Q & A with Gwen Lepage

GwenGwen Lepage isn’t just Sarilia’s property developer. She and her husband, Ronn, have made Sarilia their home. You could easily add several more titles to her name – community builder, Pilates teacher and gardener, to name just a few. We sat down recently to chat about Gwen’s life at Sarilia, how she builds community and her transition from city living to making a home and building a village in the river valley.

What do you like best about life at Sarilia?
What I like best is how I feel living here. I have hopped around different subdivisions in Saskatoon for about 40 years but I can easily say that I am the happiest I have ever been at Sarilia. I’ve always had a craving for space, solitude and calmness. My life at Sarilia strikes a good balance between satisfying that craving as well as the pleasure that comes from living in a place where I feel I belong. I like that everyone knows everyone in the village and that we are good neighbours and friends. I feel safe.

I enjoyed living in city but I didn’t have that same sense of “being home.” I also like being close to nature even though my kids say I’m getting a little koo-koo pants because I talk about the two eagles we have, the baby fawns that stroll through our yard, the bunnies that live at the end our lane and the coyotes that howl at night. Our lifestyle is more relaxed now and I like that we have way more time to spend with family and friends.

If you weren’t a developer and community builder, what would you be doing?
I would most likely be an interior designer. I like the process of envisioning, planning and breathing life into a space that is both reflective of someone’s personality and lifestyle, as well as being functional.

You used to live in Saskatoon. What was the transition like when you moved from the city to the river valley?
I was surprised that it took me about six months to settle in. At first, I found myself driving back into the city every day – trying to keep on living my old lifestyle on Broadway. My husband calls me his “go-back girl” because I dislike change. I liked going to my favorite coffee shop on Broadway and that they knew how I liked my coffee. I liked walking over to Las Palapas for fish tacos on Tuesday, sitting on the deck and drinking wine with friends. I liked biking everywhere. I missed the things I used to do in the city.

After six months, I started to remember who I was and what I wanted. I grew up on an acreage in rural Saskatchewan and that lifestyle slowly began to unfold again. Now, I have a huge patch in the community garden, I make my own salsa from the garden and we sit on our own deck overlooking the river, eating nachos and drinking wine with our friends. My husband and I drink our coffee in the screen porch so we can watch the wildlife. I walk everywhere. I play guitar with my friends, watch some pretty amazing sunsets and am a big fan of stargazing. I guess that’s why we call it a lifestyle change because your life and the things you do on a daily basis are different. These days, I schedule all my appointments together so I only have to go into the city twice a week – driving in the city stresses me out!

What are your hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?
I am a certified Pilates trainer and I love teaching. I teach two free classes a week to any Sarilia resident that has willingness and desire to learn. We do Pilates in my living room, on the deck and down at our beach. I am learning to play guitar, which has been a goal of mine for a long time. I enjoy a good read and of course, gardening with the Sarilia ladies.

Sarilia is well known for its sense of community. Can you tell us how you’ve built such a strong sense of community?
I think it comes from my desire to make or build something authentic and the ability to attract like-minded people to our community, most of whom have a rural background as well. I am blessed to have so many residents who are what I call “the village-builders.” They give freely of their time and talent to build decks, river trails, and gardens. Whatever we need, they find it, give it or build it. Life in the river valley is good.







Building community at Sarilia

Our community is the heart and soul of Sarilia. Our neighbours make us the vibrant village that we are, and our new buyers say it’s our sense of community that sealed the deal for them when they were looking for a place to call home. We’ve created a warm and welcoming place with some wonderful people with diverse backgrounds. But we never stop thinking of ways to build and grow our river valley community.

We love to have big gatherings and small get togethers. We enjoy rubbing shoulders with our friends and neighbours in our community garden, and sharing a glass of wine on the deck overlooking the river. But we’re always looking for ways to improve, and what better place to start than this list from Oh My Handmade: 60 Ways to Build Community. What would you add to it?


Meet the Neighbours – Part Two

In the second installment of our Meet the Neighbours series, we’re happy to introduce you to Amber and Matt. They’re in the process of building a custom home here in the river valley and we can’t wait to welcome them home to Sarilia!

