When local software developer Geoff Foster arrived at Carleton University in 2002, he had no idea that his love for Ottawa would last through rentals, condos and almost two decades.
Knowing that his industrious renovation dreams would likely require home ownership, Geoff purchased a redbrick row house, built in 1910, just steps from the Rideau Canal.
After visiting a friend’s impressive kitchen, recently renovated by Grassroots Design and Build, Geoff met with Grassroots founder, Emma Doucet, in the summer of 2018, to plan a full three-story renovation.
Having a fairly broad wish list, Geoff says that he relied on Emma to design his dream house of original character, modern convenience and showstopper kitchen. “Most of the renovation evolved through trust in Emma and watching her continuously knock it out of the park at every step.”
Sharing Geoff’s love of mature homes, Emma set out to apply her proven formula of working with a client’s aesthetic to create a place for them that feels like home.
Renovations commenced in January 2019, with Emma aware of the challenges ahead. “It can be tough to transform older homes into something modern because they lack symmetry and empty space. There is also a struggle between wanting to keep the original elements and the need to open up.”
Problematic features like a central main-floor full bathroom and galley kitchen made for an easy demolition decision, clearing a path for engineered hardwood floors of reclaimed maple from the Ottawa Valley. According to Emma, “Engineered hardwood floors look beautiful and offer wonderful insulation. They do not suffer from seasonal climate fluctuations and provide a modern, interesting influence that can be easily slipped into a traditional home.”
The installation of rustic beams to conceal a slight variance in ceiling heights inspired the pursuit of a cohesive aesthetic through further placement of this rough and warm looking wood in the foyer and powder room.
On the menu of kitchen musts were luxe details like giant hexagon tiles, a play on new versus old, peninsula, beer fridge, veneer wall of exposed red brick, and custom wraparound cabinetry by Bench Dog Cabinets.
To maximize natural light flowing from the back of the house, an awkward sliding door was replaced by a huge back window. Finishing touches included high-end appliances, black faucets and brass trim.
As she considers lighting to be the jewellery of the home, Emma says it is important to be purposeful when choosing fixtures and to know when to go big or small. Bell-shaped kitchen pendants, chosen to compliment the ceiling beams, also serve to delineate between cooking and entertaining spaces. Additional glamour is added to the dining room area thanks to a carefully selected oversized mid-century fixture.
The process of constructing a nearby powder room entailed moving basement stairs towards the front of the house, initially giving Geoff a bit of a shock. “I stopped by one day and there was just this giant hole in the floor.” Now tucked under stairs to the second floor, this enviable space includes sightlines of a cast iron sink and whimsical wallpaper smartly selected to be read as traditional.
With so many highlights to choose from, an attic primary bedroom and bath have proven to be the perfect, cozy, oasis. Working with pre-existing angles and two skylights, heated floors and an open spa-style shower were installed along with a masculine, yet flexible, navy blue bathtub. Old-school hexagon tile with veining shimmers against hits of walnut, giving a subtle nod to the rest of the house.
Now back living in his completed home since September of 2019, Geoff calls his new space a wonderful place to be and looks forward to days of being able to cook and entertain friends in his new kitchen. When asked to describe his feelings about the renovation process and results, happiness filled his voice along with a one-word response of, “Ecstatic.”