After living in Montreal for many years, a career move back to Ottawa was definitely an adjustment for Andrew and Alison German. The professional couple were accustomed to the bustling city where their 10 year-old son Finlay was born, and the sporty family who are big-time skiers were close to their second home at Mont Tremblant.
Fast forward six years later, the family now live in a vibrant neighbourhood where renovating and preserving a beautiful character home to a high comfort level to suit an active lifestyle has helped to convert the couple into happy Ottawans once again.
When Alison found a charming century-old home in the Glebe, they bought it without Andrew ever stepping inside. Not that he was worried. “Alison can walk into a house and see beyond what it currently looks like,” he says confidently, based on their previous renovating experience of gutting an older home in Montreal and building a new lakeside home together in Mont Tremblant.
“I worked with real estate agent Chris Barker, and we managed to buy this house without it going on the market, says Alison, who adds that he also recommended the interior designer Irene Langlois to her. They not only hired her, but ended up living nearby in the home of the designer’s best friend as it was conveniently available while their house was under renovations for six months.
The string of lucky coincidences continued when Alison and Irene discovered another mutual connection. They both knew and admired the work of Pierre Sirois who was appointed the general contractor for the project. “We had used him before and had complete confidence that he would do a great job on everything,” says Alison.
“The priority was creating a comfortable home for modern living, while being careful to incorporate new amenities without disrupting the original character and architectural features of the home,” explains Irene. The designer notes that the living area focus was a new kitchen addition that allowed a powder room and much-needed mud room to be installed where the original kitchen was located. Renovations on the second floor included adding an ensuite and walk-in closet off the master bedroom, as well as updating the main bathroom for Finlay.
SPACE, LIGHT & FLOW
The interior vision for Alison was all about creating “space, light and flow,” which is evident in the new kitchen designed to maximise natural light and accommodate casual entertaining. Alison handpicked the 11-foot slab of light-coloured granite for the island, and opted for black-speckled countertops that contrast well with the white shaker-style upper cabinets.
A built-in bench beneath a picture window, flanked by customized high pantry units, is partnered with a kitchen table and chairs to make a very stylish and spacious eat-in area. In fact, Alison admits that it’s so convenient and relaxing to eat in the kitchen that the formal dining room, decorated with rich red walls, does not get much use.
Another custom-built cabinet in the living room was designed to marry the new millwork with the existing architectural style of trim and detailed crown moldings. All new windows were crafted to replicate the heritage double-hung design with mullions. Boxed-in radiators in the living room and a gas fireplace installed within the original mantel unite both style and function.
In addition to their treasured Inuit art collection, mainly by noted Canadian pioneer artist Kenojuak Ashevak, heated flooring and rewiring for an integrated sound system throughout the house are essential elements that the couple cannot live without.
Warm wood flooring on the main level flows up the original staircase to a large master bedroom with a cozy seating area. It has been enhanced with a walk-in-closet and grey marble ensuite, installed in the space of a previous bedroom. The main bathroom was renovated almost exclusively for Finlay, as a third level of bedrooms and a bathroom provides ample guest space.
The beautifully renovated home not only preserved the original character, but also offers contemporary comfort as well as a home office for Andrew. The sought-after neighbourhood was also an important factor. Centrally-located in the Glebe, the location allows Alison to walk to her downtown job in 30 minutes, Finlay can bike to school, family live nearby, and they don’t need a car to get groceries, eat out or shop—plus Mont Tremblant is not too far away for weekend jaunts.