Dressed in wood and twine ornaments, rustic bells, heirloom ornaments, burlap and plaid for the holiday season, Matt and Nicole Dawson’s renovated home pays homage to the family’s seaside vacations and childhood memories.
Together, they have crafted a unique aesthetic, brimming with style and charm, to welcome friends and family into their home on Christmas Eve. The result is a gleaming, light-filled space created for comfort and togetherness, with a nod to Atlantic Canada.
Built in 2006 in Kanata’s Bridlewood subdivision, the couple’s original galley-style kitchen wasn’t practical for their busy family and love of entertaining. So, the family decided to tackle their first-ever home renovation and reimagine their entire main floor. “Now,” explains Nicole, “I smile every morning when I go down to make my coffee. It has to be the most comforting, happy space I could imagine.”
Matt, who is in landscape design and construction, and Nicole, a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing, both had definitive ideas as to how to achieve a more open, usable space. With inspiration in hand, they sought out a contractor who would work closely with them to cultivate the right style, rooted in the history of their home provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador.
To create the quintessential east-coast feel, the homeowners turned to Brad Durie, owner of InStile Design Build. Their goal was simple: they wanted a large kitchen with good flow for entertaining.
“When I first met Nicole and Matt, they told me that the original layout of their kitchen did not meet their family’s current lifestyle,” says Brad. “While the homeowners have an eye for design, they were mindful about keeping the vibe low key and easygoing to make sure that everything in their home resonates with them.”
The first step was to close off the original entrance to the formal dining room to create an office space/homework nook and larger kitchen footprint. Next, the three-sided fireplace was removed and relocated to create a floor-to-ceiling stone hearth. The 16-foot ceilings in the back of the house allowed for the potential to create an open room with a wall of expansive windows.
With an abundance of natural light, choosing the right paint colour had its challenges. Using a palette that evokes the shimmery shades of the ocean, Nicole landed on the combination of Sherwin-Williams’ Comfort Gray and Sea Salt for the walls. She then selected a complementary neutral colour scheme for her kitchen cabinets from Ottawa Valley Kitchen, using Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White and Trout Gray for the island.
To add visual interest in her new space, Nicole went for a colourful backsplash. She chose a handmade encaustic cement tile from Saltillo Tile & Stone in her favourite hue of blue, along with floating shelving that did not detract from the beauty of the pattern.
“With the addition of the island, it gave me more storage options and more opportunity to showcase the backsplash and display items that bring us joy,” she says. “We have rocks and sea glass from family trips, a flour sifter like the one I used making biscuits with my Nan, my greatgrandmother’s canisters for homemade donuts and other treasured heirlooms.”
The homeowners also incorporated rustic touches punctuated by unexpected details in their design plans. They used dock cleats for drawer pulls; cabinet door pulls made from railway ties; coal-miner lanterns as island pendants; and saddleseat stools from the Atlantic Canadian based Wicker Emporium, where Nicole worked during university.
To add a timeworn, farmhouse quality to their suburban home, they installed vintage beams and a barn-wood mantel with reclaimed wood sourced from Atmosphère & Bois in Manotick. Matt designed the iron brackets himself and worked closely with a local iron artist from Grindstone 250 to create the unique look. Nicole discovered a long farmhouse table on clearance, and added mismatched chairs in the same colour family and rugs with bold patterns.
“Our hearts are definitely still on the east coast,” notes Nicole. “But having pieces of home around our house makes us both feel that we’ve brought some of the best parts of our heritage into our family space here in Ottawa, for the holidays, and all year round.”