A fresh start in Quartier Cavendish
On land that was once home to a larger Cavendish Mall, a family builds just what they want
BY MARLENE EISNER, SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE MARCH 27, 2014
Sometimes, it’s all about second chances, even when it comes to finding the right home.
When Evan and Keren bought their first house four years ago, the young couple thought the turnkey, four-plus-one-bedroom bungalow in Côte St-Luc was a keeper. But it didn’t take long before they realized it wasn’t quite a perfect fit.
“It was on a busy street, and all the rooms went off the main hallway, so it seemed as if we were on top of each other,” said Keren.
“It wasn’t the right house for us.”
When a new housing development in Côte St-Luc offered an opportunity to build from the ground up, Evan jumped at the chance.
“The idea of doing our own house was appealing,” he said. “The other places we saw, there was always something. If we were going to spend that kind of money, then we thought, ‘Let’s do it the way we want.’”
In 2010, Cavendish Mall was downsized. The site was transformed into a town centre that became known as Quartier Cavendish. The southern end of the mall was demolished to make room for a residential development that included single-family and semi-detached homes and townhouses.
By the time the family bought 5,500 square feet of land in September 2011, the area was a large tract of dirt. “There were no streets. They were just tearing the mall down, so you didn’t know what you’re getting into,” Evan said. His wife and their parents “thought I was crazy.”
Buying the land was easy compared with what came next; finding the right professionals to design and build the house. They weren’t happy with plans an architect came up with. With time running out, they decided instead to just use a builder, Paolo Presti.
It took eight months to build the 3,200-sq.-ft., four-plus-one, three-level stone cottage. The couple wanted a clean, modern interior with some classical touches such as crown moulding, sloped ceilings and curved arches in some doorways. Instead of opting for a “man cave” in the basement, they dedicated that space as a play area for their two young daughters, and built a main-floor study for Evan to read, relax and savour his collection of fine scotches. They also wanted a formal dining room and a large master bedroom with a two-sided gas fireplace, a separate sitting room, a huge walk-in closet and bathroom ensuite with a European-inspired toilet — in a nook with its own door for added privacy.
A formal living room, however, was not in the plans.
“We had one in our other house and we didn’t use it,” said Keren. “A formal living room didn’t work for us.”
Instead, they had the builder design a spacious, functional kitchen with eating area that flowed into a large, comfy den with a fireplace and built-ins to create a great room.
“We like an open concept, with the kitchen looking onto the den, like a family room,” said Keren. “It’s the place we all like to hang out.”
Once the bones of the house were finalized, the couple focused on other details. They chose rich chocolate brown Brazilian wood for the floors in the den, dining room, study and bedrooms, and glossy 24-by-24-inch porcelain floor tiles for the vestibule, entrance hallway and kitchen.
In December 2012, the family moved in, and while it really was their dream house, it still didn’t feel like a home. Many of the rooms were empty. Evan’s love for traditional trappings were evident in the furniture they had brought from their first home, such as the heavy wood table, chairs and breakfront in the dining room, an imposing round wood pedestal kitchen table with large upholstered chairs, and two oversized brown leather couches in the den. But pleasing Keren’s more contemporary tastes proved to be a challenge.
“I needed help,” said Keren. “I needed pieces to make the house pop. I remember our other house; everything was wood. I wanted this house to look more modern or contemporary.”
A friend recommended interior designer Lori Anders, who was hired to bring together Evan and Keren’s diverse tastes while creating a livable, family-friendly space.
“It was a beautiful house, but it was bare,” said Anders. “Everything was brown.” On the first walk-through, Anders was gentle, but told the couple one thing: “You’re not allowed to bring in more brown.” Keren and Evan laughed.
Anders tackled one room at a time, sourcing unique pieces of furniture, rugs and accent pieces to add warmth to each space.
“Very modern can be very cold,” said Anders. “They wanted people to feel that when they walked into the house it wasn’t a museum.”
For the vestibule, with its irregular shaped, angular walls, she chose a low-back upholstered chair in a warm grey leather treated to look worn, or distressed, with a wooden frame and nail-stud detailing, added an octagon-shaped, antiqued mirror above it and a small distressed round table beside it to create a welcoming entry.
In the master bedroom, the walls and drapes were a Champagne colour, but the space and adjoining lounge area were bare.
“They wanted a romantic and elegant feel,” explained Anders. “They had ordered the bed, and Keren was very unsure about it. She felt it wouldn’t look nice because it was a brown leather upholstered headboard. It was heavy, and we needed to go lighter and softer with the other things.”
Anders tied it all together with two distressed mirrored side tables and light-coloured, textured be d coverings and an assortment of pillows with grey and rust accents. The lounge area, or nook, with its long, narrow shape, didn’t lend itself to a full couch, so Anders chose a slim, grey upholstered chaise longue. A white sheepskin rug, colourful painting, tall lamp and small side table completed the look.
The master bedroom is probably Keren’s favourite room in the house. With a large flat-screen TV over the fireplace for the adults, and a small one on the floor at eye level for the children, it’s a place the family loves to gather, relax and spend time.
“If I had a fridge in there, I would never leave,” said Keren.
More than two years after deciding to build their own house, Evan and Keren are now proud to call it a home.