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Krista Wells and her husband Matthew had been looking for a summer home on the east coast of Newfoundland for some time before spotting the perfect place on a trip to the community of Bonavista. It was a two-storey green-painted historic home with, as luck would have it, a “for sale” sign out front.

The house was one of the many properties in the area owned by Bonavista Living, an organization started in 2015 to help revive the town by buying up aging homes and restoring them. The house Wells had set her sights on was known as the Thomas Randell House, built in 1899. 

“It just happened to be the most glorious, beautiful day… It was the perfect time to visit that house because the sun was streaming through all the windows, and it was in a state,” recalls Wells. “There were dust motes everywhere. But there was something about it. You know that feeling you get when you know something’s right?”

While the previous owners had renovated the outside to ensure the structure didn’t fall down, they also gutted the interior and were using it as a “glorified shed.” But the house captivated Wells. She also loved the big backyard and view of the beach.

She was also drawn to the fishing village of Bonavista.

“There’s something about it. It smells like the sea. The sunsets are just unreal, like nothing I’ve seen before,” says Wells. “We just love it out there.”

After buying the home, Wells had plenty of work to do. She’s known for her DIY-skills, which she documents on her Instagram account Georgestownonmymind. Followers of the account will remember her downtown St. John’s home but notice something distinct this time. The Bonavista home boasts a “coastal cottage” vibe.

 

“It’s a bit more whimsical. I’m taking a lot more fun chances,” she points to the living room wall that’s covered in a whale-patterned wallpaper. “It’s a very different space and very different vibe. It’s still very me but it’s a summer home, so I wanted it to be light and bright. There’s a lot of sunshine out there. And I want it to reflect a little bit about where we are.”

One of the first projects she wanted to tackle was making the space more modern. Like many older homes from this period, it had small rooms. Wells wanted to make the most of the space by taking down the first-storey walls.

“I think by doing that we made it feel a lot larger than it actually is. It’s not a big home, about 1,200 square feet, but we’ve maximized the space that’s there,” says Wells.

When people visit now, they see a house transformed. The open-concept ground floor now has a kitchen, dining area and living room that brings together a pink and blue colour palette, along with a powder room and laundry room.

The powder room’s wallpaper also has a special connection to the house. Someone told Wells the house had been featured on a pattern by Canadian wallpaper designer Kate Golding.

“When I went to research it, lo and behold, there it was,” says Wells. “We’re very proud to say that our house is a piece of that wallpaper. It just felt like it was another one of those meant-to-be moments.”

Wells has also filled the home with antique finds, like a ship’s dinner bell she bought in Trinity, which she has near her kitchen.

On the second floor there’s now a main bedroom, guest room, a full bathroom and a storage space. She had the ceilings knocked out to go all the way to the roof to give the impression it’s a much larger space.

Bonavista Living’s workshop Bonavista Creative made everything for the house — from the trim and door boxes to the molding and flooring. Wells says the workers did an amazing job, and she was still able to make the design choices on things like paint, fixtures, cupboards and even the stain used on the wooden floor.

The workshop’s team also built what looks like a twine loft in the yard, a structure where fishermen would have stored their gear. This new building serves two purposes: the first floor is a bar, and the top floor is an office and lounge for her husband.

One feature Krista wanted to include was a pocket door for the main bathroom, but due to the way the electrical system was laid out, that was impossible. But then someone at Bonavista Living recommended a double door, which she loves.

This Bonavista cottage has become a place to unwind. “When I go out there, I feel a weight lifted. It’s a relaxing and soothing place to be,” says Wells. 

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