Tag Archives: reclamation

Photographing the Domtar Lands – Part 2

Another glorious day working outside, this time shooting a series of attached buildings beginning on the corner of Eddy & Boulevard Alexandre-Tache. The mostly stone buildings are encased in high chain link fencing, held tight by cross-wires and reinforced by steel posts and beams endeavouring to keep all the bits together.  Bill worked the overview from across the street and I shot details, dancing with the thousand or so cyclists who apologized, ducked and rode around me on the sidewalk cycling path.

Today’s theme was texture and patina, the kind of patina you pay thousands of dollars for on new pieces of furniture masquerading as DIY Brooklyn Boho. Changes in texture marked the transition in buildings, in age, in style, in charm factor.

I saw curly emerald paint swaths, flaking, embossed tin tiles vertically installed on building fronts, metal fascia and eaves and dormers one after another still plumb, level and square, fragile, dangling clapboard stripped by countless days of sun, rain, snow, and wind, creeping nature, fractured glass panes, warped window screens, stone window sills with crumbling peaks of sand in the corners, folds of unsuitable stone installed in a place where it doesn’t belong.

On the very northwest corner at the end of the building series, I discovered the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box: a carved stone plaque reading The E.B. Eddy Co. 1892 and below, a ghostly stone arch, now infilled but boasting the visible remains of carriage door hardware. Easy to miss with its subtle change in stone type and colour and the plaque placed so far above eye level. I only noticed because I was looking through my ‘camera eye.’

Cataloguing these buildings I fully appreciate they are the real deal: They are history made manifest, irreplaceable, invaluable and the backbone of Ottawa’s post-contact built history. New buildings can be gorgeous and satisfying in their own way, but they aren’t this.

Something Old, Something New

Seven years ago I snapped a photograph of a pair of doors that I fell in love with in New York City. I always carried it with me, hoping to find some of my very own.

Four years ago I built a recessed, open-shelved cabinet in the dining room that never felt quite done.

Two weeks ago I found a pair of sidelights at Balleycanoe that, with a handful of hinges, were destined to fit the cabinet perfectly.

One hour ago I finished the installation and fell in love all over again.

Before, with the sidelights
Before, with the sidelights
And after
And after, with original trim reclaimed from the exterior of my house
And after
Finished with antique trim from the Marche aux Puces in Paris


Balleycanoe & Co. in Mallorytown, Ontario is a destination.  You are unlikely to stumble across it (I checked my map for the umpteenth time) and it’s not a place to casually pop in and out of.  You need time.  John Sorensen’s meticulously organized 19th century reclamation treasures and antiques are only part of the attraction.  His stories and art are the other.  Be prepared to be entertained and delighted.

Here are a few select pics taken in much too short a period of time (see what I mean?).  There is SO much to look at I could have shot for hours…

Balleycanoe Buildings


A Tree Grows in My Bedroom

 “Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?” – Walt Whitman

A bitter, alarming storm blew up the river and through the village a few weeks ago. Swaths of trees were felled in an instant, looking like a gaggle of giants had stomped through.  The rain blew horizontally, and with such force, that a small waterfall appeared on the inside of one of my old, unflashed windows.  The phone line dropped and the power went off as lightning and thunder pounded the sky. Three of my kids were on a bus somewhere between school and home.  My eldest and I sat quietly on the main floor and waited and hoped.

A few minutes later the sky returned to blue, the little ones arrived safely, and we walked the neighbourhood to survey the damage.  Fortunately, our enormous birches, maples and evergreens fared well.  Some neighbouring trees, not so much.

This weekend I picked through tree carcasses, looking for an ideal piece to integrate into the master bedroom. I found a fine piece of maple that had a sexy and distinctly feminine curve and form.   I cut the branch to rough size then fiddled with placement, searching for the appropriate alignment.  I toenailed it into place, added one ‘peg’, and tinkered with introducing a third branch to create a tripod for a hand-made birds nest.  I had my heart set on a birch tree (my second favourite species), but I am liking the smooth, greyish bark of the maple.  It will sit ‘as is’ until the next ah-ha! idea reveals itself.  It will be a hanger of sorts, but I’m undecided whether its nature will be utilitarian, aesthetic or a combination of the two.  In my house there is really no such thing as ‘finished,’ only more of what matches my vision.  And I love not knowing exactly what will come next.

Last week I installed a partial wall in the bedroom to break up the awkward, open space and create a modest walk-in closet.  I strapped out the walls and installed cedar t&g that I had sitting around for that purpose.  In the Fall I will build the custom closet spaces.

My drywalling skills have jumped measurably, although I am still slow.  The new wall is immaculate and I am very pleased with my repair of drywall over a large and tricky patch of existing lathe and plaster.  As always I am contemplating what I could have done better.  As always, there are several things on that list.

I’ve wanted to get rid of the furniture in the room and build custom pieces that better fit the needs of the space itself.  The built-in headboard/storage runs the length of the main wall.  I framed it up, correcting for the sloped floor and created purpose-built box inserts from leftover pieces of 2GS plywood.  I used the reclaimed lathe from the Quiet Room walls to face the piece.  I did a temporary install of cedar deck boards on top. What I’m leaning towards, though, is a concrete topper embedded with fossils and small stones we’ve collected on family vacations.  The headboard is a collection of positive and negative spaces and I am creating some interesting pieces to frame and hang on the lathe where the boxes (purposely) don’t exist.

Ceiling work, trim, more closet and fine work yet to come.  If I waited for magazine-perfect completeness, though, I don’t think I’d ever be writing or posting about my building/carpentry work.  But I have the lovely luxury of time and lateral thinking when the house is my own.

I am pleased with the results so far, which is saying a lot.  I anticipate, and embrace, those large, melodious and creative thoughts my new tree is apt to bring.

Creative Houses From Recycled Materials

You’ve probably noticed that I don’t write much about design topics, housing or otherwise.  I think that space is well-filled by a multitude of others.  However, this TED presentation, while dealing with design, really has to do with our assumptions and beliefs around housing (and our larger relationship with all consumables) that have been culturally ingrained on us whether we consciously realize it or not.

It doesn’t matter where you’re at in the home ownership spectrum (building new, renovating, status quo, don’t own a house, live in a cave) check out this slyly subversive, funny and transformative presentation by Dan Phillips.  He builds new homes using 70 to 80% recycled materials.  As he describes it “I feature blemish.  I feature organic process.”

ps. Don’t judge the man by his ponytail….