Heritage Chic: A Beautifully Restored 1874 Bonavista Home

John Sweetland, a fisherman with deep family roots in Bonavista, built this house for himself in about 1874. He used rope and oakum to seal the house from drafts, and raised seven children in the home. His youngest, James, inherited the home in 1914 and decided to add the double peaked front to mimic the look of homes built by Ronald Strathie, one of Bonavista’s early master builders.

Bonavista Living, who posted the home’s origin story on their website, renovated and restored this house for Mark and Luke, who in turn brought in Jenneil Cooper of SAM Design to help with design decisions.

A 19th century house in Bonavista, NL restored by Bonavista Living.

About four years ago, Mark and Luke were new to Bonavista, having moved there for work. Bonavista Living was just getting off the ground. There was a meeting, one thing led to another, and Luke and Mark found themselves standing in the shell of Sweetland’s house, stripped back to the studs with only the staircase remaining. They loved it.

Restored 1874 house in Bonavista

They’re telling this story while sitting in their living room, decorated with contemporary furniture that contrasts with the heritage look of the house – the wainscoting on the walls, the wood-framed double hung windows, the antique-looking textured wallpaper, the wood doors with textured glass and classic built-ins around a metal-faced fireplace.

Bonavista, NL 1874 restored house

It’s all real, but none of it is original. Every piece in the house was built new by craftspeople in the Bonavista Living workshop. The crew has extensive experience in heritage home restorations and has created a home that looks like something made in the 1800s, but with a modern floor plan.

The propane fireplace was chosen for its traditional look, which helps create the illusion of having always been there. Although the house did once have a fireplace, it was in the wall dividing the living room from the dining room. Both the wall and the fireplace were removed during the renovation.

Jenneil approached this project with an eye to classic, timeless pieces that would work well with the home’s character. “I didn’t want the furniture to be anything too modern and trendy for this house because it just couldn’t handle it. It needed to be very timeless,” she says.

The dining room light is a gold metallic, which Jenneil chose as a statement piece. “I feel it needed a statement in the dining room, where everything is so clean and tone on tone – you needed that little wow,” she says.

The house originally had a front porch, but it was removed by previous owners. The renovation included adding the porch back onto the house. It now has striking yellow tiles and plenty of storage.

The house was stripped back to the bare bones during the renovation, leaving only the staircase. The stairs, built in about 1874, were painted to match the living room wallpaper. Being the first thing one sees upon entering the house, the stairs trick the eye into assuming the rest of the home’s finishings are also original.

This wood door leading to the laundry room was made by Bonavista Living craftspeople in Bonavista, using reproduction glass to get that old house feel.

Jenneil chose classic, timeless pieces to complement the home’s classic feel. Mark and Luke decided on a pink sofa, in part because they simply liked it. The exterior trim of the house is also pink. The wallpaper was chosen for its traditional look and feel, as was the wainscoting.

The upstairs bedrooms both have homemade quilts on the beds. The ceilings were raised from their original 6.5-feet height. The wall art is part of a series by New York artist John MacConnell.

This story was first published in our spring, 2018 print issue.