Great Space: Accomplished designer turns sights on own home

Great Space: Accomplished designer turns sights on own home


The great room incorporates the kitchen, dining room, and sitting room (shown, facing page inset). As guests enter the room, they are met with the statement pieces: the commanding table, the quirky light fixture, and the cozy raised fireplace. Photo: Urszula Muntean

For close to a decade, Veronica Martin lived in Toronto and travelled the world for noted design firm Yabu Pushelberg, creating imaginative boutique hotel and restaurant spaces. But once her two daughters (now aged five and three) were born, the demanding travel schedule no longer held the same allure.

In 2013, the young family made the decision to move to Ottawa; husband Dave Martin had grown up in Westboro, and Veronica knew the city well from her days here as an interior design student at Algonquin College. With visions of a traditional centre-plan house in mind, Veronica and her family rented in Wellington West and she set about scouting “every open house imaginable in this neighourhood, Westboro, and the Glebe.”

Veronica promptly spotted — and fell in love with — a stately brick house just a few streets away from where they were renting. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for sale. But her real estate agent got in touch with the homeowners, who, it turned out, were considering downsizing. A deal was done, and the owner of Veronica Martin Design Studio began planning her first renovation in Ottawa. Just over four months later, it was complete. The 80-year-old three-
storey house retained its traditional exterior, but the interior was refreshed and a two-storey 1,000-square-foot addition at the back made space for a sunny great room on the first floor and a luxe master bedroom on the second.

The living room, with its original fireplace and leaded windows, is a quiet space. “It’s where we read or have a glass of wine and catch up once the children are in bed.” Veronica discovered the mid-century-modern chairs through an antique dealer and had them refinished and reupholstered. Photo: Urszula Muntean


Veronica mixes high and low in the sitting area of the great room, pairing an Ikea couch and Structube nesting tables with the pricier beech accent wall surrounding the television Photo: Urszula Muntean

The great room is the showpiece, a spacious open-concept sitting, dining, and kitchen area planned for living and entertaining. “I really enjoy formal rooms, and I designed this particular room in my head years ago,” explains Veronica. She loves the idea of creating “a moment” when you walk into a space. The commanding wooden table, unique light fixture, and raised fireplace set the tone.

The kitchen, too, is planned with a strong focal point — in this case, the heavily patterned marble backsplash that stands out as a work of art. Some see a face staring back at them when they study the backsplash — though Dave, a Pearl Jam fan, insists that he can pick out Stickman.

The entire house was renovated with an eye to preserving its character. “It has great bones,” says Veronica, adding that even as she modernized, she conserved such key features as the interior doors, baseboards, and leaded-glass windows. Today, with summer just around the corner, the family’s focus is turning toward the outdoors.

All photos by Urszula Muntean