Design

GREAT SPACE: A sunny condo pays homage to Danish design and Canada’s North

This story appears in the October edition of Ottawa Magazine, on newsstands now. See more photos in the print edition. Click here to subscribe to the print or digital versions.

By Sarah Brown; Photography by Gordon King

To create this open and sunny great room, Langlois removed a wall, which originally ran parallel to the windows, because it cut off light to the living and dining rooms. The divider is a functional piece of artwork that gives some separation to the kitchen space.
To create this open and sunny great room, Langlois removed a wall, which originally ran parallel to the windows, because it cut off light to the living and dining rooms. The divider is a functional piece of artwork that gives some separation to the kitchen space.

When this 3,000-square-foot condo went on the market, the design-savvy couple took a tour and immediately recognized it was a great space. But it was also a tired space, virtually unrenovated since the 1980s and in desperate need of a serious update. And so Kenn Harper and Kathleen Lippa, who split their time between Ottawa and Iqaluit, contacted Irene Langlois to come in and take a look at their Dows Lake-area condo the moment they got possession in February. In the six months that followed, the owner of Irene Langlois Interiors would guide them through a renovation designed to pay homage to their love of Danish design and their affinity for the North.

The dramatic marble backsplash references the sweeping vistas of the Arctic one might see from an airplane.
The dramatic marble backsplash references the sweeping vistas of the Arctic one might see from an airplane.

The focal point of the transformation is the partition in the great room, an arresting art piece that divides the living and dining rooms from the kitchen while adding glamour to the room as a whole.

The genesis for the piece was the couple’s love of Danish design. That’s where the concept of using wood — maple, in this case — began.

But the muse was the North. “We wanted to tie whatever we came up with to the Arctic,” explains Langlois. “As we brainstormed, the inspiration for the piece became the breaking up of ice floes in spring — how they fracture and separate.”

She credits her clients for being courageous in embracing the concept and never wavering as it transitioned from drawing to reality. Frank Prendergast of NeoForm Cabinetry made a miniature maquette of the piece for approval before creating the full-sized model, each maple panel set at a compound angle. It took a week to assemble, each piece painstaking carried up to the fourth-floor space. “He is truly an artist,” says Langlois, her voice reverent as she discusses how thrilled she and the clients are with the finished design.

The kitchen also references the owners’ love for the North. The massive marble slab, which acts as a dramatic backsplash, was chosen for its resemblance to the sweeping aerial view of the Arctic landscapes. The marble was so heavy that Langlois originally thought they might have to take it in by crane, but the installers somehow managed to get it up in the elevator. The surrounding kitchen has a clean, streamlined look, with the warm grey of the cabinetry chosen to ensure the space does not feel stark.

Langlois sourced the couch and side chairs from the Laval outlet of BoConcept, a Denmark-based company that has been designing and manufacturing furniture for almost 60 years. The two landscape paintings above the couch are by Einar Throbjorn, and depict the south-west coast of Greenland, where the couple has travelled extensively.
Langlois sourced the couch and side chairs from the Laval outlet of BoConcept, a Denmark-based company that has been designing and manufacturing furniture for almost 60 years. The two landscape paintings above the couch are by Einar Throbjorn, and depict the south-west coast of Greenland, where the couple has travelled extensively.