GREAT SPACE: Globetrotting educators revamp, then sell one-of-a-kind bungalow

BY SARAH BROWN

This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 edition of
Ottawa Magazine

openconcept

The dramatic sculptural ceiling, with its triangular skylights, is the central element in an open-concept main floor that takes in a living room, sitting room, kitchen, and dining room. The Kirbys knew the bold ceiling called for equally daring furniture and artwork. Photography: Gordon King

curioshelf

The open display cabinet is a showcase of keepsakes collected over five decades of adventure — soapstone carvings from Labrador, where the couple met 56 years ago; sculptures from Kenya, where Carol set up a school for the Aga Khan Education Service; a tea set from China, where they now teach; even a bottle of Moldovan brandy, a gift from their Moldovan daughter-in-law. Photography: Gordon King

They thought it would be their forever home, but though they remain smitten, Roy and Carol Kirby are moving on. “There will be no mourning,” says Carol. “We’ve truly loved this house for four years, but we’ve realized that we’re just too busy to commit the time to it.”

The brief but bright love affair began in the fall of 2011 when the Kirbys, then living in a Westboro townhome, toured the 1970s bungalow, immediately falling head over heels for its modern vibe. They were enthralled with the bold triangular skylights, which are positioned to create a show-stopping geometric ceiling that floods the main living area with light. They also valued the location on the bank of the Jock River and looked forward to waking up each morning surrounded by nature.

livingroom2

The Kirbys discovered this painting by local artist Jason Mayer on the walls of the Wakefield Mill inn. They fell in love with it and contacted the artist to make an offer. While most of their furniture came with them from their Westboro townhouse, they added a dash of whimsy to the room with two purple chairs from The Modern Shop. Photography: Gordon King

Just a week after taking possession, they began an extensive renovation to make it truly their own. “We wanted to preserve its character,” explains Roy, “but have it fit our sense of style.” The couple teamed up with design-builder Gerhard Linse, whom they credit with helping them craft a vision for the space. He counselled removing the various half walls that broke up the living, kitchen, and dining areas, opening up the room to take advantage of the signature skylight and iconic fireplace. The Kirbys’ design sensibility was already modern, so their furniture — most of it from Phillip Van Leeuwen — moved with them from the townhouse.

neutralangles

Iconic two-sided fireplace, original to the house, separates the living room from the dining room. Photography: Gordon King

Ample wall space allowed the couple to display their favourite paintings and prints, many by local artists, while an open shelving unit that partitions off the dining room showcases keepsakes collected over five decades of adventure — soapstone carvings from Labrador, where the couple met 56 years ago; sculptures from Kenya, where Carol set up a school for the Aga Khan Education Service in the 1990s; and a graceful tea set from China, where they now teach part-time. The many mementoes are evidence of a wanderlust that has kept them on the move throughout their marriage. And that is the reason their forever house is up for sale.

intokitchen

Photography: Gordon King

“Though we are very happy here, when we thought about how we wanted to spend our time, it really isn’t gardening,” says Carol with a smile. Now in their mid-70s, the couple continues to spend a good part of each year in China, where they teach at a North American-affiliated university while also endeavouring to keep up with children and grandchildren living in Europe. So although Ottawa remains home base, they’re now looking for a condo with a view. “We had so much fun with this project and this house,” says Carol. “We really hope that the next family that moves in enjoys it as much as we have.”

GREAT SPACE: Globetrotting educators revamp, then put up for sale, their one-of-a-kind bungalow

By SARAH BROWN

They thought it would be their forever home, but though they remain smitten, Roy and Carol Kirby are moving on. “There will be no mourning,” says Carol. “We’ve truly loved this house for four years, but we’ve realized that we’re just too busy to commit the time to it.”

openconcept

The kitchen island helps define the workspace that Carol needs, “I don’t like anyone in the kitchen when I’m cooking.” Photo by Gordon King

The brief but bright love affair began in the fall of 2011 when the Kirbys, then living in a Westboro townhome, toured the 1970s bungalow, immediately falling head over heels for its modern vibe. They were enthralled with the bold triangular skylights, which are positioned to create a show-stopping geometric ceiling that floods the main living area with light. They also valued the location on the bank of the Jock River and looked forward to waking up each morning surrounded by nature.

