For close to a decade, Veronica Martin lived in Toronto and travelled the world for noted design firm Yabu Pushelberg, creating imaginative boutique hotel and restaurant spaces. But once her two daughters (now aged five and three) were born, the demanding travel schedule no longer held the same allure.
In 2013, the young family made the decision to move to Ottawa: husband Dave Martin had grown up in Westboro, and Veronica knew the city well from her days here as an interior design student at Algonquin College. With visions of a traditional centre-plan house in mind, Veronica and her family rented in Wellington Village and she set about scouting “every open house imaginable in this neighourhood, Westboro, and the Glebe.”
Veronica promptly spotted — and fell in love with — a stately brick house just a few streets away from where they were renting. Unfortunately it wasn’t for sale. But her real estate agent got in touch with the homeowners, who, it turned out, were considering downsizing. A deal was quickly done, and the owner of Veronica Martin Design Studio began planning her first renovation in Ottawa. Just over three months later, it was complete. The 80-year-old house retained its traditional exterior, including a grand front porch, but the interior was refreshed and a two-storey, 1,000-foot addition at the back made space for a sunny great room on the first floor and a luxe master bedroom on the second.
The great room is the showpiece, a spacious open-concept sitting, dining, and kitchen area planned for living and entertaining. “I really enjoy formal rooms, and I designed this particular room in my head years ago,” explains Veronica. She loves the idea of creating “a moment” when you walk into a space, with the commanding wooden table, unique light fixture, and cozy raised fireplace setting the tone.
The kitchen, too, is planned with a strong focal point — in this case, the heavily patterned marble backsplash that stands out as a work of art in its own alcove. Some see a face staring back at them when they study the backsplash, though Dave, a Pearl Jam fan, insists that he can pick out Stickman.
The entire renovation was undertaken with an eye to preserving the character of the house. “It has great bones,” explains Veronica, adding that even as she modernized the interior, she made sure to conserve such key features as the interior doors, baseboards, and leaded-glass windows. And when the bricks on the back of the house were removed to make way for the addition, she had them carefully preserved and reused to build a garage at the back of the driveway.
“I designed this house in my head years ago,” says Martin. “It has been great to finally make it happen.”