Picture this… a lovely family home on a spacious treed property, as beautiful, functional and comfortable today as it was when Jim first designed and managed the build of this custom home in Ottawa’s east end almost 30 years ago. It exudes a classic elegance and has stood the test of time as the family has evolved from a couple with young children through to “empty nesters” enjoying their retirement.
This custom-designed home serves Bill and Monique in Ottawa’s east-end Rothwell Heights neighbourhood. The secluded, estate-style property minutes from downtown Ottawa has been their home for three decades and it remains their dream home to this day.
“Having been disappointed in the past working with other designers, Jim was much better. He always lived up to what he promised. I trust Jim and he took care of everything.”
As you enter, you are welcomed into the soaring 2-story foyer. It’s grand, yet still feels like home, exuding warmth and familiarity. The generous closet space is convenient and practical for both family and guests.
The formal living room to your right invites you in for a friendly chat. The light-filled space with a 13’ cathedral ceiling is large enough for a group of 8-10 to gather but still perfectly proportioned to encourage intimate conversation.
Wide hallways give the custom home an open look and feel, provide space for personal decor touches and facilitate main floor accessibility for elderly family members and friends.
The spacious den comfortably accommodates a large desk, plenty of storage, plus built-ins for their book collection along with a comfortable place to sit and read them. A large window gives the couple a view out to their lovely treed property.
A 20’ vaulted ceiling tops off a fabulous space for entertaining. Right next to the kitchen, the family room is both cozy and airy with high windows to bring the outside in and a fireplace to warm the toes on cold winter nights. A door to the backyard is tucked into the corner to give family and friends easy access to the custom-designed decks and patios.
With its island, modern layout, and sleek off-white cupboards, the original kitchen remains the heart of the home and, except for the countertop colour, the homeowners still feel no desire to redesign or change it. Almost 30 years after the original design and build, Monique and Bill remain very pleased with their home and how the original design choices continue to be both beautiful and functional.
Back in 1988, a ground loop geothermal heating/cooling system was cutting edge in the Ottawa area. It has since become the system of choice for high-end homes but Jim always tries to stay one step ahead of the crowd when it comes to designing energy-efficient custom homes. The system runs underground, looping in the front and back down 4.5-6’ to use the natural heating and cooling properties of the earth to maintain the optimal temperature within the home.
“We’ve been amazed at how well this house has worked and how trouble-free it’s been. Every detail, colour selection, etc. are perfect. Black countertops are the only thing we’d change.”
“It’s an efficient system. It’s a lot cheaper than gas and a lot cleaner than other heating and cooling systems.”
Jim Bell designed Monique and Bill’s home early in his career, but even then he recognized that listening carefully to his clients and spending the time up front to truly understand their needs, wants and vision was the key to designing a home that would serve them well for years to come. As a project manager for this build and all of the hundreds of others over the years, he demands only the very best from suppliers and contractors. Although Bell+Associates Architecture doesn’t offer project management (build) services, this strong knowledge of construction informs our designs.
Jim believes that if you’re going to build a home or a cottage, you do it right! Nothing less is acceptable.
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“During the build, the building inspector once commented that he didn’t know why he even bothered visiting the site, as everything was always perfect.”
Interview with the Homeowners
“We started working with Jim some 26 years ago, and 26 years later we’re happy that we did.”
Bell+Associates Architecture proud to feature a home that was designed and built over 25 years ago – the perfect example of timeless design coupled with durability. The home reflects the quality, integrity and expertise involved in a thoughtful design by Jim Bell.
The home is located in Rothwell Heights – a prime location in Ottawa known for amazing lots and majestic trees. The original structure lacked adaptability to the changing family needs. Jim Bell Architectural Design Build was retained to design and collaborate with the clients to define their vision and create a wonderful new home – in that same amazing location. Jim prepared design options for renovation as well as building new. Ultimately the client chose to build a new custom home. The original structure was sold and the house moved.
The property is secluded – surrounded by mature hardwood trees in what feels like a country estate (in the city). The clients expressed ideas of what they wanted, however they relied on Jim’s expertise to collaborate with them and bring it all together into one unique timeless design.
The home exudes the high quality of custom home design from aesthetic design considerations to focusing on energy efficiency. The interior is based on an open concept floor plan, includes living room with 13’ foot cathedral ceiling, a formal dining and a family room with a 20’ vaulted ceiling. The design incorporates an open stairway, three wood burning fireplaces and the master bedroom includes a spa style ensuite. The finished basement includes a hobby room, wine cellar, workshop, personal gym & billiards room and is accessible to the over-sized storage friendly garage.
The home has large screened in porch with a deck and patio perfect for entertaining outdoors or simply relaxing in nature. One key technical feature of the project is the geothermal heating and cooling system. It was a relatively new technology for urban homes in the late 80’s but has proven to be an efficient, cost effective and reliable system for a well placed investment by these early adopters. Over the almost three decades maintenance and energy costs have been kept to a minimum because of the advice of Jim Bell.
While the design of the exterior of the home is contemporary, the interior design would be considered classic-contemporary. In addition to Jim’s architectural design, a local interior designer was hired, Patrick McCarron, who provided valuable suggestions regarding the kitchen and furniture layouts, flooring, and colour schemes.
Q&A with Monique & Bill
I understand you had lived in your previous home, the high ranch bungalow, before deciding it was time for a larger space and upgrading. How long had you lived in your previous home?
“We had lived in our previous home for 15 years.”
Originally you had discussed renovation options, what made you decide on a new design build custom home?
“Jim and I came up with some ideas for the renovations and combined them with other features for a hew home build. Looking at building new and looking at the reno plans, by moving the old house and not renovating it, we’d have a much better house for not much more money.”
Were there any specific features you can remember communicating to Jim as items you and your family wanted specifically?
“Stairs going directly to the basement from the garage. I had a lot of discussions with Jim and
He was able to tell what we wanted. You never know exactly what you want until you try it out. We wanted a well-built home in nice neighbourhood.”
How well was Jim able to transfer your wants and desires into your new custom designs?
Having been disappointed in the past working with other designers, Jim was much better. He always lived up to what he promised. I trust Jim, he is an honest trustworthy guy, Jim took care of everything.”
How long was the build process and when was the build completed?
“We were fully moved in by Christmas of 1989, so the total build time was approx. 6 months.”
I have a question regarding one specific feature, the ground loop geothermal system. What made you decide to use this kind of system? Has it been as efficient as you thought?
“The system was pretty cutting edge at the time in Ottawa, it’s an efficient system. It’s a lot cheaper than gas and a lot cleaner than other heating and cooling systems. It’s the system of choice for high-end homes. It runs underground, looping in the front and looping in the back down around 4.5-6’.”
Would you say you and your family are still happy with your home? Is there anything you would’ve done differently? On the interior? On the exterior?
We’ve been amazed at how well this house has worked and how trouble-free it’s been. Every detail, colour selection etc. are perfect, …black countertops are the only thing we’d change.”
What specifically did you like about working with Jim Bell? Would you work with him again? Would you recommend him to anyone?
“We started working with Jim some 26 years, ago. During the build, the building inspector once commented that he didn’t know why he even bothered visiting the site, as everything was always perfect. The carpentry was completed so well that all other subsequent trades noticed and were able to complete their respective tasks more efficiently as a result. We have added a couple of improvements since the build have been completed. Backyard improvements have all been handled by Jim. He draws up the plans and we let him go. I like the guy and primarily it’s because he’s honest. I would recommend him for anything!”