intokitchen

The dining room boasts beautiful, nature-filled views. Photo by Gordon King

Just a week after taking possession, they began an extensive renovation to make it truly their own. “We wanted to preserve its character,” explains Roy, “but have it fit our sense of style.” The couple teamed up with design-builder Gerhard Linse, whom they credit with helping them craft a vision for the space. He counselled removing the various half walls that broke up the living, kitchen, and dining areas, opening up the room to take advantage of the signature skylight and iconic fireplace. The Kirbys’ design sensibility was already modern, so their furniture — most of it from Phillip Van Leeuwen — moved with them from the townhouse.

curiocloseup

The open display cabinet showcases keepsakes collected over the couple’s years together. Photo by Gordon King

Ample wall space allowed the couple to display their favourite paintings and prints, many by local artists, while an open shelving unit that partitions off the dining room showcases keepsakes collected over five decades of adventure — soapstone carvings from Labrador, where the couple met 56 years ago; sculptures from Kenya, where Carol set up a school for the Aga Khan Education Service in the 1990s; and a graceful tea set from China, where they now teach part-time. The many mementoes are evidence of a wanderlust that has kept them on the move throughout their marriage. And that is the reason their forever house is up for sale.

“Though we are very happy here, when we thought about how we wanted to spend our time, it really isn’t gardening,” says Carol with a smile. Now in their mid-70s, the couple continues to spend a good part of each year in China, where they teach at a North American-affiliated university while also endeavouring to keep up with children and grandchildren living in Europe. So although Ottawa remains home base, they’re now looking for a condo with a view. “We had so much fun with this project and this house,” says Carol. “We really hope that the next family that moves in enjoys it as much as we have.”

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

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MOST WANTED: Backyard Bliss — From the hammock to an outdoor fire pit

BY ASHLEIGH VANHOUTEN

This article was originally published in the May 2015 edition of
Ottawa Magazine

There’s nothing more inviting than a nap in the warm afternoon sunshine — but sometimes your old camping hammock just doesn’t quite cut it.

Ottawa’s own Hammock Universe offers comfortable and attractive outdoor furniture that is both sturdy and stylish, adding serious design appeal to your outdoor oasis.

The Deluxe Polyester Rope Hammock boasts a stand made from unstained bamboo that’s virtually harder than steel, so it will hold up through many nap-filled summers. Best of all?

This hammock can easily be moved to the sunniest (or shadiest, depending on your preference) corner of your backyard escape. $650.
Hammock Universe, 1-888-505-3679.

And when it comes to backyard bashes, all you really need is something to draw in your guests like a moth to a flame. The Solus Hemi is perfect for storytelling and marshmallow roasting and is certainly a statement piece. Designed in British Columbia and made from ultra-high-performance concrete, it’s available with natural gas or liquid propane brass burners.The 36-inch-diameter pit comes in 10 colours and built to withstand all four seasons. $3,195. Hubert’s Fireplaces, 101 Pinhey St., 613-728-3786.

Where To Buy Now: Top 10 ‘hoods to move your brood

LIKE HOLLYWOOD STARLETS, neighbourhoods become hot for a variety of reasons. In Ottawa, the answer often involves transportation: a new bridge, better transit links, or expanded roads. Recreational facilities also draw buyers’ interest; few things get your kids behind a move better than a nearby rink or pool. Speaking of kids, good schools are always a draw. And a wide range of inventory at a popular price never hurts. (In 2014, almost one in three resale houses sold in the city went for between $300,000 and $399,000.)
On top of all that, a neighbourhood needs that indefinable thing called soul — a sense of community that helps people connect, whether it’s over cabernet at a downtown wine bar or giggling toddlers at a community centre playgroup. “Ottawa is a series of villages, and people want that village mentality,” says Rob Marland of Royal LePage Performance Realty.
Finally, there’s that age-old Ottawa question: what’s hotter, the centre or the suburbs? It all depends on what you’re looking for, but several local realtors give the edge to downtown.
“The core of Ottawa is still undervalued, as it is in any major city,” says Marland. Buyers’ growing comfort with buying an older house may also be fuelling an interest in traditional neighbourhoods. “I think people are coming full circle. I see people wanting the more established homes,” says Jeff Miller of the BGM Real Estate Team, Re/Max Metro-City Brokerage Ltd.
No matter which area appeals to you, 2015 appears poised to be a good year to sign those mortgage papers. Not only are interest rates low but, according to the Ottawa Real Estate Board, 2014 also saw increases in inventory that created a buyers’ market.
Ready to shop? Here are 10 neighbourhoods that are ready for their close-up.

