This article was the cover story in the Interiors 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.
By HATTIE KLOTZ
Photography by CHRISTIAN LALONDE – Photoluxstudio.com
After making a major shift — moving from a horse farm on the outskirts of Ottawa to a condo just steps from the bistros and shops of downtown Brockville — Bettina and Walter Griesseier say they couldn’t be happier
Moving from a 300-acre horse farm to the penthouse of a 21-floor condo overlooking the sparkling waters of the St. Lawrence River has been quite a change of lifestyle for owners Bettina and Walter Griesseier. Where once American Saddlebred horses grazed in the fields around the house, now the view is of giant tankers slicing their way through water that stretches to the horizon. Green islands dot the river like emeralds on dark velvet; soft breezes caress the balcony on a summer’s day.
“I liked the whole idea of being at the marina, within walking distance of restaurants,” says Walter. “I love the view from our bedroom window — waking to the sunrise — and the view from the kitchen, with the sunset. I just feel relaxed.”The elegant formal living room seating area boasts oversized windows on three sides and offers spectacular northerly and westerly vistas. The space seems to shimmer in tones of silver, grey, and cream. Photo by Christian Lalonde.
The thing is, explains Bettina, when you live on a farm, you have to drive everywhere. Here, in their new home in Brockville, it still seems like a luxury to be able to walk to a restaurant and to stroll in the riverside park.
“It’s very peaceful here,” says Bettina, as she looks out along the waterway. “I like watching the storms, which come in from the west.” In the winter, when boat traffic stops, the couple revel in the vastness of the watery landscape, looking down upon a river so fast-flowing that it rarely freezes over completely. At the end of March, the icebreaker arrives and the ships return.
Up in the sky at Tall Ships Landing, as the building is known, the Griesseiers have created a light-filled condo that’s at once comfortable and contemporary. Ernst Hupel from 2H Interior Design worked closely with the couple to bring their vision to life. “Our overall inspiration was the nautical references — the giant ships, the sailboats,” Hupel explains. Because this is the penthouse, however, he imagined the space as a luxury yacht, with all the finishes that one might expect — high-gloss cabinets and ramped-up door hardware and fittings, polished nickel in the bathrooms. “I pictured the captain’s quarters.”
Initially, the Griesseiers had planned to live on the south side of the building but changed their minds when they realized that the north offered both land and water views. At night, the feeling is magical, with lofty views over the historic churches and buildings of Brockville. During the day, the fabulous water vistas take centre stage. Truly, this condo has the best of everything — morning light, indirect afternoon light, and rich sunsets. The main axis is east to west, and angled floor-to-ceiling windows make the sightlines even more remarkable.
While the dark wide-plank hand-scraped oak flooring is consistent throughout, Hupel has defined the various living spaces clearly through colour and texture. The western section is predominantly white, an elegant, light-filled living room whose most notable features are two comfortable oversized sofas and a pair of cowhide armchairs from Elte. “Those chairs are my favourites,” says Bettina, “but I was very nervous about them. I love cowhide. Walter doesn’t. When we unpacked them, I thought I was going to be in big trouble, but he likes them too.”
The more centrally located family room is filled with welcoming leather sofas, a studded ottoman, library shelves, and a television. It’s darker and cozier and invites you to curl up with a book or to watch a good film. But just behind the sofas is an eye-catching contrast — an impressive free-standing glass and stainless-steel staircase that leads to the rooftop terrace above. Sketched by Hupel, it was fabricated by StairWorld. “This wasn’t planned at the start,” says the designer. “But then we decided, if we’re putting in a staircase, let’s make it into a beautiful sculpture.”
In the kitchen, a magnificent onyx island dominates the space and injects colour into the condo. Bettina and Hupel travelled to Montreal to find the richly banded red stone. Cabinets, made by Irpinia, are of high-gloss grey walnut. There’s a small, very discreet bank of switches in the corner here, but otherwise there are no light switches on any of the walls. The lights, heat, blinds, and music are all controlled from an iPhone or iPad, “which is great until I’m in the middle of a dinner party and can’t make the music work,” jokes Bettina.
The only pieces of furniture the couple brought with them from their former home are the table and hutch that grace the dining room. The wine room is conveniently located just a few steps away. Here, Walter’s collection of bottles is hidden behind an imposing arched door, its polished brass handle stippled with the patina of age. Hupel found it in an antique shop and reckons it dates from 1840. Inside, it’s another world, with dark walnut and mahogany cabinets, stone floor, and a vaulted brick ceiling evoking ancient European wine cellars. It’s hard to believe this one floats in the sky.The heavy wooden door, vaulted brick ceiling, and decorative hardware evoke old- world European wine cellars. Photo by Christian Lalonde
The couple opted for continuity in their use of stone. The master bathroom, with an ensuite comprising a glass-walled shower and giant soaker tub; both balconies; the fireplace surround; and the entryway all feature heavily patterned limestone quarried near Owen Sound and sourced through Cohen and Cohen. But while they’re all dressed in the same stone, none of these rooms or features look alike. Where the stone has been polished, it takes on a darker, deeper brown shade.
Flaming the stone brings out the grey tones, while a mixture of polishing and honing gives it a hue that contrasts rich brown with a honey colour. When honed and polished are juxtaposed in a striped pattern in the entryway, it creates a very glamorous, Art Deco feel. “I really feel that an entrance should have a strong sense of place and give you a taste of what’s to come,” explains Hupel. “And because it’s a space where you don’t spend much time, it can be bold and hold the theme of the project, which then dissipates through the space.”
“It’s a beautiful project,” the designer adds. “The Griesseiers invited me into their lives, and I hope they feel that I’ve captured what they wanted it to be.”
For more photos from this project, visit our Facebook page