From The Ground Up

How John and Paola Chiodo’s contemporary Caledon bungalow delivers on a teenaged dream of a tranquil life in the country.

June 16, 2023 | | At Home in the Hills

As John and Paola Chiodo tell the story of how we came to be sitting in a gleaming white kitchen sipping espresso and nibbling biscotti, it’s hard not to image the pair busting through a race tape strung across their front door.

“It felt like crossing the finish line,” John says of moving into this well-appointed Caledon bungalow in 2018 with Paola and their two boys, Alessandro, 10, and Luca, 13. “Landing on this property and building this house – this was something we’ve talked about doing since we were 18 years old.”

High school sweethearts John and Paola Chiodo designed their dream home in Caledon. Photography by Erin Fitzgibbon.

And when John refers to building the grey stone house, he’s not speaking as a client. He and his team at his renovation and custom home company, CBG Homes, conjured it from foundation to roof. In close consultation with Paola, the team delivered a contemporary, single-level home which leans on classic elements to ground it. Crown mouldings are deep, doors are solid wood and the floors are gleaming stained maple. The wide living area and kitchen face the front door and foyer. To the west of the entrance is the formal dining room. To the east is a shared office and down the hallway are three bedrooms.

As the pair describes more about the design and construction process, their priorities – some might say obsessions – big and small aren’t far from the surface. You won’t find any screws on any light switch plates, for instance – a John thing. Paola, who works in telecommunications, needed lots of crisp white and a spacious kitchen with must-haves such as a pot filler over the stove. Paola’s take on the final product: “You feel the space. It’s light, white and bright.”

That airiness is amplified by deep tray ceilings throughout the 3,800-square-foot main floor. “It’s a bungalow, but it doesn’t feel like a bungalow,” says John. While the space is double that of their previous home, the couple, who met in high school in Malton, agreed they didn’t want a house so big they could lose track of each other.

In the living area, white leather couches, glossy cabinets and mirrors balance the dark maple flooring.

Back when the teenage dream of owning a country home first captured their imaginations, John was already engrossed in the world of carpentry, thanks to family members in the business – fittingly, his Italian surname Chiodo means nail. “From a young age – before it was legal – I would visit job sites and see how houses were built from the ground up. I was always intrigued with building.”

John started CBG Homes in 1999 at the age of 20, while still living at home. Two years later he and his mom moved into a modest Etobicoke apartment, and even by the time John and Paola were married in 2006, spacious, luxurious homes belonged to John’s clients, not his own family. John worked nights and weekends for many years as the pair saved for the future – a habit he continued when he was his own client.

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  • As he visited job sites across the GTA and beyond, John began to narrow his aspirations to the Caledon area because of its tranquil, rural locale. “The first time I drove Paola up here she was like, ‘Where are you taking me?’ It felt far at the time. But we fell in love with it. We wanted peace and quiet.”

    In 2016 John happened upon a one-and-a-half-acre estate lot 10 minutes from Bolton. A developer owned the land and had built a model home on the same street, but John lobbied to purchase just the land so he could build his own home. “The first answer was a hard no,” John laughs, signalling how successful his quietly tenacious approach would eventually be. John signed the deal on his and Paola’s 10th wedding anniversary. “So instead of jewelry, I handed my wife a piece of grass,” he says.

    The spacious kitchen features chef-worthy touches including a pot filler above the stove for easy pasta-making.

    The classic dining and side tables are the only two pieces of dark wood furniture retained from their previous home.

    And so an exhilarating, at times exhausting, DIY project was underway. The couple sold the Brampton home they’d lived in for 10 years and moved in with John’s mother, who by then lived down the street from them. John and his team started the house in 2017, and the family took up residence in August 2018, just in time for the school year. To hit that deadline, John and Paola became adept at rapid-fire decision making. “It can be overwhelming,” she says. “There was no time to hem and haw over a doorknob.”

    The couple was also decisive when it came to deciding much of their older, dark furniture didn’t work here, so they got rid of a lot. But they also found they were too tired to shop, so they’ve furnished the place slowly over the past five years – choices include an arresting chandelier, white leather couches and cabinets, and pieces with chrome details that stand up to the architecture. The basement is unfinished for now, with a few of the family’s older pieces of furniture allowed to linger. It’s a wide-open space and therefore a boon for the kids, who rollerblade the entire width of the house and whack tennis balls against a wall marked with targets.

    John, Luca, Paola and Alessandro Chiodo in the living room of their bright, airy home.

    As we sip our espressos, Paola points to the oversized window above the kitchen sink, which looks out to the lawn and trees beyond, as one of the biggest luxuries of the move. In their previous Brampton subdivision home, privacy never felt like a given. “I wondered if my neighbours could see how many sugars I put in my coffee,” she jokes. “No one’s watching me here.”

    But when the family does want to engage with neighbours, they’re easy to find, especially during walks on nearby Mount Pleasant Road. “Caledon is one of the nicest communities I’ve ever been in,” says John. “Sometimes we’ll go for a few kilometres and the number of people that will walk past and say hello – they’re so friendly. Sometimes my son and I will be playing tennis in the driveway, and people will stop and talk with us. You can have a conversation for five minutes with someone you’ve never known before.”

    A spacious patio overlooks the Chiodo’s landscaped gardens.

    The family is keen on fishing and hiking at Albion Hills Conservation Park, which is just west of them, and the boys can be found on Earth Day picking up garbage along the roads where they greet their neighbours. “The kids take pride in where they live.”

    As much as they love their new community, the Chiodos admit they are homebodies at their core, a trait already emerging in the next generation. For Luca’s birthday last year, they asked him where he’d like to host it. Thirteen-year-olds like theme parks, trampoline gyms, maybe laser tag, right? Nope. He wanted it in the backyard on the covered porch. “I want to stay home,” he told them.

    About the Author More by Tralee Pearce

    Tralee Pearce is the deputy editor of In The Hills Magazine.

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