Variety was the key at the 2018 Ottawa Housing Design Awards: variety in style, variety in materials and variety in the winners awarded trophies at a gala dinner Saturday night.
From soothing neutrals to neon-like lighting, minimalist modern to classically traditional, and casual rustic to sophisticated elegance, the winning projects offered something to appeal to just about everyone.
It was the 35th anniversary of the awards for the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) and it was marked with a glitzy event where gold and stone decor mimicked the contrasting trends of this year’s entries. About 500 industry representatives from builders to designers, architects and suppliers gathered at the Shaw Centre for the event, where some 40 companies were named winners in 57 categories.
Unlike recent years, there was no one company that dominated in the winner’s circle. Several scooped up multiple trophies, with RND Construction and Hobin Architecture winning five apiece and Christopher Simmonds Architect and Linebox Studio grabbing four. Minto Communities claimed a slight edge on the competition with six wins.
Minto’s awards included both the condo building categories, for its UpperWest and Beechwood projects, and three for the 2017 dream home built as part of the CHEO Dream of a Lifetime Lottery fundraiser.
“Minto Communities is honoured to have been recognized by the industry,” said director of marketing Jan Coulis after the event. “Our team is always working to bring new design ideas to the market to meet the needs of today’s buyers, so to receive these awards for product design in the low, mid and high-rise categories is really exciting.”
But the surprise of the evening was newcomer Neoteric Developments, which won an impressive four categories in its first attempt at entering the awards, including the prestigious Ottawa Citizen People’s Choice Award, which is voted on by the public.
Three of Neoteric’s wins were for the same project, which happens to be the home of company founder Shneur Bielak.
He said he entered the awards because, after five years in business, “we felt what we’ve done should be shown to people. We wanted to show everyone what we’re building on and what we’re working toward.”
Bielak added that the People’s Choice Award shows “people want to see things that are original and unique, artistic things that have an innovative function.”
Several other companies had multiple wins, including eQ Homes, which was named production builder of the year, Amsted Design-Build, Laurysen Kitchens, Astro Design Centre and The Lake Partnership — all of whom won three awards. Interestingly, many of these companies’ projects won more than one category.
Amsted, for instance, won both a kitchen category and renovation under $100,000 for a condo transformation that turned an industrial space into a tranquil retreat.
Laurysen’s double-win project was shared with Minto for the dream home, winning for both its main bathroom and master ensuite. The main bathroom combined a live-edge counter with a delightful miniature brick mosaic tile in black while the ensuite incorporated neutral tones, a mid-century modern style and gold fixtures.
Side note: Laurysen also won the kitchen category known as the John Laurysen Memorial Trophy, which honours the company’s founder. Fittingly, the kitchen that won was designed by Laurysen’s daughter, Caroline Castrucci.
“It was impressive,” judge and architecture professor Chris Hewett of Algonquin College said of Castrucci’s winning kitchen. “It definitely says this is the centre of the house, this is where everything happens.”
It boasts open post-and-beam ceilings and pairs maple and walnut that is glazed and distressed to match the ceiling. The space was designed to complement its rural locale, along with meeting the needs of a family member who uses a wheelchair.
Astro’s double-win project featured a kitchen and an ensuite designed by Julia Enriquez.
“It felt very comforting and warm,” Hewett said of the kitchen, which needed to provide some “wow” while keeping to a tight budget.
And The Lake Partnership won three awards, in conjunction with Linebox, for a custom home that really stood out for the way it worked with an odd-shaped lot.
“There was a real subtlety to the way they dealt with the massing on the exterior,” said judge Chris Lemke of Alloy Homes. “It was a unique response to a particular site.”
The project won its custom home category, as well as for its kitchen and for housing details for a fun staircase that Lemke likened to paper clips.
Worth mentioning: While not a double project winner, of note was Hobin’s double win in the new community categories, where the firm claimed both the planned and built new home community trophies, sharing the planned one with eQ (more on that below).
“It was exciting to win both new community categories,” Hobin architect Gord Lorimer said after the event. “While Greystone and the Haven are very different, they share a similar design approach, which is based on a strong central organizing principle that is more about the space between the buildings than the buildings themselves.
“These spaces are designed as platforms for building community. They incorporate pedestrian/cycling routes that pass through the development and connect to important neighbourhood networks at both ends. Meeting places, amenities and services are strung along these paths reinforcing their functionality.”
Barry Hobin also pointed to the significance of the Haven winning as a not-for-profit, affordable housing project. “To win against the marketing campaigns of numerous developer projects is extremely gratifying,” he said.
Special achievement awards
RND was named custom builder of the year for the third time in the past five years. RND founder Roy Nandram had a good night, capturing both of the green category awards — it’s a category he has dominated for years and speaks to his leadership in sustainable building.
RND also won three awards for its Meadow model home at Riverpark Green, sharing two of those wins with frequent collaborator Chris Simmonds and the third with Deslaurier Custom Cabinets.
