For one Oakville couple, the search for a retirement home was long, difficult and frustrating. Their quest ultimately led them to the hills of Creemore, and the end result was exactly what they were looking for thanks to a local design and build team.
For almost nine years the couple, who both worked in the financial field, spent weekends looking for their dream home. They travelled much of Southern Ontario in pursuit of a romantic fantasy: an old stone mill ideally surrounded by rural acreage. Their search expanded to stone houses in general as they covered the countryside from Kingston to Guelph hoping to find the perfect home. After countless disappointments they decided the best solution was to build a custom stone house designed to look and feel like a historic mill, which would include everything on their wish lists.
After finding a dreamy piece of land - a 50-acre farm in a river valley south of Creemore - they contacted Thornbury designer Jacqueline Van Strien. "We had seen a house in On The Bay magazine designed by Jacqueline and sensed that she would be perfect for our needs," says the owner, "and that certainly turned out to be the case."
Van Strien, who owns the custom design-build firm Van Strien Developments Inc., got to work. "It took a full year of planning," she recalls. "All of us bought books and were researching old mills and stone buildings looking for ideas and design concepts. We wanted to keep the industrial feel of a grist mill, but make it warm and liveable, too."
Today, the completed house - aptly named Black Bank Mill - stands on the crest of a gentle hill overlooking the valley. Apart from not being connected to water, it could easily be mistaken for a historic stone mill. The boxy structure built with Manitoulin limestone has an unembellished facade with symmetrical black-framed windows and a simple stone stoop leading to the wooden doorway.