Country comfort defines historic family home

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Rather than meticulously planning the design on paper, Martin de Rosales takes what he calls an organic approach.

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Ask Jordan Martin de Rosales what the design inspiration for the boutique hotel he owns in Picton is, and the threads can get tangled like an old family tree.

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The 30-year-old grew up in nearby Hastings and moved to Prince Edward County three years ago from London, UK.

Fascinated by history, he is a bit of an Egyptologist, a buff of British architecture and a lover of beautiful things, old or new, as his many collections prove. He spent a lot of time in Finland, Dubai and Zimbabwe.

After a stint in luxury hospitality and brand consulting, Martin de Rosales realized his dream of independent ownership by buying Merrill House in 2018.

He fell hard on its neo-Gothic charms – frothy bargeboard trim, thin chimneys and exaggerated angles. Inside, there is the layered and visually rich design story that Martin de Rosales has woven from the lives of generations of occupants and his own past.

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Very much in the style of the English country house, Martin de Rosales includes Loyalist artifacts and family history in a second-floor display. Here, however, you will also find exquisite feathers from Rebecca Maracle, an artist and traditional healer who lives on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory between Napanee and Belleville.

On the first floor there are pieces of natural history, including a huge peacock (he died of natural causes) against flamboyant blue and gold paper, as well as stacks of old books and coffee table, sculptures – sometimes on pedestals – vases, ceramics, and wonderful children’s books written by Martin de Rosales and illustrated by her husband Evert.

Public spaces on the first floor include a low-key but beautiful concierge nook and a plant-filled breakfast/tea/work nook with black-and-white checkerboard flooring. It overlooks a living room with a mural by artist Roshanak M. Heravi who interprets the Egyptian creation myth in black, white and gold.

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Art ranges from 18th-century Japanese prints to framed advertisements for “servants” to portraits by local artists of original owner Edwards Merrill. Other artwork comes from the local MD Gallery, housed in a historic barracks at Camp Picton, a World War II airport now known as Base 31.

Overseeing every aspect of the interior design and renovation, Martin de Rosales insisted that each room had both its own personality and a connection to the rest of the house. A simple tie, he says, are the books he places everywhere “to engage people in every room.”

A highlight of Merrill House is an elegant English afternoon tea, with a vintage pot, loose leaf tea and strainers, served with a stand of delicate cakes and sandwiches, and bowls of clotted cream and local jam.

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For home use, modern service items can often be found at local studios, including the Arts on Main Gallery in Picton, where ceramic works by artists like David Drown are on sale.

Another recurring element; striking wallcoverings, including a custom green and gold foil that adds sparkle to an alcove. It, and other exceptionally high quality murals and papers, are from Fine and Dandy, Toronto. TIP: Mainstream brands like Graham and Brown are now making murals, and Katie Hunt’s Remix collection is pretty and affordable.

Velvet is another luxurious element running through the home. In a living room, fringed chairs and ottomans are crafted in a custom palette of poppy velvet from Spanish brand houtique, and it shows up in a third-floor suite in sapphire blue tub chairs and sapphire treatments. window that complement the William Morris wallpaper. TIP: Arren Williams’ range of hand-washable poly velor pillows at The Bay are a less expensive way to add that touch of luxury.

For more on-site dining and an award-winning wine list featuring delicious local vintages, visit www.aroundthehouse.ca

Rather than meticulously planning the design on paper, Martin de Rosales takes what he calls an organic approach. “I like running around, changing furniture, hanging things up and down, and seeing how it works,” he says. “This is how a home naturally evolves.”

Vicky Sanderson is the editor of Around the House, www. around the house. California. Check her out on [email protected], Twitter ATHwithVicky and/or Facebook.com/ATHVicky.ca.

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Toya J. Bell