This Is Possibly the Most Beautiful Off-Grid Passive House
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Name: Jennie Hoekstra, partner, three children, 2 birds, 1 cat, 16 (outdoor) chickens
Location: Kemble — Ontario, Canada
Size: 1,675 square feet
Years lived in: 6 months, owned
Until the summer of 2017 we lived in a very drafty 130-year-old, converted schoolhouse. When a lovely secluded lot with potential for distant water views came up for sale around the corner in our small village, we jumped at the chance and bought it, not knowing exactly what we’d do with it.
As we explored building a new home we knew we wanted something vastly warmer and more energy efficient than the old homes we had lived in previously. After weeks of research and some guidance from knowledgeable building-gurus (haha!) we decided we’d build a passive house. Turned out getting hydro to the site was also going to be nearly impossible and very very expensive. And so our off-grid passive house building project was born.
Luke, my hubs, is an electrical engineer with a long history of carpentry and construction experience. I’m a lifelong design fanatic who wanted a blank slate to tackle and maybe launch myself as a designer in my own right. So we contracted the house ourselves and did as much of the work as we could ourselves. Short of the framing, concrete floor, and drywall, we did everything with the help of family, friends, neighbors and, of course, our 9-, 6-, and 4-year-old children.
Now here we are! We moved in in early October 2018 after a six-month build. The house is small but beautiful. There are no drafts and on sunny days it heats itself for several days (which is saying a lot in a Canadian winter). We wanted to teach our kids the value of creating something for one’s self while living lightly on the earth. I hope we have.
What is your favorite room and why? My favorite room is the open kitchen/ dining and living room. We had raw white oak milled by a local mill and then I hand-sanded and sealed and sanded and sealed (for two weeks) every piece. Luke then installed it all. The whole process took close to a month but we have no regrets! It adds so much warmth and depth to the whole space, particularly in contrast to the concrete floors.
The room also has a series of huge windows, which offers views of Georgian Bay on clear days.
The kitchen is my own design and took so much meticulous planning to maintain an open, airy feeling while also keeping things practical with lots of storage. We achieved the look we wanted and we love it. The house isn’t huge, but the kitchen has so much counter and such a great island it’s become the hangout hub whenever we entertain.
Pretty much everything in the house is secondhand and refurbished by us. The dining chairs are vintage Breuer Cesca chairs from kijiji (our Craigslist). The Thonet bentwood chair in foyer was thrifted for $8. Bentwood stools at the island were purchased at an auction and refinished by me. Dining table is vintage IKEA. Couch was a kijiji find we had reupholstered.
Any advice for creating a home you love? Only bring things into your home that you truly love and don’t be afraid to let things go when you outgrow them. And watch for secondhand ads with terrible pictures. See the potential beneath that bad photography—it’s how we’ve acquired some of our favorite treasures.
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