Ottawa Townhouse Remodel

This morning John and Matthew showed some of the great design ideas submitted by our Slow Home Studio audience, as well as their own redesign plans for Li-Na and Stephane’s townhouse in Ottawa. If you missed it, click the video above and check out John and Matthew’s redesign renderings below.

  • Terri

    Just putting out a small idea late in the day… John and Matthew’s entry bookcase with small bench beside was what I was envisioning on my plan (but I didn’t remove the arch, which is important). Anyway, if the bookcase were custom-built, it would be great to have a central shelf opening from the back–that is, the door side–so that keys, etc. could be placed there. It wouldn’t need to be the full-depth of the bookcase, allowing a space on the study side for smaller art objects, photos, etc.

    Loved all the ideas today!

  • Matthew North

    Hi Terri – that is a cool idea – having a key shelf accessible from the front entry side wold be just perfect – I also imagined the back side having a telephone shelf as this is where Li-Na and Stephane have their current phone located. Thi swas one of our best sessions to date….lots of great shared ideas and a whole range of design solutions.

  • Mid America Mom


    Hello! These should be available in or ship TO Canada.

    1. Another thought for the stair – a glass door.

    2. Entry/office.

    How about a desk that is ALSO a chair? Desk piece can be to the side when not in use so you can have seating.

    Or a desk that looks like a small table and you can get interesting matching cabinets?

    Mid America Mom

  • Li-Na

    We spent a lot of the weekend discussing the ideas everyone here suggested!

    Terri, we thought the same thing you did about the bookcase having a shelf facing the door-side. We also have an alarm keypad on the wall above the current phone shelf that we would either have to move or integrate into the bookcase somehow so that it is easily accessible from the door, so having an opening from the door-side might deal with that issue as well.

    The other thing we noticed is that we can’t continue the 45 degree angle of the fireplace towards the patio doors. The doors are 3 inches away from the side of the fireplace and if we continued the angle, it would hit the doors. So we would either have to leave that spot as it is now, or try skewing the fireplace angle. I’m leaning towards just leaving that spot as is because I think skewing the fireplace angle would just look odd…anyone have comments on this?

    Mid America Mom, thanks for your suggestions. You made me chuckle with your comment about Sears in the other thread. I keep telling myself there must be some secret club that gains you access to Canadian furniture I like, I just haven’t found it yet. Perhaps John and Matthew might consider compiling a list of places? :)

    On a related note, I am a little curious to know if there was a specific design reason why Matthew and John suggested a 3 seater and a 2 seater combination in the living room. We’ve been thinking of getting a 3 seater sofa and maybe an armchair or occasional chair mostly because that’s all we thought we had room for.

    If anyone’s interested, the idea I had for letting more light down into the basement stairwell was to punch 3 rectangular openings (almost floor to ceiling) into the wall area across the hallway from the kitchen. I wanted to install glass panels towards the back of these openings so essentially, I’d end up with 3 niches with glass on the stairwell side. I was then going to either install small potlights in the niches or swap out the light in front of the front door to one of those bendable monorail lighting systems and curve the track down the hall so that some lights would aim through the glass panels into the stairwell. The problem and burning question I still have was that I can’t figure out how the %^&*&! heck to install a piece of glass into drywall without a frame around the opening because I was/am pretty sure I don’t want the niche framed out on either side–I wanted the glass to transition into drywall. You know, like magic!! :)

    Anyway, Frank’s idea of opening up the entire area with glass panels made my jaw drop because although I’ve seen that done in pictures, it never occurred to me what that would really look like in our place. I’ve always been too frightened of the cost to even consider it, LOL.

    Thanks, John and Matthew! Stephane and I really enjoyed the whole process. I found it a blast seeing how you two would deal with the corner fireplace considering how much you detest them! I also really appreciated how your suggestions were fairly simple and as you said, would not cost much to implement, yet dealt with details like how to run the beam’s wiring down behind the built out drywall. :)

  • Paul C

    Not sure if it was mentioned elsewhere but one suggestion to bring light into the stairs with minimal disruption would be to simply replace the solid door with a door that has glazing in it.

  • Terri

    In response to your lighting idea for the stairwell, I’m wondering if you’ve heard of these LED light strips made by Connexx that are easy to install, and are mounted with adhesive strips, not screws. I was thinking that the underside of the railing would be an idea place for such a strip (unless the design of the rail makes it impossible). These are also good for undercounter lighting. The website is here:

  • Brad W

    Li-Na – it is possible to install glass panels as you suggest – it does not require magic but it does require skill and attention to detail – the problem is getting everything square – to do this build plywood boxes to frame the windows – install the box/window assembly into the wall and cover with drywall (a metal J trim will give the drywall a clean line where it meets the glass) – a couple of warnings 1. getting the glass out will require removal of drywall and 2. the simplest detail is often the most complex to build … another option would be to drywall around the window opening finishing the drywall edge with J trim and then install the glass and framing stops leaving a small reveal or gap – this way the glass can be removal and your drywall guy will swear a lot less during the job.

  • Li-Na

    Terri, thanks for that link, I haven’t come across those before. There are walls on both sides of the basement stairs and no railing but they could perhaps be attached somewhere else going down the stairwell. They might also work for the beam lighting that John and Matthew suggested. :)

    Brad W, those were the two methods that I thought of for the glass backed niches. Both of them have drawbacks, as you’ve pointed out. I was resorting to the idea of running a bead of silicone to seal up the resulting gap in the second method but was afraid it would just look like a hack job! I will start thinking of it as a “reveal”–that sounds much nicer than “a gap that will attract all sorts of bug corpses and dust”.