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Interiorssneak peeks

In Ottawa, Ontario, a Bold & Eclectic Melange of Many Styles

by Kelli Kehler

Kim Johnson has loved interior design for as long as she can remember, and would rearrange the furniture in her childhood bedroom every other weekend when she was a kid. Now the supervisor of a web development team for the Canadian federal government, it’s no surprise that she also has an interior design blog, a side project she’s worked on for over 11 years (with her Australian co-blogger, Jo Walker). Design is Kim’s passion, so it’s needless to say that the previous Ottawa, Ontario home she and husband Jeff Jenkins lived in was really stifling her inspiration with its lack of architectural interest. “Before this home we owned a tiny 800-square-foot, 10-feet-wide house in Little Italy that had ZERO architectural details and after about eight years there, we knew it was time to move on,” Kim shares.

Kim’s main goal was to continue walking to work as she’d done for years, so she and Jeff set their sights on the Civic Hospital neighborhood of Ottawa four and a half years ago. The bustling location alone might have deterred the couple, but this 1940 Arts & Crafts style home designed by architect David Younghusband ended up speaking Kim’s design language tenfold.

“When this home came on the market I knew we had to go see it,” Kim recalls. “I was worried because it is on a major road and directly across the street from a hospital, so it can be a bit noisy, but the neighborhood is filled with these beautiful Arts & Crafts style homes with leaded windows and brick exteriors and each one different from the next. When we toured this home and saw that almost every window was leaded or stained glass, a large foyer with wainscoting, a beautiful fireplace in the living room, double stained glass doors leading into the dining room, a large backyard… it had everything the last house didn’t have.”

Now Kim, Jeff, and their eight cats — Mimin, Milo, Phoebe, Lucky, Felix and rescues Georgie, Bernie and Frankie — call this 1,600-square-foot place home, and Kim has been able to live out many of her interior design dreams, even with all the felines in tow. “I managed to find a balance between my love of interior design and living with a bunch of cats,” she says. And her style is so much more than that: it’s bold and eclectic, yet modern and sometimes traditional, and full of character and unexpected pairings.

“My main goal was simply that my husband and I would be very happy and comfortable here since we’re homebodies, and cats needed to be happy here too,” Kim begins. “I love a little bit from so many styles so I wanted to be able to bring in a bit of everything and create an eclectic but somewhat cohesive home. I am a bit tired of all the white spaces being featured these days, and I thought this home would be most suitable to darker/bolder colors so I just went for it.”

And went for it she did — Kim and Jeff’s four-story home is packed with anything but all-white spaces. Kim leaves us with a bit of advice for those wanting to design outside the box: “Don’t follow trends! That’s so uninspiring. Go with your gut, and do what will make you break into a smile when you walk through the door.” —Kelli

Photography by Kim Johnson / @kim_dti

Image above: “The dining room is my favorite room in the house,” Kim says. “This is the second iteration of the space. When I first painted it I went with light pink walls and pale grey ceiling which was pretty, but way too cold and not bold enough for me. I went a little [wild] in the second iteration and while I know ‘pink and orange’ is a color combination that maybe some people aren’t a fan of, I can’t believe how warm and inviting the space is now. Farrow & Ball colors are truly magical and change shades drastically throughout the day. During the day the terra-cotta walls become very pale and bright. At night they are dark and moody. And they often photograph totally different than how they appear in person.”

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“The spider-like light fixture we found on a shopping trip in Montreal,” Kim notes. “The dining table was built by my husband out of hemlock that had been part of the Queen’s Wharf in Toronto for something like 200 years. It is the most beautiful wood I have ever seen. I should have asked for a 6-person table rather than 8 because it ended up taking up more space than I would have liked, but I was just so excited to have a dedicated dining room (in our last tiny home we had to put our dining table in the middle of the kitchen) that I went a bit overboard.”

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“My husband started a business a few years ago where he finds old non-working (ideally) vintage radios and converts them into Bluetooth speakers. I had him replace the gross fabric on the front [of this vintage radio] with a cute pink one we found at a fabric store. The sound that comes out of it is incredible. I’ll crank it while I cook or clean the house, and we use it with an iPad while we eat dinner and watch cooking shows. It’s one of my favorite things in the house. Everything else in this photo are vintage finds.”

