Homes

Great Space: Globetrotting educators revamp, then put up for sale, their one-of-a-kind bungalow

This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 edition of Ottawa Magazine

They thought it would be their forever home, but though they remain smitten, Roy and Carol Kirby are moving on. “There will be no mourning,” says Carol. “We’ve truly loved this house for four years, but we’ve realized that we’re just too busy to commit the time to it.”

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The kitchen island helps define the workspace that Carol needs, “I don’t like anyone in the kitchen when I’m cooking.” Photo by Gordon King

The brief but bright love affair began in the fall of 2011 when the Kirbys, then living in a Westboro townhome, toured the 1970s bungalow, immediately falling head over heels for its modern vibe. They were enthralled with the bold triangular skylights, which are positioned to create a show-stopping geometric ceiling that floods the main living area with light. They also valued the location on the bank of the Jock River and looked forward to waking up each morning surrounded by nature.

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The dining room boasts beautiful, nature-filled views. Photo by Gordon King

Just a week after taking possession, they began an extensive renovation to make it truly their own. “We wanted to preserve its character,” explains Roy, “but have it fit our sense of style.” The couple teamed up with design-builder Gerhard Linse, whom they credit with helping them craft a vision for the space. He counselled removing the various half walls that broke up the living, kitchen, and dining areas, opening up the room to take advantage of the signature skylight and iconic fireplace. The Kirbys’ design sensibility was already modern, so their furniture — most of it from Phillip Van Leeuwen — moved with them from the townhouse.

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The open display cabinet showcases keepsakes collected over the couple’s years together. Photo by Gordon King

Ample wall space allowed the couple to display their favourite paintings and prints, many by local artists, while an open shelving unit that partitions off the dining room showcases keepsakes collected over five decades of adventure — soapstone carvings from Labrador, where the couple met 56 years ago; sculptures from Kenya, where Carol set up a school for the Aga Khan Education Service in the 1990s; and a graceful tea set from China, where they now teach part-time. The many mementoes are evidence of a wanderlust that has kept them on the move throughout their marriage. And that is the reason their forever house is up for sale.

“Though we are very happy here, when we thought about how we wanted to spend our time, it really isn’t gardening,” says Carol with a smile. Now in their mid-70s, the couple continues to spend a good part of each year in China, where they teach at a North American-affiliated university while also endeavouring to keep up with children and grandchildren living in Europe. So although Ottawa remains home base, they’re now looking for a condo with a view. “We had so much fun with this project and this house,” says Carol. “We really hope that the next family that moves in enjoys it as much as we have.”

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.