Country Whimsy

A Caledon country home reflects the lighthearted spirit of its owners with art, collectibles and a couple of amusing sight gags.

June 14, 2024 | | At Home in the Hills

Albert is seated at the baby grand piano, his fingers resting gently on the keys. With wire-rimmed glasses perched on his nose, he’s nattily dressed in a black suit, black turtleneck sweater and jazzy multicoloured shoes. He has longish white curly hair and a dignified demeanour, and he is the first thing I see as I cross the threshold of Tom and Bonnie Wenn’s Caledon home. No, I have not arrived at a private concert. Albert is a life-sized mannequin, and this is his permanent perch. 

country homes caledon
Albert, the Wenns’ life-sized mannequin, sits at the piano just inside the home’s entrance. Photography by Erin Fitzgibbon.

Fun and whimsical, he sets the tone for the home the Wenns bought in 1979 when they moved north from Bramalea. At the time, their two children, Kyle and Joslyn, were nine and seven years old. “If I remember rightly, the promise of a pony was involved in order to make the move more palatable for the kids,” says Tom.

One of the first changes the Wenns made when they bought the three-level sidesplit was to upgrade its brown siding and stucco exterior to grey board and batten, giving the home a look more in keeping with its country surroundings. A bank of windows was added to the dining area, letting light filter into what had at one time been a rather gloomy corner.

country homes caledon
Tom and Bonnie Wenn sit with Stella, their Great Dane, in the treehouse-like sunroom of their Caledon home. 

“This house is continually evolving,” says Bonnie. “While its original footprint remains virtually unchanged from when we bought it 45 years ago, every inch of the interior has been altered in some way, and some areas of the house have been changed multiple times.”

My favourite room in the house is the sunroom, which perfectly harnesses the magical feel of a treehouse. This room began its life as an extended deck with a hot tub, a quiet place to relax with a glass of wine after a long day.

To increase the room’s usefulness, the Wenns added a canvas roof, creating a so-called portable room. But the canvas didn’t weather well, and in a few years, the screened-in space was roofed with a higher peak and aesthetically pleasing porcelain floors. Surrounded by beautiful mature trees, predominantly maples, and alive with the soundtrack of passing birds, this room takes full advantage of the landscape. 

Elsewhere in the home, birds and other nature motifs appear in impressive framed stained-glass pieces, many of them hanging in windows – and all created by Tom. “I spent my entire career in flat glass, (i.e., windows, shower doors, tabletops), but my interest in the artistic side of the glass world was piqued at a craft show quite early in my career, and I jumped into it.”

A windswept pine is centre stage in a work of stained glass crafted by Tom.

His best-known work is a life-sized, backlit glass image of Marlene Dietrich, which was featured in the decor of a downtown Toronto restaurant. For many years, he also taught glass art out of his office, which was then in Toronto. Tom has generously donated artworks to charities such as the Palgrave Rotary Club and Bethell Hospice to help with fundraising events.

Nowhere is the Wenns’ current lifestyle as empty nesters and on-the-go retirees as clear as when I tour the home’s four bedrooms. Kyle’s former room is now the designated bedroom of Stella, their eight-year-old reverse brindle Great Dane, when she is in residence. (Stella lives with Joslyn when the Wenns travel.) Another bedroom has been converted into an enormous walk-in closet, and Joslyn’s former bedroom is now a comfy and inviting guest room.

The Wenns have just completed the fourth kitchen renovation of their tenure, but this one came with a troubling hitch. “Our new plan called for the removal of a wall, but when we began to tear down drywall, we quickly discovered that it was a bearing wall, which caused an immediate shift in our plans,” says Tom. The renovations eventually came together, and beautifully. Heated porcelain floors, handmade creamy white cabinets by Grant Peterson of Shelburne Kitchens & Custom Woodworking, new appliances, and new glass doors to the sunroom all open the space.

The newly renovated kitchen features handmade cabinets by Grant Peterson of Shelburne Kitchens & Custom Woodworking.

Bonnie admits to having a fetish for change. “It seems we just finish one project and I’m thinking about the next.” And she takes on a good deal of that change herself. She can often be found with paint brush in hand, changing the colour of an end table or a set of chairs.

Compromises are always part of the evolution of a family home. The Wenns use a wood-burning fireplace in the family room and a propane one in the living room. “Tom loves the crackle and the smell of a real fireplace; I’m partial to the ease of operation and cleanliness of propane,” says Bonnie.

The double-arched, wood-burning fireplace dominates one wall of the family room. “This was originally a traditional brick fireplace,” says Tom. “But we wanted a more calming feel, so we went with a sandstone finish. The second recessed arch adds to its efficiency, allowing for wood storage close at hand.” There was a time when the other half of the fireplace wall housed an enormous fish tank, but that became difficult to sustain when the Wenns began to travel more frequently.

A graceful sandstone fireplace with two arched openings anchors the family room.
An elephant carved from monkeypod, a South Asian hardwood, commands a corner of the family room. 

And there’s an elephant in the room. Literally. Taller than Stella by half, and much chunkier, the elephant, intricately carved from monkeypod, a South Asian hardwood, commands a corner of the room. It was acquired during a trip to Thailand in 2007, when the Wenns admit they got a bit carried away. A buying spree resulted in their shipping home a 40-foot container filled with garden statues, pots, ball fountains – and the elephant. 

The clay pots, the biggest of which stands more than four feet tall and two and a half feet wide, are placed outside. A large spinning ball fountain, which creates a tranquil background murmur, sits near the deck and is home to a large live frog.

Tom is kind enough to drive me around the 10-acre property in his Gator, with Stella hard on our heels. First stop is the “he” shed, a building used to store bikes and equipment and, more important, Tom’s stained-glass art studio. Bonnie’s “she” shed is closer to the house. It gives her space for her gardening tools and smaller gardening equipment. The barn has been converted into a woodworking shop and houses Tom’s tools and lathe. “I will tune my speaker to Spotify, and enjoy some creative time and solitude here,” he says.

Tucked under a canopy of mature trees, the home’s back patio is a favourite gathering spot.
Two Muskoka chairs make for a peaceful perch overlooking the pond on the Wenns’ 10-acre property. 

Today Tom will fire up the aeration system on the pond at the far end of the property. “When the kids were in their teens, we built a volleyball court down here, trucking in load after load of sand, where they could entertain friends and let off steam,” he says. An extensive plot of cheerful sunflowers now flanks the path to the pond.

What became of those volleyball-playing kids? Joslyn turned her pony-riding skills into a career; she is now a member of the Toronto Police Service Mounted Unit. Kyle is an entrepreneur, splitting his time between his Collingwood home and Toronto’s financial district.

And Albert? Well, he has yet to break into a Mozart sonata, but his presence continues to startle and delight visitors to the Wenns’ charming home. 

About the Author More by Gail Grant

Gail Grant is a freelance writer who lives in Palgrave.

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