While mulling retirement, Doug DeViney realized he could be more active and have more to do in a house than he could in the Bracebridge waterfront condo he and his wife Betty had owned for nine years.
The couple, who first met at the train station in Copenhagen 48 years ago, have had more than a dozen different homes in Canada and the United States during their marriage.
When daughter Sara moved to New York City after graduating from a Boston college, they began looking at little towns along Lake Ontario as a spot for a new home. They initially chose Gananoque, a six-hour drive from New York City. They bought an acre of land, had an engineer draw plans and talked to builders. But the cost of the proposed 2,300 sq. ft. home eclipsed $1 million, more than they were prepared to invest at this point in their lives. “The pricing was just not in our retirement wheelhouse,” says Doug.
Tascha Wroe, a broker with Johnston & Daniel Rushbrooke Realty, suggested they look at a home in Port Carling. Surrounded by trees in a quiet neighbourhood, flanked by a golf course on one side and a lake on the other, the four-bedroom, 3,300 sq. ft. house impressed them. “We thought the space was just perfect for us,” says Betty. With a forested backyard, a main-level primary bedroom and laundry, and minimal maintenance, it suited them well. While living in New Hampshire they had his-and-her snowblowers. When heavy winter snows arrived, Doug was usually away from home on business, Betty recalls. “One of my stipulations when we moved into this house was, ‘I am not cutting grass and I am not blowing snow,’ ” she says.
“We loved the home,” says Doug. “We loved the layout of it.” Their penthouse condo overlooking Bracebridge Falls sold in just two hours. They bought the Port Carling house and began making it their own. Bryan Boyes of Intex Painting Co. spent weeks painting the entire interior Cloud White by Benjamin Moore. Mark Gibbesh of Gibbesh & Sons Ltd. repaired pillars at the front door and installed a new door on the garage. Electrician Jim Kerley of ECCM Electrical Contracting installed pot lights, relocated a kitchen chandelier and installed a Ring doorbell that allows the owners to see and speak to anyone approaching the home. On the day the DeVineys moved in, Janet Longhurst and Greg Wismer of Muskoka Paint & Decorating Ltd. were there installing Palm Beach shutters in the en suite. In the primary bedroom, they installed remote-control rolling blinds.
Doug and Bettty changed all the doorknobs and hinges from brass to black. They installed ceiling fans, replaced the glass surround for a downstairs shower and mastered the intricate task of removing mirrors glued to walls. “We have become experts,” says Betty. “There is a trick to getting that mirror off the wall and not having it shatter. We have taken off four mirrors and we are very good.” They framed a large mirror in the ground floor bathroom. “We’re pretty hands-on homeowners,” says Doug. “It’s why we bought the house – to keep ourselves busy.”
Closets by Design refurbished all the closets. Bracebridge Windows Glass & Mirror supplied new bathroom mirrors and mirrored closet doors. Modern Home Carpet One arranged for an expert to clean, re-grout and seal bathroom tiles while The Fireplace King scrubbed and serviced the fireplaces. Tom Croden of Muskoka Screens supplied and installed the home’s Phantom Screens to keep bugs at bay. “What we attempt to do, as much as we can, is to buy locally and support local companies. It’s a big part of our focus,” Doug says.
Moving from a two-bedroom condominium into a fourbedroom home with lots of little spaces inside and out has been a godsend during their stay-at-home isolation during the pandemic. “We’ve had space to spread out, walk around outside and work on the property and not have to have a mask on every time we leave our front door,” says Betty. “Because of the fresh air here and the space, it’s been a lovely place to be.” Doug agrees. “To be able to have the space to move around and to pursue your own interests without interfering in your spouse’s interest is a big deal,” he says.
Ethan Allen furniture from their previous homes gives their new house a comforting, familiar ambience, augmented with a few new furnishings from Veranda. Veranda owner Elise Boyer came to the home, took photos and helped the DeVineys source furniture and fabrics. “She’s been very helpful finding things for me,” says Betty. A kitchen table with upholstered chairs, kitchen and hall chandeliers, and a primary bedroom suite, all came from the Bracebridge store. Elise encouraged them to bring items home and try them. “See if you like it. If you don’t, bring it back,” she told them.
Two upstairs bedrooms can accommodate guests and family when necessary. Downstairs, a large bedroom adjoins another living room with a fireplace. An adjacent space, home to Bettty’s baby grand piano, has a walkout to the backyard.
A larger home affords the DeVineys the opportunity to do more entertaining with more privacy, when they can. While many people downsize for retirement, the DeVineys upsized and are happy they did. Buying in Muskoka was a cut above building in Gananoque. “When you buy a pre-owned home, you get a lot more for your money,” says Doug. “If you find the right home, it’s a better deal.”
They’ve been making themselves at home. They adopted Carmen, a young, black, curlyhaired Barbet – the original French water dog – who is a welcome walking companion. Betty makes pesto from wild leeks that grow in the forested backyard. Daughter Sara, whose August wedding was postponed by the pandemic, completed their bliss with a weeks-long autumn visit, during which she worked at her big-city job from an office on the ground floor of her parents’ house. There’s nothing retiring about this home or the people who live here.