Ontario couple find business in restoring rural Newfoundland's saltbox houses

Janet Denstedt saw an incredible beauty in saltbox houses that she wanted to share with the world — so she bought 10 of them.

Company hopes to spark appreciation for outport beauty with 10 houses around province

The Old Saltbox Co. has 10 houses around rural parts of Newfoundland, including this one in Twillingate. (Old Saltbox Co.)

Janet Denstedt saw an incredible beauty in saltbox houses that she wanted to share with the world — so she bought 10 of them.

The Muskoka, Ont., woman grew up with tourism all around her, deep within the country's finest cottage country. But when she came to Newfoundland, she experienced something she'd never seen before.

"Fell in love with it at first sight," she said. "I think it was the rugged beauty of the province, the warmth and kindness of the people and just the freedom," Denstedt said. "I felt like we were stepping back in time."

Fell in love with it at first sight.- Janet Denstedt

Looking at some of the old homes in shrinking rural communities, Denstedt and her husband, Richard Wharton, saw a chance to anchor themselves to the province and preserve that feeling.

Business opportunity

They bought and restored their first saltbox house on Fogo Island, at the base of Brimstone Head, thus launching the Old Saltbox Co.

"It was a business opportunity, but just also wanting to share with other people the magic and the special feelings when we first came and we first experienced it," she said. "I think that's what drives us most."

The Old Saltbox Co. restores homes and decorates them with a modern touch. (Old Saltbox Co.)

The homes are all variations of the classic saltbox model — two storeys in the front, one in the back, typically with one roof sloping over both sides.

They feature large windows with views of rugged cliffs and crashing waves, and are decorated with fashionable furnishings.

Commercials creating customers

Denstedt said the first thing potential tourists ask when they call to inquire about the homes is if the province is actually like it is on the tourism commercials. 

"I don't think anyone believes it until they actually see it," she said.

This house, called Mary's Place, is located on the rural and trendy Fogo Island. (Old Saltbox Co.)

The company has three houses in Fogo and three in the Twillingate area, along with houses in Musgrave Harbour, Greenspond, Burgeo and Francois.

"We're working on a few projects now. Of course we like to keep that a secret in our back pocket until the big reveal, but we are definitely moving forward and beyond," Denstedt said.

When asked to give a hint, she said, "North, maybe, toward Labrador."

With files from St. John's Morning Show