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Born in a Barn (Posted On: Thursday, October 13, 2016)

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Sometimes the best-laid plans go awry in the most beautiful of ways. That was certainly true for one professional Toronto couple looking to build their dream home.

After buying an empty farm field on a concession road near Clarksburg, the owners initially wanted to build a bungalow - a weekend country house where, in time, they would live year round. But then plans changed dramatically when they found and fell in love with a century-old barn that had been abandoned and put up for sale. It had impressive joinery and massive posts and beams; the couple could envision building a unique home with these wonderful, timeworn pieces of wood as the framework. So they bought and dismantled the barn and embarked on a building project far more adventuresome than a simple bungalow.

The adventure had actually begun several years earlier, when the couple started scouring the Ontario countryside looking for a place to build a country home and kept being drawn back to the Southern Georgian Bay area because, as the husband explains, "If you're going to choose one place outside the city, this has it all. It has skiing, golf, access to the beautiful bay, and you can get here from the city on many different routes." So when he spotted a real estate listing for this 22-acre property, he decided it was worth a look.

The couple drove up from the city on a dreary day in November 2013, hopped the fence and walked the property - the only lot still for sale out of four that had been carved out of a 100-acre farm. It sat on a ridge at the top of a hill and featured a natural pond and a creek running through the woods. One of the first people invited up to see the land was Simon Rowlands, a Toronto-based architectural design consultant and ARIDO member who had worked on the pair's city home.

"My first thought was, okay, this is a nice enough field, but?" remembers Rowlands with a chuckle. "Then they brought in a boom truck so we could be lifted up to see the views. That's when I got it. We could see down into the Beaver Valley, across to the Escarpment and out to Georgian Bay. It all made sense then and when it came time to position the barn building on the site, we based it on those amazing views."

Once the heritage barn was dismantled, all the posts and beams were numbered, labelled, loaded onto a truck and transported to the building site. "It was like a giant jigsaw puzzle," the owner recalls, "and we needed someone to put it together." They hired a Mennonite builder who, in the tradition of communal barn raising, came with three generations of his family and a team of local workers. Over the course of one day, they erected the entire timber framework.

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