A love for boating, undying dedication to the Tragically Hip, and a completely blank canvas were the inspiration behind a recent basement renovation from the creative minds of dynamic design duo Denise Hulaj and Jason Bellaire of StyleHaus Interiors. The creation was of epic proportions, and gave them an appreciation for a detailed, interesting, outside the box environment.
Having previously worked with clients Brian Turner and Jennifer George on a living room, family room, and kitchen space in their single-family Kanata Lakes home, the StyleHaus Interiors pair was brought back for a complete overhaul of the 900 square foot unfinished basement. Entrepreneurship runs deep throughout this family of four. Brian owns a microchip company while his wife, Jennifer, is a consultant within the field of human resources. With a Sea Ray Sport Yacht named Four Turtles, both parents and their teenage daughters spend plenty of time on the water and, like most homegrown Canadians, they carry a love for the iconic Kingston rock band The Tragically Hip—both boat and band were big influences in the design.
Explains Denise, “Our approach is very individualized for each project and we approach them with fresh eyes each time. We don’t have a look that we repeat for each client. We like our designs to reflect the homeowners—things that they love—so at the end of the day it feels like their home. Our style isn’t imposed on them. It’s just us interpreting their style and making it special.”
Although the overall style was inspired by, and took many elements from, a nautical design theme, Jason insists that they did not want to go overboard (no pun intended). Instead, details reminiscent of a summer on Cape Cod are sprinkled throughout. The cabinetry is navy blue and soft grey, and the custom closets wrap around the bathroom door, hiding its entrance, much like you might see on board the Four Turtles. Walking into the bathroom you’ll spot some very interestingly patterned tiles, invoking memories of a steering wheel at the helm of a ship. Surrounding the living area is a wall of horizontal whitewashed tongue and groove shiplap which brings with it a coastal vibe, while a bar with a unique cross design on the front of the millwork boasts two taps for whichever local brews Brian is in favor of at the time (right now, he’s drinking a cold one courtesy of Calabogie Brewing). Another impressive detail that Jason emphasized is the cold wall system, which offers an alternative to a traditional fireplace, redirecting heat buildup from within the enclosure back into the room, allowing material to be brought right up to the base of the glass, without fear of heat damage. And because this family knows how to enjoy some friendly competition on game nights, an underutilized alcove was the perfect spot to create a custom banquette, wrapped around three walls. Adding in a large roundtable with an ornate chandelier and that coastal shiplap, it’s reminiscent of the built-in dining aboard a ship. Jason explains, “There are little references like that [so when] you’re in the space you’re not obviously saying ‘oh this is very nautical’, but it has an homage to all things boating.”
Inarguably, the pièce de résistance is the custom mural, executed by Doug Jackson, who owns local Ottawa company ManMade Art. A bright yellow canvas that showcases an ancient nautical map is the backdrop from which The Tragically Hip appear to emerge and scrawled throughout are a collection of the Hip’s lyrics that hold special meaning to the family. Denise gushes, “it’s a very nice piece.” “We were engaged with the project right around the time that Gord Downie died so it was sort of memorializing him in a way. It was an homage to their favourite band, and to Canada in general,” adds Jason.
From an unfinished storage area springs a comfortable and cool coastal space where the family can do it all: work, eat and play. Denise is confident that the basement will be well used, “I think they’ll probably spend more time there than they will upstairs to be honest.”