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Kim says, “The buffet was teak and didn’t work with the dining table so I painted it out in the black/blue that I used on the wainscoting in the foyer and doors. Then I applied marble effect contact paper to the top. A day-long project that is a good interim solution until I find my dream art-deco style piece. On top are a random assortment of pottery and sculptures from Canadian artists and the rest are vintage.”

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“The gallery wall in the dining room was fun to put together. I had an idea for a light-box so [my] husband built one for me and I took a photo of a flower and Googled how to turn it into an x-ray in Photoshop. It is beautiful when lit. The two photographs are of my gorgeous Instagram friend Kelseyanna who kindly sent me them and I had them blown up and mounted on acrylic. The abstract painting was commissioned by another IG friend, Andrea. The “boob” art was a find at a Montreal flea market. And the black and white portrait is a print by Mel Remmers.”

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“One of the main reasons we fell so hard for this house were the architectural details, that are really unique for houses in this city. The double stained glass doors leading into the dining room are soooo special. I never imagined I could love stained glass this much, nor own a home with original stained glass details. These doors are a dream. And I love how you open them up and the windows in the alcove are also stained glass,” Kim shares.

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“When we first bought this house the entire main floor (minus the kitchen) was a very yellow/orange oak hardwood. All of the wainscoting, doors and trim on the main floor were painted a mahogany sort of stain. Basically red and orange! It was horrible. I went with Black Blue by Farrow & Ball for the woodwork. We had the oak floor in the foyer ripped out and replaced with white and black hex tile. It really emphasizes the foyer and makes it look massive! We then had the rest of the hardwood redone in a grey stain. I had Farrow & Ball’s Tourbillon wallpaper installed on the top half of walls and absolutely love it.”

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Kim shares, “There is always a cat on this antique grandfather chair, hence the layering of (ethically sourced) sheepskins to save the furniture from claws and embedded fur. The art hanging next to it is going with me to my grave. I discovered crochet artist Caitlin McCormack on Instagram (@mister_caitlin) and commissioned this crocheted bat. At my request she also kindly hunted down a vintage convex frame to hang it in. I adore how it turned out.”

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A look into the living room from the foyer.

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“The living room is a fairly large room (24 feet long — the width of the house) so it functions as a living room at one end and my home office at the other. I had painted it a very dark grey but after a few years I got a bit tired of the cave-like vibe and repainted the walls with some lighter grey chalk paint, but left the ceiling and fireplace and trim as I had originally painted them. I came across a photo of art hung on chains and realized that could be fun hanging from the molding behind the sofa. I love the ceiling molding detail – how it curves from the wall onto the ceiling. The rug is by Moooi and makes quite a statement (round rugs are the best!). I would eventually love to replace the raspberry sofa with something more lounge-y. I’m always moving chairs, side tables and pillows around in here to create different looks.”

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Kim shares, “I love this house, the decor, the relaxed vibe I feel when hanging out here, and the cats make it extra special. It is my favorite place and I love nothing more than hanging out at home.”

I feel at peace when I walk through my door. 

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“That’s Phoebe lounging in the tuftandpaw.com cat bed. This area became the cat hangout and a place where I can throw all their toys. They love hanging out there, especially in front of the heat vent in the winter. I also like to chill on that chair and read décor magazines. Usually I have to boot a cat off that chair first, though.”

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“When we first moved into this house I was trying to find a fairly large, inexpensive piece of art for over my sofa so I started looking on Instagram and found this incredible photograph by a 17-year-old girl from Bali. She sold me a digital copy, I had it printed on foam board and my husband built a frame for it. The total cost was about $150. The sofa has since been sold but I made an arrangement in its place of some extra tables/plant stands I had around and a super comfy chair.”

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“I hated the fireplace hearth tile in the floor [that was originally here], so when the tile guy was working on the foyer and kitchen he laid this spectacular mixed grey hex tile for me. I painted the rest of the remaining tile inside the fireplace black. We haven’t had work done on the chimney so for now the fireplace remains unused and instead houses my collection of antlers I got from a coworker who has a farm in Alberta (he finds them all over his property), and my wooden goose decoy that was a wedding gift from my in-laws. I had a Tretchkoff print resting on the mantel up until a few months ago when I swapped it out for this stunning painting from 1895 I found at a flea market for $40.”