Read the rest of this story »

Where To Buy Now : SANDY HILL

Sandy Hill

Where: Rideau Street, Rideau Canal, Nicholas Street, Queensway, Rideau River
OREB code: 4003, 4004
Price range early 2015: $499,900 to $748,500
By the numbers:
Screen shot 2015-05-22 at 11.59.37 AM

How do you feel about lottery tickets? That may determine your willingness to buy in Sandy Hill. On the one hand, the ’hood has heritage homes at competitive prices, great Transitway access, Strathcona Park, and easy access to the ByWard Market.

On the other hand, there’s the mixed blessing of the University of Ottawa. Its proximity is wonderful if you enjoy such perks as a big library and an excellent athletic centre. It’s not quite so wonderful if you’re living next to a gang of party-loving students. However, the university has been working for several years to educate students on their responsibilities as residents, and bylaw officers — who recently gained greater authority to issue tickets — have been cracking down. Noise complaints have dropped.

You could compare it to Old Ottawa South in the 1990s. Efforts to educate Carleton students succeeded, the O-Train dispersed students around the city, and property values rose. Will U of O’s education initiative and the LRT pay the same dividends in Sandy Hill?

Then there’s the issue of the high concentration of drop-in centres, shelters, and rooming houses, particularly on the western edge. The city has been tweaking bylaws to ensure everyone can live together peacefully, but sometimes tensions do flare.

What’s There:

Daycare

Bettye Hyde Co-operative Early Learning Centre

43 Blackburn Ave.

Few Ottawa childcare centres can trace their history back as far as Bettye Hyde, which opened in 1943. In 2014, it moved into new digs in a converted carriage house. As well as seven full-time registered early childhood educators, the bilingual, non-profit centre has a staff chef. 

Cooking

Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute

453 Laurier Ave. E.

This is the only North American branch of the famous French cooking school where you can take an intensive course in boulangerie — the art of baking. Diplomas can lead to a career as a professional chef, or you can take half-day
general-interest classes in everything from knife skills to vegan cuisine. Prefer to eat? Reserve a table at Signatures Restaurant to nosh on classic French fare such as sautéed escargots.

Bar

Mugshots

75 Nicholas St.

Located in the Ottawa Jail hostel, this is one of the city’s quirkier venues. There’s something for everyone, with entertainment ranging from DJs and trivia to jazz and punk bands. On summer nights, sip a Beau’s beer under the stars on the thickly walled patios. Victorian
prisoners never had it this good.

Mugshots_bar

Mugshots. Photography: Angela Gordon

 

Where To Buy Now : RIVERSIDE SOUTH

Vimy Memorial Bridge crosses the Rideau River

 

Riverside South

Where: Balmoral Drive, Limebank Road, Mitch Owens Road, Spratt Road, Rideau Road, Rideau River
OREB code: 2602
Price range early 2015: $237,500 to $1,149,999
By the numbers:
Screen shot 2015-05-22 at 11.36.06 AM

Riverside South has been “almost there” for nearly two decades, since the first houses went up in 1996. For residents, it has been a long wait for everything from transit to recreational facilities, even though the population soared by 59 percent between 2006 and 2011 alone, to roughly 11,000 people. The city forecasts that by 2031, almost 50,000 people will live here.

And unlike many neighbourhoods, Riverside South offers a wide range of housing types, so it will be relatively easy for residents to stay in the area as their needs change from starter condo to family home to bungalow. “It’s a new way of building a neighbourhood,” says realtor Miller.

