One of Katia Zaroukian's earliest childhood memories in the Ukraine was of rearranging her bedroom furniture. When she visited the homes of friends and relatives, she would mentally redecorate their living rooms.
Still, conscious of her parents' wishes, the effervescent young woman set aside her design dreams to pursue a more practical degree in biochemistry. Mihran, her future husband and business partner, was in her program and although the two noticed each other, he was a year ahead of her and they never really talked. Until one day, when Mihran looked up to see that Katia was the newest member of his lab . . .
Fate may have introduced Katia and Mihran, but it's clear from the first time you meet them how well they work together. Not only does one pick up the other's thread of conversation, they also speak of each other's accomplishments with great respect and admiration. Combining their compatibility and co-operative chemistry, the couple decided to go into business together around the same time their son, Sevan, was born.
"We both love science, but lab work lacked a certain creativity that we were craving," Katia explains. And after surviving a series of layoffs at the company she joined when they moved to Ottawa, Katia was looking for a change. Mihran agrees, "I wasn't making a direct impact on anyone's life."
The partners took a leap of faith four years ago and opened a small furniture store on Bank Street in Ottawa South, and they've never looked back. Not inclined to do things halfway, they moved two years later from their home in Kanata Lakes to the Quebec side, while at the same time relocating their store, Maison Mikaza Home, to a larger space in the historic part of Hull.
In fact, many of the pieces in their charming Gatineau home are favourites from their retail collection. Their house has a natural flow and a feeling of space that gives you the sense that each item in the house is carefully placed and treasured.
While Mihran's style is more straightforward and modern, Katia describes hers as "rustic, cozy modern." She expresses her style in details like the reclaimed teak wood dining table set against moulded, modern chairs in various bright hues.
The kitchen was the first thing that caught their eye, as the recent renovation perfectly suited their tastes. It features ceiling-height walnut cabinets, offset by gleaming white countertops and a glass backsplash above the gas stove.
It's Mihran's favourite place to spend time. "I like our kitchen. It's bright and functional, and I love cooking with gas."
In the living room, a cozy grey sofa and charcoal-accented walls create a backdrop to contemporary touches, including a Crane Lamp and royal blue Egg Chair, which demonstrate their appreciation of mid-century modern design. A large bay window allows a flood of natural light to set off a display of small white statues on a shelf over the wood-burning fireplace.
"Our living room is my favorite room because that's where I play with my son, relax, and read," Katia says. "We use our fireplace often - we like to roast hotdogs and marshmallows in the winter."
Upstairs, they took down a couple of walls to expand the tiny bathroom, and the striking result is another space where the couple's flair for design really shines through. "The glass pebble tile in our bathroom was inspired by sea-glass floors used in a home we stayed in on a Caribbean vacation," explains Katia. "I wanted to amp up the effect by using red tiles against a white tile wall."
For Katia, the design process is organic. "I plan as much as possible ahead of time, but no matter how much planning and mapping out I do, I always have to play around with the layout," she enthuses. "It depends on the primary use of the room, which may change over time. For example, our living room has now become a family room so we had to rework the space to include a TV."
If a home can truly reflect its owners, then the Zaroukian home is a shining example: welcoming, lovely and stylish. And they may have found the secret to a harmonious business and marriage along the way, which according to Katia is a system where she designs and picks everything and Mihran approves it!