The Cressy General Store (above before) has definitely seen better days when the Molyneux's bought it. Woodcrafters (after below) was the only local contractor willing to work on it.

Linda and her mother
Linda Molyneux and her mother Ilene Barham in the kitchen.

View from the loft
The master bedroom loft overlooks the sitting area. The shelves are original, saved from the days when the home was the Cressy General Store.

Original Shelving
Original shelves from the General Store were incorporated into the kitchen design.

The old Cressy United Church sign holds a place of honour.

General store transforms into marvellous
County home

County HomesBy Janet Kellough, County Weekly News

"We called three contractors and Woodcrafters were the only ones willing to take on the job," says Linda Molyneux. Three years ago, she and her husband, George bought the North Marysburgh property containing a three storey farmhouse and what was once the Cressy General Store, a building that provided groceries and gas for the community clustered around Cressy United Church and the wharf on the shore.

"We had been thinking about buying a cottage somewhere," she says. "We looked in the Muskoka area, but it was too built-up and expensive. Then some friends of ours donated a week's stay at their place on Highway #49 for a church fundraiser in Toronto. We bought the package, ended up staying an extra week, and started to look here."

The farmhouse on the Cressy property was in rough shape, having been gutted in preparation for a renovation that didn't get off the ground. The old general store was even sadder.

"We spent a lot of time thinking about which building we wanted to spend the money on," Linda says. "Then I realized that what I really wanted was a place with a cottage "feel" to it. The farmhouse could wait."

The Molyneux's needed a space that could, on occasion, accommodate four children ranging in age from 7 to 30, as well as Linda's mother, Ilene Barham, who had also fallen in love with the area and was a frequent visitor.

"I'll never forget the first time Peter Morkis of Woodcrafters came to look at the place. He spent about half an hour just standing out front looking at the building. I thought he was disgusted with the whole thing, but now I realize it was just his creative processes at work."

In fact, when the rest of the Woodcrafters crew arrived to start work, they were a little puzzled.

"They kept looking at the plans, then looking at the farmhouse, then at the general store and back again," Linda laughs. "Finally they looked at each other and said, 'We've got to get a grip on Peter."

The original store was flanked by lean-to's on either side. They were sagging, had no cellars and would have to go, but Linda liked the look of the rooflines. Peter suggested replacing them with something similar, in essence surrounding the old building with 12 feet of addition all around, some of it house, some of it porch and some of it deck.

They were lucky in that the store had a six foot high basement and they were able to pour a concrete floor, making it suitable for storage and the installation of a furnace. This freed up space on the main floor and Woodcrafters were able to carve three bedrooms and two baths out of the loft and one of the additions. The addition on the opposite side is all sunroom - screened in the summer and glazed in the winter. The 12 foot section added to what is now the front of the house is partially porch and partially a mud and utility room. On the shore side is an open-air deck that allows an unimpeded view of the reach.

The design was not decided without a great deal of discussion. "Originally Peter wanted to make the second floor loft two feet wider," Linda says. "I vetoed the idea because I wanted the main part of the house two-thirds open. I have to admit now that Peter was probably right."

He got his way, though, when it came to the master bathroom, tucked under the eaves in the loft.

"He suggested a skylight, but I wasn't sure about it," Linda says. "He insisted that the bathroom would be too dark and pointed out that the skylight would be on a side of the house where it couldn't be seen. He was right about it, too."

Original DoorwayAn original door between the utility/mudroom and the main part of the house.

But on one point she remained adamant. "I wanted to keep the original front door. Peter wanted to replace it because it was so energy inefficient. I insisted that we go with the original, and that's what happened."

Keeping the original whenever possible was a major theme for the renovation. Although the front windows had to be replaced, care was taken to replicate the old ones. A great deal of the original store shelving was utilized in the design, trim was taken from the farm house for use in the cottage, and a stove was installed instead of a fireplace, because, "that's what would have been here." The floors proved to be pine upstairs and "something harder" downstairs and were sanded and finished to a polished sheen. The old shelving also made a perfect place for the Molyneux's shoe collection.

"George's family has been involved in the shoe business for three generations now, and I thought it would be a great place to show some of the old styles," Linda says. They provide a focal point for the spectacular main room, the heart of the house with its comfortable sitting area and open kitchen. "We tried to furnish the cottage with things from the County," Linda says. "There's a real history about this place and we wanted to reflect that."

Although it was a challenging renovation, Linda and George report that they were never discouraged, although their youngest daughter, Hilary "burst into tears when she heard what we'd bought. She'd been with us on the cottage-hunting expeditions and couldn't visualize how this place could be fixed up. She thought we were going to live in it as it was."

Hilary, as well as the rest of the Molyneux family, is thrilled with the cottage now, but Linda's mother Ilene says that the family member that is happiest is the family dog. "Mercedes is a big black Newfoundland who loves it here," she says.

The neighbours were also pleased. "I'm sure they thought we were crazy at first," Linda says, "but I think they were pleased that we didn't tear the old store down. One of them has even given us some store receipts from the 1920's." The Molyneux's give full credit for the success of the renovation to Woodcrafters.

"Peter would call us every night to let us know how it had gone that day," Linda says. "Then he'd tell us what was planned for the next day and ask if we had any last-minute changes before work started. It's important to have that kind of contact with a contractor when you're trying to do a long-distance renovation." And although the cottage is finished, the renovations may not be.

"The old road ran between the house and the shoreline, so that was the front of the building," Linda says. "We've seen pictures that showed a verandah on the front, and we're trying to decide whether or not we'd like to put it back on. We also have to decide what to do with the farmhouse, and whether or not we'll wait until George retires and do it over to live in then. Whatever we ultimately decide to do, we'll call Woodcrafters again. They're the best!"