The big news last year was the completion of the Vimy Memorial Bridge across the Rideau River, connecting Earl Armstrong Road in Riverside South to Strandherd Drive in Barrhaven. Until it opened, residents routinely drove seven kilometres south to Manotick or 13 kilometres north to South Keys to shop. After the ribbon cutting, they suddenly had access to extensive retail and recreation choices in Barrhaven, just a few kilometres away. Also the city is once again talking about extending the O-Train and Transitway to Riverside South. Cross your fingers.

What’s There:

Restaurant

Zizis Kitchen and Wine Bar

665 Earl Armstrong Rd.

If a country borders the northern or eastern Mediterranean, it’s likely that Zizis has taken a bit of inspiration from it for its diverse menu: Spain for patatas bravas, France for steak frites, Italy for shrimp linguine, Greece for souvlaki, Turkey for kofte, and various Middle Eastern countries for tabbouleh. The open kitchen, rows of wine bottles, cheery tiles, and an orange wall create a warm but casual ambience. The wine list includes both Old World (Spain, Italy, Portugal) and New World (California, New Zealand, Australia) vintages.

Park

Claudette Cain Park

660 River Rd.

With its splash pad, field house, play structures, and recreational paths, Claudette Cain Park is a hub for local events — everything from Canada Day celebrations to Shakespeare performances by A Company of Fools — while its pretty wooded areas and gorgeous views of the Rideau River draw nature lovers.

Recreation Centre

Minto Recreation Complex

3500 Cambrian Dr.

Following the completion of the Vimy Memorial Bridge, this Barrhaven rec centre, which opened in November 2014, is just a 10-
minute drive from Riverside South. Highlights include two NHL-size rinks, a 25-metre lap pool, a leisure pool with a lazy river, a full-sized gym, and an indoor walking track.

Recreation_Center

Minto Recreation Complex. Photography: City of Ottawa

 

Where To Buy Now : RICHARDSON RIDGE

Richardson Ridge

Where: Terry Fox Drive, Huntsville Drive/Grainstone Way/Battersea Crescent, Kanata Avenue
OREB code: Not in OREB yet; will likely be considered part of Kanata Lakes, OREB 9007
Price range early 2015: $499,900 to $748,500
By the numbers: Not available for just this part of the neighbourhood because most of it is still under construction

So you love Kanata Lakes, but you want a brand new house that you can customize with all the granite, stainless steel, and smart home gadgets you can dream of? Cast your eyes on Richardson Ridge. Three developers — Braebury Homes, Cardel Homes, and Uniform Urban Developments — are building mainly large single-family houses on this choice piece of property.

The rocky granite landscape that makes Kanata a pricier place to build than most other parts of the city (because of all the digging needed to create those ready-to-be-finished basement home-theatre spaces) also makes it scenic, with lots of dramatic outcrops livening up nearby parks and the Kanata Golf and Country Club.

But perhaps the biggest attractions for buyers are the shopping and entertainment options. The nearby Tanger Outlets complex opened in late 2014, tempting fashionistas with such brands as Coach, Lucky Brand Jeans, and Michael Kors. Even closer to Richardson Ridge, Centrum offers big-box shopping and a 24-screen Landmark Cinema. And then there’s the Canadian Tire Centre just to the southwest. Richardson Ridge hockey fans can dodge the Queensway traffic completely by taking quiet (for now) roads from home to the game.

What’s There:

Golf

Thunderbird Sports Centre

1927 Richardson Side Rd.

Want to try golf with a twist? Thunderbird is one of the few courses in eastern Ontario that is illuminated at night. It is also one of the few to offer “foot golf”— the crazy love child of golf and soccer. Players kick a regulation soccer ball around a shortened course, aiming for 21-inch-wide cups.

Beer

Central Bierhaus

650 Kanata Ave.
You know that friend
who drinks only craft beers brewed by eccentric monks living in a solar-powered monastery in some country you can’t pronounce? Take him (or her) to Central Bierhaus, a German-style beer hall where the selection includes brews from more than 30 countries. Nosh on iron-seared Arctic char or confit maple pork belly, washed down with a cold Tusker from Kenya or Lvivske 1715 from Ukraine.

