David and Mary Jo Field are one of those singular couples that have managed to combine a personal passion for Eastern Ontario antiques with an exceptional eye for choosing authentic objects of beauty, originality and whimsy. So how did this couple come to develop such a keen eye and appreciation for our past?
David and Mary Jo first met in high school but didn’t connect until they attended Queen’s University in Kingston. They started collecting primitives in 1970 from the area until David’s career in engineering took them to the Middle East for 10 years. When they returned they took up collecting again. They were both working professionals in Toronto, David still in engineering and Mary Jo in the banking industry. Over time their tastes evolved into collecting original surface furniture, folk art – paintings, carvings, tramp art – focused on Eastern Ontario. Today they have an outstanding private collection and have had guest exhibits at a number of museums and given presentations on folk art. When they retired they returned to Eastern Ontario where they currently run a successful antique business.
When their friend, Clay Benson, showed them photographs of an old log house from Saint-Télesphore, Québec, they were told that it was inconveniently situated in the middle of a 300 acre farm, had been reduced to a storage facility, and was about to be torn down. Underneath decades of neglect the Fields could see a diamond in the rough and were determined to save it from “becoming a cheap load of $50 firewood”, as their friend pointed out when he arrived on their doorstep with a truckload of old timber.
The Fields were not “seeking out” a log house but saw that the interior was still intact including the logs, beams, floorboards, paneled walls and chair railings. True to their exacting standards and appreciation for preserving the building’s original structure, they set about planning its new home in Croydon, Ontario. This required dismantling the house, moving it piece-by-piece and rebuilding it in Eastern Ontario. Each board was identified, numbered and placed exactly where it had been originally. All of the nails used in its reconstruction were of the period, meaning they were hand-wrought and square headed. Only a new Rumford fireplace, true to the period, was added to the main floor. Minor repairs to a few beams, window casements, and a seamless 200 square foot addition with modern conveniences such as a kitchen and bathroom were also added.
The outside of the house has logs set horizontally, notched and bonded at the quoins. The wide door with elongated carved mouldings is formally placed in the centre, with a window symmetrically spaced on each side. The windows are divided into small square panes in true French sixteenth and seventeenth century fashion. A high pitched roof supports the two story structure. The front walkway is constructed from limestone found on the property and the house is surrounded on all sides by a beautiful perennial garden.
David says he’s attracted to the “colour, form and fun” of folk art and Mary Jo appreciates the “variety” of old Eastern Ontario furniture. What began as a creative and fun outlet for them developed into a passion, a way of seeing and approaching the world that is reflected in the meticulous reconstruction and careful selection of furnishings and objects found in their log house.
The front door opens to a large dining and seating area with an open fireplace against one wall. Everywhere you look there is a carefully considered selection of painted primitive antique furniture mixed with folk art, tramp art, landscape paintings, textiles and intriguing objects. Under the stairwell is an interesting nook with a section of original painted paneled walls in a warm pale chartreuse tone. You’re immediately struck by the home’s vibrant colour, intimacy, and rich patina of the logs, which envelope you like a warm and inviting blanket. Everything works together to create an aesthetically harmonious ambiance that is both authentic and visually arresting.
Immediately upon entering the front entrance is a doorway on the right that leads to a bedroom and adjoining room. There is a large custom-made bed, true to the period, showing a selection of antique coverlets and blankets. Next to it is a set of 19th century Québec bed steps placed atop a charming hooked rug of a dog. Both walls facing the bed have antique wall shelves with carved animals and heads arranged simply but artfully, allowing space for each object to reveal its individual attributes. Next to the bed is a reverse painted mirror encased in a carved wooden frame. Under the window is an old painted bench with a curious, single, carved wooden boot, an example of the whimsical tendencies David alluded to earlier. The adjoining room has a beautifully designed corner spot with a desk, chair and a selection of folk art on the walls. On the opposite wall sits a striking painted cabinet with its original mottled hand-blown glass front.
The front door faces another painted interior door with a staircase leading to the upper open loft area with two separate bedrooms. The centrepiece here is a one-of-a-kind painted Parcheesi game table with matching white chairs. Along one wall is a row of four painted Windsor chairs, flanked by a carved wooden horse, and native splint basket arranged on an old painted bench. Something about the arrangement is pleasing and intriguing. Just to keep things interesting they have placed a colourful and charming hooked rug of a dog and two birds arranged at an angle on the floor.
Going back downstairs to the new addition, the floorboards are painted a complementary shade of pale green, similar to the preceding nook under the stairs. This adds a feeling of seamless continuity between the old and new parts of the house. The 1820’s painted pail bench and blue cupboard (this is the original chimney cupboard from the second floor) are placed next to functional wooden pieces such as cutlery holders, corner shelves and wall pockets. They are things we might expect to see in an 1820’s kitchen but they have been carefully selected and placed for their intrinsic simplicity and beauty. Of course the room would not be complete without a touch of whimsy which is seen in the Red Rose sign with the server in blue smiling back at us.
Outside are two seating areas that the Fields created from stone they found while excavating land for the structure’s foundation. One seating area has an enormous dry stone wall that is circular in shape and is situated in a shady area not far from the house. The other area is next to the Salmon River. Both of them are idyllic spots for reflection and to take in the miraculous survival of this spectacular log house, thanks to the heroic effort and vision of the Fields.
The Fields would like to thank the following individuals for helping make this restoration possible:
Tony Jenkins – log house restoration and erection
Gary Frizzell – new construction
Kris Morey – carpentry
Ron Storring – excavation and crane for log installation
Greg Simpson – masonry
Marty Beasant – everything else
How to Contact Croydon Antiques