A Toronto couple traded their city lives for a modernist, art-filled fort in Prince Edward County

(Photography by Nathan Cyprys)

Jim Turner and Craig Daniel first visited Prince Edward County together in the late 1990s, staying with friends who rented a farmhouse every year. In Toronto, Turner co-owned an events and communications firm, and Daniel worked in HR. Coming from their hectic lives, the couple fell in love with the County’s peaceful setting and eclectic population. In 2012, they decided to buy a place. They looked at some 90 properties in the area, finally settling on a small plot of land at the south end of the County, with a 40-foot bluff facing Lake Ontario and a bird observatory nearby. They bought it for $195,000 with the intention to build a home and retire there one day.

Craig (left) and Jim (right) in their Superkül-designed dream home

Five years later, Turner and Daniel hired the architecture firm Superkül to design their County home and planned their escape from Toronto—they even quit their jobs on the same day. “I was ready to juggle fewer balls,” Turner says. They sold the Cabbagetown Victorian they’d lived in for 18 years and started organizing, storing and donating many of their possessions. Their P.E.C. home was still being designed, so they split their time between a pied-à-terre in downtown Toronto and a rented farmhouse in the County until the place was complete. To guide the Superkül team in the right direction, Turner and Daniel gathered stacks of magazine clippings and created mood boards. They each wrote Superkül private letters where they described their dream home—luckily, they matched.

They wanted something clean-lined and contemporary, with plenty of windows to take advantage of the spectacular views. Both of them are 61, so they requested a one-level home that would allow them to age in place. “We wanted friends to be able to roll their suitcases in, and for people to be able to roll us out once we’re dead,” says Turner. They also needed plenty of wall space to showcase their art collection, which includes works by Charles Pachter and Attila Richard Lukacs, and shelving to store their collections of books, antique radios and martini shakers.

READ: Habitat: This prefab cabin was built on a family’s Georgian Bay island in 10 days

Though the couple had quit their corporate jobs, they weren’t quite ready for retirement. Daniel planned to work as a freelance HR consultant, and Turner wanted to be involved in the arts scene: he comes from a family of collectors and grew up attending art auctions with his father. He bought his first Charles Pachter piece when he was 21, sparking a lifelong passion for Canadian art. In 2019, Daniel and Turner found a place on Main Street in Picton to open 2gallery, a showcase for contemporary Canadian art. “I thought a gallery was an ideal way of calming down and working less,” says Turner. “I was wrong.”

All told, the build cost roughly $1 million. They moved in at the end of February of 2020—just before the pandemic shut everything down. “We were lucky we were in a place where we could ensconce ourselves and be very comfortable,” says Turner. The result is an airy, minimalist white-brick structure with an entrance partially hidden behind vertical wood slats—a concept inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s early Prairie-style homes.

Inside, the entryway opens up to a walled-in glass garden, which Turner and Daniel call the terrarium. On the right, the open-concept living, dining and kitchen areas are framed by a wall of windows that overlook the water. “The view stops people dead in their tracks,” says Turner. The windows slide back and open onto an upper terrace and lower patio, making an enormous space to entertain guests in the summer. The couple’s personal quarters—a bedroom, ensuite bathroom and walk-in closet—are at one end of the house, and their guest quarters are at the other, along with an office that doubles as a third bedroom.

Since the home is built on solid rock and there’s no room for a basement, clever storage solutions were essential. The living spaces all extend from one 50-foot hallway, and Superkül installed matching white oak millwork that covers floor-to-ceiling cupboards, where Daniel and Turner can store everything they don’t want on display.

They didn’t have to sacrifice their art collection, either. More than 200 pieces currently hang on their walls, including a dramatic life-size portrait by Lukacs, an abstract painting by Gerald Ferguson and a Pachter Canadian flag in their living room. They also saved a few design classics from their old space, including Eames and Le Corbusier lounge chairs and a chest that Turner’s grandparents brought with them from England in 1908. “It still has their names, their ship and where they were headed—Brampton, Ontario—on the top,” he says.

These days, their favourite thing about the home is the view: when Daniel sits in his office, he can look out onto the bay and occasionally spot a bald eagle. Turner spends a lot of days at the gallery, but he loves waking up to the sight of the sun glistening off the water. They’re both still amazed by the sense of exploration they get when moving around the house. Every hidden nook, stunning view and innovative design flourish sparks joy. “It’s like peeling back an onion,” says Turner.

The post A Toronto couple traded their city lives for a modernist, art-filled fort in Prince Edward County appeared first on Macleans.ca.