The Lynchs’ great room.
Who: Karen and Andy Lynch, self-described empty nesters. Karen is enjoying early retirement wile Andy Lynch still practices as an architect, and is one half of the well-established (c.1979), Halifax-based firm, Lydon Lynch. As Design Architect, Senior Project Architect and Partner-In-Charge, Andy’s been a part of many of Atlantic Canada’s most significant and complex building projects including Dalhousie University Arts Centre, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, PIER 21 National Exhibition Centre and Bishop’s Landing.
View of original stone wall dating back to the Tupper estate.
What: A 15-year-old custom-built (by Andy) home, on a sloping, south-facing lot, built with a general nod toward traditional Nova Scotian residential architecture of the 19th century. The home is 2500 sq ft, and came in on-budget at $100/sq ft.
Where: Quinpool area on the Northwest Arm, Halifax, NS. The home’s site is part of one of the old estates of the sixth Prime Minister of Canada, Charles Tupper (May 1st, 1896 – July 8th, 1896 – the shortest ministerial term to date!)
Why: When Andy and Karen set out to build, they sought to create a modest, timeless home that complemented the neighborhood. At $100/sq ft, the result is a perfect lesson in how making smart decisions when investing in space, saves you having to chase trends and clog your home with overpriced decor. The house, while ample, feels warm, gracious, and just right thanks to a focus on natural local materials such as Nova Scotia slate and pine, and New Brunswick cedar.
HGTV: How did you find the lot?
Andy: Our real estate agent, Stephen Townsend, had this lot and agreed to sell it after we provided him with a design concept for this house. It has been a perfect lot – south facing, minimum legal size, affordable, excellent location and views, and a challenge. This lot is surrounded by a stone wall built as part of Sir Charles Tupper’s estate, one of a half dozen estates on the Northwest Arm in Halifax during the 1800’s.
HGTV: Would you say the home is built in a particular style?
Andy: This house has roots in traditional Nova Scotia residential architecture that is founded on fairly simple shapes with steeply pitched roofs, punched windows with robust trim, dormer windows and low eaves. This style has evolved over several hundred years in communities such as Chester, Mahone Bay and Lunenburg where it has been well preserved.
HGTV: I see that natural materials are highlighted throughout the home, could you speak to that?
Andy: Natural materials tend to be timeless – they ignore trends, are local and frequently complement the neighborhood palate. Nova Scotia slate is used on the fireplace; the offcuts make the landscape work; New Brunswick eastern cedar shingles are finished with Cabot bleaching oil; the timber is 99% Nova Scotia pine.
HGTV: How has the home changed since you first built? What would you change about it?
Andy: When building a new house, lesson no.1: get a fixed price; lesson no.2: don’t change anything; live in the house for a decade and then change what you want. We have lived in the house fourteen years and have no desire to make any changes, however appliances always have to be updated and we are due for a new Liebherr fridge.
The dining room hutch in the background, past the fireplace, bought at auction and hails from PEI.
HGTV: What is your favourite space in the house?
Andy: The living room is our great room: south and west orientation, wood burning fireplace, in-floor radiant heating, French doors to the deck, 6 meters square and high, sun and views.
HGTV: The home is not overwhelming large and yet it feels very spacious/just right. Is it the proportions? How did you address the division of space?
Andy: This house is modest in size but the main floor is mostly open and gives the illusion of being larger.
HGTV: You have a loft master that opens onto the living room. Many are afraid to do this due to privacy/noise concerns. How do you find it?
Andy: Our children have started new families and we have become empty nesters so the loft master doesn’t present any problems for us but could be an issue for other families.
HGTV: Who in the family had the most say in decorating? Would you say you have a particular style? Where did you get most of you furniture/décor items? Do you have a favourite store in Halifax?
Andy: When we started the house Andy was the architect but Karen was the client and the design evolved as a collaboration that continues through furnishing and decorating. Our furniture has come from various sources, but is eclectic overall. Living room sofas are Snyder Furniture from Toronto; dining table was built custom by Geddes in Halifax; several pieces came from auctions like the dining room hutch, which came from PEI. Our favourite store in Halifax is Attica which sells contemporary Canadian furniture.
HGTV: Tell me about the fun collection of china/pottery in the kitchen?
Andy: Our (Karen’s) pottery collection is also local: Allison Cude, Kathy Thompson, Lucky Rabbit Pottery, Cape Breton Clay, Birdsall Worthington. They all have roots here and many are graduates of that wonderful school, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. The lack of shelf space has been the only limitation to Karen’s collection.
Andy: We have a custom liquor cabinet in the living room created by Steve Sekerak, a local custom cabinet maker. The mahogany is recycled from a table in a vegetarian restaurant which didn’t match the other tables – Steve made them a pine table to match the others and we received the benefit.
Andy: The settee in the master bedroom was a wedding gift from parents – came from auction and was recently reupholstered with fabric from Bellissimo.
HGTV: I like look of your eclectic first-floor powder room — seems ahead of its time for being 14 years old.
Andy: We found a marble bowl sink in a shop, Renovators’ Resource, which came from a Victorian Hotel in Yarmouth – it cost maybe $25. Steve Sekerak then built the bowl into a custom vanity which just fits nicely into the powder room. The wallpaper came from the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia which commissioned and sold custom wallpaper designed by local artists, mostly from NSCAD.
HGTV: Tell me about the decision to put in concrete floors — pros and cons?
Andy: The decision was the most venturesome, but the best decision we made. Fourteen years ago, none existed so we had to be innovative without being expensive. We mixed bags of charcoal mortar color into the concrete while still in the truck so when it was poured, it looked a lot like fresh asphalt, which was a bit disconcerting. Once the concrete set up, it was steel trowel finished and then scored to give it that slate appearance that is so attractive. We have the hot water radiant piping cast into the floors and it is the best heating system you can buy. We put a coat of acrylic sealer on the floors once a year and that’s it for maintenance.
HGTV: Can you offer some advice on how to create a look and feel for longevity?
Andy: Architecture emerges from various influences; the neighborhood, the palette of materials, the desire for sun, view and interior space, the program and the client. Good architecture is timeless and cannot be labeled easily. This house has been the recipient of the Nova Scotia Home Award, the Lieutenant Governor’s Award from the Nova Scotia Association of Architects and was featured on Homes by Design.