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Veronica Martin says she likes the light fixture because it creates a moment when you walk into the space – it’s something that you’re drawn to stop and look at.

Interior designer Veronica Martin describes her aesthetic as classic and timeless but with a modern layer. After almost a decade working for Yabu Pushelberg, designing five-star hotels around the world, she decided it was time to stay closer to home. She and her husband and their two young daughters moved from Toronto to Ottawa, where they bought and renovated an 80-year-old house. The Globe spoke to her about the 3 1/2-month renovation (including a 1,000-square-foot, two-storey addition) and what it's like to be your own designer.

The light fixture in the kitchen is quite commanding. At what point in your design did you add it?

The fixture is from Restoration Hardware. I bought it a year before we purchased the house and left it in the basement collecting dust. I like it because it creates a moment when you walk into the space – it's something that you're drawn to stop and look at. I had designed this great room many years ago, even before we moved to Ottawa. I've designed kitchens where budgets have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, using big Italian and German manufacturers. I knew I wanted to achieve the same look but at a much different price point.

How did you reduce the cost?

I purchased all of my cabinets from IKEA. Buying something from a big-box store like that, gives you endless opportunities to customize. If you have a great design and a great installer, you can do anything .

But the knobs are high-end. I do a lot of mixing of high and low. The knobs were at a fairly high price point – they're hand-forged metal – but they have such a great quality when you touch them. Since you hold onto the handles and knobs when you open a cabinet, I wanted them to have a very luxe feel to them, both visually and by touch.

Are you tougher when you design for yourself versus a client?

I'm definitely tougher because I have to live with it, I can't walk away. The great part about designing other spaces is I make mental notes – yes, that's really great, I'd like to incorporate that into something I do for myself down the road. My kitchen is based on a design I did many years ago where the upper cabinets are not the standard 12-inch size. I have them 24 inches deep and I have wrapped them around and then recessed where the stove is. So with that recess, and with the cabinets above the stove (they are 12 inches), it creates a little alcove area.

What are you most happy with in the great room?

I love the backsplash. I had to sell my husband on that because of the price and it worked out really well. The marble is Calacatta from Greece. It's two pieces of marble and it's been book-matched, so there's a seamline in the middle and then everything radiates off of it. I wanted to keep my kitchen very quiet and just have that as my feature.

It looks like a Rorschach test – I think I see a face in the middle.

I should have done some photoshopping, to be honest, because I didn't appreciate that there would be a face there. Someone pointed it out to me one day and I said, 'Ooh, you're right.' My husband, who's a big fan of Pearl Jam, thinks it's Stickman.

This interview has condensed and edited.

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