As you approach the house at 28 Glen Lawrence Crescent, a few scenic minutes east of downtown Kingston, Ontario, you are struck first by its very low profile, like a shaded hyphen or a hawk wing, a knife edge that replaces the horizon and separates neatly the pale grassy foreground from the deep blue sky over the St. Lawrence River.
But if you then walk around the house (rather than giving in to the impulse to rush inside like a toddler on his birthday) and survey quietly the elegance of its planes and angles, its walls of stone and glass, you begin to appreciate this Mid-Century home as a really classic sort of project, both bold and striking, and yet also intensely sympathetic to its surroundings.
It’s reasonable to assume that whoever commissioned the building of this house in 1960 also gave specific instructions that it should never compete with its setting, by which I mean in part the limestone cliffs at the bottom of the garden (into which lovely new stairs have been set), the deep, moving waters and green lawns, the towering pines and the borders of lilac and dogwood, along with the quite astonishing views into the 1000 Islands.
And on the one hand that aim is achieved. The setting is majestic, the aspect truly world-class. You sit out here any cloudless night and peer south towards America, or up towards the moon and the presumably endless stars, and wonder if anywhere in the world could possibly be better. With a wool blanket on the ground and a pillow of some sort, a glass of red or white, all the cares of the world would surely recede to the other end of life’s telescope.
But the fact remains that there is still the wondrous house, the seed at the heart of this musing. It is the anchor that connects you to the world. It is also, appropriately enough, your mooring. It binds you to the universe and is the foundation of all that matters. It is the repository of your dreams and the space within which you hatch all the plans. It is the envelope in which you sleep and dream, and hold close your loved ones. It is where you are in command of everything and where you can let everything go. It is the perfect machine you live in.
Much is made of the Mid-Century aesthetic. And sure enough, it is a fine starting point for discussion of this home. The open floorplan. The walls of glass. The distant horizons. The postcard living room with its fireplace (gas now) and mile-high ceilings. The way the inside communes with the outside. The wood and the stone. All the signifiers are there. It is the genuine article. And for me this would be enough. Just hand me the keys. Because it’s this modernist movement that speaks to me more deeply than any other. And although I love my tall downtown Victorian with its red double-brick front and limestone side, even the river running through the cellar, I do hope one day to live in a house nearly as lovely as this grey-brown bungalow.
But let me show you around. There is more going on here than a simple ticking of boxes. The house (it’s just over 2000 square feet on the main level) wraps around a stone-floored sunroom as if to literally embrace the very possibility of being both inside and outside at the same time. It seems an elegant proof of some complicated dual-state physics.
There is a long slim hallway peeling away to the left from the main entrance. To my mind this is the back of the house, and the bedrooms are tucked off of this hall. You could be in Palm Springs as you pad along this high-windowed hallway. That’s the easy architectural reference. But you could be in Johannesburg too (the first owners came, I hear, from South Africa). And to continue with the globe-trotting theme, the effect seems oddly Japanese to me, as if each low-slung bedroom should come kitted out with a tatami mat.
There is an ensuite bathroom off the master bedroom that is both entirely evocative of the period and also intensely modern. I will hover at the photographer’s shoulder, I know I will: focus right there. And there!
The kitchen, at the eastern end of the house, with its pretty Alessi doodads and its Bertazonni stove, is more modern, and I’m good with that (and I’d wager you will be too). If there can be weak point in the design of a home fifty or sixty years old it’s often where the food prep happens. It’s as if the math is complicated impossibly by good knives and decidedly 21st Century food processors. Those equations have been corrected here and a sharp, contemporary space has been installed.
The dining room next door is beset by glass, and nestled as it is beside that sunroom (we’ve done a full circuit now) it’s as if every meal in every season is some sort of feast right out of Hemingway. I’d spread The Times out on a long teak table, I know I would, and wonder every day why the lead story wasn’t a report on my own good fortune.
Of course, a Mid-Century marvel is only as marvellous as its caretakers and 28 Glen Lawrence has won the lottery in that regard too. The shingles and EPDM membrane have been replaced. The basement has been waterproofed. The boiler replaced. New eaves and fascia. Insulation. New A/C. Restored cedar soffit. Renovated bathrooms. Lighting.Terazzo tile. Extensive landscaping, and those stairs (an engineering marvel in themselves) down to waterfront deep enough for anything shy of the Norwegian Princess, and calm enough for the kids to swim away from you laughing. You should also know that I’m picking nearly randomly from a list of renovations three pages long here.
We invite you to visit. The house is mere minutes from downtown Kingston. Two and a half hours from Toronto and under two to Ottawa. Montreal is just a shade further. New York is an afternoon drive away. You leave Manhattan at lunch and you’re home for supper. And we don’t say that because we think the buyer will necessarily come from that far away, or from across the border. We say it because it’s a house you’d be prepared to relocate for. It’s the sort of home you see in the pages of Dwell one morning and next thing you know, you’ve lost the next few hours to wistful daydreaming. You buy a lottery ticket on your break and check the numbers right after the draw.
So call us. We’re waiting for you. And we’re excited.