Typically, the redesign of a home built in the 1960s involves a contemporary makeover to lighten, brighten and open up the space. But a family house in Ottawa’s McKellar Park that had been modernized into a sleek, white box, has now undergone a luxurious transformation into a warm, richly-decorated masterpiece with a distinctive bespoke style.
It represents the inspirational vision of world-travelling homeowners Simon and Dawn Melanson, who wanted an upscale eclectic decor to showcase their amazing collection of worldwide treasures. In collaboration with Susan Bryson, an interior designer well known for her skill at mixing global elements, they worked on a room-by-room plan to create a wow factor in each one.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Valuing quality over quantity in all things is the Melanson mantra, explains Simon, a director with the Canadian Coast Guard who travels extensively and has lived overseas. “We have cultivated a unique collection of antiquities, art and furniture from over forty countries during the last two decades. Almost every piece in our house is a touchstone to a special time and place in our lives, as individuals and as a family.”
Having worked on three previous homes, Simon and Dawn understand that mixing and matching different eras and influences can be tricky. “If it’s not done right, it can look like a flea market,” says Simon, who credits Susan for helping them find the perfect balance of contrast without crossing the line into chaos.
The designer describes the project as injecting the Melanson’s style to completely transform each room into a curated work of art with warm colours, custom cabinetry and trim, textiles and wallpaper. Her first focus was to create a library and lounge area with a Hemingwayesque reading room.
“We went with a beautiful textured-velvet fabric on the club chairs to team them up with a South African zebra ottoman,” says Susan. “Dark, rustic wood shelving displays their unique artifacts, and Lucy lights by Robert Abbey were added to complement the bordeaux-coloured walls.”
While the library may fit perfectly with a smoking jacket and cigars, the room is also the favourite hangout for the couple’s two young daughters, seven-year-old Olivia and Grace, who is four. The girls have their own reading area and chairs, with quite a collection of Harry Potter books – proving them to be little collectors in the making!
The dining room reno began with moving the space into the former living room to best utilize its size and make a grand impact upon entry. It is anchored by a ten-foot harvest table in the centre, crafted by Ontario Mennonites with reclaimed hemlock from a century-old barn. “If you look closely, you can see the hoof marks, gauges and nail holes,” notes Simon, who used the same wood for the custom floating shelves in the library.
Yet the most fascinating jewels in this room are two 400-pound concrete pieces of the Berlin Wall positioned on either side of the fireplace. They were taken from Potsdamer Platz and Checkpoint Charlie shortly after the fall of the wall in 1989, and painted by Jay One Ramier (one of the pioneers of graffiti art in Europe). However, Simon emphasises that they are more than just beautiful pieces of art to him.
“They are a connection to my heritage; a reminder of how my grandparents escaped from East Germany and started over again in Canada. I can feel the history, heartache and sounds of Cold War Berlin emanating from the concrete. One day, our daughters will each get one these unique pieces.”
For now, the girls get to enjoy their new bedrooms. “We had a lot of fun designing their rooms in a Pottery Barn style with Indian-inspired colours,” says Susan. “The headboards are upholstered in fuchsia and pink velvet, walls covered with David Hicks wallpaper and windows draped in silk by C&M Textiles who supplied all the fabric in the home.”
The main jewel in the redesigned master bedroom is a hand-knotted red rug from Afghanistan. It serves not only to deliver a warm and welcoming splash of colour, but Simon adds, “It’s a small nod to some of the difficult places that we have travelled to and survived to tell the stories.”
With the living room, kitchen and bathrooms still to be renovated, Simon is enthusiastic about continuing to work with Susan. “She has helped us create a home that reflects our authentic selves; our love of life and adventure, family and travel. She is a master at creating incredible, functional spaces that make you want to stay and linger.”