Articles Tagged ‘design’

CityHome 2014: Design Lover’s Guide to Everything


Our first ever special issue of CityHome is on newsstands now! CityHome, aka The Ottawa Design Lover’s Guide to Everything, includes tips from local design experts, a roundup of talented furniture makers, beautiful photography of amazing homes in the city, a shopping guide, and more.

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URBAN STUDY: An ideal urban space in Lindenlea

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


They met while living in neighbouring apartments in the ByWard Market. Both loved the urban lifestyle; both were determined to minimize their dependence on cars. Nine years ago, when Julia Leonard and Tom Megginson began looking for a larger space to accommodate their family of three, they discovered what Tom describes as “the ideal urban neighbourhood.” Lindenlea is a leafy enclave tucked away between Rockcliffe Park (to the north and east), Vanier (to the south), and New Edinburgh (to the west).

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen.

The red-brick semi boasts a cozy front porch. The couple spends many summer evenings here, having a glass of wine and connecting with neighbours who wander past. Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen.


Here, front porches and modest lots encourage interaction among residents. “You want to like your neighbours,” says Tom, “because they’re right there with you.” Indeed, in 2011 when Julia and Tom renovated their shared back deck (they live in a semi-detached house), they shared costs with their neighbour and opted to leave the entire space open so that the families could mingle between sides.

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen.

When they built the deck in 2011, Julia and Tom shared the costs with their neighbours. The adjoining decks were purposely left open to one another, allowing for more space — and mingling. Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen.


Names: Julia Leonard and Tom Megginson (plus Jack, 9)

Occupations: Julia is a teacher at Elgin Street Public School; Tom is creative director at Acart Communications

Home: Semi-detached red brick, circa 1927

Neighbourhood: Lindenlea

Previous home: The couple met while living in the ByWard Market in neighbouring apartments

Urban-living quote:

Tom: Not being car-dependent is huge to us. We can both walk to work, and we can walk downtown. We love the idea of everything we need being in walkable distance.

What drew you to this neighbourhood?
We were determined to live in the downtown area, so we drew a circle around ByWard Market to determine how far south, west, and east we were willing to go. We wanted to be able to walk or bus to work in Centretown. We didn’t think we could afford this neighbourhood, but we got lucky. It was winter, and the garden wasn’t looked after at all, so the house was, in a sense, discounted.

Julia: I knew the neighbourhood well because I used to be a substitute teacher so got to see lots of areas of the city.

What other neighbourhoods were you eyeing?
This was the fourth house we bid on. We had already bid on houses in Centretown, the Glebe, and the Market.

Why this house?
I like older houses. I grew up in the older suburbs of Kingston, but a lot of my friends lived in century homes downtown. They had hardwood floors and bookshelves and Persian rugs. I loved that look, and this house has that feeling. I appreciate its character.

Julia: We were looking for a house in which we could stay forever. This is that house, so we’ve renovated as we can.

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Julia and Tom both wanted an older house with character, saying they always imagined hardwood floors and rooms that were compatible with Persian rugs and antiques. Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Favourite features?
All the new parts. We collaborated with Emma Doucet to renovate the kitchen and bathroom last fall. Three years ago we renovated the back deck. It’s up high, so we can have a carport underneath. Our front and back decks are like having two outdoor rooms.

High above the yard, Tom says the back deck “makes us feel as if we’re in a tree house.” There is space underneath to park their car. Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

High above the yard, Tom says the back deck “makes us feel as if we’re in a tree house.” There is space underneath to park their car. Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Julia: Sitting on the front deck is how we got to know all our neighbours.

Tom: Everyone is social because they hang out in the front. It’s a chance to stop, have a glass of wine, and talk. 

Least favourite?
The basement bathroom is like a museum from the 1980s.

Julia: The bedrooms are pretty small, but it is what it is.

Biggest challenges to living in this neighbourhood?
Street parking can be an issue when friends come to visit. Crime is a concern, but the benefit of living one on top of another is that neighbours look out for each other.

Biggest benefits?
Not being car-dependent is huge to us. We can both walk to work, and we can walk downtown. We love the idea of everything we need being walkable distance.

How long do you plan to stay?
We plan to be here forever. 

