The Originals

Toronto Life - - Navigator -

Penny Barr, a 63-year-old re­tired artist and de­signer, and her hus­band, Rus­sell Low, a 64-year-old re­tired let­ter car­rier

Penny and Rus­sell bought their float home in 2001, as the com­mu­nity was be­ing built. They had made trips around the world, from Van­cou­ver to Am­s­ter­dam, to ad­mire float­ing dwellings just like these. “I said, ‘Let’s buy it’ be­fore we even saw it,” Penny says. They’re now the only re­main­ing orig­i­nal own­ers.

To save some money, they bought the place un­fin­ished. At first, there was only dry­wall, roughed-in plumb­ing and wiring. They put in lam­i­nate floor­ing, rail­ings and ex­te­rior deck­ing, and in­stalled a bath­room with cedar-strip walls.

Learn­ing to live in their new home was a lit­eral bal­anc­ing act. They had thou­sands of vinyl records, and they had to get rid of all but about 1,000 of them in or­der to shed ex­cess weight. All the float-homers are con­scious of over­whelm­ing the flota­tion tanks un­der their homes with heavy pos­ses­sions.

Over the years, the cou­ple have ex­panded their flotilla. Penny spends much of her time in a 33-foot Dutch-style river­boat docked sep­a­rately nearby, which she has retro­fit­ted into an art stu­dio.

1 Penny and Rus­sell ex­plore the lake with a Pel­i­can pad­dle­boat and a stand-up pad­dle­board. 2 Penny spent a year carv­ing this Nova Sco­tia–style light­house. The wood is oak from the for­est near their cot­tage. 3 The 1950s cedar-strip boat was no longer...

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