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The office side of the living room, where Kim works on her interior design blog while keeping watch on the cats outside when they’re hanging out in their catio (cat patio!).

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The main bedroom. Kim says, “I wanted the bedroom to be earthy and a bit dark on the walls. The room is cozy and that’s what I was going for. (Cozy is really a polite way of saying small,)” she says with a wink.

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“I love my gallery wall that manages to distract from the TV (we finally caved and bought a TV for the bedroom for movie nights… for years I was against having a TV in the bedroom). The cat painting is very special to us. I commissioned it after we had to have our beloved cat Cheeks put down. He was a really rough, mean stray who lived on the streets in downtown Ottawa for almost eight years before we rescued him. He turned out to be one of the most incredible pets we ever had so I thought surprising my husband on his birthday with the painting of his Bubba Cheeks would be a nice surprise. Lots of tears were shed by us both when I presented it to him. Among the rest of the art are vintage finds, a couple from local artists, [and] a photograph taken by a friend who lives in L.A.”

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Organic textures and more muted tones bring forth an earthy vibe in the main bedroom.

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“Here you can see a glimpse of my bathroom that I desperately need to renovate. The wallpaper from the foyer and staircase was carried up here. This area is basically a really small hall with six doors but I like that the wallpaper gives your eye something else to focus on. That’s Phoebe under the leather Eames chair. The print is by yet another Instagram friend of mine, Pati @patirobins.

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“I love the vintage vibe in my dressing room,” Kim begins. “The chandelier has an interesting story. My hair stylist also happens to be a farmer, and we went to visit his farm last summer. I spotted this chandelier hanging off the edge of his porch. I fell in love and asked if I could buy it off of him. I had $40 in my wallet so he took that. My husband had to take it all apart and hang all of the pieces upside down for weeks to get it to dry out. Some of the sockets still don’t work but I don’t care. It’s huge for this small room but I love oversized, unexpected pieces.”

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“I store off-season clothing and shoes in shoe/boot boxes and vintage suitcases. The old wooden crates house some of my favorite Rick Owens and Guidi footwear.”

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Jeff’s dressing room. Kim says, “There are so many radios around the house for my husband’s Bluetooth speaker side business, and his dressing room needed to house some of them too. As much as I hate having them all over the place we have fun finding really cool looking ones.”

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“We had the fourth bedroom set up as a guest bedroom for the first few years in this house but then realized no one visits! So we got rid of the bed and moved in an apartment-sized sectional sofa I had stashed away, brought the TV up from the living room and turned it into a cozy TV-watching room. I love spending time in here with the cats. Almost everything in the room is finds I have brought back from many vacations spent in Mexico. The canvas print is by another Instagram friend, Maren @villabetulablog.”

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The kitchen is located back downstairs on the main floor. “The kitchen is pretty basic, and very small. I started off by painting it blue, realized I am not a fan of blue and repainted it in some leftover paint from the dining room (Farrow & Ball’s ‘Picture Gallery Red’). Much better! We had the cheap ceramic tile replaced with tiny hex tile that flows into the foyer. The IKEA cabinets I’d love to eventually replace with something a bit more modern,” Kim notes.

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“The window at the end of the counter is where the cats escape out to the catio. Some of our cats are getting older and less mobile so my husband built the steps so they can climb up easier.”

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A beautiful collection of pottery pops against the deep red walls in the kitchen.

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“My favorite thing about my home is… I managed to find a balance between my love of interior design and living with a bunch of cats.” –Kim Johnson

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The catio outside. Kim shares, “The best project we have ever DIYed. Watching the cats fly through that window in and out whenever they want brings me more joy than I can explain. The first time I watched our cats climb into the catio from the kitchen window was by far my favorite memory in this house. To give them all the freedom to be able to go outside whenever they wanted, and to see how happy they were laying out in the sun and bird-watching really melted my heart. It was especially heartwarming because our feral cats, since rescuing them about three years ago, had not been able to enjoy the outdoors before the catio was built and they absolutely LOVE it.”

