We talk to homeowners and contractors about the goals, challenges, and highlights in recent Ottawa-area projects
A BRIGHT BASEMENT – Just Basements
The house: A 30-year-old four-bedroom in Rockcliffe Park.
The clients: Active empty nesters readying their home for retirement.
The goal(s): A multi-functional relaxation area. While repairing flood damage, the team went in with an eye to support the family’s hobbies of reading, entertaining, and enjoying themselves at home. The original bathroom, which sustained the most damage, was expanded and improved with a spacious custom shower. In addition, to prevent similar incidents in the future, the incoming water service and alarm system were fitted with the latest in intelligent leak-detection technology.
Key early decision(s): Add storage by using creative solutions and seamless cabinetry that would also hide utilities.
Tough call: The electrical panel and the location of a large clean-out stack were at opposite ends of the space and both needed to be concealed. The Just Basements team leveraged the cabinetry design in order to hide the pipes in a discrete yet practical way. The creation of a custom wall detail behind the couch in the media room both conceals and adds storage. The existing clean-out stack sat out front of the wall in the hallway adjacent to the wet bar; by encapsulating it in cabinetry, the spaces come together nicely — and stay tidy due to increased storage space.
Fun finishes: Custom cabinetry offers an attractive and practical way to display the extensive book collection amongst the new gas fireplace and bench seating. The soft blue-green tone in the wet bar area, and in other areas of the basement, pairs nicely with the wood cabinets. In the end, the backsplash tile of the wet bar, the living room light fixture, the vibrant art display, the custom shelving, and the French doors all work together to create a space that boasts function while reflecting the homeowners’ personalities.
Renovation team: Designer Mallory McCarthy of Artium Design Build/ Just Basements. Cabinetry by Karhu Woodworking.
Key suppliers: Boone Mondeau, Euro Tile and Stone, and Mulitluminare. Franks Building Supply and Signature Audio Video set up the home theatre and audio system.
ENSUITE DREAMS ~ MAG Interior Design
The house: A 20-year-old, four-bedroom in Riverside South.
The clients: Family of three, with both parents working from home. A trip to Greece inspired the design.
The goal(s): Better use of space and improved ambience. This was achieved by replacing the single sink with a double sink, installing a large corner shower, and replacing the traditional tub with a beautiful freestanding unit. The neutral colour palette brings calm to the space, and pops of blue-green add a beachy vibe.
Key early decision: The choice to go with a freestanding tub and an extra sink were critical steps. “We opted for two sinks because one sink was not functional enough for a master bath,” notes Maria Gordillo of MAG Interior Design. “Also, the shower was enlarged to fit the space. It’s not your typical shower size but that is why you hire a designer, to make sure we can maximize the space and the overall functionality and aesthetics.”
Tough call: Tile selection was tough because a lot of options were out of stock or back-ordered because of the pandemic. The blue shower tile was especially difficult to locate. “Solving that problem was more about sourcing and spending time on my end looking for the best option before presenting to the clients.”
Fun finishes: The beachy aesthetic of this bathroom called for styling elements that would contrast with the sand tones and blue tiles, as well as complement the natural oak wood vanity.
Renovation team: Richard Larocque from Vala Home Improvements was the contractor and project manager for the bathroom remodel, which was part of a
full renovation of the house. Maria Gordillo from MAG Interior Design oversaw the bathroom design.
Key suppliers: House of Fine Carpentry assisted with design, manufacturing, and installation of cabinetry. Plumbing items were sourced from The Ensuite; the
quartz countertop is Silestone and was installed by Stone Design Concepts; lighting came from Marchand Electric, and tile from Euro Tile and Stone.
BIGGER IS BETTER ~ Lisa Balerna, homeowner
The house: A 1970s-era home in Westboro with three bedrooms and three bathrooms.
The clients: Lisa Balerna is a budding designer who works from home. “I am a high-energy person but I want my home to give me a feeling of serenity and calm. I am sure many others were trying to achieve this during the pandemic. I wanted a bright room with no clutter. Many don’t realize how clutter can affect your mental state.” A self-described nature lover, Balerna wanted large windows with outdoor views.
The goal(s): Better natural light, improved wall colour, nicer interior doors, new flooring — in general, a relaxing space to read and work.
Key early decision(s): Acquiring several quotes, as well as reading reviews and asking questions of the professionals was key. “Some of my quotes varied drastically so I compared the details carefully. You want to make sure you’re not comparing apples to oranges; some companies might include things that others don’t. I also took notice of companies who were very timely with their responses,” says Balerna. “Early on I chose the windows, as they needed to be ordered months in advance and because it was a major part of my investment I didn’t want to settle.”
Tough call: “While it was tempting to rethink my flooring choice, given the pandemic-related delay, I really wanted high-quality hardwood maple flooring,” recalls Balerna. “And I wanted to work with a company that had a great reputation. So I waited several weeks for flooring and installation to happen. When a home is being sold, one of the key features buyers look for in a listing is flooring. Nothing compares to beautiful hardwood flooring.”
Fun finishes: Art from postery.com; basket by lounge chair through Zara Home; bookcase baskets and planters from Zone Maison.
Renovation team: Project manager Lisa Balerna; flooring by Rome Flooring; windows by Verdun Windows.
A MODERN OASIS ~ Yards Unlimited
The house: A three-bedroom in Old Ottawa South that was built in 1916.
The clients: A blended family with five older children.
The goal: An outdoor space that is fun and modern and feels like part of the living space of the house, complete with functionality and imagination. “We came from a house with a pool, where kids and friends gathered in our outdoor space,” says homeowner Lisa Moore. “We needed to find a different type of gathering place, using levels and generous gardens along with a firepit.”
Key early decisions: When Moore and her family bought the property, the backyard was mostly grass and overgrown bushes; an underused deck was only accessible from the basement. (The house is built into the hill of Glen Avenue, a unique challenge for house and landscape designers.) In renovating the house, local architecture firm Urban Keios positioned the back doors to open into the yard, with an exterior concrete staircase leading to the below-level backyard. Yards Unlimited took it from there. “We went to work by first creating a landscape design that matched the style of the house and still keeping the functionality the client
wanted for the yard,” says Ian Stewart of Yards Unlimited.
Tough call: The access to the backyard was extremely tight so installation timing of all the elements in the backyard had to be precisely orchestrated. “We did not have much room to store material in the back or front yards, which also made things very difficult,” says Stewart. “These types of yards can be very difficult to work on, but very rewarding also.” Indeed, the project recently won an Award of Excellence with Landscape Ontario.
Fun finishes: “The landscaping products chosen were products that reflect the house finishings,” explains Stewart. “Everything chosen is sharp and architectural with clean lines, however we did twist them slightly by incorporating curved outer lines. This softened the sharpness of the product and softened the feel of the backyard. The yard was to feel warm and welcoming but not cluttered.”
Renovation team: Yards Unlimited Landscaping Inc.
Key suppliers: Pavers-Techo Bloc from Artistic Landscape Design.