Inside a Modern Farmhouse on a 160-Acre Ranch Property Near Calgary

A multigenerational family ranch home in the foothills gets gutted to the studs and rebuilt as a truly modern farmhouse.

Wide open spaces: The family property is located in the verdant foothills southwest of Calgary. Photograph by Jared Sych.

There are few locations for a family farm as idyllic as the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, where pastures stretch for miles under the vibrant blue of Alberta’s big sky. Originally purchased to raise gaited horses, a breed known for its stamina, this 160-acre ranch property has been in the family of the current owners for almost half a century. With the passing of the patriarch in 2018, and the transfer of the land and buildings to the adult children, the owners felt the time was right for a refresh of the farm’s primary home. Though built in the 1970s, the house was actually based on a design from the early 1950s — a dark and dated five-bedroom Cape Cod-style warren of small rooms. “It was all wood,” one of the homeowners says. “African gumwood in the living room, teak in the den, birch in the hall and, of course, knotty pine in the kitchen. And, with tiny windows and all that wood, the house was so dark.”

The couple decided to keep the footprint of the house, gutting it to the studs. Their vision was a modern farmhouse that deftly blurred the distinction between indoors and out. Both agreed that they wanted “lots of light, easy access to both the back and side yards, and an open concept where we could entertain.” The home also had to be pet-friendly for the couple’s two energetic Labradors.

Dog day afternoons are perfectly spent in an armchair gazing out at the floor-to-ceiling view. Photograph by Jared Sych.
Plenty of windows and 15 ft. ceilings create a bright and airy main floor. Photograph by Jared Sych.
The large dining area, complete with leather chairs made by an Italian saddle maker, can seat up to 14. Photograph by Jared Sych.
The sculpture above the bar cart is by local blacksmith artist James Greisinger. Photograph by Jared Sych.
Louvres adjacent to the staircase allow for more light, and add an architectural feel. Photograph by Jared Sych.

Enter the Calgary design firm of McKinley Studios, masters of clean lines and meticulous attention to detail. Architect Walker McKinley transformed the existing house into a modern, four-bedroom home with 6,500 square feet of living space, a spacious open main floor, 15-ft. vaulted ceilings in the living room, and banks of generous windows to take advantage of the sunny days and endless sweeping views. The kitchen blends contemporary sensibilities with heritage elements: Miele appliances and a stainless-steel sink are juxtaposed with traditional details such as wire-brushed white oak millwork, stained slate blue. Bronze T-pull hardware elements that will patina with age contribute further to the heritage feel. “It feels like a kitchen you would find in a Napa Valley restaurant,” McKinley says. “Well-appointed, open and warm, but with an elegance.”

Tongue-and-groove oak panelling, chevron-patterned oak floors, and three wood-burning fireplaces add to the peaceful rusticity of the interior. Throughout the home you won’t find a shred of fussy brocade or delicate silk; rather, durable leathers, linens and wools in natural shades, and materials that can stand up to foot traffic and pets abound.

The overall effect is a home that works, whether the job is a quiet night in for the resident couple, or a large, boisterous gathering of friends and family. Whoever happens to be there, the home is, as requested, always full of light: sunlight at almost any time of the day; moonlight at night.

Cozy, durable materials provide both warmth and functionality throughout the home. Photograph by Jared Sych.
The south patio, featuring an automated pergola and fire table, expands the homeowners’ entertaining space in the summer. Photograph by Jared Sych.
The staircase louvres run all the way up to the second-floor landing. Photograph by Jared Sych.
The primary ensuite also houses a dressing room and laundry area. Photograph by Jared Sych.

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This article appears in the August 2022 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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