This article was originally published in the October 2015 print edition of Ottawa Magazine. Image above, by Doublespace Photography, has been cropped to fit space. Full image presented below.
Tom Vtipil has been in the renovation business for a decade, so it was perhaps just a matter of time before he got the itch to build his own house from the ground up.
In the waning days of 2012, he and his partner, Mellissa Campbell, bought a dilapidated duplex on a quiet Hintonburg street, living there for close to a year while they drew up plans to replace it with their own vision — a light-filled duplex with a uniquely patterned exterior.
The couple collaborated with architect John Donkin, whom Tom describes as being very knowledgeable while remaining open to outside ideas. “It was a very comfortable partnership. He didn’t try to limit our input.”
The couple broke ground in late 2013, with construction taking the better part of a year as Tom and Mellissa did most of the work themselves with the help of family and friends. The west-facing duplex incorporates a one-bedroom rental apartment on the main floor; the couple occupy the upper two floors. Here, they have created a sunny oasis, with a two-storey window at the front and two balconies on the back taking full advantage of the light. That light illuminates rustic pine floors and predominantely white furnishings, giving the rooms a clean but cozy vibe.
Indeed, having a clean palette was a deliberate decision aimed at allowing nature to provide most of the interior “art.” As sunlight filters through the leaves of a giant maple in the yard across the street, the colours within the house morph with the seasons — shifting grey tones in winter are followed by green in spring and summer, then sunny yellows and oranges in autumn.
And while the house shines like a light box at night, during the day, it is the exterior that commands attention. Eye-catching yet refined, it was created from 12-foot sections of cement-board siding, carefully cut and placed in an exact pattern mapped out by the architects. A staircase along the side of the house sees slats of cedar providing shelter from the elements.
A year after moving in, Tom and Mellissa couldn’t be happier. “We love the feel of the space,” explains Mellissa. “It’s airy and breezy, and that makes it calming.”