Advice to wannabe urban dwellers?
You have to be comfortable with a smaller house than you’d get in the suburbs.

Tom: You can’t be bothered by noise. We have always preferred the downtown lifestyle, but you have to know what you’re getting into. And if you’re looking at buying an older home, get a good home inspector — there are so many things to find.

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

The owners collaborated with Emma Doucet of Grassroots Design to renovate and update the kitchen while preserving the character of the 1920s home. Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen



URBAN STUDY: Mary-Rose and Matt love downtown life at The Merit

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


She hails from Kitchener; he’s from Montreal. Mary-Rose Brown and Matt Eason both got to know the city while studying at Carleton University in the early 2000s, living here until 2008 before leaving briefly while Mary-Rose pursued a postgraduate degree. “We already knew the city — and this neighbourhood — was great,” says Mary-Rose. “And when we returned to Ottawa in 2009, we noticed right away how many new businesses there were along Elgin Street.”

Photo by Marc Fowler

In the compact living room, an elegant Japanese block print pairs well with a teak sideboard. Photo by Marc Fowler


The couple were renting an apartment on nearby Cartier Street when they heard about Charlesfort Development’s plans to launch The Merit. They signed on in 2011 for the yet-to-be-built condo. “That gave us lots of time to save for the down payment,” jokes Matt. When The Merit was finally finished this past spring, Mary-Rose and Matt were among the first residents to move in.

Photo by Marc Fowler

Mary-Rose Brown and Matt Eason inside their Cartier Street condo. Photo by Marc Fowler

Names: Mary-Rose Brown and Matt Eason

Occupations: Mary-Rose is a program manager for a philanthropic foundation; Matt is the city’s community liaison for the LRT project

Home: 700-square-foot condo in The Merit by Charlesfort Developments

Neighbourhood: Golden Triangle

Previous home: A three-storey apartment building on Cartier Street, just around the corner

Urban living quote:

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FOUND: The Chinatown Museum at Jackpine Digital

This article first appeared in the September 2014 issue of Ottawa Magazine. Sign up for a subscription or order back issues here.


There’s a little design shop on Somerset Street West called Jackpine Digital. Here you’ll find the so-called Chinatown Museum — a collection of large signs that once graced neighbouring storefronts. Part decor, part memorabilia, the signs represent the changing streetscape — and what CEO and creative director Liam Mooney calls the “destructive nature” of the design process. After all, the cone of a jack pine tree needs the intense heat of a forest fire to open and release its potential.

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Dumpster Diving
Mooney was waiting outside the office — he had lent his keys to another designer — when he spotted a large bright red sign behind a dumpster. Wa Kiu had closed months before; Phuket Royal had yet to open its doors. “Maybe [Wa Kiu] wasn’t the best grocery store, but it was part of the landscape,” Mooney says. After getting the A-OK from the new owner, he hauled the 3-by-14-foot sign in through the fire escape and installed it in one of the main work areas. Upon close examination, it’s clear that the sign was hand-painted, the pencil lines from the stencils still visible after all these years.

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Photo by Justin Van Leeuwen

Fair Trade
Last year, Mooney traded design services for office space — and furnished it with borrowed pieces from Highjinx, a social enterprise that sells used furniture. Eventually he bought some pieces, but the move to Chinatown called for a new aesthetic (or, as Mooney says, they needed to “break the space”). Enter Malcolm Cairns of FoundDesign and Ken McKay of Furniture Affairs. Cairns gifted a few mid-century modern items to Jackpine; others are loaned on a consignment basis (“We have a strict coaster rule,” Mooney says). McKay will get design services in exchange for a huge custom table and bar. “The generosity — I can’t even begin to understand,” says Mooney. 

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URBAN STUDY: Inside the Flora Street home of Patrick Hajas and Erin Silsbe

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


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

Photo by Christian Lalonde -

Photo by Christian Lalonde –

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

Neighbourhood: Centretown

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.

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INTERIORS 2014: River views inspire dazzling designs


When managing editor Sarah Brown proposed the theme of the 2014 Interiors issue, I was once again amazed at the rich architectural landscape of this city. The city’s explosion of bold, yet thoughtful, residential design provided us the opportunity to curate a collection of houses that easily fit the riverside theme.

