Houses of the Gatineau Hills

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the April 30, 2014 issue. Reprinted with permission.

The house that Lise built

by Melanie Scott

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
A Dali-esque painting keeps watch over the landscape. Photo courtesy Steve Lerner.

Lise Bégin was nothing if not imaginative: the house she shared with her husband, Steve Lerner, 70, on Chemin de Ravin in Chelsea, has her stamp of design sensibility written all over it.

Bégin passed away almost two years ago, leaving behind her husband and three daughters (Bianca, 32; Candice, 30; and Natasha, 28). She also left a legacy in the stone residence that was a palette for her ideas.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Warm earth tones in the living room provide a dramatic backdrop for an eclectic art collection. Photo courtesy Steve Lerner.

as a palette for her ideas. "I gave Lise a budget of $75,000 to completely redecorate the house," said Lerner. "She came in under that figure including all the original art, the decorations, the furniture, the lamps, the repainting of every room."

The 4,000 square foot home boasts a ceiling height of 22 feet, creating a dramatic space that floods the rooms with light. Built from stone sourced from a quarry near Chelsea, Bégin and Lerner bought the house in 2003. It was in rough shape and needed some serious TLC, after which Bégin applied her knack for fashion (she owned three boutiques in Gatineau) to its decoration, inside and out.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Bold colours and gleaming stainless in the kitchen are reminiscent of a 1960s diner. Photo courtesy Steve Lerner.

The kitchen blends form with function: an island with a brushed steel base and ceramic tile surface brings forth thoughts of the diner era. Bold primary colours add a splash of brightness, while an industrial steel floor makes for an indestructible surface that will endure years of use. Light fixtures that might easily be found in a train station provide an interesting twist.

A steel-base table in the dining nook is matched with bright red, black, and chrome chairs, while a modern take on the chandelier provides diners with subtle lighting. Another bold spot in the nook are the walls, which are painted in black and white stripes.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Moo times two: Bégin rescued this cow and bull from a bankrupt restaurant and painted the pair to match the outdoor decor. Photo courtesy Steve Lerner.

The living room is painted milk-chocolate brown, and invites lingering with sectional furniture in soft earth tones.

Art is everywhere, and all of it is original. Bégin bought paintings from 'undiscovered' artists, and her eye for talent is evident in the quality of the works.

The veritable 'gallery' continues to the outside, where statues sourced from a Stittsville producer live in harmony with a couple of cow sculptures that were snapped up from a defunct steak restaurant in Ottawa.

The eclectic selection of furniture - Bégin had a talent for buying everything on sale - came from various stores in Gatineau, Ottawa, and Toronto.

Lerner says Bégin's ideas "just came to her. I guess being in the clothing business ... gave her a flair for design. I never appreciated her talent for design until after she died. I'm quite conservative, so it took me a while to get used to everything; however, now it's very comforting to me."

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