Homes

A slice of cottage life in Rothwell Heights

Shauna, Mathieu, and their two young sons appeared on the cover of our 2019 Real Estate issue. In that issue, they talked about their decision to move to Rothwell Heights. Here, we take a closer look inside their custom home. 

Photo by RuivoBrown

As an outdoorsy couple with modern tastes, Shauna and Mathieu had a tough time deciding on where to live in Ottawa.

When they first went house-hunting seven years ago, they were discouraged by the lot sizes in central Ottawa. They both grew up outside of the city — Mathieu in a village outside of Ottawa, Shauna on a farm. They like the modern look, and wanted to be in an area that fit their active lifestyles, but those downtown infills felt a bit cramped.

Then they discovered Rothwell Heights.

“It was dusk, the air was really fresh,” recalls Shauna. “Due to the lack of streetlights it felt a bit like we were outside the city. I could see the stars.”

Indeed, Rothwell Heights has a reputation for stunning architecture — many of the original 1960s homes were built by pioneering architects, many in the distinct mid-century modern style. Bordered by Blair Road to the west, Montreal Road to the south, Oglivie Road to the east and the Ottawa River to the south, the big lots and proximity to the river offer people like Shauna and Mathieu an opportunity to merge fantasies of country living with the convenience of living inside the city.

“We were in the backyard, surrounded by the lovely old trees in this wonderful green space, when we saw the potential of the place. It was really the backyard and the old trees that made us want to buy it.”

While they were lukewarm on the original aqua-coloured split-level, the couple quickly fell in love with the ‘hood. Located close to the Etienne Cartier Parkway, the east-end neighbourhood is ideal for morning runs and family bike rides. Plus, the lot was large enough to accommodate a modern style house, but with room to roam (and a massive deck). And so, in 2017, they tore down the original house and rebuilt their dream home — a chic, modern build featuring a rustic exterior, lots of big windows, and an open, playful interior.

The traditional entryway is bright and welcoming, with tile and a floating cabinet that allows for boots and shoes underneath. Photos by Kevin Belanger

 

One of the couple’s favourite elements is the large map of New York City — memorable because it is where they first travelled together. Shauna sourced it through Majesty Maps in Vancouver. The powder room wallpaper is always a conversation starter. Photos by Kevin Belanger

The project brought together three well-established Ottawa companies: Flynn Architect, Casa Verde Construction, and O’Keefe-Fiorenza Design Group.

From the start, the goal was a house that would embrace its surroundings — the mature trees, the night sky — which meant big windows on both floors.

“Shauna and Mathieu are very much tied to their neighbourhood and to their natural surroundings,” says architect Jason Flynn. “For them, it was critical the that design be clearly modern but executed with a softer touch.”

Engineered white oak in 7.5-inch planks was used throughout the house. Photo by Kevin Belanger

 

By cladding the fireplace in a concrete tile, the designers softened the space and further blended indoors with outdoors. Photo by Kevin Belanger

 

The footprint of the new house extends the dining room into the backyard — and those big windows mean the room is surrounded by the nature Photo by Kevin Belanger

 

The design team also included Tracey Woodman of Kiss Design Group, who chose many of the furnishings on the main floor. Photo by Kevin Belanger

 

The stunning open plan kitchen features a range hood is clad in Carrara marble and a wood inset on the island made by the Casa Verde team.  Photo by Kevin Belanger

Flynn recalls the first meeting, with Shauna and Mathieu arriving with a binder full of ideas. “With all these images it was easy for me to get into their project quickly. Since they are both very design driven and have a sharp eye for detail, it felt like I was up against some tough critics!”   

Together, they decided on a master bedroom roof deck and a dining room at the back, immersed in the tree-filled backyard. Jason describes the layout as semi traditional, with a proper front entrance leading to stairs and a hallway that extends to living areas. He also notes the distinct “away rooms”, designed for relaxation and semi-privacy.

The staircase chandelier is the futuristic “Lightsaber” by Matteo Lighting. Photo by Kevin Belanger

 

The hallway that leads from the master bedroom to the second floor deck features a unique bookcase created by O’Keefe-Fiorenza. Eye-catching shelving set at atypical angles inserts colour and interest in this transition space. Photos by Kevin Belanger

 

The house allowed for a large tiled wet zone separate from the vanity area. (And stunning views from the soaker tub, of course.) Photos by Kevin Belanger

The exterior of reclaimed red brick, reclaimed barn board, and black metal siding sets a modern, yet rustic, tone, which extends to the interior finishings.

Casa Verde’s president Paul McElligot grew up in Rothwell Heights, and immediately appreciated the concept of embracing the natural surroundings. And his background in carpentry and timber frame construction meant he paid special attention to the wood chosen. From the wide-plank flooring to the subtle wood inset on the kitchen island, this is a custom home with a clear vision. That vision included energy performance, with the teams from Casa Verde and Flynn Architect working obsessively to meet efficiency targets.

Architect Jason Flynn says key to the layout were the creation of “away zones”, like this reading nook. Haley Fiorenza notes the storage under these nooks are great for storing kids stuff. Photos by Kevin Belanger

For the finishing touches, Shauna and Mathieu worked with O’Keefe Fiorenza Design Group, who brought chic whimsy to the space. Haley Fiorenza visited the original home and noticed the couple’s preference for playful, bright design.

“Shauna and Mathieu weren’t afraid to do fun and interesting things,” says Haley. She kept that in mind when designing the kitchen and incorporating blue cabinetry. “Most clients would be scared to do a brightly coloured space.”

Shauna wanted standing workstations for their office; the wood counters soften the narrow space, which also features a vintage lightbox used for reading X-rays. Photo by Kevin Belanger

In the end, the home is one that takes full advantage of its surroundings — and is a perfect fit for this young, active family.

“We are avid runners and cyclists and we love the pathway down by the Ottawa River. When you are down there and the sun is setting over the river and you can see the Gatineau hills in the distance, it is so lovely,” says Shauna.