The theme quickly revealed a few trends. Many homeowners love the modern look but wanted a house that spoke to the surroundings. Enter post-and-beam construction, which allows for open-concept kitchens and works well with neutral decor palettes. I love how, from afar, the Manotick home of Sebastien Marineau looks like a cluster of rural outbuildings. Inside, it’s warm, welcoming, and a luxurious place to come home to. Marc Gingras and Natalie Sawaya took a different route: the topography of their undeveloped property meant their house could be built to ensure awe-inspiring views.

One thing remains constant in these water-inspired homes, and that is the interplay between outside and inside. A pool is set into the bedrock and features clear fencing to keep the eyes on the prize-winning forested backdrop. Extensive glazing lets homeowners appreciate their surroundings even in winter. Barn- board reclaims the landscape by countering the modern aspects of the house and tying it back to the landscape, in this way honouring the surroundings.

I would even venture to say that the feeling of river travel — the sometimes peaceful, at other times stimulating experience that reveals something new at every turn — is reflected in this issue. For example, we learned of the Cumberland home of Anda Bruinsma and Barry Turner after visiting the home of Gosse Bruinsma, Anda’s brother. Gosse and his partner, Michele Carini, lovingly restored a heritage home in New Edinburgh — on the banks of the Rideau River, no less — and thus bring a different style of architecture to this issue. Serendipitous, indeed.

I’ve often marvelled at the fact that, while Ottawa has many parks and pathways situated near water, relatively few public gathering spaces take advantage of river views, sunset reflections, and the embracing spiritedness that comes with socializing by the water. But institutions are starting to see the value in inspired public spaces — “Building a More Beautiful City” spotlights three recent projects. Perhaps it’s time city planners took a cue from residential architects. How I would love a space to chat fireside about a new project or be moved by the musings of a celebrated speaker while taking in waterfront views.

Dayanti Karunaratne, Editor

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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.

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GREEN DESIGN: A green builder guts his own home as a passion project, yielding spectacular results

By Tony Palermo; Photography by Christian Lalonde – Photolux Studio

A self-confessed “green geek,” Scott Demark has an extreme passion for green building — specifically Passive House. He’s also a partner with BuildGreen Solutions, where one of his specialties is dramatically reducing carbon footprints. In late 2010, Demark decided to put his ideals to the test, announcing that he and his family planned to purchase an energy- and water-guzzling 1920s house on Third Avenue in the Glebe. The goal: to turn it into a 2,000-square-foot model of sustainability. To do so, Demark set out to incorporate two of the most ambitious sustainability strategies in the world — Passive House and the One Planet Communities program. After several construction delays and a disastrous fire toward the end of the project, Demark and his family finally moved in at the end of last year.

The open-concept living and dining room features a south-facing folding glass wall that opens up to a terrace overlooking the street. The folding wall allows for a seamless transition between the indoor and outdoor living spaces — when weather permits. Among the many green features in the kitchen: custom concrete counters with embedded recycled glass, remilled pine over the island, and energy-efficient appliances. Photography by Christian Lalonde - Photolux Studio.

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A HOUSE WE LOVE: A modernist gem in Hintonburg

A lot that was just 23 feet seven inches wide demanded a very innovative house design. Photography by Peter Fritz.

Luminous Modernism: A couple designs and builds a streamlined house on a very slim lot in Hintonburg

This house is one of five innovative modern designs featured in the 2012 Interiors edition. See more photographs and read the full story in the print edition.

Lee-Ann Zanelli still laughs when she recalls her first drive-by past the lot that would eventually become the site for their modernist gem of a house. Her husband, Rick Shean, had called her at work to tell her he had found the perfect lot in Hintonburg.

“We drove over, and Rick points out what was basically a driveway,” says Lee-Ann. “I just looked at him and said, ‘Are you kidding me? There’s no way!’” The parcel of land, severed from the lot belonging to the neighbouring house, was a mere 23 feet seven inches wide.

Not a lot of space to squeeze a house into — especially when you figure in space between the neighbours on either side.

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HOMES: A New Edinburgh gem throws open its doors for a historic house tour

A fine old New Edinburgh house throws open its doors on June 11 to help mark two historic anniversaries in Ottawa history

Front hall and living area of Henrietta Southam's New Edinburgh house

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