Artful Living

Tuesday December 01, 2015 - 4:12 pm

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As all fine artists know, a fundamental element of art is negative space. That which is not there, directs focus to that which is. This use of negative space brings balance to a composition and conveys a deeper significance to the positive elements of the work.  Hence the maxim,“less is more.”

The same holds true for design, and homeowners Chris and Stephanie Adams have intentionally utilized this principle of negative space in their design choices of minimalist décor, nonexistent clutter, and clean, tight lines to accentuate the extensive art collection situated throughout their stylish St. Vincent Street home in Barrie. The end result is a liberty of breathing space for both their collection of more than 60 works and for their busy lives.
“We have art everywhere,” says Stephanie. “In bathrooms, laying on surfaces, on ledges, tables. It's in the pantry.” The Adams, both highly creative individuals in their own right – Chris is a global software business owner and guitarist in the local rock band Sonic Coalition; Stephanie, a Realtor and aspiring actress studying improv at Second City –believe deeply in supporting the arts with both their resources and their time.  In the past they've been participants in the Benefactors Program at the MacLwaren Art Centre and currently Chris serves on the board of The Barrie Film Festival.
“All of the artwork was created by local artists and photographers,” says Stephanie. “I think it makes the space. When you're surrounded by art, it brings out the creativity in yourself.”
Although there is a gallery-like feel to their home, this deliberation of minimalist décor does not mean the home is unlivable by any means – on the contrary. An iconic Eames lounge and ottoman (circa 1956) in the great room invites a promising location for a good read of an Edward Rutherfurd tome. “I kick back and make my business calls from here,” says Chris. The sleek modern white sofa next to it, enveloped in plush cushions, frequently acts as a launching pad for their spirited seven year old and his pals.
Stephanie decided to decorate in mid-century modern décor to complement the structure's true spirit. “People want to change things and paint everything modern. I wanted it to be its true self,” she says. And what a remarkable property it is. Designed nearly 40 years ago in 1976 by a forward-thinking Dutch architect, 42 St. Vincent St. employs ecologically progressive concepts for the home's heating and cooling systems.
The extraordinary solarium that runs from rooftop to basement of this three-storey residence is embedded with 60 tons of river rock, then topped with red brickwork flooring which performs as a natural heating element.
“It's almost like radiant heat,” says Chris Adams. “The house is situated with a southern exposure. So in the winter, sun hits the windows at the peak time. That's why the architect picked this site. It needed a forest as well. The trees block the sun in the summer to cool the house. In the winter, the leaves are gone and the southern exposure heats the house.”
Besides the obvious energy advantage, the massive solarium also serves as a potential year-round indoor vegetable garden. The owners use it for casual seating to enjoy the spectacular forest views out the windows.
“I bought it because it was different,” says Stephanie. “I felt like I was in a treehouse because you are above the street. I loved all the materials in the house – the red concrete floor, the brick interior walls. I felt like I was in a forest, although I'm in downtown Barrie.” According to Stephanie, Frank Lloyd Wright, a visionary known for “bringing the outside in,” inspired the home's structural design.
The original fireplace embedded in the red brick wall in the great room was originally wood burning, and acted as an additional heat source. Built-in storage for a wood supply still remains but a former owner converted the fireplace to gas.
The cozy dining room on the opposite side of that wall provides an intimate setting which tempts long drawn out dinner parties. Fresh white dining chairs with black wooden legs offset a substantial dark wood table over which a pendant lamp from a local lighting gallery hangs. “I like it because it reminds me of 1950s hotel looks,” says Stephanie.
The original part of the house ended at the dining room, before a stucco extension was added to provide a larger kitchen. The kitchen offers three welcoming window seats with forest views on two sides. “Everyone who comes in here heads right for a window seat,” adds Chris. “I do it myself when I come home from work.”  
“The lights at night are beautiful,” adds Stephanie. Beneath each window seat is additional storage that rolls out for easy access to larger dishes.
Solid cherry wood was used for this custom built kitchen, which is topped by granite counters and supplied with Miele's Masterchef collection of appliances including induction range, convection microwave, oven and warming cabinet. The refrigerator is commercial grade SubZero with two impressive freezer drawers. A pot-filler sits expediently over the range.
Keeping with the clean look, the Miele range hood over the cooktop is constructed of tempered glass. “Spray it with Windex and the grease just slides off,” says Stephanie.
Move past the kitchen's large breakfast bar with comfy padded leather stools and you find yourself in the open concept family room. En route, you will pass a much loved built-in Miele espresso system installed at chest level and housed in cherry cabinetry, all conveniently plumbed in. This cherry storage cabinetry continues into the family room with a handy workstation and corner hutch at the far end of the room that pulls the whole look together. A second gas fireplace with more artwork set high on the mantle sets the mood.
The family room is a relaxed setting with dark leather sectional and sizeable coffee table awash in coffee table books. A walkout to a balcony here brings in light and views of the forest landscaping. “When the leaves are gone, there's a wonderful view of the bay,” says Stephanie, which makes Chris, a sailboat racing aficionado yearn for the spring. Exit the kitchen and you will find the butler's pantry behind a pocket door. Inside, a secondary fridge, built-in oven, dishwasher, double sink and extra storage await use. The wine fridge is also found here, making it quickly accessible to the adjacent dining room. Move down the hall and you discover a spacious office currently utilized as a toy room.
The upper level of this exceptional 6,000-square-foot home offers a soaring bird's eye view into the great room and solarium below. “You can really get a badass Christmas tree in here,” says Chris. The upper level offers a laundry room right where you need it, an office niche with built-in oak desk, four bedrooms – two are masters – and three bathrooms with skylight tubes in each (another energy saving concept that eliminates the need for energy use during daylight hours.)
The new master in the home's addition enjoys a see-through fireplace that looks through to the spa bathroom on the opposite side. Heated floors, an oversized Jacuzzi tub, rain showerhead in the shower and European-styled bidet complete the spa.
High-end Loewen doors in the master open fully to a balcony at tree canopy level. “In the summer, you're just hovering in the trees,” says Chris. “You open the doors at night and the breeze just flows through.”
Chris appreciates fresh air and the fact this home has not one, but two LifeBreath Air Exchangers – one for each side of the house. “Each LifeBreath has six filters in it,” explains Chris. “All the air is systemically cycled completely in the house every 24 hours.   I have asthma and there are no particles in this air.”
Secreted away on the lower level are the valued LifeBreath systems, as well as a fitness room, sports and gear storage room, extra bedroom with views up into the solarium, a full bath with heated floors and Chris's treasured music room with red brick walls dressed by music posters. A glistening emerald drum kit and impressive collection of guitars are at the ready here. “We opened for the Steve Miller Band at Casino Rama last year,” says Chris, who pops onto the drum kit to let loose with a carefree lick. 
“The great thing about this house is it was a commercial build of concrete and steel,” says Stephanie. “If you're upstairs, you can't really hear the people downstairs.”
42 St. Vincent is now on the market represented by Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd.