Starring role: Heritage Hollywood homePublished on November 7, 2011

  • Red drama plays a lead role in the dining room. Painting by Albert Melanson. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • Kitchen cabinets float on the exposed 120-year-old brick wall. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • Michel Beaulieu (left) with Maya and Albert Melanson. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

Decades ago, a young student named Albert Melanson walked regularly through Centretown on his way to Carleton University. He frequently admired the beautiful Victorian architecture on a heritage building, known as Hollywood Parade, which connects four row houses.

Years later in 2003, Albert, who is now an auditor, bought one of the houses with his partner Michel Beaulieu, a telecommunications manager. Together, they recently completed an innovative renovation of their unique residence which was built in the early 1890s by James Corry, a distinguished Ottawa architect and builder. 

Nobody knows for sure why the building was called Hollywood Parade, but perhaps it's an indication that the former glory of this property was destined to be reinstated with star appeal. With thousands of visitors flocking to the inaugural appearance of a glamorous makeover at this heritage site as part of the charitable tour Homes for the Holidays, it may just happen!

A New Star is Born

While the late Victorian exterior is a showcase of Romanesque-style arches in patterned brickwork and stained glass in horseshoe-shaped windows, the upscale interior is totally contemporary (well almost!)

From the front hallway, which has not changed significantly, the sightline flows unobstructed from one end of the home to the other. After transforming three small rooms into one, the new space contains a gleaming open-concept kitchen and a long, sleek living area that is uber-modern in design.

Albert and Michel joke that it took years of discussions before making some of their renovation decisions, but eventually they knew exactly what they wanted. Their ideas were drawn up by architect Sam Cox and put into effect by project manager Warren Newberry, who worked with a clever design that fused Victorian and 21st century elements.

"We wanted a feeling of infinity with clean, minimalist lines," explains Albert. "So it was important not break up the flow of the long, narrow space - and also to be able to see outside from every point in the room."

This clear vision was assisted by 2 Go Custom Kitchens with the installation of smooth black and charcoal quartz surfaces on top of glossy ebony cabinets, which were designed to float on the exposed 120-year-old brick wall. To offset the dark colour palette, natural light pours in from a black-framed, floor-to-ceiling window which overlooks an intriguing urban patio. At night, the Feng Shui vibe comes alive again with special lighting effects that throw a warm glow of rainbow colours over the window.

An industrial-styled open ceiling design defines the new-age space, which includes direct access to the basement by a stairway that is encased by glass panels. The former musty and damp basement was unfinished, but one of Michel's first projects was to sandblast the paint off the original brick wall, which revealed the builder's signed initials in the process. New floors, a built-in fireplace and sophisticated, yet comfy, furnishings turned the area into a perfect family room for his two daughters.

Another successful basement task was to create an ingenious small bathroom with an open rain-shower design. Its design is likely to surprise and delight all home tour visitors.

The Power Star Treatment

Even though the stylish new kitchen area must be voted the big renovation star in the home, the formal dining and living room may take top billing with traditionalists and fans of century-old architecture on the tour. With the glass table set for holiday dining and professionally decorated by Mill Street Florist of Manotick to highlight all the rich heritage features, this room has the power status of an old Hollywood star.

The big keyhole window, filled with beautifully preserved stain glass, is a stunning example of the esteemed builder's architectural style. A contemporary décor of pewter-coloured walls, modern artwork and Art Deco glass chandeliers creates a distinctive contrast against the original decorative crown moulding, ceiling medallions and high baseboard trim. On the archway into the dining area, the white wood trim features the same corner rosettes as seen on the exterior brickwork.

The dramatically painted black and white stairway in the hallway was another tough project that Albert and Michel tackled on their own. It leads to three large bedrooms and an impressively renovated main bathroom on the second floor. But, the tour stops at the bottom of the tantalizing steps.

When this unique home came to the attention of the Homes for the Holidays committee, it was considered to be an excellent fit with this year's plan to have all six homes in a central location, explained the tour's event and sponsorship coordinator Ola Spec. She praised the homeowners for generously opening their doors to an estimated sell-out crowd of more than 2,500 visitors for this popular annual event to support The Hospice at May Court.

To view a slide show of the decorated Homes for the Holidays tour homes, visit

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