URBAN STUDY: Inside the Flora Street home of Patrick Hajas and Erin Silsbe

This article first appeared in the September issue of Ottawa Magazine. Sign up for a subscription or order back issues here.

The core is in the midst of a dramatic renewal as Ottawa transforms from big town to small city.
Ottawa Magazine visits the people who are flourishing in revitalized downtown neighbourhoods


She works in environmental policy; his green principles include seeing no reason to have a licence or drive a car. They both appreciate good design. And so it seemed

Photo by Christian Lalonde -
Photo by Christian Lalonde –

as if it was meant to be when, in 2010, Erin Silsbe, the new owner of a home in Centretown, wandered into Alteriors furniture store looking for a couch. Patrick Hajas (who has since launched his own furniture business) sold her a sectional sofa for her living room. “And then we bonded over House & Home and Dwell magazines,” says Erin, with a laugh. Four years later, the committed urban residents are raising their two children in a house they have renovated to include huge patio doors that open out onto a backyard deck. Patrick calls it a “great indoor-outdoor space,” one that they use to the max in the summer months.

Names: Erin Silsbe and Patrick Hajas (plus Madeleine, 2, and William, 4 months)

Occupations: Erin is a policy analyst with Environment Canada; Patrick owns furniture store A Modern Space in Hintonburg

Home: 1,700-square-foot brick single, circa 1919

Neighbourhood: Centretown

Previous home: Patrick grew up on a 50-acre farm in southern Ontario but got to know downtown Ottawa as a Sandy Hill resident while studying at Algonquin College. Erin grew up in the Broadview Avenue area, then lived and worked in Calgary; Washington, D.C.; and Toronto before returning to Ottawa in 2010.

On living downtown…

Patrick: People have a lot of misconceptions about what it’s really like to live downtown.
Don’t be scared.

What drew you to this neighbourhood?

Erin: I knew I wanted to be downtown — I wanted to create as small an environmental footprint as possible. It was critical to me that I be able to walk just about everywhere.

Patrick: Erin and I met after she had bought the house. So I lucked into the neighbourhood.

What other neighbourhoods were you eyeing?

Erin: I looked at about 15 houses before I bought, including in Sandy Hill and the Golden Triangle. I had moved a lot before this, so I was looking for a place to settle down. 

Why this house?

Erin: I loved the character. And I really wanted a front porch — that was something I had appreciated from my days at Queen’s University. I also loved that the property had all these big trees.

Patrick: When I moved in, Erin had already done some renovations. We’ve been doing things ever since. There’s a long to-do list with an older house like this, but we both like that. If there was nothing to do, we’d be bored.

Favourite features?

Patrick: The giant patio door that we put in. It opens out onto the deck and creates this great indoor-outdoor space.

Erin: I can be inside with Will, and Maddie can be running around on the deck. In the summer, the deck becomes part of the whole house.

Least favourite?

Patrick: The low ceiling in the basement.

Erin: Just one bathroom.

Biggest misconceptions about urban living?

Patrick: People often think that it’s not a place for families.

Erin: There are 12 kids just in the little block that we live in. There’s been a real influx of families recently.

Patrick: And we’re close to museums. There are green spaces and parks right around the corner.

Biggest benefits?

Patrick: You have so much more free time when you don’t have to factor in a big commute every day.

How long do you plan to stay?

Erin: We have no plans to move.

Advice to wannabe urban dwellers?

Patrick: Don’t be afraid of downtown! There are a lot of families here. It’s a really friendly place.

 Click on the thumbnails for a virtual tour of Patrick and Erin’s home.