House with Heart
A year after buying their dream house, Jacquie Rushlow and Andrew Murray are still so enamoured with the work-of-art in which they reside that they were eager to meet its creators.
Finding they were regularly drawn north out of the city, Jacquie and Andrew were looking for a place of their own to escape to. When they found a beautiful and truly unique house nestled into acres of forest near Dunedin, they knew they were about to undertake a huge life change. In order to purchase the house, they would have to sell their house in Toronto and become full-time country dwellers. They both work in the television industry and are usually working on-set so they decided they could live north of the city and commute to work, which usually consists of travelling to the airport and on to the next set location.
“It’s as though the house was built for us,” said Jacquie, adding their friends have marveled that if they were to describe their dream house, this would be it.
“It’s like living in a piece of art,” said Andrew.
The house was built by Paulette and Peter Dennis. The artists infused the house with creativity, planning out every detail and using scavenged materials to bring it to life.
Jacquie and Andrew are the third owners of Heartwood House, as it was named by the Dennises, so they had never met its builders. They were anxious to hear more about the stories of the home’s origins, which have become almost legend in the community so they invited the Dennises to come over.
Atop a very steep driveway, a visitor’s first glimpse of the house is south-facing wall of windows, slanted to catch the sun’s angle. The design allows the sun to heat the house in the winter and be shaded in the summer.
Jacquie and Andrew said when they moved to the country they were a little worried about heat, but the house is always warm. “We always say, they thought of everything,” said Jacquie.
Peter made the tile heat shield behind the woodstove, which has a large chimney made of stone, covering an entire wall and giving off radiant heat. There is also a built-in dumbwaiter that is used to haul wood up from the lower level.
All three floors open to the glass wall, creating a bright open space. Looking from above or below, the curved staircases and balconies create a sculptural effect.
The original windows (which have been replaced) were salvaged from old trucks, the stair treads were dug out from under manure in a barn and then cleaned in the bathtub, the exterior stone wall was made with field stone collected from an adjacent farm field, and the interior brick wall was made with bricks from the old fire hall in Barrie (the Dennis children did most of the brickwork).
Perhaps most intriguing is the gondola. The Dennises had it installed two years after moving in, as a solution to the driveway, which was unnavigable in winter. It isn’t operational right now but Jacquie and Andrew are determined to get it going.
The gondola seats two and has room for provisions. When “Dennis Air” first opened the Dennises invited the community to take a ride and it continued to be an object of curiosity from passersby.
The house has a great feeling, which must come from the artistic energy infused into almost every feature.
“The first thing everybody says is that the energy in the space is so good,” said Rushlow.