Home of the Week – An Empty Nest Looking for a Large Family
Home of the Week! The Globe & Mail – January 26, 2018!
The Back Story:
Elizabeth and Graeme Hibberd were living in Mississauga in 1992 when they decided the time had come to look for a larger home for the couple and their six children. The goal was to find a house that would give each of the little ones a bedroom of his or her own.
Their search led the couple through many sprawling homes, Ms. Hibberd says, but even at 10,000 or 12,000 square feet, most had only four bedrooms.
Eventually the Hibberds saw a tiny, white bungalow on a large lot at the end of a cul-de-sac in nearby Oakville. The historic town sits on Lake Ontario, west of Toronto.
The property offered two acres of undulating land and towering trees. Better still, it backed onto a park with a kids’ playground and a creek.
The address was also ideally located for the girls to attend St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School, which sat just beyond the park.
The Hibberds decided to tear down the 1,200-square-foot bungalow and build a new eight-bedroom residence.
As they began looking for an architect, Ms. Hibberd’s first priority was to have a garage that wasn’t facing the street. In their Mississauga house, Ms. Hibberd says, the garage door was always open, with bicycles and sports paraphernalia spilling out into the driveway.
“It used to drive us crazy.”
The Oakville-based architect William Hicks came back with a design that included a driveway winding around to garages hidden at the rear. That’s the moment she knew he was a good listener, Ms. Hibberd recalls, and the couple hired him.
The exterior of the house and the garage, connected by an archway, are clad in Wiarton stone.
“From the street, all you see is this beautiful stone wall,” Ms. Hibberd says.
Mr. Hicks designed a house that would accommodate not only a large and boisterous family, but all of their gear and a long line of pets.
It also had room for expansion. They didn’t know it at the time, but the Hibberds would go on to welcome three more children.
The House Today:
The husband-and-wife recently become empty nesters, Ms. Hibberd says, after approximately 30 years of raising six biological and three adopted children. But that doesn’t mean the family gatherings have diminished.
The clan has grown to include nine grandchildren – all under seven – and a tenth is on the way. The 9,854-square-foot home bends and flexes to hold multiple generations.
Visitors arrive to a two-storey rotunda with classical columns, marble floors and a gallery above. A formal living room at the front of the house provides a haven for the adults, Ms. Hibberd says.
“It’s a quiet zone where we can hide when we need to.”
At the rear, a large kitchen and breakfast room are connected to the family room with a fireplace and space to lounge.
A main-floor playroom has lots of storage and a walk-out to the terrace. Next door is the study where the older siblings could concentrate on their homework while the little ones had fun and games.
Real estate agent Alex Irish of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada says the playroom – painted with colourful murals – is one of the most appealing features.
There’s also a large mudroom with individual cupboards for each child.
“The family really lives in this home,” Ms. Irish says. “Let’s get real.”
The kitchen has built-in appliances, along with an expanse of cabinets and a separate pantry. Breakfasts and casual meals are often served at the large table with views over the garden.
“When they were little, we had a line up along the counter,” Ms. Hibberd says of the 14-foot granite-topped island.
The formal dining room often accommodates a crowd for a sit-down dinner. The grandchildren like the dining room, she explains, because they can gather around a low-to the-ground table and benches nestled into the bay window.
“I don’t like dining rooms that nobody uses.”
Doors from the main floor open to a large outdoor terrace. In the summer, many meals are served al fresco, Ms. Hibberd says.
Mr. Hibberd also has a private, walnut-lined home office on that floor.
Upstairs, a large central skylight illuminates the interior.
“When it’s sunny you just feel like you’re outside here,” Ms. Hibberd says. “There’s light everywhere.”
The master bedroom at the front of the house has cathedral ceilings, a sitting area and a large ensuite bathroom.
Each of the kids bedrooms also has high ceilings, walk-in closets and an ensuite bathroom or a jack-and-jill between two bedrooms. The house has five full bathrooms in all.
One wing of bedrooms has a staircase down to a separate entrance, Ms. Hibberd says, so the wing could easily be closed to make a private nanny or in-laws suite. A large room with an ensuite at the far end of the wing became a favourite for the oldest teenager as other siblings went off to university, she says.
“Lots have upgraded to that room.”
On the lower level, the architect took advantage of the sloping lot to create a recreation room with lots of light and a walk-out to the garden.
“My kids rode tricycles down here, there were nets at both ends,” Ms. Hibberd says. “This was a sports complex.”
There’s also a bar and media area and a couple of extra bedrooms.
Throughout the house, the rooms are designed for the comfort of the family but the Hibberds also like to entertain.
“They’ve had lots of legendary events here,” Ms. Irish says. ” They’ve done a lot of living in this house.”
A small gathering in the house is usually made up of more than 40 people, Ms. Hibberd says, whose siblings have large families of their own.
Twelve family members have birthdays in November, for example. The clan holds one large party and orders 12 small cakes. Then everyone sings Happy Birthday 12 times as each cake is carried in.
Four family weddings and a host of charity fundraisers have been held on the property.
The home is also within walking distance of downtown Oakville and the GO train station, with service to downtown Toronto, is about 10 minutes away.
Ms. Hibberd says the whole family is sports-mad and living in Oakville allowed all of the kids to pursue their individual pursuits – which included sailing, horseback riding, tennis, swimming, hockey and golf.
The Best Feature:
Many of the trees on the grounds and throughout the neighourhood are 150 years and older, Ms. Hibberd says. Birds and wildlife are abundant in the neighbourhood and the park.
Outside the backyard includes a swimming pool with a shallow area for young ones. There’s a hot tub and a covered patio.
“The best part is the land,” Ms. Hibberd says. “I truly believe whoever buys this house will see the beauty of the property and that’s why they’ll buy it.”