Houses of the Gatineau Hills

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the October 29, 2014 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Bringing the best of outside inside

by Anastasia Philopoulos

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Richard Hofer's home is surrounded by evergreens he planted himself, with the goal of creating some privacy. Anastasia Philopoulos photo.

A passer-by wouldn't necessarily notice Richard Hofer's home, nestled quietly between a few evergreens the Chelsea businessman planted himself.

"The trees give it a sense of privacy," Hofer said, adding the evergreens help camouflage the house from both the front and lake entrance. "I replanted the property so that... the house would be inconspicuous and disappear."

Once you take a few steps down the stone tile path, a truly breathtaking view of the atineau River awaits, a mere stone's throw from Hofer's front door.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Hofer's office was built with the forethought of where winter light would come in. Anastasia Philopoulos photo.

But that's the point.

Hofer, who has been in his one storey home for nearly 35 years, rebuilt the house himself, orienting every room towards light and the view of nature. "The whole house is organized not inwards but outwards, so I can sit in a comfortable chair near the fireplace with a view of the water or ice in the winter."

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
The armchair is calling you to a warm fire, good book, and gorgeous view of the river. Anastasia Philopoulos photo.

Even his kitchen sink has a large window above it, so one can simultaneously do dishes and daydream while looking at the vista. "It's the idea of bringing the outside, inside."

Surprisingly, Hofer rented his home for the first 25 years, only buying it a decade ago. Originally, he spotted the house while taking a dip in the river, later seeking out the owner. The landlord, Kenneth Ramsay, wouldn't sell the property to Hofer but agreed to put up the cost of materials if Hofer, a trained carpenter, did the labour to winterize the house. "So an architect friend of mine redesigned and rebuilt the whole place," Hofer said.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Hofer has dedicated a wall to antique tools used to build wooden boats, a hark back to his sailor days. Anastasia Philopoulos photo.

Over the years, Hofer became part of Ramsay's family, eventually buying the stunning property. Today, it's lined with wall-to-wall bookshelves, old boat making tools from Hofer's sailor days, and art from friends and colleagues. One of the most striking components of the house is the enormous wooden bed that sits in the living room.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
It was an old girlfriend who suggested the bed be placed in the main room. Anastasia Philopoulos photo.

"Everybody asks that question," Hofer said with a smile. "I have to say it was a girlfriend now long gone who said, 'why don't we move the bed into the living room?'. That was about 25 years ago, and the bed has been sitting facing the river ever since."

Surrounded by three windows, Hofer truly lets the outside in, adding one of the greatest moments of the day is when the sun rises on his headboard.

Out on the river, a modest but sturdy dock provides access to the water - Hofer built it to withstand the onslaught of massive logs in the days when the river was a transit way for log booms.

"Timbers the size of telephone poles used to take my dock out at least once a year," Hofer said with a laugh.

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