Anyone who’s ever been to the Schomberg, Ont., home of Philip Beatty and Steven Frankowski knows that a subsequent invitation is not to be turned down. “Because of our busy schedules, we don’t get to entertain nearly as much as we’d like to,” says Frankowski, who works for Rolex Canada, an hour’s drive away in Toronto. “But when we do entertain, we like to pamper our guests.”
And how. “The atmosphere is relaxed and fun, with lots of interesting conversation,” says Beatty, whose hospital job in Oakville keeps him on the road as much as his husband each day. “We can’t stand pretentiousness. It sucks the life out of a room.”
Each room in this 104-year-old, 3,000-square-foot house—originally built for a retired Quaker farmer—exudes the warmth its owners had always hoped to give their home from the moment they moved in nearly 15 years ago.
Unapologetic romantics, the couple nicknamed the house “Stilhaven.”
“The ‘St’ part from the start of Steve and the ‘il’ part from Phil,” Beatty explains. “Then we attached ‘haven’ to the end, because it definitely is our haven. Arriving home to our haven in Schomberg keeps us sane and brings us peace of mind after a long day.”
The couple have spent their days together for almost 20 years, having met at what was once The Barn, a bar on Church Street in the heart of Toronto’s gay village. They were unofficially married two years later at the city’s Metropolitan Community Church. Then, in October 2005, three months after same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada, they oficially tied the knot.
Shortly after moving into the home they would call their haven, reality bit. “The place had been neglected for years,” notes Beatty, “and our mission from the beginning was not just to bring the house back to its original beauty, but to update its charm and make it better in both appearance and function.”
And so began a renovation project that has been completed in stages for more than a decade. “Thankfully, Steve is extremely handy and he has done a great deal of the work—drywalling, crown moulding, built-ins—himself, with me acting as his assistant,” says Beatty.
But planning is more of a joint effort. “We do all of that together,” says Frankowski, “hashing out sometimes conflicting ideas and coming to an eventual compromise that turns out to be even better than we originally imagined it would.”
In the past year and a half alone, the couple had the original front porch torn off and a historically accurate copy rebuilt in its place (one pillar was drastically leaning and the porch was slowly pulling away from the rest of the structure). With that ambitious job complete, they began major work on the kitchen, including a full gutting and redesign that lasted nearly eight months. Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, it was followed by having new asphalt poured in the driveway and the rear yard fenced.
When they put their saws, shovels and other tools aside, there comes the pleasure of sharing their home with company. A typical evening would start with drinks in the soft-lighted living room or—in warmer weather—perhaps in the terraced patio leading to the backyard. (“We’re both avid gardeners,” says Frankowski, “and gardens can be found throughout our front and rear yards.”)
Dinner is served in the adjoining dining room. One house rule dictates that guests consume whichever wine they prefer with the main course. “We believe that you should drink what you like, not what you’re told to have with a certain dish,” insists Beatty. “Food and drink are all about pleasure, not following rules.”
The meal never ends without a scrumptious dessert, before guests retire to the living room for after-dinner drinks and what the couple always hope will be “more great conversation.”
Alone time might include curling up with a good book in one of several sitting nooks. Or the luxury of down time might be filled with a languorous soak in the master bath—another room that, despite renovation, stayed true to its original character with its careful tile work and claw-foot tub.
Rare times away from their house are usually spent on cruises, often on such LGBT-friendly lines as RSVP. “We’ve found we love the comfort factor on a gay cruise,” says Beatty. “We can hold hands and be ourselves.”
Back home, visitors—lingering in the ample foyer or sipping cocktails in the gazebo—have the sense of a house fully realized.
Still, its owners can’t stop thinking about what they might just do next to lend something fresh to what they call “our sweet gem.” And what might that be? Stay tuned. As Beatty observes affectionately, “It’s definitely an ongoing labour of love.”