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Why this is custom builder Joe Brennan’s favourite room

The interior picture of Joe Brennan's living room in his house in the 1000 Islands, Gananoque, Ont., on Friday July 4, 2014.

Lars Hagberg/The Globe and Mail

In 2011, Toronto-based custom builder Joe Brennan bought a private five-acre island near Gananoque, Ont., where he and Danny Greenglass, his partner in life and business, have since built a summer residence. Set on the sparkling shores of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the single-level abode has windows looking out toward both the Thousand Islands and the New York State mainland beyond. The property is also close to Riverstone, a luxury 68-unit condo/townhouse development that Brennan is constructing at abandoned factory buildings near the Gananoque marina. Inspiration for the project is Brennan's own home, which combines local materials and sleek, high-end design, a style evident in the main sitting area. "It's got windows and water on both sides and the fireplace is made of stone from the island," Brennan says. "You are constantly reminded of the water and forest on the outside."

The fireplace

"This is made from stone collected on the island within about 100 feet of where the fireplace stands. I had never done that in more than 40 years of construction – picked up the raw material off the ground and built something from it. The fireplace is the focal point. It's the most rustic texture in the room."

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The coffee table

"We got our iron-railings guy, who we use on many of our projects, to make the bronze base, and our stone guy in Toronto to make the top. It's a juxtaposition between the really rough stone of the island and honed stone. I think the two really work well together."

The flowers

"The first thing we did when we bought the island was plant lilacs and peonies so we would have fresh flowers in the house in the spring. These are the peonies, picked just outside our door."

The eagles

"They are lead eagles from with a wing span of about four feet. I bought them in an antique store in Toronto and they are really fantastic. I think it is fitting that they are now looking over at the U.S."

The walls

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"This is sand-blasted clear cypress. I have used this material in Florida when building custom homes for clients. I like the texture. It shows the grain very well."

The chairs

"These are white leather and I bought them in New York at Ralph Lauren 20 years ago. They are very comfortable to sit in and have very clean lines."

The ice saw

"This was an important instrument on the St. Lawrence. When the river froze, men would score the ice with a pattern using the saw and get blocks of ice, which would would then be put in ice houses for use in the summer. We found it on the ground on the island next door. It's a link to the rich cultural heritage of the Thousand Islands."

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About the Author

Deirdre Kelly is a features writer for The Globe and Mail. She is the author of the best-selling Paris Times Eight and Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection (Greystone Books). More


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