Houses of the Gatineau Hills
The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the March 30, 2016 issue. Reprinted with permission.
'Little Swiss-like house' fulfils Wakefielder's dreams
by Tess Allen
Wendy Stephens grew up mesmerized by the "little Swisslike house on the corner" across the street from her childhood home on Chemin Burnside in Wakefield.
"Growing up, this was always a little mystery house on the corner. I always saw it from my bedroom window or while playing at Vorlage. It was weird because I was never in it, I never met the people who lived there, and so I didn't really know anything about the actual house. But there was just something that drew me to this place," said Stephens. "There was something mystical about it."
Stephens grew up. She moved to Ottawa in her teens, then to Montreal, then to England, then to Montreal again. She never imagined she would move back to Wakefield, or that she would go on to own and operate Wakefield's End of the Line Boutique.
And then, seven years ago, three very significant things happened in Stephens's life. Her mother passed away. She received an inheritance. And she just so happened to check the online real estate listings in her hometown.
"[The little Swiss-like house] was the first house that came up in Wakefield. To me, it was a sign."
Within two weeks, Stephens had decided on the next chapter in her life. She had finally passed over the threshold of her childhood dream home and, despite seeing that it needed quite a bit of work ("the walls were covered in black wallpaper with flowers on it and the rest was wood panelling") she knew she'd stumbled upon something truly mystical indeed.
"You could tell it needed a lot of work. I was advised to maybe not purchase it. But there was something about the vibe in here," Stephens told The Low Down from her seat in front of the living room window that looks out at her childhood home. "I felt instantly comfortable. It felt like mine right away... and the fact that it all came about when my mom passed away...I know that she's happy that I'm here. There's been a lot of different emotions but I think I was meant to be here."
That isn't to say Stephens hasn't done a few renovations on the two-bedroom house, which is decorated in her signature eclectic and funky style, over the last few years. She believes the house was constructed in the 1950s as a hunting cabin - evidenced by the shutters that were discovered during living-room renovations and the fact that the house is divided by various levels - and she revels in the historical insight this presents.
"I've definitely imagined the people in here, [how] it was kind of wild. And just the fact that Wakefield was clearly not developed residentially if they could shoot out of here," she said.
Most of her energy in the home is spent, however, just enjoying the comfort of the space that she has made totally her own.
"For me, it's my comfort zone. It's my security. I spend a lot of time here [because] I enjoy spending a lot of time here... and it's from my childhood, so it's sort of like a blanket," she said, adding that one of the property's best assets is its spacious backyard. "It's sunny pretty much all day. I have my little vegetable garden, my flowers, my hammock, a little fire-pit. The whole bit. It's really comfortable."
Comfortable as it may be, Stephens said the house still holds that je-ne-sais-quoi appeal for her that it always did. She hopes the house still inspires that sense of mystique in others who come across it.
"Even after seven years, if I'm away and I come back, I still get that feeling. I'm happy to get home because I love my house so much," she said. "I would be really happy to learn [the house still appears mystical] because then I'd be maintaining the mystery and the intrigue about this place. Even clients who come in the store, when I tell them I live across from Vorlage and they ask, 'Oh, are you in that cute little house?' I can't help but laugh and say, 'Yeah, I am, actually.'"
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