Art decorPublished on August 17, 2009

  • The kitchen, which was formerly a garage, offers an abundance of natural light.

Combining the vision of a multi-talented artist and a distinguished architect has produced the spectacular transformation of a 100-year-old house in the Glebe. Professional artist and film-maker Katherine Jeans relied on her imaginative skills to view the house as a blank canvas on which to express her modernist style. She wanted the living space to function not only as a family home, but also as a place to create and showcase her extensive collection of art.

The dynamic artist was introduced to the run-down, three-storey home several years ago by family friend and renowned Ottawa architect Barry Hobin. At the time, he was working with Katherine and her husband, Gemini award-winning, film producer Neil Bregman, on a television series featuring 500 high-end international homes designed by the world's leading architects. It was filmed by the couple's company Sound Venture Productions.

Collaborating together on the renovation resulted in another successful venture in which the architect was given the starring role. Barry was responsible for doubling the home's size with his innovative use of space and light, while adding more Arts and Craft detailing to instil a renewed sense of authentic integrity.

Describing Barry as very generous and sharing with his artistic spirit, Katherine, says she appreciated being able to run with some of her ideas. "I like an open Californian feel with lots of living space on one level and easy access to the outside. As this house didn't have many redeeming architectural elements to preserve, we didn't worry about taking it apart."

Except for restoring the original leaded windows at the front of the house, the front door and the oak flooring, everything else was removed and replaced: Walls and doors disappeared; the central stairway was moved forward; the existing kitchen became a spacious living and dining area; the former garage became the new kitchen which flows into a family room; and a powder room, plus a large mud/laundry area and an attached garage were crafted from a two-storey extension on the back of the home.

Upstairs, the addition allowed for a tree-top office for Katherine and an enlarged master bedroom with a new, luxurious ensuite. The third floor was converted into Neil's work and play retreat, far away from the busy art studio in the basement where Katherine creates colourful canvasses that are exhibited across Canada and the U.S.

As the main living area operates as an informal gallery for visiting clients in Ottawa, as well as meeting the needs of a family with a teenage daughter, it was a major focus of the renovation. "It was important for me to have an open area where people can circulate without it being a loft-style layout," explains Katherine, adding that she still needed a room plan with a front hall closet and enough wall space to display the art.

Her paintings and works of photo conceptualism cover the walls in the combined dining and living room, and mix well with her fondness for antique Asian furniture. The dining area leads outside to a pagoda-covered, limestone paved patio and pool through a set of customized floor-to-ceiling garden doors. Expertly designed by Barry to maximize light and offer an easy transition to casual outdoor living, Katherine loves the way it affects the room. "On a sunny day this whole room explodes with natural light. It changes with the time of day - creating different moods and highlights in the artwork."

In fact, it was such a good idea, that another oversized garden door was added around the corner to conveniently connect the kitchen to the patio. A long island counter, topped with black granite, is the focal point of the open kitchen which is fitted with cream cabinetry.

The cream colouring is continued into the family room on all walls and trim. As a visual artist shaped by years of moving film images, Katherine likes the eye to travel without having the line broken by frequent colour changes. For her, colour and beauty are created in a room with the artwork, together with carefully chosen pieces of furniture with a "less is more" philosophy.

The neutral décor is an ideal backdrop for the artist's vast and varied art collection. New pieces of work are often placed casually on the fireplace mantle, which was resurfaced in brown-flecked marble. "It sort of suggests that you can pick it up and take it away," says Katherine who often moves the art around for seasonal changes or just to "mix it up for a different look, colour or mood."

With the concept of a family as a living and growing organism, Katherine believes that their home has to evolve with them. Lately, 14-year-old Ivy has commented about needing more personal space of her own and her mother accepts that their beautifully renovated house, like her art, is a continual work in progress. ó Written by Jane Whiting

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