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House Beautiful: Renovated Oak Bay bungalow the perfect canvas for creativity

Extensive renovations to this late-1940s Oak Bay bungalow resulted in extremely functional living space for a creative couple who needed to slow down.

An appreciation for art and handmade, fine crafts is evident throughout the home of Paul Lalonde and his wife, who not only collect work from talented artists and artisans but create their own special pieces as well.

Lalonde, who works in computer graphics, is an accomplished woodworker and has recently taken up blacksmithing. While his wife, a semi-retired nurse, is an excellent weaver, who dabbles in metal art. (She asked her name not be used in the article.)

The couple recently completed extensive renovations on their 1948 Oak Bay bungalow, near Bowker Creek Park, resulting in a stylish yet extremely functional living space. But most importantly, their home created the perfect canvas for their creations and those of other artists.

“I like design and the creative process. Arts and crafts are really interesting to both of us. We both needed to slow down, breath and do these things we love,” she says of their antidote to their busy work lives.

Even though she retired the homeowner returned to nursing part-time and volunteers in an international program bringing medical supplies into war-torn Ukraine.

In their downtime they like to do their hobbies, play music and have family and friends over to share a meal.

Their home has a music room downstairs adjacent to a large loom and they built a separate garage in the backyard so Lalonde, who has been doing woodwork as a hobby since his college years, would have the space he requires.

Lalonde specifically began making Mission style furniture after the couple bought an arts and crafts house in 2003, also in Oak Bay, which they sold in 2015 before moving to eastern Canada.

Between that house and their new Oak Bay home, which they purchased in the fall of 2019, they spent time in Richmond, Kitchener, and southern California where they came to appreciate the indoor/outdoor lifestyle. The California lifestyle inspired them to spend more time outdoors so they took out the dining room window and replaced it with French doors leading out to a large, backyard deck.

Their back yard provides plenty of space to hang out with friends and family, from the lounge area, to a barbecuing/dining area. The back garden has raised beds for growing vegetables as well as a mature rhododendron, they were able to save despite the new garage build construction and hard landscaping.

Throughout all their moves, many of Lalonde’s Mission style furniture has gone with them. These pieces include a dining room side table, two lounge chairs with dark leather cushions, a four shelf bookcase, and a small side table at their front entrance. All of the pieces look like they could be antiques from the Arts and Crafts era, and also compliment their mostly Danish modern furniture.

Lalonde’s entry table holds one of the new metal art pieces created by his wife - a metal flower that is held in an artisan vase featuring geese and pussy willows. Nearby is another artisan piece - a natural wool throw with three different shades of wool by another weaver.

The owner’s weavings can be found throughout the house but stand out in particular in the music room. Here, a carpet depicting a sunrise sits underneath the wooden coffee table beside another woven rug in a graphic Aztec pattern.

The most striking piece of art in the home is an oil painting called Blue Spruce by Kitchener artist and friend Melissa Doherty. That piece takes up a feature wall in the living room and was where a huge, brick fireplace used to stand.

The artwork, which is so realistic it looks like it could be a photograph, was why they chose a soft sage green paint color for the wall behind the fireplace and in the dining room. The painting of a tree also echoes the real trees outside that can be viewed from the entry way, thanks to the new site line from there to the outdoors.

When they first bought the 2,000 sq. ft. two-level house it was “in pretty shabby condition” and the fireplace overwhelmed the space. And like many homes of that era it had too many small rooms and hallways - a far cry from the bright, open concept home it is today.

Not surprisingly, this creative couple designed the interior of the house themselves and came up with many innovative ideas that works for them today and will continue to prove beneficial as they age in place.

“We first looked at the flow of the house,” says Lalonde, who was able to put his computer graphics trade to good practice by creating architectural visualizations with 3D design software.

“My field is computer graphics so this doesn’t scare me. I was able to design this house and see how the whole house would come out,” he says.

They hired an architect for the formal drawings and to submit their plans for approval with the city.

Lalonde adds one of his goals was creating a sense of openness as soon as you enter the house so the tiny entryway hallway had to go, along with the fireplace taking up valuable real estate in the centre of the home.

“Moving the fireplace changed everything. That’s what really opened up the space,” he says.

They now have a modern three-sided fireplace along the side of the wall between the open concept living and dining room.

The couple are not avid television watchers so instead of a television set over the fireplace, which is typically seen in many homes, an original mixed media artwork by Richelle Osborne hangs over the fireplace.

A rustic touch to the modern fireplace and artwork was added by Lalonde creating a live edge floating shelf adjacent to the fireplace. That wood piece was saved for 10 years after being first cut and then stored on a friend’s rural property.

His wife adds since they both enjoy many hobbies it was important they now have room to store their hobby materials and in the process to keep things tidy.

“We needed to think about having a place for everything,” she says.

Which is why the washer and dryer is located in a large master bathroom, nearby their closets.

The kitchen has also been thoughtfully designed by the couple to make cooking and cleanup as easy as possible. For instance, the dishwasher is located near the cupboards where the plates and cups are stored.

Their main living space upstairs is a place for entertaining and the kitchen is central to that goal.

The couple can easily converse with guests and also have quiet, reflective times when they are at home alone admiring some of their favourite artisan pieces that are showcased throughout the room.

A glass top coffee table was specifically chosen so their Inuit soapstone and bone caribou carvings could be displayed. As a nurse, the homeowner spent time living and working in the eastern Arctic so was able to purchase some unique pieces.

“This home is very much thinking how we wanted to live,” he says.

“We were really lucky to get this house and turn it into something that works for us both.”

Adds his wife: “This house is much more than a house. It makes a story and I love that we designed it together.”

kpemberton@shaw.ca