Monday, November 29, 2010

The Engraved House, Part 1: Exterior

When I went on the Glebe House Tour in September, I was fascinated by one of the houses on the tour, The Engraved House. So I was thrilled that the homeowners agreed to do an interview with me for my blog, because I’d be able to see their home. If you saw the pictures in my post about the tour over at DesignTies, you’re probably as anxious as I was to see the interior. And trust me, the interior is just as unique and fascinating as the exterior!

front door 1

But you’re going to have to be patient to see the inside, because I’m going to write two posts about The Engraved House – Part 1 will focus on the exterior, and Part 2 on the interior. I know, I’m a tease! But there’s so much to tell and show you, it won’t all fit into one post!

The Engraved House was originally built as a confectionery in 1901. Artist Christopher Griffin discovered it in 2001 when he was doing volunteer work for the Green Party – they were using the first floor of the building as their headquarters. The second floor was being used as a rooming house. Christopher ended up renting the main floor for his art studio, and then after months of nagging the owner about selling the building to him, the owner said yes. The Engraved House was officially sold to Christopher and and his wife Oresta on September 4th, 2001. And according to this calendar page that Christopher later found, the owner was happy for them to take it off his hands!


Why Hassel Castel ? Because the tenants were not the neatest or the cleanest. I don’t have pictures of how the place looked when Christopher and Oresta bought it, but trust me, it was NOT pretty! This is how the exterior of The Engraved House looked  {Image from Dwell}


And this is how it looks today {Image from Dwell}


As you can see, they replaced the left window on the second floor so all four windows now match. They also replaced all the stucco siding, and they added a “green” canopy above the porch to Oresta’s shop. The canopy wraps around the house and continues above the porch that leads to their home on the second floor.

from driveway 2

The interior renovation of the building started in 2001, just after Christopher and Oresta bought the building. The exterior renovation was done recently, and incorporates reclaimed 1” wood thick wood planks from the interior walls.

sun wall 2

The stucco had to be replaced, and Christopher came up with the idea to create sketches in the new exterior material. He mentioned his idea to the architect that they were working with, who basically poo-poo’d Christopher’s idea. Time to move on to another architect!

Andrew Reeves of LineBox Studio was much more receptive to Christopher's idea, and figured out a way to bring his vision to reality. Mr. Reeves came up with the idea to clad the exterior in panels of concrete, and Christopher introduced him to the idea of using fly-ash concrete. Fly-ash concrete is a byproduct of coal-fired electric power generation that traditionally ends up in landfills, so it’s a good green choice. It had never been used in Ottawa before. They brought Bill Riseborough, who fabricates concrete countertops, onto the project, and he helped make Christopher’s plan to use fly-ash concrete a reality.

Two trowellers put the fly-ash on the walls, and Christopher followed right behind them to create his sketches, using an old bone as his carving tool. {Second image from Dwell}


christopher carving dwell

Christopher had an average of about seven minutes to complete the carving on each panel before the fly-ash became too dry. His sketches reflect his love for primitive art, and were dictated by the fly-ash and drying time. The carvings on each side of the house represent the four elements. The sun is fire:

sun wall with bricks

Birds are air:

bird wall 1

A caribou is land:

caribou wall

And a whale is water:

whale 1

The architect suggested running the cedar fence boards horizontally instead of vertically.


The horizontal cedar boards are also used on the back of the house and the upper deck.


The spaces between the slats let some light onto the deck while providing privacy.

deck 2

When the asphalt around the base of the building was excavated, it created a big drop between the wooden steps to the door of the home and ground level. To solve this problem, they used large stones for the bottom two steps to fill in the gap.

front steps

Christopher retained the building’s history in a few ways. The names of the building over the years are stamped onto concrete tablets using an old metal typface.

bricks beside door

The original bill of sale for the building is stamped onto the coal shaft door, which Christopher and Oresta preserved when they did the exterior makeover.

coal shaft 2

And Christopher stamped the names of all the owners of the property over the years on the sun wall.

property-owners dwell

Notice the “stolen by The Crown” brick – damn government!


And that’s the exterior of The Engraved House. Isn’t it fascinating? Hassel Castel no more – although Christopher did immortalize the name in the fly-ash above the door to the deck:

hassel castel

So are you curious to see what The Engraved House looks like inside? Next Monday’s post will be about the interior – you won’t want to miss it! There are some super-cool things to see…

* Final reminder that Bake-N-Blog:Holiday Edition is happening this Wednesday, December 1st. It’s not too late to participate, as long as you can bake fast! Go here for all the details, and go here to see the list of participants and what they’re baking. And to all the B-N-B participants, don’t forget to upload your post in time for the start of the party Wednesday morning!

