Melissa and Sonny’s Countryside Sanctuary Among the Rolling Hills

updated Dec 19, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Name: Melissa and Sonny
Location: Trent Hills; Ontario, Canada
Size: 1,700 square feet on 5 acres
Years lived in: 2 years; Owned

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Melissa never imagined that she’d trade in the bustling city life of Toronto for a homestead in the countryside. However, a few years ago the desire for more space and a slower pace of life crept in, so Melissa and her husband Sonny moved their lives 1.5 hours east of Toronto to the rolling hills of Trent Hills, Ontario. The couple has adjusted quite seamlessly to their new environment—it’s as if this is where they were meant to be. Melissa explained that every day feels like an adventure, whether it’s due to a novel experience, learning a skill or trade, or simply meeting someone new from the community.

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

As an interior designer—she founded An Unhurried Life—Melissa focuses on helping her clients create spaces that are personalized and sacred. She enjoys the creative challenge and journey of assisting people in re-discovering their spaces—and sometimes even parts of themselves. Melissa draws her inspiration from her natural surroundings and sources most of her decor items from local thrift stores or markets—places where things come with a story.

One of the main reasons Sonny and Melissa needed more physical living space was the dog rehabilitation program, The Dog P.A.R.C., that they run. As the program grew, so did the canine pack, causing city living within a realistic budget to become less feasible. In order to keep this important initiative alive and well, the couple decided to find a place where everyone—Melissa, Sonny, and their nine dogs plus visiting dogs—could live comfortably. On a daily basis, Sonny does most of the hands-on dog psychology and rehabilitation. He has built them a home in the lower level of the house where they are kept communally and safely in an open space. Outdoors, the couple recently built a 2,000-foot fenced-in dog run.

Melissa and Sonny have built a home that is sacred to them as well as to those who have spent time there. They are generous, warm, and welcoming to all—humans and animals alike. They have consciously created a space that aligns with their lifestyle and beliefs. Melissa and Sonny are truly the type of neighbors down the road whose door is always open.

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Sonny prefers natural, rustic interiors. I’m very eclectic. I like elements from different eras, but I definitely have a bit of a bohemian flare.

Inspiration: I find most of my inspiration in nostalgia, nature and pattern.

Favorite Element: There are a few things that made us fall head over heels for this home…

  1. The vaulted ceiling, quirky angles, and use of pine throughout reminded us of a Swiss chalet. We both have very fond memories of being in Switzerland. This home gave us that same cozy feeling.
  2. The windows. The amount of natural light that comes in is an interior designer’s dream. The house was built to face the sunset, so evenings here are pretty dreamy. We experience magic hour at its finest. We have incredible views from every angle—basically, we wake up with a view of the forest and have meals while overlooking the dogs roaming the property.
  3. The layout of the house. Being a raised bungalow, this house made perfect sense for business goals with The Dog P.A.R.C. We could separate the two spaces, while being under one roof. The bottom level is dedicated solely to the dogs, with open access to the dog run, and a large open space; it made perfect sense, without having to build an exterior kennel. The main level is our “home,” our personal space… but of course the dogs often come up for a visit and to hang out.

Biggest Challenge: Those quirky angles and windows that we love so much also make furniture placement a challenge. It forces us to keep things away from the wall and make creative use of the space.

What Friends Say: That it feels like a b-n-b and they want to stay the week. When they arrive, the first thing they always seem to do is have a walk around to see what’s new.

Proudest DIY: Inside: We were in desperate need of a dining table; we were “borrowing” one until its owner was ready for it. Well, he picked it up without notice, so we had nothing to eat on. We had a budget of less than $200 to find a white, solid wood, 6-foot table, and we needed it ASAP. I didn’t have time to wait for the perfect antique to catch my eye, and almost nothing new is made of solid wood, unless you have a budget of $1,000+. The next best thing? A standard-sized picnic table from our local hardware store. It’s 72″, solid pine, and cost $100. The quart of paint was about $30. So, we were under budget and we got exactly what we needed.

Biggest Indulgence: Our Montauk Sofa. As a teenager, I tore out a Montauk ad for a big poufy sofa, and put it on my “one day” list. When we moved, there was no other option. This would be the one indulgence in our “non budget,” because no sofa compares to the quality and comfort of their (Canadian-made) sofas.

Best Advice: Your home is more than just a roof over your head; it’s your sanctuary. Every piece in your home should speak to you, so take your time when planning and decorating. Live there for awhile, and get a feel for how you use the space. Only purchase items that you love and your home will become a place that truly feels like you.

Dream Sources:

  • Country yard sales and thrift stores (without city prices)
  • The side of the road
  • Hand-me-downs, A.K.A. the homes of family and friends who feel they might not want that piece of furniture anymore (your trash is my treasure)
  • Camp Ho-Ba-Chee (our village’s perfectly curated antique/vintage shop. They have an Etsy shop, too.


(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Walls: Benjamin Moore Cloud White (big surprise), but we plan on changing it up and using Benjamin Moore Decorators White (another shocker). They really are the perfect shades of white.
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Chair: hand-me-down
  • Wall hook: DIY
  • Stool: Umbra
  • Hanging plant/planter: Crown Flora Studio
  • Console: roadside/garbage
  • Wine rack: Camp Ho-Ba-Chee
  • Painting: hand-me-down
  • (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


    (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


    (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


    (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)



    (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


    • Side table: Umbra
    • Blanket: HBC Point Blanket via 69 Vintage
    • White desk clock: Umbra
    • Embroidered art: thrifted
    • Wall clock: thrifted
    • Red chair: Camp Ho-Ba-Chee
    • Sideboard: IKEA
    • Cage lamp: West Elm
    • Wood/woven chair: hand-me-down
    (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


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    The entryway (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

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    Thanks, Melissa & Sonny!