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The home’s exterior. “I am so thankful that this home is filled with gorgeous original architectural details,” Kim says. “So many homes these days are either new and void of any character, or have been stripped over the years of all these great features.”

SOURCE LIST

Entryway

Light fixture – Flos IC S1/S2 Suspension Lamp from The Modern Shop
Paint – “Black Blue” by Farrow & Ball
Wallpaper – “Tourbillon” by Farrow & Ball
Hex tile – Saltillo Imports

Living Room

Walls – Rustoleum Chalk Paint in “Country Grey” and “Aged Grey”
Trim and Fireplace – “DownPipe” by Farrow & Ball in full gloss
Ceiling – “Plummett” by Farrow & Ball
Rug – Moooi Carpets and HAY blanket on black leather chair from The Modern Shop
Black marble Knoll coffee table, blanket, white bookcase – Alteriors
White tulip table – vintage from Wiseman + Cromwell
Purple cube sculpture and black and brass vase on mantel – vintage
Raspberry sofa – vintage from The Pale Blue Dot
Black leather chair – Green Light Shop
Pillow on white vintage Panton chair – Wild Rice Designs
Round grey pillow – Homesense
Knotted black and white pillow – Hana Waxman
Small gold frames hanging from chain, large gold mirror, mirror ball, cat statue – highJinx
Sheepskins – The Kate Edit
Lucite table – vintage from Ottawa Antique and Vintage Market
Everything else is vintage from flea markets or eBay

Kitchen

Wall color – “Picture Gallery Red” by Farrow & Ball
Pendant light – Schoolhouse Electric
Cabinet hardware – Lee Valley

Main Bedroom

Wall color – “Mouse’s Back” by Farrow & Ball
Art over bed – vintage from Vanier Moderns
Bed frame – built by Jeff
Duvet cover – X + L
Pillows – patterned one from IKEA, black and white one was a gift from Greece
Artemide Tolomeo bedside lights – Kartell
Componibili side tables – A Modern Space

Bedroom Gallery Wall

Cat portrait – painted by Ranajit Sinha
Photo of chair – “Take a Seat” by Eric Eikenbary via Minted
Bottom left – “Animal” by Marc Adornato
Photo of tattoo shop – by Tom Andrews and printed on canvas by Canvas Pop
Wolf mixed media – by Dulce Tapp from Orange Art Gallery
Other artwork – vintage/thrifted

Dining Room

Wall color – “Red Earth” by Farrow & Ball
Alcove and trim color – “Picture Gallery Red” by Farrow & Ball
Ceiling color – “Nancy’s Blushes” by Farrow & Ball
Dining table – top built by my husband with base built by ReVolvd
Rug – ECarpetGallery
Chairs – vintage
Crushed velvet curtains – Etsy (AuDelaVintage)
Sheers – fabric from Etsy (bettiecouture)
On credenza – mostly vintage from Vanier Moderns, a couple of pieces from Le Lou Ula, Plate with flower – L’arbre et la Riviere
Radio converted into Bluetooth speaker – Daff Design
Art above radio – vintage

Dressing Room

Wall color – “Charleston Gray” by Farrow & Ball
Clothing rack – IKEA
Suitcases – mostly from highJinx

Media room

Wall color – “Inchyra Blue” from Farrow & Ball
Sofa – Furniture Maison
Canvas art – Tictail, Villa Betula
Pillows – Homesense and my last trip to Mexico
Blanket – Homesense
Rug and rope hanging planter – brought back from Mexico
Lucite pendant – a flea market in Montreal
Coffee table – built by Jeff
Stool – highJinx

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Comments

  • Let me get my passport renewed so I can come up and visit y’all and your 8 cats because that looks AWESOME!

  • Whoa. This house is phenomenal – so unique and original, SUPER glam, and a freakin’ adorable catio. Every photo held so many little treats.

  • Museum like curation! Took me forever to go thru the photos. Absolutely love when someone can pull off their love of stuff in a warm and tasteful manner! Well done, one of my favourite bloggers.

    • !!!!! I don’t even know what to say to this…but I’m blushing and grinning from ear to ear. Thank you Debby!!!! XOXOXO

  • what a wonderful home. i love the red couch and the entry. i also love cats and wanted to thank you for showing them so predominantly. The outside Catio is crazy wonderful. what a gift.

