There are some houses that just seem to shout "welcome!" The three-storey, red brick Rockcliffe residence of the Zed family is one of them. While it's definitely impressive-looking, with mature gardens, a gracious front porch and circular drive, what is most notable is the fun factor that this family of five creates inside and out.
"Some days it feels like there is someone ringing the front door bell, knocking on the back door and a crew coming in the side!" exclaims Lisa Zed.
The welcoming spirit is reflected by a bird's nest that perches on the front door frame. "The amazing thing is that we watched the nest being made last year, and then again this year, the birds were back to improve upon it," says Gary Zed, a partner with Deloitte Touche and a well-known Ottawa philanthropist, notorious for opening his doors to extend his generous spirit far beyond providing a roof for feathered friends in need of shelter.
The Zed home, which backs onto David Thomas Lane, was built in the early 1900s for the Thomas family. Gary and Lisa purchased it from the daughter of the original owners, Dillis Thomas, a spinster who lived most of her long life in the Buena Vista Avenue home. Dillis made no changes to the house while she lived there, and the original condition meant that much work was needed to bring it up-to-date to meet the demands of an active family of five. Builder/developer Bob McElligott of Brickland-Timberlay was hired to get the job done. He then enlisted the help of his son Paul, a heritage carpenter and owner of Casa Verde construction.
Bob has a fondness for the home and recalls the project with affection. His extensive research on the property reveals the time-honoured character of a home built to be shared and enjoyed. Visiting with Dillis was an integral part of Bob's research and revealed more than tidbits about construction details. The long-standing resident spoke nostalgically of highly anticipated Sunday dinners during the war when her parents would host British airmen as their way of thanking the troops.
The gracious party spirit carried on when the Zed's construction project started. End-of-the-day barbeques were a regular occurrence and held to thank the workman throughout the year-long restoration. Once the Zeds moved in, the partying rose to new heights and every year this Edwardian style home undergoes a major transformation to host an annual Halloween party that is one of the most talked-about bashes in Rockcliffe! Over 300 people come to play in the house that seems to have been built to party.
The decor is dictated by its heritage with careful attention to period details. The Brickland-Timberlay crew left no stone unturned during the massive restoration project. From top to bottom, inside and out, the original woodwork, stone work and decor was restored. Brass hardware was sent to a farmer north of Hamilton who was known for his brass work. The original radiators were removed, blasted and recoated, and then put back into place. One worker spent an entire month working on the exterior shutters; another had the job of re-pointing and replicating all of the original interior stone work. Today a refurbished doll house, that was the original bath house, has been incorporated into the backyard landscape as a symbol of the home's legacy.
Many people would have been overwhelmed with the restoration process, but for the Zeds and their trusted contractor it was a labour of love sparked by a passion for preserving history. It earned them the prestigious Ottawa Architectural Conservation Awards, Award of Excellence, in recognition for the successful restoration and rehabilitation of their home. What a testament!
With thanks to the decorating talents of Michael Courdin, the home does its heritage proud. The furnishings and decor blend in beautifully with the historical detailing in the home. Inspirations from both Gary's and Lisa's roots can be found throughout. Much of their artwork and antique pieces come from their native New Brunswick. Lisa is also fortunate enough to have inherited some iron sculptures from her aunt, world-renowned British sculptress, Dame Elisabeth Frink. The combination of exquisite pieces, carefully collected and cleverly displayed, makes the Zed house an intriguing and inspirational home.
It is said that houses attract the same owners. This Rockcliffe beauty seems to hold true to that notion. Clearly, the Zed family purchased the home with the intention of carrying on its traditions. And, really, who better than the dynamic duo of Gary and Lisa Zed, along with their troop of three, could do justice to a home that was designed with a party in mind! — Written by Mary Taggart