Decorating with passion.Published on April 14, 2009

  • A causually elegant entry into the O'Dea's home sets the tone for what is to come. Photo by Baz Ghanoum and Mark Holleron

  • An oil painting of the O'Dea's daughters, by Susannah Robertson, adds warmth and interest to the foyer. Photo by Baz Ghanoum and Mark Holleron

  • Natural light pours into the elegant sunken living room. Photo by Baz Ghanoum and Mark Holleron

  • Nancy O'Dea. Photo by Baz Ghanoum and Mark Holleron

  • The gourmet kitchen is decorated with French country flair. Wall colour Chilli Pepper by Benjamin Moore. Photo by Baz Ghanoum and Mark Holleron

  • Compass inset points perfectly Due North. Photo by Baz Ghanoum and Mark Holleron

  • A butler's pantry is one of the most functional luxuries a home can offer. Photo by Baz Ghanoum and Mark Holleron

  • Throughout the spring and summer the backyard is a second living room for the O'Dea family. Photo by Baz Ghanoum and Mark Holleron

  • The O'Deas worked with landscape architect Steve Armstrong to create their backyard oasis. Photo by Baz Ghanoum and Mark Holleron

Stepping into Frank and Nancy O'Dea's Rockcliffe Park home you instantly experience warmth, light and charm. These elements are all spun together to create a vibrant, well thought-out space that defines one of the most impressive homes in the city.

When the O'Dea family first entered the home, it was a deteriorating rental property, offering little more than exceptional views of McKay Lake. But, the water view, combined with a tranquil street setting and close proximity to schools, were enough to seal the deal for the family of four. "When I walked in and saw the sunken living room, the big fireplace and all the windows looking out to the rear, I knew this was the right house," claims Nancy O'Dea. Having left an Oakville property on Lake Ontario, water was a big influence, and now the extensively renovated home takes full advantage of the panoramic lake view. The addition of a backyard pool balances the landscape and centres the home amidst the calming effects of all aquatic elements.

As a realtor with Royal Lepage Performance Realty, O'Dea knows the value of protecting your home as an investment. "Re-sale was always in the back of my mind when we were renovating," admits the clever business woman who adds that kitchens and bathrooms are important areas to consider.

She preaches the need to be practical and uses her craving for Carrera Marble counter-tops as an example. "I just couldn't risk that they might get ruined, so we chose a more practical kitchen surface." A dark-wood kitchen island doubles as a dining table, and granite counter-tops serve up the practicality a busy household needs.

While the realtor cry of "location, location, location," is almost a cliché, it could not be more pertinent these days when protecting your investment is crucial. The experienced realtor recommends surveying the neighbourhood carefully when looking to buy a home. "It is always wise to look at the area and know what you want to create with your vision; it's never a great idea to be the most expensive house on the street. Although it might be your dream house, re-sale is always important," counsels O'Dea, who suggests using materials in the mid-range and not to go too high-end.

The O'Dea's approach to renovating their home was a "pick-your-passion" method. Their passion was a love of gardens, water, the outdoors and whimsy. Personality is felt throughout the home. A blend of play-space, found in the vibrantly decorated children's rooms and a theatre room in the basement, combined with more formal, entertaining space, creates a perfect balance. The casually elegant kitchen is equipped with a butler's pantry and is conveniently located just across the hall from the formal dining room.

Tucked behind architectural columns, the dining room is crowned with a stunning crystal chandelier. The living room can be seen from the front foyer and exudes individuality. It features a grand piano and is decorated with unique art work, displays of photographs, and the perfect mix of colorful and calming fabric selections.

Both husband and wife sought to carve out a space of their own and to put their mark on their Ottawa home. The distinctive space offers enough room for each family member to have a place to call their own, but not so grand that guests don't feel at ease.

The Frank O'Dea story is a colourful one that takes him from living on the streets of Toronto to co-founding The Second Cup coffee chain, and onwards to many philanthropic endeavours that ultimately led to the awarding of the prestigious Order of Canada. He is quoted as saying that one of the keys to the success of selling coffee was that it turned into being more than about selling a beverage - it was about having a treat.

This concept can be applied to the O'Dea home. Nancy O'Dea has done more than create a place for the family to call home - it's a place to indulge themselves. Their love of the outdoors reflects inside and out, and the ultimate reward for this very busy family is their backyard. It is a spectacular oasis of outdoor living spaces with a waterfall, fish pond, and a beautiful garden that blooms from spring to fall. Written by Mary Taggart

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