Amber and Matt

Where are you both from originally?
Matthew and I both grew up in Saskatoon.

What was it about Sarilia that made you decide to buy a lot and build your home here?
So many things! First of all, the beauty of the place. The landscape is such a wonderful mix of prairie, hills, treed lots, and then the river. Having grown up in the city, and always having loved the access the city provides to entertainment, shopping, restaurants, etc., it was going to take a very special place to get me to build outside the city.

To me, Sarilia provides the peace and beauty that comes from country living, but with the community and neighbours that protects from that feeling of isolation I think I would have on an acreage.

Also, Matthew and I were not looking for a property that required the type of upkeep that some country/rural lots require, considering that we both work. On top of this, we feel that it is close enough to the city that we can handle the commute quite easily. In fact, I find that the drive out to Sarilia after a long day at work helps me to unwind and relax.

The cost of the lots at Sarilia compared to how much lots cost in the city means that we can build a home that we’ll love, and not have to sacrifice because of an expensive lot. Another major reason was that when we visit, we feel a real sense of community. We can’t wait to finally move out there and meet all of the neighbours.

Who are you building with?
We are building with a company called CNS Developments, who is doing a custom build with us. Curtis Mann, the builder, has been amazing and very accommodating. We’re very happy with him.

What are you most looking forward to about living in the river valley?
Waking up every day surrounded by such beauty! Matthew and I really value our downtime outside and our time with friends and family. I can’t wait to entertain out on our deck with the sun setting over the river valley! We currently don’t have children, but I can’t wait to one day raise our children out there. I love the idea of kids being able to play outside in the woods and the fields, discovering nature or wandering around and riding their bikes with the other kids in the neighbourhood and not having to worry about busy streets. I love that we’re going to live in a community where we know everyone.

What activities do you both enjoy?
We love riding our bikes and going for walks. I love to cook and bake. Right now I have summers off because I work in the school system, so I spend as much time as I can up at our family’s cabin at Nesslin Lake where we fish or just go out on the boat. Other than that, on weekends we spend a lot of time socializing with friends and family. Every Sunday we get together for supper with my family. I can’t wait to be able to host and have them out to our new home.

Tell us something about yourselves…
I’m a counsellor in the school division, which is a new job since I graduated with a master’s degree from the U of S. Two things that I never thought I would do in my life would certainly be working in the school system and living in the country, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that last year brought both of those things into my life!

Matthew and I have also made a promise to ourselves that we will make travel a priority in our lives. My favourite trip that we have gone on is our honeymoon, where we flew to Portland and then rented a car and took a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway for two weeks, ending in San Francisco.



Community Open House at Sarilia

Open House

Join us this Sunday, August 10 between 2-5 pm for a tour of Sarilia’s  community. You’ll meet the developers, Gwen and Ronn, who’ve made the river valley their home. You’ll also get an opportunity to look at available lots and potential house plans that would suit your lifestyle. Just bring yourselves and your curiosity. We’ll bring the refreshments and the sunshine!



Acreage and country living: Is it right for you?

The following article ran in the summer 2014 issue of Saskatoon Home magazine, and quoted Sarilia’s developer, Gwen Lepage.

Sarilia Country Estates sunset

Sundown at Sarilia

Developers outside Saskatoon are redefining what it means to live in the country. With easy access to amenities and a focus on community building, they’re finding a new set of buyers looking to trade in their slice of the city for wide-open spaces and starry nights. If you’re considering such a move, there are several questions you should ask yourself before placing a deposit on that pastoral piece of property.


What can you afford?
Aside from the lot price itself, there are often upfront and recurring costs to consider. Depending on the location, these can include fees for garbage and recycling pick up, septic services and water delivery. You may also need to factor in infrastructure costs such as holding tank installation and/or digging a well. Some developments have community association fees and some do not. You’ll want to consider what RM (rural municipality) it’s located in, what the tax base is, and if there are any development fees. 

