When Giulia Doyle of Audrey’s 74 moved to Ottawa, Canada from Switzerland over a decade ago, she didn’t expect to find a carved antique armchair from her great-grandfather’s hotel for sale in her new city. The vintage piece now takes pride of place in a home she shares with husband Bruno and their two small children, along with endless refreshed details that brought the residence from “a big sea of brown” to a contemporary home for a vibrant young family. The 1,400-square-foot sidesplit was built in 1958, and when the Doyle family purchased it almost six years ago, they sought to undo the shoddy renovation work it had seen throughout the years in order to uncover its full period potential.
In the living room, a previous owner had installed an efficient wood-burning fireplace insert, but had unfortunately also added floor tiles to the walls and hearth. The Doyles knew from an earlier real estate listing that a white brick surround was hiding underneath, and they set out to restore its condition. They chipped away the tile and then the messy, dirty grout and mortar. The dust from this process permeated every room. Hours and hours of work finally revealed the storied white brick. Giulia has been debating painting the door’s brass edge, but has recently grown to like it. The couple searched far and wide for the perfect piece of artwork to hang above their masterpiece until Giulia’s grandparents gave her the 1960s Jean Le Beut landscape painting displayed there now. The frame features brass detailing, so its age and finish tie into the other elements of the space.
Updating creature comforts in a home of this age turned out to be more challenging than the couple anticipated. They hired professionals right after closing to swap out the oil furnace for a gas model, and to install ducting throughout most of the house for forced air heat and AC. The resulting obsolete wall-inserted radiators took years for them to remove because of all the patching, painting, and baseboard replacement needed (they sadly could not find a match for its original profile). The pair have been tackling one large project every year, and have many more ideas on the list.
But for now, Giulia is happy to have created a bright and friendly house that is safe, comfortable, and not too precious for kids. There are no “no-touch” zones here, and the four residents live in the whole house. They share every meal at the dining table, and Giulia uses that same room for her photography because of its great light. The space flows directly into the home’s living room, where the combination of its 10-foot-long windows with those across the way offer enveloping north, south, and west-facing views of the scenic neighborhood. —Annie
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