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A cozy home known as “The Shoe”, perched on the cliffs of Petty Harbour, is the right size for comfort


Kristi Allan starts her morning with a cup of coffee and sitting in front of her home’s expansive windows, where she watches the whales and the fog roll in over the Atlantic Ocean. Known as “The Shoe,” there’s a lot Allan loves about her home, which is nestled along the cliffs of Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove, a community just outside St. John’s.

The layout is open concept and every room blends into the next. There’s a kitchenette, a bedroom, a bathroom and the main living room area, which boasts a wall of bookshelves. There’s also a staircase that goes to a loft that serves as Allan’s office. It might be small but the house is a safe haven.

“This place saved my life in the pandemic. It’s the reason I got through it. I was completely alone… I didn’t see anyone for 69 days.”

The time alone brought her a new appreciation for The Shoe.

“Looking out and seeing the whales, the fishing boats and the sunrises, is amazing. I love, love, love every inch of this house. I love the bookshelves. I love the floors. I love looking out the window. It’s everything to me.” 

The expansive bookshelf is one of Allan’s favourite features of The Shoe.

Allan bought the home after its former owner, famed anthropologist Jean Briggs, passed away in 2016. Briggs was an American-born academic who taught at Memorial University. She’s most known for her book Never in Anger, published in the 1970s and based on her research from living with an Inuit family for 18-months in the 1960s. She was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2001.

Allan, who is originally from Nova Scotia, befriended Briggs shortly after moving to Newfoundland in 2015. As Briggs grew older, it became apparent she might need to move to a senior’s residence or have someone live with her, and the idea formed that Allan would move in. But soon after, Briggs passed away.

Allan was house-sitting at The Shoe for a time, and eventually ended up buying the place.

“Jean called it ‘The Shoe’ because she was the old woman who lived in a shoe,” explains Allan.

Touches of the previous owner are everywhere. There are sticky notes, left by Briggs, still up in the house, as well as her books and the trunk that serves as a coffee table. Allan says she found a pair of snowshoes in the basement that she’s mounted on the wall.

Allan’s adoration for The Shoe is well-known. She recently married and as part of her husband’s vows, he told her, “I will treasure your heart as you treasure The Shoe, because I know they’re one and the same.”

As much as she respects the design Briggs laid out, Allan has made some of her own changes. She had a small window installed in the loft to bring in more light, added artwork of her late cat, Len, and recently painted the exterior a dark purple. She says it now matches the sunset and the lupins that grow around The Shoe.  

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