RND president Roy Nandram said his green awards point to the future of home building, including Net Zero homes, which generate as much energy, through solar panels, for example, as they consume.
“Our last two projects were Net Zero, so that’s quite an achievement,” he said. “If builders aren’t building green now, they’ll fall behind.”
eQ, which claimed the production builder of the year award, scooped up two more, for Greystone Village (planned new community) and for its new double-car townhome model. Greystone was also a winner at last year’s sales and marketing awards put on by GOHBA.
“There’s some great respect paid to the original buildings and using them as a backdrop for some public spaces around which new streets were laid out,” Lemke said of Greystone.
Greystone is a mixed-use development of about 900 homes, plus retail, commercial and community use spaces being built on the former site of the Oblate Brothers along the Rideau River in Old Ottawa East.
Josh Kardish, vice-president of eQ Homes, said that the awards for Greystone show recognition for the “original and unique community.”
He said he was especially proud of the award as production builder of the year. “We’ve been building homes for the past nine years and became a production builder only five or six years ago, so winning this is great. It shows our systems are in place and are good.”
Renovator of the year went to Lagois Design-Build-Renovate, which last won the category in 2011. Lagois also won the renovation $200,001 to $350,000 category for a warm and inviting riverfront home in Manotick.
“To me, renovator of the year is a very prestigious award because we’re talking about the best of the best in Ottawa,” said owner Herb Lagois. “It’s a team effort. We’re in our 34th year, and that speaks to how there have been lessons learned and that we’re still improving.”
And designer of the year was won by Project1 Studio, which also won the renovation $500,001 and over (along with newcomer Novera Homes) for a beautiful Rockcliffe Park makeover.
“It’s amazing,” said Project1 principal Ryan Koolwine. “We’ve been working hard and we’ve had a lot of good projects over the last two years.”
In a poignant moment, last year’s designer of the year, Friedemann Weinhardt of Design First Interiors, was remembered by the association with a standing ovation and the posthumous awarding of the Enbridge Hall of Fame award.
“We remember Friedemann and honour the legacy he left in our industry,” awards committee chair Linda Oliveri Blanchard said earlier in the evening.
Weinhardt died unexpectedly in August after a fall from a ladder.
In accepting the award, his life partner Welwyn Wong told the crowd, “I lost my best friend, my partner and my confidante… and Ottawa has lost a homegrown celebrity.
“Friedemann set a high bar. It is my hope the legacy he leaves behind will continue to push the boundary and inspire.”
What the judges had to say
Most of the categories this year were judged by a dozen industry experts from across the country. Following the judging but before the winners were announced, several indicated they were impressed by the quality of the entries.
“There’s a lot of innovation,” said Cory Saran, principal of The Forge Group of Companies in White Rock, B.C. “I saw some really interesting stuff.”
Saran judged the production and custom homes categories, as well as the condo categories (the categories were divvied up among the judges so that no one judge assessed every single category).
He was most taken with some of the smaller custom home entries that sought to maximize usage of the space. “I was pretty surprised by it.”
Colour, or not?
Hewett, who was the only local judge and who was back for the 12th time, judged kitchens and bathrooms along with his usual green categories. He found minimal colour palettes being used. “Very black and white, very stark contrast,” especially when it came to dark veining in marble or marble-look materials.
“Some of those veinings were very dominant,” he said.
But another judge who also covered kitchens and bathrooms, Alana Loranger of Towne & Countree Kitchens in Edmonton, found that colour was starting to return.
“They’re not just colourful accessories, but actually with the furniture pieces themselves,” she said. “The trend has been so much white over the years, or dark blacks and espresso woods, so to see blue cabinets and yellow cabinets is refreshing.”
While it wasn’t blue or yellow, one of her favourite projects was a kitchen by Astro’s Nathan Kyle that also won at the NKBA Ottawa awards in the spring.
“It blew my mind,” said Loranger, who has been a kitchen designer for 10 years. “The amount of work and planning that went into that space was awesome. It was the little details, different finishes.”
One project in particular stood out for judge Koen de Waal as well: the green custom home of the year by RND and Arca-Verde Inc.
“The first time I saw it I thought, ‘Wow, I wish I could do something like that,’” said the founder of De Waal Developments, a custom home builder in Edmonton. “It’s just so beautiful and they hit all the green design elements as well.”
For Arca-Verde principal architect Mike Peixoto, winning green custom home of the year was huge. “It’s why we do what we do.”
Here are all the 2018 winning projects
Custom builder of the year
Designer of the year
Production builder of the year
Renovator of the year
Colonel Boss Award (presented annually to an individual for outstanding dedication and service to the association)
Murray Chown, Novatech Engineering
Fred Neilson Award (presented annually to a company that has made an outstanding and lasting contribution to the association and the housing industry)
Enercare & The Regional Group
Enbridge Hall of Fame Award
Friedemann Weinhardt, Design First Interiors
With files from Patrick Langston