Cabin Tour: An Updated Traditional Newfoundland House In Port Rexton

Port Rexton, on the Bonavista Peninsula, is the sort of place that’s easy to drive through. Even at its most populous, the place didn’t have more than 700 people who called it home. These days, less than 400 people live there. It’s often overshadowed by Trinity, about 10 minutes down the road, although the Fishers’ Loft, Port Rexton Brewery, and Two Whales Café are giving people a reason to visit. It’s the sort of place that, should you decide to stop, is hard to leave. You’ll think about it, yearn to return, and work to find a way to make it happen. Just ask Susanne and Lorraine.

Over a cup of tea, looking at the ocean through the windows of the yoga and writing studio disguised as a shed, they shared the story of how they arrived here, and the old house they bought to escape busy urban lives in big-city America.

Lorraine was first introduced to Port Rexton through an invitation from her friends, who had a house here. She was struck by the beauty of the landscape and charmed by the people. But she also realized it was a place to visit, not live, and so she returned each year, eventually bringing Susanne with her on her annual visits.

One evening, over dinner, her friends mentioned they were looking to sell their house in Port Rexton and move to Trinity East, also mentioning they had a potential buyer in mind. It was a bit of talk, nothing to dwell on.

“So then I didn’t think much about that at dinner,” says Lorraine. “I fell asleep and woke up in the morning, I woke up and said I’m buying – the name of the house is Windfall – I said ‘I’m buying Windfall’”.

It was somewhat out of character for Lorraine, who explains she isn’t prone to rash decisions. “It would take me 12 years to make a decision,” she says. “But I had also been here for three or four years and loved it so much every time. I just loved everything about this place. Everything about Newfoundland, I would say, whether the fog the rain…the quiet, the people.”

Susanne, who is originally from Germany, finds many parallels between the North Sea climates of Germany and Newfoundland. The fresh air of rural Newfoundland is similar to Germany, where it has a term – reizklima – that doesn’t properly translate to English. Susanne explains it as being a healthy, invigorating climate that’s good for the immune system.

Back in the late 1800s, the ocean wasn’t viewed as much more than a way to provide a living, as evidenced by the lack of ocean-facing windows in old houses, and the way homes generally aren’t oriented toward the ocean. Then again, as Susanne notes, this could all be for entirely practical reasons, like protecting the main entrance from the strong winds coming off the ocean.

In its first incarnation, the house was a small, white biscuit box house, with newspapers used as wallpaper. In the stairwell, framed by paint like a piece of art, is a bit of that newspaper, dated 1878. The house was built sometime after that, figures Susanne, pointing out that the age of the house is entirely dependant on how long people kept newspapers. It was, perhaps, built in 1880.

A renovation in the late 1990s or maybe the early 2000s – before Lorraine bought the house – added extensions on the south and east sides, creating a multi-windowed space similar to a sunroom. The roof was also raised to provide more headroom in the upper level, and the kitchen had cupboards added.

Susanne and Lorraine’s contributions to the evolution of the house have been a change of colour from green to blue, as well as the addition of an outbuilding, modeled after the English Harbour gift shop, that serves as the yoga and writing studio, with a bed in the loft for guests. The writing desk is placed in front of a window, and the large doors allow for ample airflow, allowing Susanne and Lorraine to enjoy the invigorating effects of the reizklima.