How a man saved a 19th century cottage in Ontario

When Stefan Weishaupt began looking for a weekend home outside of Toronto, buying a 19th-century log cabin was the furthest thing from his mind.

Mr. Weishaupt, founder Weishaupt Design Group He called the head of a furniture company Avenue Street, has long been focused on all things modern. When a friend told him about a 100-acre estate with hills, forests, and valleys in East Caledon, Ontario, he was only interested in the land.

“I walked down some of the aisles and fell in love with it,” said Mr. Weishaupt, 45.

The previous owner demolished some of the old farm buildings and started construction on a few new ones, but the project stalled and nothing was completed. The only habitable building was a caretaker’s cottage with clapboard siding. “The roof was sagging and was in dire need of repair,” said Mr. Weishaupt.

It didn’t matter: his plan was to level the building and start over. So he bought the property for about $3.3 million in July 2018 and began assembling a design team.

When he examined the hut more closely, he made a discovery: between the later additions, and paneled with siding, there were hand-hewn hemlock trunks.

Intrigued, he hires Mr. Weishaupt ERA Architects To investigate. The architects removed the siding and additions, revealing a charming old cabin.

“It was an amazing find,” said ERA senior associate David Winterton, estimating that the structure was more than 150 years old. “But she was in really bad shape.”

Faced with such an unexpected discovery, Mr. Weishaupt changes his mind about demolishing the cottage and decides to turn it into his new home instead.

It was quite small—about 600 square feet spread over two floors—”but I felt it would be big enough,” he said. “Just me and my dog.”

However, the stripped hull was far from ready to move. It was just a veneer of wood, open to the elements, and parts of some of the logs were rotten.

Work with Mel Shakespeare, the historic home specialist at The Home TraditionThe architects dismantled the structure, numbered the logs, processed and repaired them in Mr. Shakespeare’s workshop. They poured a new foundation deep enough to give Mr. Weishaupt a full basement, and then rebuilt the house on top, filling the gaps between the logs with a new one.

But Mr. Weishaupt had no intention of building a time capsule. He wanted the interior design to feel modern and elegant. To help, he hired Mazen Al-Abdullah, Creative Director of Mazen StudioToronto-based interior design firm.

“In my mind, the design became about the tension between wreckage and polished design,” said Mr. Al-Abdullah, who combined the cabin’s rustic aesthetic with polished contemporary pieces from Mr. Weishaupt’s furniture company.

Working together, he and Mr. Weishaupt kept the interiors open. The ground floor has a living and dining area and a kitchenette. Upstairs is a single bedroom with an office. The new basement serves as a vanity-like bathroom, but also provides storage space and a laundry room.

Inside the front door, they have installed local granite stone flooring with radiant heating and a new granite fireplace. To make the most of every square inch, they pushed the stairs to one side and placed kitchen cabinets by French designer Christophe Delcourt at the foot of the stairs. Next to it, they installed a custom banquette designed by Mr. Delcourt to define the dining space and serve as a railing for the stairs to the basement.

Upstairs, they milled Douglas fir flooring from a log they found on the property and vaulted the ceiling, leaving the original beams exposed. For the downstairs bathroom, Mr. Weishaupt purchased a walnut tub from Nina Mair and custom porcelain wall tiles from Nymphenburg depicting various animals—an owl, a rabbit, a fox—while Mr. Abdallah designed a custom millwork with integrated lighting.

the outside, quivikInc., a landscaping company, has planted fruit trees, created a cutting flower garden, vegetable garden, and terraced terraces for lounging and dining, with an outdoor shower and cedar hot tub.

Construction began in February 2021 and took about 18 months, costing about $1.8 million for renovation and $375,000 for landscaping. During that time, Mr. Weishaupt stayed on the property in an Airstream trailer.

“It was obviously quicker and cheaper to build something new,” said Mr. Weishaupt — and bigger. But he is convinced the effort and expense were worth it. This home cannot easily be replicated.

Mr. Weishaupt named his property Yellow Wood and is now working on additional buildings, with a vision of one day making this cultural destination focused on design, art and nature.

“I am very happy here,” he said. “It’s just me.”

Living Small is a fortnightly column that explores what it takes to live a simpler, more sustainable or compact life.

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