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 SARAH BROWN
She works in environmental policy; his green principles include seeing no reason to have a licence or drive a car. They both appreciate good design. And so it seemed
as if it was meant to be when, in 2010, Erin Silsbe, the new owner of a home in Centretown, wandered into Alteriors furniture store looking for a couch. Patrick Hajas (who has since launched his own furniture business) sold her a sectional sofa for her living room. “And then we bonded over House & Home and Dwell magazines,” says Erin, with a laugh. Four years later, the committed urban residents are raising their two children in a house they have renovated to include huge patio doors that open out onto a backyard deck. Patrick calls it a “great indoor-outdoor space,” one that they use to the max in the summer months.
Names: Erin Silsbe and Patrick Hajas (plus Madeleine, 2, and William, 4 months)
Occupations: Erin is a policy analyst with Environment Canada; Patrick owns furniture store A Modern Space in Hintonburg
Home: 1,700-square-foot brick single, circa 1919
Previous home: Patrick grew up on a 50-acre farm in southern Ontario but got to know downtown Ottawa as a Sandy Hill resident while studying at Algonquin College. Erin grew up in the Broadview Avenue area, then lived and worked in Calgary; Washington, D.C.; and Toronto before returning to Ottawa in 2010.
On living downtown…
Patrick: People have a lot of misconceptions about what it’s really like to live downtown.
Don’t be scared.
What drew you to this neighbourhood?
Erin: I knew I wanted to be downtown — I wanted to create as small an environmental footprint as possible. It was critical to me that I be able to walk just about everywhere.
Patrick: Erin and I met after she had bought the house. So I lucked into the neighbourhood.
What other neighbourhoods were you eyeing?
Erin: I looked at about 15 houses before I bought, including in Sandy Hill and the Golden Triangle. I had moved a lot before this, so I was looking for a place to settle down.
Why this house?
Erin: I loved the character. And I really wanted a front porch — that was something I had appreciated from my days at Queen’s University. I also loved that the property had all these big trees.
Patrick: When I moved in, Erin had already done some renovations. We’ve been doing things ever since. There’s a long to-do list with an older house like this, but we both like that. If there was nothing to do, we’d be bored.
Patrick: The giant patio door that we put in. It opens out onto the deck and creates this great indoor-outdoor space.
Erin: I can be inside with Will, and Maddie can be running around on the deck. In the summer, the deck becomes part of the whole house.
Patrick: The low ceiling in the basement.
Erin: Just one bathroom.
Biggest misconceptions about urban living?
Patrick: People often think that it’s not a place for families.
Erin: There are 12 kids just in the little block that we live in. There’s been a real influx of families recently.
Patrick: And we’re close to museums. There are green spaces and parks right around the corner.
Patrick: You have so much more free time when you don’t have to factor in a big commute every day.
How long do you plan to stay?
Erin: We have no plans to move.
Advice to wannabe urban dwellers?
Patrick: Don’t be afraid of downtown! There are a lot of families here. It’s a really friendly place.
Click on the thumbnails for a virtual tour of Patrick and Erin’s home.