This article first appeared in the September issue of Ottawa Magazine. Sign up for a subscription or order back issues here.
The core is in the midst of a dramatic renewal as Ottawa transforms from big town to small city.
Ottawa Magazine visits the people who are flourishing in revitalized downtown neighbourhoods
By DAYANTI KARUNARATNE
Isaac Vallentin and Pascal Huot are members of eight-piece pop-rock band Pony Girl, as well as partners at Log Creative Bureau, a design company headquartered in a bright Chinatown house that they rent from a family who, after beautifully renovating the two-storey, pulled up stakes to travel the world. It’s a unique home that fulfills perfectly a number of distinct requirements: jam space, recording studio, offices, photography studio, plus a pretty sweet kitchen to feed hordes of pals (and bedrooms for three twentysomething men). Juggling design projects, recording albums, and editing films calls for a creative eye when it comes to use of space. Luckily, Isaac and Pascal enjoy using their design skills to rejig rooms — the living room becomes a recording studio, their leafy backyard a dining room — depending on what’s on the agenda on any given day.
Names: Isaac Vallentin
and Pascal Huot
Occupations: Designers and filmmakers, as well as members
of the band Pony Girl
Home: 2,400-square-foot brick single, circa 1920s
Previous home: Isaac lived in a basement apartment in Vanier; Pascal lived in an apartment in Sandy Hill
On living downtown…
Isaac: This is a real community, and that anchors me.
Pascal: I’ve had a lot of jobs where I couldn’t be the person I really am. Here it feels different. Plus, there are windows.
What drew you to this neighbourhood?
Pascal: I was looking to move west. I was on Somerset East — a nice neighbourhood but more expensive and an older crowd. It’s really energetic here.
What other neighbourhoods were you eyeing?
Isaac: Hintonburg, Westboro, Centretown, even the Glebe and Old Ottawa South, but that’s pretty expensive. We also looked in the Golden Triangle because we wanted a stand-alone house. Even here, we keep an open dialogue with the neighbours about the noise. But it’s funny, most didn’t even know we were in a band until we reached out to them.
Why this type of house?
Isaac: For me, this feels like two different houses.
Pascal: … and that separation feels good.
Isaac: It’s good to be able to move 60 feet away and work on music in a different physical space.
What specific elements did you know you wanted?
Isaac: The main thing was a basic living space. We also wanted a space where we could record music. And it had this wonderful room. As soon as we walked up here, we were like, “Yeah, this is the space.”
Isaac: Height and light. I’m six foot five, and my last apartment was a dark basement.
Pascal: The kitchen. The appliances are very, very nice. And it’s big, so you can make food for a lot of people; our band now has eight people, and we practise every day. It’s our main entertaining space.
Pascal: Mixing working and living. When you get away from the go-to-work rituals, it requires a lot of self-discipline to be productive.
Isaac: The shower. The one attached to the master bedroom is beautiful. Not ours.
What about groceries? Where do you shop?
Pascal: Well, I’m happy Seed to Sausage opened. There’s Kowloon, but it’s specialized.
Isaac: I actually started cooking Asian food when I moved here.
Isaac: Existing in this neighbourhood feeds you.
Pascal: It’s more energetic. I enjoy living in Ottawa more than ever. You’re forced to coexist — and communicate — with your neighbours. Our neighbour has a key to our garage so he can borrow our lawn mower, the Fevers live across the street, we have barbecues — it’s great.
How long do you plan to stay?
Pascal: Maybe one more year.
Advice to wannabe urban dwellers?
Pascal: You don’t need a car!
Isaac: Look at what is necessary. Remove what isn’t.
Click on the thumbnails for a virtual tour of Isaac and Pascal’s home.