Farm

Acorn Creek Garden Farm

928 Oak Creek Rd., Carp

One of the nice things about living in a brand-new neighbourhood is that you’re often just a stone’s throw from the countryside. A four-kilometre drive from Richardson Ridge takes you to Acorn Creek, where you can buy fresh veggies (check out the garlic and hot chili peppers), potted plants, preserves, marinated sun-dried tomatoes, and more. In season, you can pick your own strawberries, corn, asparagus, beans … well, the list runs to over 200 varieties of fruits and vegetables.

Corn creek garden farm

Acorn Creek Garden Farm. Photography: Courtesy of Andy Terauds

Where To Buy Now : OVERBROOK

Old Ottawa South

Where: Stevens Avenue, Vanier Parkway, Queensway, Rideau River
OREB code: 3501
Price range early 2015: $219,900 to $694,900
By the numbers:
Screen shot 2015-05-22 at 10.41.49 AM

This neighbourhood has long had that real estate holy grail: location, location, location. A short drive from downtown, riverfront views, access to the Queensway, fitness facilities, a decent Loblaws, and easy access to Coventry Road’s big-box stores and St. Laurent Shopping Centre — what’s not to like? Well, yeah, the neighbourhood’s image has always (unfairly) taken a bit of a hit because of its proximity to Vanier, but the vibe is quite different on this side of the Vanier Parkway. Parts of Overbrook are reminiscent of Old Ottawa East, but house prices are generally lower. Several low-rise condo developments have sprung up in recent years, mixing nicely with the existing stock of veterans’ houses, modest mid-century homes, and interesting infill projects.The big news these days is the $9.2-million footbridge over the Rideau River, which will connect Overbrook to Strathcona Park in Sandy Hill. It’s due to open in 2016. That will make Overbrook a more appealing option for those who want to commute downtown or to the University of Ottawa by bike or on foot, without taking their chances on the Cummings Bridge.

What’s There:

Restaurant

Todric’s Fine Dining and Catering

10 McArthur Ave.

Okay, so it’s a couple of blocks north of the official edge of Overbrook. That likely doesn’t stop locals from dropping by to have brunch, lunch, or dinner in the cozy restaurant or to pick up a frozen entrée, a cake, or some house-made chutneys and salt rubs from the boutique. The menu ranges widely, from Asian to Caribbean, with dishes such as coconut shrimp, Malaysian beef, and lamb confit ravioli. Cooking classes and catering are available too.

Tennis

Rideau Tennis Club

1 Donald St.

Dating back more than a century, this venerable club overlooking the Rideau River offers 19 outdoor tennis courts in mild months and eight courts under air domes in winter. There’s also a fitness centre with cardio equipment, strength-training machines, and free weights. Tennis and fitness classes, tennis leagues, summer camps, and other activities keep the place humming.

Park

Riverain Park

400 North River Rd.

The recreational path meandering through this serene Rideau River park gives cyclists a safe and scenic route from Overbrook to New Edinburgh, Billings Bridge, and points beyond. Locals can cycle to work at the Sussex Drive location of the National Research Council, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the RCMP, or the Riverside Hospital and barely encounter a car. 

Where To Buy Now : OLD OTTAWA SOUTH

Old Ottawa South

Where: Rideau Canal, Bronson Avenue, Rideau River, Main Street, Riverdale Avenue
OREB code: 4403 ,4404
Price range early 2015: $285,000 to $1,399,000
By the numbers:
Screen shot 2015-05-22 at 10.22.22 AM

Just north of Old Ottawa South is a little project you might have heard about: the redeveloped Lansdowne Park. Buyers who want to be within walking distance of such attractions as TD Place, a 10-screen Cineplex, and Ottawa’s only Whole Foods Market — as well as the newly expanded Ottawa Farmers’ Market — are casting their eyes at Old Ottawa South, just over the Bank Street Bridge from the Glebe.

