When Michelle Taggart was looking for a home in Ottawa, she was instinctively drawn to a lovely little house in Wellington Village. Turns out, it was built by her grandfather Harold Taggart who founded a family business that eventually grew to include Tamarack Developments. She bought it of course!
That was in preparation for moving back to Ottawa from Toronto a year later with her husband Alex Wilson. Since then, the couple have remade the 1940s home in their own "modern meets rustic" style, while staying true to Michelle's family roots and planting new ones with the arrival of two young daughters, two-year-old Lucy and baby Vivia.
RENEWING FAMILY TIES
In addition to discovering that the house was one of a number that her grandfather built in the neighbourhood, Michelle can now look out her front window to see the house in which her father Ian and his six siblings grew up in, just across the street. "From the second I walked in here, it was home," she says. "It just felt right."
At first, the young couple did a small reno to fix up the tiny kitchen and upstairs bathroom. "It was perfect for us, but less than two years later Lucy was crawling around and Vivia was on the way," says Michelle, who needed more space and considered a number of options. Sell the house? Tear it down and build something brand new? Or go for an extensive renovation with a massive addition before the baby arrived?
With their strong attachment to the family history, they decided to expand the home along with their growing family and had a three-storey addition designed to provide a wide-open space for a big new kitchen and family room, with a large master bedroom and ensuite upstairs, plus a recreational area in the basement for a man cave and playroom. The rest of the house was reconfigured to construct a mud room and bathroom where the small kitchen used to be, while the original upstairs level was revamped to include a laundry room and guest bedroom.
"Our amazing contractor, Zane Thorpe from Thorpe Custom Homes, got the whole project done in less than four months," says Michelle, who was told by some people that it could not be done on such a tight deadline. "The house has everything we wanted. I'm excited to be raising my kids in the same neighbourhood that their grandfather grew up in, going to the same school, and keeping part of my family heritage alive."
The little house has grown considerably in size from its early roots and blossomed into a stylish home of contrasting design and décor. "Our style is a mix of modern elements with rustic antiques," explains Michelle.
This is evident in the unification of the older part of the home with the new addition. Both areas display antique furnishings and artifacts that have been passed down through their families, as well as the couple's fondness for modern Canadian art. A striking landscape by Montreal artist Nina Cherney hangs over the original wood-burning fireplace in the front living area, along with a unique piece of local artwork depicting a family tree. They mix in well with old wooden barrels from Alex's great-grandmother's barn, a dining room table made of reclaimed wood from the Ottawa River and an antique bureau from Michelle's grandmother.
Above the gas fireplace in the new family room, open shelving in salvaged barnwood displays a treasured collection of vases and pottery. The rustic touches add texture to the pale grey walls and clean white trim used throughout the main floor. Other unifying aspects include installing new double-hung windows, matching the original hardwood flooring in the new addition, and finishing the two fireplaces with the same hearth and border.
By keeping a neutral palette on the walls and for major furnishings, Michelle adds punches of colour with artwork, pillows, lamps and chairs that can easily be changed over time. "Our modern pieces like the eat-in kitchen set from Modernica, and ‘cheap and cheerful' elements such as our couches, were bought to withstand the adventures of two kids."
With their choice of home and décor, the couple express a meaningful connection to their surroundings. "The house was really well-built. We love its heritage and have tried to keep as much of its character as possible," says Michelle, who has restored her family roots and successfully maintained the feel of her grandfather's design.