What kind of lifestyle are you looking for?
Gwen Lepage, developer of Sarilia Country Estates, says buyers should start with why.“Why do you want to change where you live? What is going to be different after you make this move?” She adds, “My clients aren’t just shopping for a new house. They want a lifestyle change and that doesn’t mean hopping around the city from one neighbourhood to another. They want something else: a view, space and a sense of community. Quite often my clients have a rural background and have a strong desire to go back to a place that feels like home.”

What nearby amenities do you need?
A family with school-aged children will want to know the proximity to the nearest schools, and if school bus service is provided. Darren Hagen, developer of Grasswood Estates, says that Grasswood’s location is what appeals most to his property buyers. “We offer country living with modern city amenities just minutes away,” he says. “There’s a school within walking distance and the shops and services of Stonebridge are just five minutes north.” Aside from typical amenities like grocery stores and pharmacies, many buyers will want to know if there are nearby recreation facilities, trails or water access. Both Grasswood and Sarilia offer trails and water access, so they tend to attract nature lovers and outdoor adventurers with their opportunities for snowshoeing, hiking, biking and canoeing.

What are the local bylaws?
If your big move involves raising chickens, buying a horse, a boat, or taking up snowmobiling, you’ll want to look up the local bylaws of the RM the development is located in to ensure your plans are all above board. Zoning bylaws are set out by each municipality, which divides the land into zoning districts. Each district may have its own regulations specifying the size, location, dimension and types of buildings allowed, the provision of parking spaces, outdoor storage and landscaping.

What kind of house do you want to build?
Gwen recommends that property buyers avoid finalizing house plans until after they’ve settled on a property. “Maximizing an incredible view and ensuring privacy may well dictate the size and style of your house and will become a more important consideration than the actual floor plan or style,” she says.

If you have a style and size of house in mind, you’ll want to ask the developer about any architectural design standards that might be in place. Such standards are created to protect the value of the development and the homes within it. The standards may regulate factors such as the size, design, height and footprint of the home, landscaping, outdoor storage, setbacks, lighting, and whether pools or hot tubs are permitted.

What compromises are you willing to make?
Often when we think of the country, we picture a bucolic, peaceful retreat from fast-paced urban living. Rural life can be idyllic, but just like living in the city, there are certain realities you’ll need to carefully consider.

If moving from an urban area, one of the biggest changes may be the amount of yard work involved. Some developments keep the landscaping all natural, while others will require frequent maintenance. You’ll need to ask yourself if you’re willing to invest in a ride-on mower and devote the time to maintain those wide-open spaces.

If the move involves a longer drive to work, it’s a good idea to get in your car and test out the commute during peak and non-peak hours. Once you’ve tested it, you’ll have a better idea if it’s an acceptable, comfortable commute. If so, here’s hoping those country roads will soon take you home to the place you belong. – Saskatoon Home


Questions to ask property developer



© 2014 Saskatoon Home magazine

To read the original version, click here.

Three succulents that thrive in Saskatchewan gardens

Aside from the stunning North Saskatchewan River on our doorstep, one of our favourite features at Sarilia is our community garden. It’s a great excuse to get together as neighbours and share a connection with nature.

Now that spring is finally showing signs of arriving and the ground begins to thaw, many of us are starting to plan (and plant) our gardens, so we thought we’d share a few flora that flourish in Saskatchewan’s unpredictable climate. We may just try a few of these in our community garden this year…

1. Sempervivum – Hens and chicks

hens and chicksThese beautiful, spreading succulents need full sun and good drainage. Considered drought tolerant, they’re ideal for a low-water garden or xeriscaping. They thrive on neglect, making them the perfect plant for those of us lacking green thumbs. And the bonus for those of us who live in the country? The deer haven’t acquired a taste for them, so they’ll be left alone.


There are over 50 species of hens and chicks. At a recent talk in Saskatoon, CBC’s gardening guru, Lyndon Penner, noted that the Pacific Rim variety is capable of surviving our harsh Saskatchewan winters.

2.  Sedum – Autumn Joy


Autumn Joy may not look like your typical succulent, but any plant that stores water in its leaves or stem is a succulent.

