A characterful Victorian house in Ontario
Thomas and Jennifer Dault’s restoration of a characterful Victorian house in Ontario, Canada, became a love letter to the treasured antiques they filled it with. Photographs Robin Stubbart
Thomas and Jennifer Dault, along with their three dogs, Scarlet, Crumb and Charlie, knew that they’d find the perfect home in the small town of Paris, Ontario. Dubbed ‘Canada’s prettiest little town’ for good reason, it sits at the junction of the Grand and Nith rivers, and boasts beautiful Victorian and Edwardian houses along its tree-lined streets, each one different from the last. What’s more, the area is home to a plethora of antiques shops, markets and malls, providing the ideal hunting ground for the decoration of this Victorian yellow-brick house.
Built in 1883 and once lived in by the town’s longest-serving mayor, the house’s history appealed to the couple, who knew it had the makings of a real gem. Unlike a lot of homes of the period, it had much of its original character in terms of flooring, plaster moulding, tall baseboards and bannisters. ‘This was important to us, because it’s where a lot of the charm lies. We knew with some remodelling and redecorating the home could really shine,’ says Thomas.
The couple are avid collectors and have been buying and selling antiques for over 10 years, so their sympathetic renovation of the house with salvaged finds and beloved antiques felt like a natural progression of their own love story and their shared passion. ‘We moved in on the 1st September 2015 and got married one month later. From there, it was a labour of love remodelling every room, all the while filling each one with the treasures we have been collecting over the years.’
The home had, at one point, been modernised with new windows, heating and air conditioning, plumbing and electrics, but had thankfully not been stripped of its architectural details in the process. The layout did not warrant altering either, as Thomas and Jennifer wanted to keep the historical integrity of the home intact as much as possible.
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‘The rooms were all big enough as they were, so we didn’t feel the need to employ any open-concept modifications to make it seem more spacious. We also love the separate rooms because they provide a real sense of intimacy, and they offered us the opportunity to decorate each one uniquely,’ Thomas explains.
The renovations and redecorating were carried out almost entirely by Thomas and Jennifer themselves, beginning with replacing all of the lighting. The main bathroom was gutted and completely renovated, while the kitchen was updated with new cabinets, counters, and a salvaged tin tile feature behind the oven. In the hallway, Thomas and Jennifer added wallpaper and trim to give it more character in tune with the age of the home, while new wainscotting in the dining room sits atop the original baseboards.
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When they moved in, the wooden fireplace surround in the dining room was modern, but they were able to source an Eastlake-period mantel that made a fitting replacement. Other features, meanwhile, just needed a refresh. ‘The front door is original. We simply repainted it and added an antique door knocker,’ Thomas explains.
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Every room was repainted (sometimes four times until they got it right), using a palette of dark grey and white for visual contrast. This scheme helped to break up the expanse of large walls, with the darker colours creating a pleasing background for the couple’s antique art. ‘We love the dark, moody and mysterious look. It’s a home where every room has its own distinct character, yet is not disconnected from all the others,’ says Thomas.
Although their renovation is complete, the couple can still be found scouring the numerous antiques malls, shops, fairs and marketplaces throughout southern Ontario. ‘The uniqueness and character of antiques brings a sense of poetry to our lives,’ says Thomas. In fact, their shared passion has extended beyond merely collecting – in 2012 they started Old Soul Antiques; an online business that aims to curate antique objects and rehome them so they may live on as cherished items in people’s lives.
‘We had a vision of what this house could be, and knew that it would take a lot of hard work to realise that vision, but we couldn’t be any happier with the final results,’ says Thomas. Their love of antiques is surely the thread that ties this home together. Thomas is particularly fond of the natural history pieces in their living room curio cabinet, and the toucan in the den. For Jennifer, it’s the collection of antique mirrors in the guest bedroom.
But choosing a favourite room is simply too hard, as each one is filled with so many great memories. ‘We designed each one meticulously and filled them with our treasures. Each antique piece has a story of its own, but the most important story to us is our discovery of them,’ Thomas smiles. ‘When we fell in love with a piece, where we found it, and who we purchased it from – all of those elements have a meaning to us.’
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