‘Loved the view’
He did that for several years, creating fluid outdoor furniture and cedar and copper privacy screens carried by a number of local garden shops and nurseries. They were elegant and comfortable. “I was the designer and delivery boy. I did everything.”
The garden shops put a hefty markup on the furniture, meaning he didn’t make a lot of money. Then a large Toronto nursery placed a big order which he delivered. There were problems with the payment.
“It was time for a divorce,” says Campbell, who took all of his garden furniture templates, throwing them into a fire pit on his 6.4 hectares of privacy on the Carp Escarpment. “I had to move on.”
This is the creative force, who was born in Ottawa, left for the Ontario School of Art in Toronto almost 30 years ago, lurching into a lucrative business: renovating derelict warehouses off Queen Street and turning them into sexy lofts for confirmed urbanists.
“I did four buildings. I hired musicians and artists as crews and we made scads of money,” says Campbell. “I left Toronto 20 years ago after we found this property.”
Campbell and his wife, Barbara Hope, a special-education teacher, happened upon the Carp property by chance.
“I loved the view and she loved the woods,” he says. “The price tag of $150,000 was totally affordable for this Toronto wacko.” The two live simply. He rebuilt the original small cottage, which was basically a hunting cabin with a large fieldstone fireplace and no insulation.
“The Kids in the Hall paid for the first renovation,” he says.
Today, there are still many memories of the original PanAbode cottage. Several interior walls are the original wood.
Through the years, Campbell has muscled the ladder, swung a hammer and created a side addition that now houses a large living room, a large entrance and the master bedroom and bathroom on the second floor.
A second-level balcony boasts one of the best views in the region, looking westward, over the farmland and 100 rich variations of green. The exterior is a yellowish stucco, crafted because he likes the texture, while the windows are a bright red.
He has also reconfigured the original cottage, insulating the walls, adding insulation, rewiring and an efficient heating system.
This man of many talents has also made much of the furniture, from simple benches to a clothes hamper made from paint-grade plywood that has been dressed up with finishing strips of contrasting wood.
“I don’t have a lot of money. I went to art school, not dental school. So if we needed furniture, I made it.”
It is furniture with a curvy attitude. Not many straight lines, made from affordable wood with an upscale appeal.
Campbell also built his heated workshop to house his tools, supplies of wood and large work benches where he spends time each day — that is, when he’s not gardening.
Right now he is making a bedroom set for a colleague from Toronto.
“I sent along drawings, but it is going to take it’s own form. I like to surprise,” says Campbell. “I like quirky designs.”
He has a number of plans for furniture pieces and wants to experiment. He just doesn’t want to be told exactly what to do.
Who can blame him?
The home was originally a hunting cabin with no insulation.
A view of fields and trees from Campbell’s property.