    • Thanks so much Patricia! Our cats mean the world to us and each one was a gift. So my husband and I wanted to give them the life they deserve. That catio made it happen – particularly for the ferals who adore it. Even when it’s -30C out. LOL

    • Thank you!!! I call the orange in the dining room terra-cotta because I hate orange. LOL! Unexpected was what I was going for so thumbs up and I’m glad you like it!

  • I follow the DTI blog, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a full tour of Kim’s house. Wow! There’s a little bit of everything here, but somehow it works together and absolutely exudes personality. I love the Flos ceiling lamp and the unexpected sunset colour palette. How cool to see 1. a Canadian home, 2. a home where walkability was a consideration, 3. a home that houses 8 (!!!) cats and all the design challenges that come with that. I’ve got 2 cats and there are so many things we can’t have (most plants, anything that can be knocked over, any material that gathers hair or attracts scratching) so it’s inspiring to see a home that works with these limitations and you’d never know otherwise. It’s also been a challenge for us to accommodate multiple litter boxes where it’s not an eyesore or stinking up the place. I would love to see a post by Kim on how she accommodates her cats while still keeping her design vision.

    • Thanks so much Lisa!!!! Of course, several pieces of cat paraphernalia are moved out of the way when I shoot my house but I have figured out a way to make that easy and to live with cats and not have them dominate how I decorate. As for the litter box dilemma, thank god for Canadian homes with basements!!! I’ve learned what shape of plants to avoid so they won’t get chewed on, what fabrics are the easiest to clean the cat fur off etc etc. Now you’ve got me thinking I should do a blog post on my tips and tricks. Maybe I’ll wait until spring so I can get some more shots of the catio – the most important part of our setup!

  • So much inspiration in one house! I don’t even know where to begin. My favorites are probably the dining room and entry. The mix of styles is amazing and the owner makes it all look effortless. I feel like this home could be a master class in color, texture and pattern. Beautiful!

  • I love your dressing room. The vintage feel is inspiring. The chandelier is amazing and I love the story of its discovery.

    • Thank you Dara! That room was basically thrown together. I dream to one day have it all done with built-ins but for now this works! (And my stylist’s wife probably wanted to kill him after he offered me that chandelier)

  • It says that you would like to replace the Ikea kitchen cabinets, but I see two kinds there: the white cabinet and the cabinet in the natural wood. I love that one – is that one from Ikea?

    • There was a dishwasher that took up more space that we liked so we removed it, went to Ikea to buy a door like all the rest, only to discover our new-ish cabinets had been discontinued! So we improvised with that one, and yes it is from Ikea too. I can’t remember the name. I am not really a fan of it – it has no weight to it so feels cheap/fake to me. Though the wood grain look is cool.

  • Beautiful house, gorgeous design work! I’ve been a fan of desiretoinspire.net for years so no surprise that Kim’s house is amazing! The kitties all look so happy.

    • So sweet of you Christa thank you! My cats are living their BEST LIVES :)
      (And thanks for being a devoted fan of DTI)

  • I am really so in love with all of this (and now desperately want a vintage radio Bluetooth speaker!) but that entry foyer takes my breath away!! It’s one of my favorite wallpapers but seeing it in this way (and in the darker print) is whole other level.

  • This is so inspiring! Layered, textured, and bold choices provide so much to think about. Can you recommend any sources for columns similar to those columns in the entryway?

    • Thank you Bridget! :)
      I visited a flea market in Montreal and found that solid marble column for $100? $150? I saw many there so I suggest checking out local vintage/flea markets. The black plastic one is a favourite if you prefer more modern. It’s by plust.it (I got it at alteriors.ca)

  • I liked each room even better than the one before and I saved this posting to my Pinterest so I can look at it again and again! That black hourglass looking plant stand (?) in the foyer is so cool, but the best part is that you built steps for your geriatric cats to be able to get outside. Love that so much!

  • I’ve been a fan of Kim’s since the Flickr days when she went by the screen name “Kim has five cats” (or something similar). In fact, she inspired me to find and buy some Andy Warhol typographic prints exactly the same as she featured in her home back in 2006 or 2007. I still have them in my entryway. I love this full home tour!
    —Patti with two cats