Houses of the Gatineau Hills

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the December 24, 2014 issue. Reprinted with permission.

The tradition of DIY renos in Tenaga

Photos and story by Anastasia Philopoulos

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
A friend found the couple an original street sign from Ottawa at a garage sale a few years back.

There's a certain generation that will clearly remember growing up in Chelsea, dodging loose planks and playing with hammers in homes that were constantly under renovation (for example, the publisher of this paper once put a live electrical wire up her nose as a kid).

According to Michael and Catherine Joyce, that was the tradition of the Chelsea owner/ builder back in the 1970s and 1980s.

"When you don't have a lot of money and you're kind of building it over time. Using materials perhaps that you've recycled or found. You're doing it by yourself as much as possible, hiring as few people as you can," Michael Joyce said with a chuckle.

The couple has been renovating their Tenaga home in that tradition for the past eight years. "You end up with a very unique, idiosyncratic house," Michael added.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
The Joyce's love hanging out around their fireplace, and have their stockings ready for Santa's special visit.

The couple says they waited years before deciding to completely rebuild the house, which dates from 1921 and was bought in 1999 from a family friend who had grown up with Catherine's father. "We didn't really want to change it for the longest time because we really liked it. It was the classic Tenaga clapboard cottage."

Michael, who was a science teacher in a previous life, was also the former owner of a renovation company and did most of the work on the house, which now boasts three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and three floors including a walkout basement.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
The famous daybed where the Joyce family enjoys cozying up for a movie.

A good portion of the paneling is from the original cottage, and the moulding was taken from two pines and an oak tree cut down on the property. "The cabinetry is from the oak," Catherine explained. "We're trying to keep that sense of the old cottage alive in the new place."

The couple describes the house as cozy and natural - a typical house of the Hills. "The house respects the use of natural materials, not too chichi, really down home," Michael said.

A unique feature is a piece of glasswork that sits on top of a doorframe in the back of the house. It features a poem written by Catherine, the words flowing along the length of the Gatineau River. "We have friends who are glass artists up here, who turned that [poem] into a beautiful river and I really love what they did."

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Catherine's poem intertwined with a glass image of the river.

For Michael, the best spot in the house is the day bed; with no conventional television room, the daybed is the perfect spot for the family to pile on. "The dog, my son when he's around, and Cath and I, so there's four of us on the day bed watching TV," Michael said with a laugh.

While the work has been underway for eight years so far, the couple jokes that it will probably take another eight to complete.

"We've been at this for so long I think we really just enjoy living here, we don't really mind that it's not finished," Catherine said. "Just the feeling of being home is lovely and we really like that."

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