Another one of Penner’s favourite perennials for the prairies was Autumn Joy. Many gardeners lament that by late summer and early fall, their gardens aren’t as beautiful because all the blooms are gone. That’s not the case when you plant Autumn Joy, as it blooms in August and the dark pink flowers hang around well into the fall. Like hens and chicks, they like full sun. Moist soil is preferred, but this adaptable plant can still survive in drier soil. This blushing beauty attracts butterflies, but unfortunately, the deer like it too!



3. Sedum rupestre – Angelina

Sedum Angelina

If you love bright colours in your garden, consider planting Sedum Angelina. This striking chartreuse plant is an excellent ground cover as it spreads quickly. Full sun is recommended, but it will tolerate light shade. These drought tolerant succulents also look great in containers and hanging baskets as they will cascade over the edges. Yellow star-shaped flowers bloom from them in summer, and in the fall the leaves will often turn a beautiful amber.

If you’re looking for more information on gardening in Saskatchewan, Dutch Growers has a helpful plant finder on their website. Lyndon Penner also has a great new book out, titled, The Prairie Short Season Yard.

What does your garden grow this summer? Please share your plans with us in the comments section. Until next time, happy gardening!






Three home building tips for saving your time, money and sanity

My husband Josh and I are building an infill home in one of Saskatoon’s older neighbourhoods. Josh works in construction so he’s acting as our general contractor. He’s overseen the plumbing, electrical, and mechanical elements, while I’ve been making the design decisions. The process has been both exciting and stressful, but we’ve received lots of helpful advice from people who’ve been in our shoes. Here are three of the latest home building tips I’ve learned from others, or learned the hard way:

  1. Visit the site as much as possible.
    Soaker TubEven if you’ve hired a general contractor, visit your building site as often as possible – daily if you can swing it. You will likely find mistakes and oversights, and catching them early usually means they can be fixed quickly and easily.

    One of our plumbers had to move our soaker tub out of the master bathroom while the pipes were being installed. He moved it to our walk-in closet and soon after, the drywallers got to work. They drywalled the walk-in closet with the tub still sitting there and now the tub won’t fit through the door. Had we visited the site that day, we wouldn’t currently be dealing with a bathroom/closet hybrid. Josh is confident that – with another set of strong arms – he can lift the tub, flip it sideways and fit it through the door frame. If that doesn’t work, the drywall around the door frame will have to come down. Fingers crossed for Plan A.

  1. Borrow samples of finishing materials.
    CarpetThe colour of any finishing material can look quite different in the store versus the place where it’ll eventually be installed. Ask for samples and take them to your building site. View the material in both shade and direct sunlight. The bigger the sample, the better. This goes for everything: carpet and hardwood samples, countertops, tile, and exterior finishes like brick, stone, and stucco.

    Our home’s exterior will be a mix of stucco, cedar and brick. We couldn’t decide between two shades of dark-grey stucco, so we gave our installers the two paint swatches we were considering. They mixed two samples and created two stucco boards which we brought to the site to hold up in the sunlight and shade. It made the decision much easier. When it came time to choose the brick, we borrowed light-grey samples that would contrast with the stucco. In the sunlight, a few samples looked pinkish-grey so they were taken out of the running.

    If you’re deciding on an exterior material like brick, stone or even roofing, ask the supplier if there’s a home clad in that material that you can go take a look at. In our case, we liked particular shade of brick and were given an address where we’d find a home entirely clad in that particular shade. Once we saw the home in person, we decided it wasn’t quite our style.

  1. Once you’ve made your choices, stop looking and comparing.
    This is has been one of my biggest struggles. We now have a plethora of places for gleaning new design ideas: Pinterest, décor magazines, HGTV, Houzz, the list goes on. Just when you think you’ve found the perfect pendant lights for your island, you catch a glimpse at one of Sarah Richardson’s latest kitchens and decide that you’ve made the wrong choice. You suddenly can’t live without Sarah’s sparkling silver pendants.

    I have to remind myself that I’ve done my research, having poured over hundreds of lighting options in the past year. There will always be new products coming out, and the more you look around, the more you’ll second guess yourself. Once you’ve shopped around, make your decision and be confident you’ve made the right choice. And if you simply can’t stop looking, make a Pinterest board for your next home, or your next renovation.