On Canada’s East Coast, summer is like a fling: hot, totally thrilling, and gone before you know it. So it’s not surprising that, here, the idea of a summer house is more a state of mind — a destination at the end of a long winter or a stressful week of work — than a brick-and-mortar place.
That’s what Halifax designers Colin Blanchard and Kenneth McRobbie craved one Saturday morning in the summer of 2016 while scouring the local real-estate listings. They spotted a circa-1890 house for sale on the shore of East LaHave, Nova Scotia. As life partners and the owners of 31 Westgate, their home store and design firm in downtown Halifax, their dream was “to find a historical home on the water where we could welcome clients, friends and family all summer in a relaxed environment,” says Colin.
When they rushed to see the house the next day, their hearts sank. “It was shocking,” admits Kenneth of the derelict three-bedroom, 2,600-square-foot structure. “It was a house down on its luck, run-down and dirty.” But, they still put in an offer — cobwebs, cracked plaster, leaky ceiling, toxic wallpaper and all. Aided by their trusted team of craftspeople, they rolled up their sleeves and went to work. A year later, the most challenging part of the restoration — the wiring, plumbing and plasterwork — was done. The decorating decisions, they say, were easy. These passionate collectors happily hoard vintage portraits and talk about paint colors and antique china patterns like they’re old friends.
Now, summer days are spent working on the house, with Kenneth focused on carpentry and gardening, and Colin in charge of the cooking. “Being here is a way to disconnect and unwind,” says Colin. “It’s a much slower pace.”