Homes

“We have three kids and two dogs, so we don’t want to live in a museum” — Inside a Rockcliffe reno

He’s a busy tech executive with a penchant for tagging Houzz in his spare time and reading design magazines while on long business flights. And so it seemed preordained that when Patrick* and his wife, Lynn*, relocated from California to Ottawa, a relatively simple renovation of three bathrooms in the 1920s-era house would quickly develop into something much, much bigger.
*names have been changed 

“It started with StyleHaus redesigning our bathrooms and adding heated floors. But we just clicked right from the beginning, and from there, one thing just led to another,” says Patrick with a laugh. In the end, designers Jason Bellaire and Denise Hulaj would oversee an almost year-long renovation that saw them reimagine and revamp every room in the house.

Incredibly, Patrick, Lynn, and their three young children lived in the Rockcliffe-area house throughout the 2018 renovation, with StyleHaus minimizing the disruption by tackling the rooms in stages. The trickiest piece of the puzzle was the kitchen, completed last summer. “We ate a lot of sandwiches during that time period,” says Patrick. “It was a bit tough but not overwhelming.”

Patrick grew up in Montreal, and Lynn is from southwestern Ontario. They met two decades ago in Ottawa before their work lives took them to Asia and, for the past decade, California. But by 2017, with a young family of their own, the couple was looking to move closer to their families. They were also looking for a lifestyle that was the opposite of the Californian commuter culture they had been used to.

“We didn’t want to spend all our time in our cars,” says Patrick. “We wanted a nice house in a quiet neighbourhood where our kids could walk to school.” They found the house and neighbourhood, then set their sights on personalizing their new home.

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Enter StyleHaus, who were recommended by Janet Wilson, a former life and fashion editor with the Ottawa Citizen. Though they interviewed a number of designers, the couple were touched by how this design duo responded to their house and lives.

“As they walked around, we watched their reaction to our stuff,” says Patrick. He and Lynn had amassed a large collection of Asian furnishings and art on their travels but didn’t want their new home to be overwhelmed with these pieces. Some designers took that directive and immediately told them what they should get rid of. “We appreciate strong opinions, but we loved that Jason and Denise looked at our stuff and told us what they could do with it — how they could integrate it into our house.”

That creative integration saw a cherished Balinese teak loom reimagined as a coffee table for the family room. Over in Patrick’s home office, an Indonesian bench and chairs were reupholstered with more modern fabrics. Everywhere there are nods to the couple’s sojourn in Asia, but the motif never overwhelms.

In the dining room, two matching Asian buffet cabinets were topped with a slab of black granite to form a single piece with a counter. Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

“Our goal was to respect the pieces they loved while also mixing in new colours and pieces. We also wanted to be respectful of the original home while making it more contemporary and modern — infusing it with a little bit of that California spirit,” says Bellaire.

That approach included keeping the realities of a family home top of mind.

“They understood that even though we love nice things, our house needed to be familiar and comfy and homey,” says Patrick. “We have three kids and two dogs, so we don’t want to live in a museum!”

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

Even so, the StyleHaus team were not afraid to step in with suggestions on how best to add colour, texture — and exuberance. “When we really got going, it was Jason and Denise who convinced us to choose one room to really have fun with — to be over the top.”

That room is the formal dining room. Anchored by an Asian cabinet painted a rich red, the room is a sumptuous feast for the eyes, with gold silk drapery, opulent charcoal-and-gold wallpaper featuring a flock of gilded peacocks, and a dramatic chandelier from Hubbardton Forge.

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

The master ensuite is a close second in the drama department, the eye drawn to an elaborate shower walled with 5-by-10-foot porcelain slabs resembling white-veined black marble. Shimmering his-and-hers hammered-nickel sinks up the glamour quotient still further. Hulaj describes the room as “fearless.”

Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

But most rooms are restrained in tone. Though the overall design concept is clearly contemporary, the interiors have been modernized in a way that honours the age and bones of this home.

The kitchen, with Irpinia cabinetry designed by Irpinia, is sunny and subtle, the charcoal cupboards set off by a white tile backsplash that catches the light to make the room glow. The Ceragres tiles have a handmade texture. Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

The family room is similarly restrained, the designers using the owners’ existing drapery, a whimsical Robert Allen fabric in navy blue and cream, as a jumping-off point for the room. “The original house is still very much there, but we’ve been able to use everything from millwork to pillows to art to make it fresh,” says Hulaj.

Greys and blues predominate in the family room, with new furniture pieces matching up with treasured finds from Asia — the Balinese loom-cum-coffee-table and a few favourite sculptures. Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

For his part, Patrick says that he and Lynn are delighted with every single room in their reinvented home. He describes the renovation as a year-long collaboration that worked so well because they always felt a part of the process. The end result speaks for itself. “This house feels like who we are.”

The master bedroom. Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio
One of the kids’ rooms. Photo by Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio