The walls of Tatiana and Chris Wojtan’s Greely house are subtly varying shades of white, giving the initial impression of a contemporary minimalist home. Within a few seconds, though, your eyes begin to take in the strong pops of colour coming at you from every direction. Every room displays joyful dashes of colour, pretty hues that combine to create a sense of lightness and joy.
In truth, Tatiana revels in colour. Her Instagram feed describes her as a vintage- treasure hunter and a colour addict. White walls and simple wood floors fade into the background just as they were designed to do, becoming backdrops for a magnificent blue, pink, and red Heriz carpet on the living room floor; a vibrant orange headboard she made for the master bedroom; and the bold abstract canvases she has bought or painted that are scattered throughout the house.
“I really like colour, and I believe that living in Ottawa, you need colour,” she says.
“I’ve been dreaming of doing this for years,” says Tatiana, whose new interior decorating business was boosted after design guru Sarah Richardson reposted one of her Instagram photographs.
Tatiana and Chris’s design odyssey began in 2008 when they bought a lot in Greely. The process was not as quick as they had hoped. Even though design briefs for the neighbourhood called for architectural diversity, their plans didn’t fit the developer’s idea for how the community should look. Designed by Chris, their vision had a decidedly contemporary look with plenty of horizontal lines. After much wrangling, the couple was eventually allowed to build their modern house on a street of mostly traditional houses. The process took 10 months in the capable hands of design-build firm Maple Leaf Homes, and the couple moved from their Barrhaven townhouse in November 2010.
Chris loves designing as much as Tatiana enjoys decorating. “I should have been an architect!” he says. “I loved working on the house from an analytical perspective.” He used software bought from Costco to produce 3-D floor plans that allowed the couple to tinker with their design on a room-by-room basis. “You could see the whole house in 3-D — it was as if we were walking about in it. This allowed us to discover things that didn’t work while we were designing it.”
The end result of all that thinking is a one-storey house with a largely open-plan kitchen, living room, and dining room. The bedrooms are situated down a separate corridor at one end of the house, with a media room and a granny flat at the other. The dining room is at the front of the house and is open to the living room, but two partial walls give it a distinct feeling of separation.
The unobtrusive walls don’t block sightlines to the fireplace but do help keep most of the kitchen out of the direct line of sight so that guests don’t need to stare at dirty dishes over dinner. When they entertain, Tatiana never feels isolated in the kitchen because she can engage in conversation with guests in the living or dining room as she prepares food.
“It was also important to us that the three spaces — the kitchen, the living room, and the dining room — are interconnected to allow our guests to move easily from one to another,” says Tatiana.
The overall decor scheme for the house began with the dining room, which Tatiana has filled with a rectangular walnut table, a snowflake chandelier, and contemporary steel-and-upholstery office-style Knoll-inspired chairs. A gallery wall, designed by Tatiana, of nine framed slices of crystal agate adds subtle lustre to the room. From there, she turned her attention to envisaging adjoining rooms that would complement the look.
Tatiana is a determined and patient hunter. She tends to buy mid-century-modern pieces “because if you buy vintage, by definition it’s better quality,” she says. The couple sources mainly over the internet, which gives Tatiana the ability to search widely for exactly what she wants. “If I set my mind on something, I have to find it,” she says. She gives, by way of an example, the twisted brass-and-Lucite lamps that grace the end tables beside the living room sofa. She bought the first one nine years ago for $26, searching for a further three years before finding its partner on eBay. It’s the same story for the 1956 Robsjohn-Gibbings mahogany chairs, also in the living room. She discovered the first one (which arrived with no cushions) on eBay. It would be three more years until she found the second on Etsy.
Since many of the pieces she finds come from the United States, Tatiana has become adept at minimizing shipping costs. A large painting on canvas by Florida artist Sinai Waxman came rolled up and removed from its frame; she asked that a pair of chrome-and-brass vintage side tables be taken apart and flat-packed before being shipped. And while she’s prepared to splurge on buying and shipping some must-have pieces, “I often find good things at HomeSense too.”
Tatiana and Chris also reduce costs by doing much of the decorating themselves. Tatiana made all the curtains; she designed and made all the beds, simply upholstering a box spring and creating a complementary headboard. She framed vintage maps of Poland for her son’s bedroom and hangs her own art on many of the walls. “Buy fabric remnants,” she advises. “It’s an inexpensive way to introduce new colours and patterns.”
This is a house where the lines are clean and contemporary. And the details — surprising colours and slightly mismatched furnishings — come together to create a harmonious whole. “I don’t do mainstream,” says Tatiana. “I’m making trends, not following them.”