When Stephan Weishaupt began looking for a weekend home outside of Toronto, buying a 19th-century log cabin was the furthest thing from his mind.
Mr. Weishaupt, the founder of Weishaupt Design Group and the president of a furniture company called avenue way, had long focused on all things modern. When a friend told him about a 100-acre property with rolling hills, woods, and ravines in Caledon East, Ontario, he was only interested in the land.
“I hiked some of the trails and fell in love,” said Weishaupt, 45.
The previous owner had demolished some old farm buildings and started construction on some new ones, but the project had stalled and nothing was complete. The only habitable building was a clapboard-siding caretaker’s cottage. But “the ceiling was caved in and was in dire need of repair,” Weishaupt said.
No matter: his plan was to level the building and start over. So he bought the property for about $3.3 million in July 2018 and began assembling a design team.
However, when he examined the cabin more closely, he made a discovery: among later additions, and covered by siding, were hand-carved hemlock logs.
Intrigued, Mr. Weishaupt hired ERA Architects investigate. The architects removed the siding and additions to reveal a charming old cabin.
“It was a great find,” said David Winterton, a senior associate at ERA, estimating the structure to be more than 150 years old. “But it was in very bad shape.”
Faced with such an unexpected find, Mr. Weishaupt changed his mind about tearing down the cabin and decided to make it his new home.
It was very small, about 600 square feet spread over two floors, “but I felt like it would be big enough,” he said. “It’s just me and my dog.”
However, the stripped-down structure was far from move-in ready. It was just a shell of wood, open to the weather, and parts of some logs were rotten.
Working with Mel Shakespeare, a specialist in historic houses in Tradition Home, the architects dismantled the structure, numbered the logs and had them treated and repaired in Mr. Shakespeare’s workshop. They poured a new foundation deep enough to give Mr. Weishaupt a full basement and then rebuilt the house on top, filling the spaces between the logs with new clinking.
But Mr. Weishaupt had no intention of building a time capsule. He wanted the interior to feel modern and elegant. Seeking help, he hired Mazen El-Abdallah, the creative director of Mazen Studioan interior design company based in Toronto.
“In my mind, the design became the tension between the scrap and the refined,” said Mr. El-Abdallah, who juxtaposed the cottage’s rustic aesthetic with polished contemporary pieces from Mr. Weishaupt’s furniture company.
Working together, he and Mr. Weishaupt kept the interiors open. The ground floor contains a living room and dining room and a small kitchen. The top floor is a single room with a desk. The new basement doubles as a spa-like bathroom, but also provides storage space and a laundry room.
Inside the front door, they installed local granite slab floors with radiant heating and a new granite fireplace. To make the most of every square inch, they pushed the staircase to the side and placed kitchen cabinets by French designer Christophe Delcourt at the bottom of the stairs. Next to it, they installed a custom banquette designed by Mr. Delcourt to define the dining space and serve as a balustrade for the stairs leading to the basement.
Upstairs, they milled Douglas fir floors from a log found on the property and vaulted the ceiling, exposing the original beams. For the basement bathroom, Mr. Weishaupt sourced a walnut Shell bathtub by Nina Mair and custom Nymphenburg porcelain tiles depicting various animals (an owl, hare, fox), while Mr. El-Abdallah designed custom millwork with integrated lighting.
Outside, Coivica landscaping company, planted fruit trees and created a flower garden, orchard, and tiered terraces for lounging and dining, complete with an outdoor shower and cedar Jacuzzi.
Construction began in February 2021 and took about 18 months, costing about $1.8 million for renovation and $375,000 for landscaping. During that time, Mr. Weishaupt remained on the property in his Airstream trailer.
“Obviously, it would have been faster and cheaper to build something new,” and bigger, Weishaupt said. But he is convinced that the effort and expense were worth it. This house could not be easily replicated.
Mr. Weishaupt named his property Yellow Wood and is now working on additional buildings, with a vision of one day making this a cultural destination focused on design, art and nature.
“I am very happy here,” he said. “It’s very me.”
Living Small is a bi-weekly column exploring what it takes to lead a simpler, more sustainable, or more compact life.
For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here.