A dream home takes shape after a tragic fire

It’s every homeowner’s worst nightmare: coming home after a long journey to find your house—along with all your clothing, photos, and everything else it contained that made it feel like home—engulfed in flames. That’s exactly the scene Lorraine and Mitch came home to in February of 2020 after a hockey game. “We could see smoke the second we pulled into our driveway,” Mitch says. “And within minutes, there were flames coming out of the roof.”

“There was nothing we could do,” Lorraine says. “It was a total write-off, and standing there watching our house burn was such an awful feeling.” The fact that Covid was in full swing only made matters worse, but if that weren’t dire enough, Lorraine was seven months pregnant at the time. “It was a lot to deal with—picking up the pieces and knowing that we’d need a new house while preparing to have a baby.”

But while moving forward after a fire can be an uncertain process, the couple knew one thing for sure: they wanted to stay put in Port Elgin, Ont., and rebuild on the property they loved. Mitch grew up in town, and both he and Lorraine work in the area. They also love the community and nature surrounding them. “We have a creek running through our backyard, and we love being close to Lake Huron,” Lorraine says. “And the sunsets up here are spectacular. Even from the end of our driveway, the view is incredible.”

On summer weekends, you’ll find the couple fishing, hiking, and especially boating. And while Port Elgin and other towns along Lake Huron boast some of Ontario’s most pristine beaches, Mitch and Lorraine couldn’t part ways with their own secret beach. “All the beaches in the area are lovely, but we have our own little spot—one that the tourists don’t know about. It’s so secluded that it doesn’t even have a name,” she says.

Beyond secret beaches, the couple was adamant about staying close to their friends and neighbours. “We’ve got three other boys in the neighbourhood that are all the same age as our son, Weston, and the parents are all friends,” Mitch says. “That’s something that’s hard to find, and we wanted to maintain it.”

With Beaver Homes & Cottages, everything about the process was designed to make things as easy as possible, with plenty of room for customization—all of which was particularly important for an expecting couple in the middle of a pandemic. They especially liked the digital tools. “We were able to go online and use their virtual design tools to tour the model and move things
around to really see how they’d look once our home was built,” Lorraine says. “That was huge for us. During Covid, when we couldn’t go to see things in person, we could still envision what it would be like living there.”

Once they had an idea of the changes they wanted to make, Jim Lewis, the Beaver Homes & Cottages design consultant at the Port Elgin Home Hardware Building Centre, helped bring them to life. “We bumped out the walls to make the house bigger in a few areas, we created a walk-in pantry off the kitchen, and we changed the mudroom to accommodate our growing family,” Lorraine says. “Jim made the whole process so easy.”

And while Lorraine was set on maximizing natural lighting and creating an open-concept kitchen that would let them keep an eye on Weston as he played with his toys, Mitch wanted a place to store the family’s summer toys as well. “I liked the layout, but all I really cared about was whether I could add a third drive-through bay to the garage. So we worked with Jim and the engineers to make sure we could expand the garage so we could park our boat and trailer in there for the winter.”

And while Lorraine was set on maximizing natural lighting and creating an open-concept kitchen that would let them keep an eye on Weston as he played with his toys, Mitch wanted a place to store the family’s summer toys as well. “I liked the layout, but all I really cared about was whether I could add a third drive-through bay to the garage. So we worked with Jim and the engineers to make sure we could expand the garage so we could park our boat and trailer in there for the winter.”

That reassurance extended to the materials they chose, since Beaver Homes & Cottages allowed them to source everything for their new home in one spot. “You can come here and get all the materials you need,” Jim says. “Flooring, lighting, kitchens, and vanities—it’s all right here under the roof of this store.” And even when Covid slowed supply chains and made certain materials scarce, Jim’s team did everything they could to make sure materials arrived and timelines were honoured. “There were some unavoidable delays with things like windows and doors,” Lorraine says. “But the Beaver Homes team was reassuring through the whole process that everything we’d picked out from the beginning would arrive, and they made the process smooth.”

They also loved being on-site in the building process. On most days, Mitch would stop by the site on his way home from work to check on the build and chat with Colby. And once Lorraine was on mat leave, she had plenty of time to watch the progress unfold. “I was on the site pretty much every day—there was nothing else to do during Covid, and we were renting about half an hour away, so I’d drive over and check on the build,” she says.

In less than a year from the day the foundation was poured, the house was ready for the couple to move in and start making new memories in the town they loved. “It felt weird at first, but that changed quickly,” Mitch says. “Moving into our dream home after an unfortunate year was such a relief, and it felt like we could finally start fresh for our new family,” Lorraine adds. “We were so happy to finally be home again.”

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