Linking up to Susan’s weekly Metamorphosis Monday blog party at Between Naps on the Porch. Be sure to head over to Susan’s place to see lots of other cool transformations.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday inspiration

It’s Black Friday in the US today, which is considered to be the kick-off day for all-out Christmas shopping. Stores in the US (and some in Canada too) have huge sales to tempt buyers to get into the Christmas shopping spirit. So in honour of Black Friday, here’s an all-black post that might inspire you to get out or get online and shop :-)

Every room needs a touch of glam, and this chandelier definitely has glam covered! The Venezia chandelier from Z Gallerie is $249.00.

venezia chandelier

Insolent cutlery from Ercuis is inspired by designs of the Italian Renaissance. It’s made of 925 sterling silver and black resin. Available at artedeco, but trust me, you don’t want to know the prices!Ercuis-L-Insolent-silver-cutlery-black artedonaSpeaking of cutlery, artist Linda Florence created these huge flocked vinyl cutlery stickers for the floor in Millennium Museum in Sheffield, England. Pretty cool!

ginat flocked vinyl cutlery Millennium Gallery UK ginat flocked vinyl cutlery Millennium Gallery UK 2

T Double L in New Zealand designs beautiful cushions in nature-inspired patterns. Love the Toitoi in black and white. It’s $77 for the cover only, $85 with the insert (presumably those are New Zealand dollars).toitoi-cushion-black-white

I love the concept of Flor carpet tiles. They give you the freedom to mix and match different patterns and colours to create a carpet that’s perfect for your space. If a tile ever gets damaged, just remove it and replace it with a new tile. Flor carpet tiles are environmentally friendly too, which is an added bonus. This is the All Square pattern in black, $13.99 per tile.

all sqaure flor all sqaure flor 2

In keeping with my previous post about chocolate diamonds, how about a black diamond? This Art Decor-inspired ring with a 1/4 carat black diamond would be a great gift to receive on Christmas morning – or any day, really! $475 from Apples for Gold.

black-diamond-art-deco-ring apples of goldIf you’re planning to do some redecorating over the Christmas holidays, maybe one of these rooms will inspire you to get daring and go black! Love this room by one of my favourite designers, Jane Lockhart. It’s even decorated for Christmas :-)

jane lockhart

54-Laura-Ashley-Living-Room-Design channel 4 Channel 4 Design & Style

Gorgeous black wallpaper and love the ceiling detailing.

damask_wallpaper_black_living_room_carpet decorology Decorology

This room is seriously dramatic with the bacl walls, black ceiling, and ebony wood flooring. The white chairs, artwork, and red flowers really pop against the black.

black-rooms elle decor divine design LR Candice Olson. Divine Design

Gwenyth Paltrow’s bathroom with black imperial Trellis wallpaper – stunning!

gwynethblackbath sensational colorDecorpad

Gorgeous wallpaper, and check out the matching cat :-)

kitchen apt therapyApartment Therapy 

LR decorpad Decorpad

Happy shopping!

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chocolate + diamonds: A girl’s two best friends

chocolate and diamondsIs there any woman who doesn’t love chocolate and diamonds? I think not! So what could be better than a chocolate diamond?

Chocolate-Covered-Diamonds freaking news

No, not THAT kind of diamond – this kind of diamond. {14K White Gold Smoke Topaz Diamond and Brown Diamond Ring}

white gold smoke topaz brown diamond jewelry castle

How yummy is that?! I’ll tell you how yummy – VERY yummy! Did you know that brown diamonds are the most common colour variety of natural diamonds? Up until the 1980s, brown diamonds were used mainly for industrial purposes – they were considered worthless for jewelry. {Lost the source – I’ll keep looking!}kriegerbracelet-wwwncdiacom digitalism caThe Argyle Diamond Mine was developed in Australia in 1986. The Argyle mine produces 35 million carats (that’s 7,000 kgs or 15,432 lbs) of diamonds a year. 80% of those diamonds are brown. {Le Vian ZAG 102 Medallion Chocolate Diamond Pave Watch}

le vian zag 102 medallion watch amazon

The marketing strategy for brown diamonds changed in the 1980s, and they became popular for use in jewelry – although they’re usually less expensive than other colour groups. {Left: Brown and white diamond eternity ring Right: Le Vian 14ct white gold amethyst chocolate and white ring}

brownwhitediamain british-jewelry le vian white gold amethyst choc white diamond seek gifts

Le Vian coined the term “chocolate diamond” to make their brown diamond jewelry more appealing.

levian earrings

The shades of brown diamonds range between champagne, honey, cinnamon, cognac, and chocolate. Does that tantalize your tastebuds?!

christmas_pastry another travel guideAnother Travel Guide

Chocolate and sparkly jewels aren’t limited to adorning your ears and neck – they can also dress up a room.

brown ceiling media onsugarOnSugar

brown bedroom werner straube photographyWerner Straube Photography

living-room-hb dec0rsDec0rs

DR chocolate-walls supernatural botanicalsSupernatural Botanicals

De decorpadDecorpad

Bath brown chandy houzzHouzz

bedroom coastal livingCoastal Living

bedrm-via-CampbellDesignsllcCampbell Designs, LLC

If you had to choose just one best friend, which would it be: chocolate or diamonds?

Happy Thanksgiving to all my US blog buddies!

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