“You want to look forward to coming home, so you create a space that makes you want to be home,” says Ramzi Saad of the downtown Ottawa condo he shares with partner Jason Bellaire, an interior designer who helped create and style the space based on their shared vision. “I come home and love it,” he says.
Getting at that shared vision, however, was a year-long process. Bellaire brought all the tools of the trade to the task, creating three-dimensional mock-ups of the space to test furnishings, combinations thereof, and their personal reactions. “We have different backgrounds and personalities. We had different ideas about how we wanted to live in the space,” Bellaire says. “We channelled our ideas; some became reality, others were discarded. The resulting space is one that we both love to spend time in,” he says.
Saad, who has a Lebanese background but spent his childhood and teenage years in Kenya and the United States, wanted a space with a sense of glamour. “If you’ve ever been to a nightclub in Beirut,” Bellaire says, “you would know there’s a lot of sparkle and dazzle.” The pair enjoy entertaining when home, but travel often for work and pleasure, so the living room needed to be both stimulating and a respite. “Not that it’s so formal it’s stuffy,” Bellaire says. “But you can wear a smoking jacket occasionally and feel quite comfortable.”
A smoking jacket is entirely appropriate attire for reclining on either the Gus Modern midnight blue velvet sofa or the Jonathan Adler orange, hand-shaped Brigitte chair and white-shearling seat with brass legs, both purchased at the Modern Shop in Ottawa. “We’re not the kind of people that would buy a beige sofa just because we want to have it for 30 years,” says Bellaire, though Saad admits he never quite imagined owning a blue velvet variety, topped with a cross-stitched cushion that took six months to arrive after they ordered it. “Surely there’s another black and white cushion in the world?” opines Saad, but when it did get there, it was cause for celebration. “I’ve never been so excited to receive a cushion!”
“That’s a good thing to keep in mind, for people that are thinking about hiring a designer. It doesn’t happen overnight,” Bellaire says. Saad admits he had to learn patience, whether acquiring unique or custom pieces sourced from local and cross-country retailers, picking out the perfect fiddle leaf fig tree – they call her Linda, “the supermodel of ficuses,” Bellaire says – or selecting artworks, such as a colourful piece by Dominik Sokolowski, purchased through Alpha Art Gallery in Ottawa. The couple has just begun building their art collection with pieces from their hometown, Montreal (where Bellaire lived for a stint) and Prince Edward County, Ont.
In the end, Saad agrees that good things take time and it’s the combination of elements that’s exciting. “While the individual pieces are loud, the way the space comes together, you get the drama and the serenity,” says Saad, which is very him. “I love that tension and that’s exactly what I bring to my friendships, my workplace and into my relationship,” he says. “And my eye is full. I think that’s what I like. My eye is always full in the condo. Wherever I look, I see something that I like. I guess that was my vision,” he says. “In a nutshell!” Bellaire says with a laugh.
Get the Look
Gus Modern Margot sofa, $2,450 at Modern Karibou.
Maxime lounge chair, US$2,250 at Jonathan Adler.
Lorrain rug by Feizy, $1825 at Cadieux Interiors.
Carved wood coffee table, $489 at West Elm.