, construction had begun.

With decades of experience building homes and working with families under many different circumstances, Wayne remembers the Towns’ very well. “They’d lost everything right before Christmas and yet they had such a positive attitude and just wanted to move forward. They were a breath of fresh air.”

The Towns’ hired all their construction trades from the local area. “We wanted to give back to the community for being so supportive of us.” The entire process was seamless. Supplies were delivered by Chemong Home Hardware Building Centre as needed. The Beaver Homes & Cottages’ capability to send product in stages was key so there was no downtime and no storage issues, ensuring construction remained on schedule.

“We work with the same suppliers and know their lead times so we’ve got our finger on the pulse when it comes to ordering supplies. That keeps everything right on time,” explains Wayne.

Heather and Andrew agree that building their home themselves through Beaver Homes & Cottages and Home Hardware Building Centre was one of the best experiences of their lives. Another past customer of Wayne’s passionately agrees that building with Beaver Homes and Cottages is as stress-free as it comes.

The Hartland plan was perfect, not only for their growing family but for their future. As a farming family, they wanted this to be where they would raise their family and they knew they would be here for years to come. With this in mind, the main floor master suite and laundry were ideal. “We can age in the house so it can accommodate our needs years down the road,” says Heather.

Tough decisions along the way? Not a one. “Wayne, Beaver Homes & Cottages and Home Hardware Building Centre made it so easy for us.” Andrew’s parents live and farm from the neighboring property where they stayed during construction, making it convenient for Heather to take on the role of general contractor. She had a great vantage point and was always accessible for instant decision-making.

“We loved the plan as it was so we didn’t have too many changes,” says Heather. One request was for a walkout basement. “Wayne said it was ‘not a problem’ and drew in the change within five minutes.” Since it changed the elevation of the back of the house, he suggested adding a porch to the master bedroom and a new balance was achieved. Other minor changes were also made, something that is frequently done and is included as part of a Beaver Homes & Cottages Package.

The Towns’ now enjoy this modern re-creation of the home they lost but without the creaks and squeaks of their previous farmhouse. This is where the Towns family have farmed the land for decades past and will continue on for years to come. Giving her stamp of approval is Andrew’s grandmother, matriarch of the family and of the home that was lost. “She loves it, and that says a lot,” says Andrew.

By the end of the year, every special occasion had been hosted by Andrew and Heather, with plenty of space for overnight guests. “It gives us a great feeling to be able to host all these family dinners in this wonderful home,” says Heather. “Most family members talk about moving in or building their own Beaver Home. In fact, Andrew’s parents are looking through plans right now, with talk of moving in with the ‘neighbors’ while it’s being built.”