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.”