The listing: 783 Montgomery Dr., Hamilton
Asking price: $3,999,000
Lot size: 60 by 198 feet
Listing agent: Stella McCollum, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada
A common piece of advice to scribblers is to “write what you know,” but when it comes to the materials and finishes in this Ancaster Heights home in west Hamilton, it’s more a case of “build with what you know.”
When Linda Stumpo and her husband, Jack Awakian, embarked on building a custom home, it was viewed as a bit of a hobby. She had recently sold her business and had some ideas of the perfect house she wanted for her family.
Like in war, no plan survives contact with reality and the city planners trimmed her ambitions with restrictions on how much of the land lot the finished house could cover.
And then the pandemic hit.
“It was the first three months of the pandemic when we had just started building. Yeah, fun,” Ms. Stumpo said. “We had to pick everything online, only five workers on the same team were allowed in the house at the same time.”
They were renting and living in their old house from the people they sold it too, but timelines collided and they ended up moving in with about six months worth of finishing work still to do. Their main advantage was they could leverage the materials Mr. Awakian knew well from his flooring business. The result is a palette of finishes that vary widely in form and function, but somehow come together in a final product of a contemporary home with open spaces, clean lines and sumptuous materials such as leather, cork, porcelain and terrazzo.
“What it is we like texture, rather than all white,” Ms. Stumpo said.
The house today
That commitment to using materials differently starts right away with this house. The brickwork alternates between a row of long thin bricks and shorter thicker ones, and there are rectangular architectural flourishes on the front façade clad in a premium stucco product that uses granite aggregate.
“Our spackle guy liked to say it was two times the cost for half the product,” Ms. Stumpo said. The same material also shows up later on the backyard pool cabana (with bathroom and outdoor shower).
The front door also makes a statement. It’s 10 feet tall, and is covered in thin concrete panels that resemble honeycomb, all hand-carved by an Ancaster artisan. “Everyone who comes here is shocked by the front door,” Ms. Stumpo said. The double garage is also misleading, because there are two car stackers to maximize space for the couple’s mix of sports cars and motorcycles.
From the foyer, you can see straight through the glass of the floating central staircase to the wall of windows on the rear of the house that pull in the views from the escarpment. This is why they bought and built in this location; you’re so far from any rear neighbours that the train line in the distance looks like a toy set to Ms. Stumpo.
To the right is a seating area and piano room with some aggressive-looking riveted steel and leather chairs that look like they were made by a 1940s aircraft engineer. The ceiling vaults to the second floor with an open balcony that connects the upstairs rooms.
The floor plan is straightforward. On the right, you can pass through a brick-lined coffee bar and pantry to get to the kitchen; straight ahead is the wide-open great room; and on the left is a hallway that connects to the garage, a mudroom, a powder room and an office on the rear of the house. The stairs to the finished basement are also here, and down below are two guest bedrooms and an exercise room the family has gotten to use quite a bit in recent years.
A wall of over-sized charcoal porcelain tile anchors the fireplace of the great room, and on the opposite wall is a bank of floor-to-ceiling white cabinets with a long island dividing the spaces. All the kitchen appliances are hidden or played down. A ladder on a rail can roll the length of the cabinets – something Ms. Stumpo said was inspired by wine rooms, but is also practical for her five-foot-tall frame to reach high spaces.
Outside is a restaurant-grade barbecue and outdoor kitchen that they tend to use most of the summer as they enjoy the covered terrazzo patio. The concrete pool-deck surrounds the large in-ground saltwater pool, beyond which is a chunk of lawn at the top of the escarpment with a fire pit for enjoying sunrise or sunset.
At the top the floating stairs on the second floor (past a wall clad in irregular-depth black cork cubes), you’ll find four bedrooms: two that share a jack-and-jill bathroom, one that faces the street and a large primary suite.
The primary suite was planned around having the soaker tub angled so that it faced a floor-to-ceiling window looking over the escarpment views. There’s access to a second-floor balcony as big as the downstairs patio. The windows here are polarized and reflective for privacy. There are curtains, too, but they go unused.
The views of Pleasant Valley below are spectacular from the balcony, the bedroom and the great room. “To be honest, we don’t have a lot of artwork in the house because of the back windows: that’s its own art. Every season is amazing,” Ms. Stumpo said.
The best feature
At one point during construction, the couple were visiting a friend and were so impressed by a self-playing piano that they scrapped plans for a dining room and turned that space into a piano room. The walls are panelled in black leather tiles that offset the glossy black baby grand piano.
Better still, no human player is needed thanks to a technology called a PianoDisc that tickles the ivories with a Bluetooth-connected app that can download a wide variety of tunes. Like a music box on steroids, this digital update on those old player pianos even has speakers in the system to add vocals if you’re listening to Rod Stewart or Billy Joel.
“When I’m in the house alone, I have it going, I love it. You can do mixes of whatever genre you like jazz, rock, whatever,” Ms. Stumpo said.
Your house is your most valuable asset. We have a weekly Real Estate newsletter to help you stay on top of news on the housing market, mortgages, the latest closings and more. Sign up today.