Houses of the Gatineau Hills

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the December 20, 2017 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Reclaiming a home back to life

by Ben Bulmer

Visitors walking through the yard of Jean-Pierre Doyon's Chelsea property are greeted by a six-foot high concrete shark's fin - it's the first indication of what to expect of the eclectic house that lies beyond.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Professional leather worker Jean-Pierre Doyon has his own workspace in his Chelsea home which dates back to 1879.

Doyon has been living in the house, which dates back to 1879, for 30 years and has created a unique environment that blends an array of styles which, amazingly, all work together.

He describes working on his home as "like therapy," and is constantly designing and building components. "I can change my mind and redo it three times. I don't mind going at it if I could make it better." Working largely with recycled materials, Doyon doesn't search for projects, but allows them to happen. "I don't look for... [materials], because when you look... you lose your time, but when you find it... somehow it finds a place to go," he said.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
This home, which is nearly 140 years old, has gone through several changes and upgrades over the past 30 years. It blends an array of styles from different eras that complement each other, using materials like reclaimed wood.

The original post and beam structure has a straw bale extension. Using beams cut by an axe over a century ago to white subway style tiles, Doyon has an eye to mix eras, successfully managing to allow the old and the new to complement each other. Doyon said it's all about keeping the character.

"This house didn't look good when I moved in [but] it allowed me to bring her back to life."

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Jean-Pierre Doyon has handcrafted many elements of his chelsea home. Many of the beams are made from wood that was reclaimed from barns that were torn down.

A professional leather worker by trade, Doyon's skills with his hands are in evidence, from the kitchen table to the chairs in the light-flooded sunroom he fabricated. The wood around the windows was sitting in a field for five years; many of the beams were reclaimed from barns that were torn down. "You can't just buy everything," said Doyon. "To me, it's too cold."

And how does he feel about living in a house that's so old? "It has so much to say. It doesn't have to say words, but you can feel it, understand it, and it goes beyond languages... An old house like this has seen everything, happy times, extremely sad times, and now this house is like part of time." And he's right: it has the warmth of home and a feeling of stability; it has been witness to history, and continues to stand strong and proud.

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