A HOUSE WE LOVE: A modern, light-filled house in Hintonburg — described by its owners as a living lab

An architect couple envisage their new house as a work-in-progress — a living lab whose elements can be modified gradually as their family changes and new ideas present themselves. This story originally appeared in Ottawa Magazine’s 2013 Interiors edition. Order your copy here.

By Barbara Sibbald; Photography Christian Lalonde,

Despite the narrow width of the house, light floods into the living, dining, and kitchen areas, reflecting off the white walls and concreate floors to lend a feeling of spaciousness. Touches of wood, including the raw wood stairs down to the sunken living room, add warmth and comfort. Photography by Christian Lalonde,

Why would anyone buy a thrown-together workman’s shack dating from 1903 and then set about making it their home? The Bayswater Avenue property was literally and figuratively the low point on the street, with the back alley a gathering place for all the runoff every spring and the house the victim of many haphazard renos.

Yet architects Emmanuelle van Rutten and Mohammed al Riffai looked beyond the negatives and saw a charming little cottage set back from the rest of the houses and with a giant maple in the front courtyard. Amid the brick houses along this Hintonburg street, it was decidedly the black sheep — and it stole their hearts.