As well as being slightly removed from the noise and glare of Lansdowne (except during major events, when traffic can back up halfway to Billings Bridge), Old Ottawa South has a lot to recommend it, from a charming Ottawa Public Library branch to a community centre. Plus, if you’re thirsty, it probably has one of the highest per-capita concentrations of pubs and coffee shops in the city.

Look west of Bank Street for singles and semis dating from the 1920s, east of Bank for post-war singles, and all over the neighbourhood for ultra-modern infill projects — some well executed, others not so much. Small condo developments have sprung up in recent years, but by and large this isn’t a big neighbourhood for apartment dwellers.

What’s There:

Restaurant

The Belmont

1169 Bank St.

This neighbourhood newcomer  serves drinks and chef Michael Portigal’s far-from-ordinary small plates, such as rabbit pozole with hominy, blackstrap mackerel with espresso mayo, and poached bok choy with sake butter. With its reclaimed-wood bar, indie-music soundtrack, chalkboard menus, and space made for mingling, it’s an urbane addition to the ’hood.

Grocery

Cedars & Co.

1255 Bank St.

This independent grocery store offers a huge variety. Looking for tamarind paste for an Indonesian dish? You’re in luck. Organic gran-ola and eco-friendly toiletries? No problem. Garlicky hummus? Head to the deli counter. Produce, meat, cheese, baking supplies — almost anything you might conceivably run out of just before your dinner guests arrive is available.

Music

Ottawa Folklore Centre

1111 Bank St.

Folk-scene mover and shaker Arthur McGregor started the OFC in 1976, and it has been an Ottawa fixture ever since. Musicians from across the region and beyond rallied for a successful fundraising concert in 2014, after the centre went through a rough patch. If you want to buy a mandolin, learn to play the banjo or bodhran, get your dulcimer repaired, or sing in a choir, this is the place to go.

Ottawa Folklore Centre. Photography: Angela Gordon

 

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Where To Buy Now : MCKELLAR PARK

McKellar Park

Where: Richmond Road, Churchill Avenue N., Dovercourt Avenue, Sherbourne Road
OREB code: 5104
Price range early 2015: $389,000 to $1,298,888
By the numbers:
Screen shot 2015-05-21 at 3.58.38 PM
Ask any two people about the boundaries of this neighbourhood, and you’ll likely get two different answers. The local community association says the eastern boundary is Denbury Avenue. Some people argue that the ’hood extends north of Richmond to the Ottawa River, while others say the whole area is part of Westboro.
However you define it, this area is evolving rapidly. Along Richmond, condos are sprouting like mushrooms, and you can’t throw a stone without hitting a new yoga studio or sports store. Like Westboro and Wellington Village, it offers easy access to the Transitway and the Ottawa River, but it has a greater range of houses built after 1940.
However, a giant question mark hangs over the neighbourhood: where will the western extension of the LRT go? At press time, the city and the NCC had come to an agreement —in principle — to bury the connection between Dominion and Cleary Transitway stations under the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway. The option preserves the Byron Linear Park and allows for access to the Ottawa River shoreline, all within budget. Too good to be true? It still has to pass an environmental assessment.

What’s There:

Arts

Bluesfest School of Music and Art

450 Churchill Ave. N.

This multidisciplinary school opened in a decommissioned United Church building in 2014. From an after-school ukulele club and March break DJ camps to jazz classes and family cartooning workshops, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone. You can even join a community choir slated to perform at this year’s Bluesfest.

Recreation Centre

Dovercourt Recreation Centre

411 Dovercourt Ave.

A recent expansion (the first of two proposed phases) doubled the size of Dovercourt’s fitness centre and added a family change room and a rooftop patio. Other facilities include a 25-metre pool, pottery studio, internet café, dance studio, and outdoor rink/wading pool. Dovercourt is owned by the city but managed by a local non-profit group.

Restaurant

Gezellig

337 Richmond Rd.
Housed in a former bank building at a busy Westboro corner, Gezellig serves mains that run the gamut from seared tofu with pickled eggplant to grilled Angus strip loin with sweet chili mushrooms. The name? It’s a Dutch word with no simple English equivalent that means something like “friendly togetherness.” BYOB for a $15
corkage fee.

Gezellig.