If you ask Rob Imbeault about the lovely shark statue in his foyer, he will casually tell you that it reminds him of the time he swam with great whites sharks in San Francisco. Luckily, the world-travelling philanthropist and entrepreneur has a closer (and safer) oasis of calm in his newly renovated Ottawa condo.
Not one to sit still for long, Rob is often found juggling work for his successful company 10Count with social networking and charitable initiatives. Swimming with sharks and raising funds for cancer research were just two items on Rob's long bucket list.
"I came from a pretty humble background," he explains, sitting at a beautiful glass table in his open-concept space. "So when all the success didn't lead to happiness, I decided to pursue it in more meaningful ways."
And his condo is the perfect home base for all his adventures. Designed by Rnea Garrah, the condo is a seamless blend of modern, minimalist style set within the quirky charm of a beautifully restored heritage building.
Built in 1873, Wallis House boasts a rich and varied history. It has served as a hospital, a seminary, and an army barracks during Second World War, as well as an armoury and housing for veterans. After being slated for demolition, the building was purchased and brought back to its current splendour by local heritage restorer Sandy Smallwood with Andrex Holdings.
"I was really drawn to the uniqueness of it," explains Rob. "The enormously wide and high hallways with tons of exposed brick gave a sense of history and stood out from all the new concrete, steel and glass cookie- cutters out there now." He likes it when all his guests describe the building in the same way, saying: "It has a lot of character!"
However, the character of an old building can come with a few strings attached. The impressive soaring windows that extend all the way up to the second floor loft-style bedroom can let in a little too much light in the early morning hours. It was also a long and challenging task to gain approval from the heritage board for the gas fireplace, but one that Rob feels was well worth it.
A red oval sofa is a bold pop of colour against a mainly white background and is also a favourite hangout spot for Rob's white Persian cat, Logan. His friends have dubbed it the "nest."
"There have been some fun nights where they try to see how many can fit comfortably in the nest and I think they landed at five," he says. "I found the pod couch very odd in the store, but once I sat in it I was sold. I insisted on the couch, but because it was red, I had to sacrifice the bright orange leather chairs I liked for the dining area. The nest won."
The mix of comfort with style can be seen throughout, with clean lines and monochromatic colour schemes played up with furniture chosen for lounging and socializing. A tweed and leather sofa from Mobilia and colourful pieces from local artists soften the stark chrome and glass lamps and gleaming countertops.
"I love my couch! It's funny because I don't have cable or watch TV, but the couch is huge and very comfortable - perfect for winter nights with the fireplace on."
Upstairs in the master bathroom, a stand-alone bathtub and splash of mosaic tiles add a touch of whimsy to the simple light wood cabinets and white countertop. The open space and welcoming atmosphere of the condo are perfect for Rob's impromptu get-togethers. Whether he's swimming with sharks or relaxing in his stunning home, Rob is clearly a man who does it all with boundless energy and style.