Welcome to the neighbourhood
Rebecca and James Wong immediately fell in love with an über-chic home in Alta Vista and the NCC trails out the back door. Neighbours aren’t quite so enamoured.
Rebecca and James Wong are over the moon, putting down roots in an über-chic stone and glass house in Alta Vista that earned multiple honours at recent design awards organized by the housing industry.
The two hope to start a family, setting aside a nursery and thinking through a basement-level apartment for a nanny in a house where they plan to grow old together.
Right now, they like to entertain in a great room with cedar overhead and a big view out over the backyard. “We want this to be a gathering spot,” says James Wong, 32 and a newly minted urologist who practises at the Montfort Hospital and the nearby General campus of The Ottawa Hospital.
The neighbours, it seems, aren’t so enamoured of the 4,000-square-foot Barry Hobin design, mostly because a second, very similar, house is under construction 71 inches away.
“Personally, I don’t think they fit in the neighbourhood,” says Ken Pole, president of the Faircrest Heights Community Association and a nearby resident. “They are a looming presence in a neighbourhood of mostly bungalows and two-storey homes on large lots.”
Inside the two-storey home, Wong turns on the fireplace in the master bedroom. It’s a room that stretches across half of the second floor, featuring large windows at the rear and equally large windows facing the street.
“The room is huge. It is bigger than our 650-square-foot condo we had in Toronto. We don’t believe in starter homes. You waste too much time, energy and money moving,” says Wong with a big grin, showing how he controls the computerized home, turning on lights and lowering blinds with a hand-held remote.
“The house (next door) is close, but I am told that is going to be a home office,” he says pointing to a corner window in the neighbouring house. “There shouldn’t be a problem.”
Still, Rebecca Wong, 32 and a nurse practitioner who can easily walk over to work at the Smyth Road hospital complex, has moved a large sectional sofa back from the front and corner windows.
Their favourite places to hang out include a second-floor deck overlooking NCC trails and the great room that faces the same green backdrop, along with a patio and outdoor kitchen.
“Last year we would strap on our cross-country skis and be out the door,” she says. She fell in love with the house the moment she walked through the front door, through to the great room. “The house was still under construction, the windows had just been installed.”
Originally, the house had been designed and built for an Ottawa restaurant owner, says Roberto Campagna, owner of Roca Homes, the builder behind the Highland Terrace homes. He’s a former technology executive who has built 35 custom homes since 2006, teaming up with Hobin to earn several design awards.
“When I bought the Highland land, Barry and I drove around the neighbourhood and he identified three or four different roof lines. I thought we solved some of the issues by keeping the houses low at the front and having them rise up at the back,” says Campagna, adding it’s easier to successfully ease new housing into an older neighbourhood when there are a collection of two or three homes. “An enclave creates a landmark on the street and the homes can share design elements and textures that tie them together.”
James Wong believes “the neighbours seem to be coming around.” He says they’ll often notice as drivers slow down for a close look.
“We wave,” adds Rebecca Wong. “It’s the friendly thing to do.”