GREAT SPACE: Modernizing a sunny urban townhouse in Old Ottawa South

GREAT SPACE: Modernizing a sunny urban townhouse in Old Ottawa South

By Sarah Brown • Photography by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio.

This story appears in the October edition of Ottawa Magazine. Buy the magazine on newsstands or order your online edition.

I WAS PRETTY MUCH STALKING THIS HOUSE,” admits Chris Corner with a laugh. The co-owner of OnConference, a conference call company, first noticed the John Donkin-designed townhouse when it came up for sale about five years ago. From the street, it is a fairly unremarkable brownstone townhouse, but step inside and you’re transported into a light-filled loft with floor-to-ceiling south-facing windows and towering views over the tree-filled properties below.

Window View: The automated drapes, which are a stunning 34 feet in length, were installed this past spring. They cut heat and glare while allowing light to pass through. The previous owners did not have any window coverings. The fireplace: When Chris Corner moved into the house, the fireplace surround was painted orange, making it the focal point of the room.

Donkin used the site, which drops sharply south from street level, to the utmost advantage. From the street, Corner’s home looks like a compact two-storey house. From within, it’s a 2,000-square-foot three-storey loft (the basement level also sits above ground on the south side, so make that a four-storey building).

While Corner could not afford it when it came on the market in 2007, he made a habit of driving by his dream house now and again, checking quickly to see if it might have come up for sale. Three years ago, it did. “I was driving home from a party and saw the sign,” Corner remembers. “I stopped right there in the middle of the road and jotted down the number.”

After moving in, Corner consulted with his sister-in-law, Calgary-based interior decorator Lori Andrews, who helped him update the look of his new space. Because it had the feeling of a gallery, she suggested that Corner keep it open and airy, pairing a few key mid-century modern furniture pieces with a number of true classics. “You need classics to anchor the modern,” she told him. The focal point of the room is a massive painting by local artist Benjamin Rodger. Because the painting is so exhuberant, Corner did not want the walls to compete, opting for neutral white and a dark charcoal fireplace.


In the Living Room: A classic red Saarinen Womb Chair from Knoll. Interior decorator Lori Andrews helped Chris Corner blend mid-century modern pieces, such as this one, with truly classic furniture like the Montauk sofa, which is both comfortable and timeless. In the Dining Room: Corner discovered the painting in a hallway of Orange Art Gallery while attending an event there in 2010. By local artist Benjamin Rodger, it is entitled Frank’s Room. The Emeco 111 Navy chairs are a collaboration between Coca-Cola and Emeco. Each chair is made from 111 recycled PET bottles. The available colours just happened to complement the shades in the painting.
Mezzanine: Chris Corner works from his home office on the mezzanine level. From here he enjoys a glorious view across the living room and through the south-facing windows. When architect John Donkin designed the house in 2001, he carried the modern look of the stairs and railings across the three storeys.