Cabin Tour: That Yellow House in Summerville

Head into Summerville and you can’t miss it. It’s yellow and different. Those are the instructions for finding Stratford Canning’s seasonal home in this small fishing village on the Bonavista Peninsula.

Although it won’t be mistaken for a traditional Newfoundland home, it was heavily influenced by outport Newfoundland styles. Inspired by the fishing stages and sheds of the town, and influenced by lighthouse designs, this home designed by architect Robert Mellin and built by Aiden Duff is a mixture of the old and new, says Stratford.

The slanted roofs echo the fishing stages and sheds of the area, as does the window that runs parallel to the roof line of the house.


The main part of the house holds the kitchen and living areas with a loft bedroom above the kitchen. The bathroom is tucked a few steps lower than everything else to maintain the roof lines, explains Stratford.

A pedway connects the office and spare bedroom to the rest of the house, making the residence seem, from a distance, much larger than it really is.

The home’s exterior is now complete, but it took years to get to this point. Before any construction was started, it was decided that this house would be built in stages, with the kitchen/living/bedroom area being built first. The foundation was poured, the house was built, and the main entrance to the house was through the kitchen, just like older, more traditional houses. This was in 2005. In 2010, Stratford had the pedway built and was working on building the second bedroom. But after living in the house, he realized that what he really needed, more than another bedroom, was an office.

The second part of the house was expanded from the original 10 by 10 foot plan to its current 16 by 16 foot layout, with the main area serving as office space and a spare bedroom in the loft.

The architect, said Stratford, is a fan of lighthouse buildings, where the main house is built in stages and eventually connected to the lighthouse with a pedway, which this house has.

Before buying the piece of land this unique home is built on, Stratford had been looking for an old saltbox house to renovate. He’s a history fan, an antique collector, and likes older house styles. For a few years he searched up and down the shore, looking for the ideal place to call his own, eventually broadening his search to include empty land. After not finding anything he contacted Robert Mellin, who quickly said if it’s a traditional house Stratford wanted, he wasn’t the guy to do it.

But what did he want in a house?

“It didn’t take long for me to realize I didn’t really want a saltbox house, although I had been looking for one,” he said. He didn’t want something with a lot of small rooms in it, which is exactly what a saltbox generally is. This realization opened the door for contemplating a new build, and the idea of building something brand new was very appealing.

The plan for the house began with talking about things Stratford liked to do, things he liked and wanted in a house. It was the chance to build a home tailored to his own likes and wants. And he likes cooking.

“So essentially this whole room is kitchen and dining,” says Stratford, standing behind the kitchen island, cup of tea in hand.

A gas cooktop is built into the island, with the sink and fridge against the wall under kitchen cabinets built by craftsman Mike Paterson, who did most of the interior work along with his crew.

“I wanted a bit of a country feeling to the home,” said Stratford, explaining the thinking behind the kitchen cabinet design. The cabinetry wouldn’t look out of place in an old saltbox home, and the woodblock countertops add to the country feel.

The home is still being worked on, with many finishing touches yet to be done. The backsplash in the kitchen is still plywood with pencil lines, waiting for the fluted edge tiles to be installed, a sample of which sits on a shelf amongst the dishes.

In many ways, the house is at a crossroads in time, the old intersecting with the new. The kitchen island is made from three old doors, and painted to match the cabinets. The doors came from Stratford’s collection, as did all the other interior doors in the house. The cabinets are new but were designed to look traditional. The rafters and support beams in the kitchen are from an old schoolhouse in Lethbridge, blending in with new lumber from Cottles Island Lumber. Each 2×12 plank recovered from the Lethbridge schoolhouse was painstakingly sanded, with Stratford intending to have exposed rafters. He later changed his mind, covering the rafters with old-fashioned ceiling board made in Milton, “which in the end I’m really pleased with,” he said. “I love it.”

This story first appeared in the fall, 2013 print issue of Home & Cabin.