GASPEREAU, N.S. — Two Wolfville-area home and property designers, David Ripley and Stephen Gaetz, recently proved themselves among the top Canadian property industry professionals.
Their firm, Beacon Hill Design, won the only property award last year in Atlantic Canada. The North American awards, presented in Toronto, were part of the International Property Awards. Nine Canadian firms were honoured.
Beacon Hill Design received a nod in the architecture award category as a winner in the single residence class. Two other firms in Nova Scotia were invited to submit.
The acclaimed home is a neoclassical French design. It is hidden in greenery near the village of Gaspereau. There’s a historic look to the gray façade that Ripley thinks evokes a European style cottage.
Despite its obvious character, Beacon Hill house is immediately welcoming. The wide entry hall with a 20-foot ceiling cultivates that impression. There are tall windows and big, soft seats in the living room.
Pointing to the ample hallway, Ripley states, “there’s nothing precious. Children love the staircase. They think it’s a stage.”
He recently set up the space for a dinner party for 19 people, but has accommodated as many 35. The ample Edwardian kitchen is built to be efficient with everything lodged in deep military style campaign drawers.
The period-style paintings throughout the house were painted by Ripley and are largely portraits of peasants, gypsies and aristocrats. The master bedroom has huge dual cupboards covered in bright Gaugin images.
Over the years, Ripley has also scooped up antiques and reused window elements, for example. He points out a 200-year-old window from Hantsport.
Unlike many property designers today, Beacon Hill, says Ripley, “likes to play in attics. A lot of homes are over roofed.”
They like tall ceilings and utilize radiant heated ‘Warmboard’ installed on floor joists for a cozy temperature inside.
The firm has been specializing in the development of home and property planning for more than 30 years in Canada, the United States and, most recently, Europe.
Often Gaetz will map out site specific locations that cater to natural features, like sunset watching. His job is to chart the technical details for contractors.
His ability to show clients their plans with 3D modeling is impressive. On a video screen one can essentially walk through each design.
“Often we are commissioned to develop exceptional properties, beginning from a natural state,” Ripley notes of a property on a tidal island on the south shore.
“Working closely with our clients, we translate and develop their requirements, whether private or commercial, to a successful completion. Attention to each and every detail is of primary concern to us,” he says.
While many of their clients are fairly well heeled, the two designers take on modest budgets as well and renovations for charities, like the one going into the old Waterville school.
“From the original concept to technical building plans, we take pride in the translation and development of our clients’ needs, wishes and budgets,” Ripley said.
With more than four decades in the industry, Ripley chuckles at the tendency of some clients to “do some arm waving and say, ‘you know what I mean.’”
He must. Since Beacon Hill doesn’t advertise, the two designers look to word of mouth. Each design is unique. Ripley mentions one Kentville property that they’ve worked on five times for different owners.
He and Gaetz have been amicable partners for 19 years. They operate out of a light-filled second-floor space. Over the years they built up international sources for essentials like lighting fixtures and furniture that often save their clients money.
The two men view their award as a kind of validation for their approach to design work. In the future they hope to work with young couples, teaching the value of good design and solid furniture.
Did you know?
The International Property Awards are open to residential and commercial professionals from around the globe. Forty-four Canadian firms received awards for categories ranging across property development, real estate, interior design and architecture.