The stars were perfectly aligned on the day that Sheena Zain met Sarah Kidder.
Searching for an interior designer to help renovate her condo, Sheena found Sarah Kidder Design online and arranged a meeting at the Ottawa Home & Remodelling Show at the EY Centre. They met at the end of the final day when Sarah was about to pack up, but clicked immediately and formed a strong friendship and working relationship.
“Sarah made a big impression on me right from the start and it was clear that she understood colour, which for me is paramount,” says Sheena, whose parents immigrated to Canada and opened an Indian boutique on Bank Street in 1964. Aziz & Company, which closed last year, offered a fusion of Indian handicrafts in a cacophony of colours that Sheena has happily transported into her condo style.
After buying the two-bedroom unit in 2004 in a late ‘70s downtown condo building, Sheena and her husband Reid Cooper had neither the time nor finances to invest in renovations. Travelling with Reid on his postings with Global Affairs Canada allowed them to add West African and Iranian artifacts to their treasure trove of Indian belongings.
Over a decade later, Sheena discovered that their vast accumulation dictated their lives and she was tired of the unkempt college lifestyle. “Reid loves books and music and his stuff was all over the place—we needed to move on from the crappy little apartment look! For the first time in our adult lives we now have what we call our grown-up home,” she cheerfully reports.
With elements of an Indian bazaar where jewel-toned colours come together on walls, floors and ceilings, the living room epitomizes Sheena’s belief that our eyes should never be bored. Lounging on a stunning fuchsia sofa anchored by a vibrant Indian rug, she can look up at patterned panels on the ceiling that cleverly cover up the old stipple finish.
Sheena is thrilled with all of Sarah’s innovative design ideas and is glad that she was gently urged to go beyond renovating just one bathroom and maybe some flooring. “I like how Sarah treats my money as if every dollar is her own. So I was very comfortable with an expanded project, which she developed into our very own Indo-Afro chic.”
Revisiting the design of the apartment as a whole, Sarah replaced all the flooring to unify the kitchen and living area, which had been choppy. “It created a better flow and it made sense to renovate the kitchen at the same time,” says Sarah.
For the flooring, Sarah chose reclaimed logs from the Ottawa River. “Logs End supplied the dried and cured birch planks which have a natural oil finish to allow the markings to show through,” she explains, adding that buying environmentally-friendly products from local businesses was also important to the couple.
The new kitchen, with Shaker-style cabinetry by Boiserie Sebo Woodwork, connects seamlessly to the redesigned eating nook. Above the banquette seating, the walls are papered with bright florals in the image of an English-country garden to honour Reid’s British roots.
“As we are both children of immigrants, born and raised in Ottawa, we wanted to weave all of that into our home to reflect our past, present and future,” says Sheena, noting the challenge of their cultural mix and referring to Reid’s personal style as Victorian clutter.
Decluttering and reorganizing their belongings was another vital element of Sarah’s work; she advised her clients to keep only the pieces that were dear to their hearts. After clearing out hundreds of books, Sarah crafted a new library/den by taking space from the long living room and erecting a wall. Meaningful artwork was reframed and is displayed along with special artifacts.
Space has been well-utilized in both redesigned bathrooms with customized tiling accents. Sheena’s bathroom features a unique undermount sink that has broken pieces of her own gemstones embedded into the concrete countertop. Painting added the finishing touches with teal-coloured trim around doors and on baseboards to pull the condo together.
Sheena and Reid love how their home now reflects who they are and where they’ve been with its personalized Indo-Afro vibe. Sarah and Sheena both felt an incredible harmony in working together and believe that their meeting was magical!