Image: Monic Richard / Styling: Nicola Marc
For an entrepreneurial couple, spending two work-free weeks during the holidays at their beautiful farmhouse is the best gift of all.
Months have a tendency to pass in a frenetic blur for Natasha and Mark Rickerd. The couple owns three businesses: , and and, needless to say, works non-stop. By the time the year is out, the only thing they want for Christmas is to flop on the sofa with their three teenaged boys, munch on a batch of nachos and maybe have a beer. “This is the reality of life with a family business,” says Natasha. “Work comes first. So when the holidays roll around, the biggest treat in the world is two weeks of doing nothing.”
The setting for “doing nothing” is a classic 200-year-old 5,000-square-foot farmhouse set on 75 acres in Glen Robertson, Ont., where Mark grew up. “We’ve renovated over the years,” he says. “But the emphasis is always on a quiet palette and minimal design. I used to read my dad’s Martha Stewart Living magazines, and what I learned was to keep the lines of a renovation simple. Over time, you might change the furniture, lighting or paint colours, but everything else can stay the same.”
The farmhouse’s current style is rural industrial. It features rustic details, such as a hand-built staircase created from vintage timbers and a sliding dining room door fashioned from a corrugated metal barn roof. Throughout the home, Mark added shiplap walls and wide-plank pine floors.
Mark also designed and built most of the furniture, including the dining table, entryway benches, nightstands and bed frame. Natasha is the expert when it comes to finishes. For the bathroom vanity, for example, she opted for a rich brown stain, which was then covered with silver paint. “When you wipe off the metallic paint while it’s still wet, the look is rustic and industrial,” she explains. Local pottery, including pieces Natasha made, appear throughout the home; their handmade heft and hues are lovely complements to farmhouse life.
The couple’s appreciation for all things casual carries over to their approach to the holidays. Natasha prepares plenty of tasty treats for her growing boys. Aromatic boughs of greenery are placed in the windows, which give way to views of the Ontario countryside.
As the weeks leading up to Christmas unfold, small events punctuate the family’s time together. Natasha travels to Upper Canada Village for her family’s annual baking showdown. The Rickerds’ dogs, Molly and Little Man, delight in a rowdy run in the snow. “And the boys scrape off the pond to play ice hockey,” says Natasha. “Other than that, our biggest tradition is to have no tradition at all. We revel in luxurious days free of responsibility.”
The 200-year-old board-and-batten house features a back porch with a wooden bench finished in an oil-rubbed bronze stain; the legs were created by a local welder.
Rustic decorations are propped up on wooden benches made by homeowner Mark Rickerd. “Salvaged wood is great for entryway seating because the more beat up it gets, the better it looks,” he says.
Candlelight, pine boughs and rustic linens set the tone for a relaxed meal in the dining room. The chairs are mix and match: “Mark likes the leather, and I like the grey,” says homeowner Natasha Rickerd, “so we bought some of each.” The varied pendant lights also make a laid-back statement.
“Christmas decorating is fun, but too many ornaments can seem over-stimulating,” says Natasha. She prefers pinecones in an unexpected concrete bowl, as well as greenery and votives. The coffee table, which Mark designed and built, is surrounded by soft textures.
Snowy white walls are painted in a semigloss finish to keep the room bright yet cozy. A glowing stove beckons the family and visitors alike to gather round, and baskets of gifts wrapped in dark grey and silver invites curiosity.
About 20 years ago, the couple covered the bedroom walls and ceiling with ship lap. In this old farmhouse with small windows, its semigloss finish beautifully reflects light. Mark built the bed frame and nightstands.
“I was inspired by Mid-Century Modern lines when I built the vanity,” says Mark. To keep the look consistent with the rest of the house, Natasha coated the piece with a blend of paints and stains in browns, whites and greys. The slate floors and simple sconces are polished and urbane – a fun contrast.