Meet the Designers of the 2021 Minto Dream Home

Minto Communities’ Karen van der Velden and Tanya Collins Design team up once again to give hope a home with the 2021 Minto Dream Home for CHEO, the Caraway. For both designers, creating a home with a purpose is inspiring, rewarding and challenging at the same time – especially in a year riddled with adversity.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to support the CHEO Foundation,” says Karen. “We [Minto Communities] build houses, but in this instance, we’re building a home that creates this huge amount of revenue for a great cause that helps children and their families.”

The project is meaningful, but it’s also fun and exciting. Karen – Minto Communities’ Product Development Manager since 2011 – and Tanya Collins from Tanya Collins Design are passionate about what they do, and creating the Minto Dream Home gives them the chance to bring their talent and imagination to the table.

This year’s home – the 4,603 sq. ft. Caraway – is located in Mahogany, Manotick. Here’s what the two visionaries had to say about the home and how it came together.

Tanya Collins (L) and Karen van der Velden (R)

Highlighting a bungalow-inspired floorplan

Over the years, survey participants have suggested a bungalow design from the Minto Dream Home; even Dan Champagne – Vice-President of Development at the CHEO Foundation – has asked for one. Luckily, the great parcel of land for this year’s home made it possible to accommodate the request.

It’s not a true bungalow, however, as the home features a second-floor loft, looking over the great room and foyer with two-storey ceilings. Brent Strachan – President of Minto Communities Ottawa – wanted the Caraway to be a Net Zero Energy home, but a single-level floorplan spread out over such a large area presented unique challenges related to energy efficiency.

“After almost completing the initial design, I had to go back to the drafting board and make a significant change,” admits Karen, “but in the end, it worked out fantastic, and we accomplished exactly what we wanted to.”

What was the solution? Karen removed two bedrooms from the main level and created a second floor to accommodate them. She kept the primary bedroom on the first floor, while the great room was transformed into an immaculate two-storey spectacle. The space is surrounded by windows facing the south and east, to flood the area with natural light during the day. The best part? A fabulous view of the fireplace looking down from the loft.

After making the pivot, and since the Caraway offers a rare oversized yard overlooking the community pond, Karen was inspired by the extra outside space.

“With everybody spending more time at home, being more green and growing gardens, we really had to have a greenhouse on this property!”

Karen is proud of how in tune the home is with the current lifestyles of Ottawa residents. And along with being backed by the community pond and having a greenhouse, the home’s backyard also features a beautiful cedar deck, a patio and a fire pit area.

The Caraway backyard

An exterior inspired by Arts and Crafts

Now in their fourth year spearheading the Minto Dream Home design, the pair has established a well-oiled process. Karen develops the floorplan design and selects the exterior elements, while Tanya fine tunes the inside spaces and directs the interior design. Together, they build a home that brings creative flair to Ottawa.

Arts and Crafts design elements are highlighted throughout Manotick Village and within Mahogany. It’s a movement that resonates with a lot of homebuyers and has great curb appeal – board and batten along with white siding is really trendy yet timeless. So Karen embraced white-toned greys outside of the home and incorporated silver metal roofing to complement the Arts and Crafts style.

“It’s a little muted down, not bold in colour,” claims Karen, “and Tanya integrated some of the exterior elements of the home into the interior design. Namely, the luxurious black and white tile with circular patterns that mimic the large round window at the front of the home.”

The Caraway design for the CHEO Dream of a Lifetime Lottery

Dreaming up a modern desert

Last year’s home – the Bohemian – had a boho-chic theme. Tanya calls this year’s theme “a modern desert with references to mid-century modern and Scandinavian design.”

She adopted lower-profile, clean-lined furnishings to complement the bungalow-inspired floorplan, while adding a wood ceiling in the kitchen to match the home’s Arts and Crafts exterior. For Karen, the kitchen is one her favourite rooms.

“The kitchen Tanya has done is spectacular! It's just loaded with cabinets that reach the beautiful, rustic wood ceiling, and there’s also a gorgeous oversized island.”

Tanya is enamoured with the kitchen, too. Specifically the restaurant-bar-like concept with mirror-backed modular shelving – and of course the wood ceiling.

Tanya loves seeing her vision come to life. And having creative freedom is one of the most exciting parts of the project. That’s not to say designing the home doesn't have its challenges. With the pandemic creating supply issues, Tanya had to problem solve and pivot based on product availability.

When asked about her typical process, Tanya revealed that she begins with a stylistic concept. She then tries to select the interior elements she has access to and offer the best interpretation of her vision.

“I develop a vision conceptually and stylistically. I think about the sight lines in each room and how to make the space interesting. I consider the flow and the architectural details like ceiling beams, wall panelling and transom windows.”

The front exterior of the Caraway

A home influenced by the environment

Karen and Tanya were tasked with designing a home during an unprecedented time. The hobby shop, the gaming room, the gym and the home theatre in the basement are a product of that.

“With so many people working and living at home, it’s become imperative to have multiple zones for desk work and for hobbies like gaming, fitness and woodworking.”

Outdoor features like the greenhouse, backyard patio and fire pit are other examples of the pandemic’s influence. Inside, the home wellness system – which regulates air quality, purifies the home’s drinking water and improves the sleeping environment in the primary bedroom – incorporates better living into the Caraway. As do the lighting solutions that mimic natural sunlight, while the automated blinds and audio equipment is programmed together in a sleep-wake sequence that supports your body’s circadian rhythm and ensures a better night’s rest.

To meet the rigorous standards to achieve Net Zero certification, both designers needed to plan ahead. Solar panels are an integral part of a Net Zero Energy home, and Karen carefully considered where to position them based on the location of the Caraway.

“I am really mindful that it is a Minto Dream Home for CHEO, and we never want solar panels to be broadcast on the front of the house. We want to keep it nice and clean.”

As for Tanya, she had to decide where to position the lighting early in the process. Doing so eliminated unnecessary holes drilled into the drywall, which can potentially affect the R-value of the insulation and prevent certification.

The power-duo is pleased with how the home came together. They’ve achieved a shared goal – for people to dream big the moment they see the home.

“The Caraway is sophisticated with spectacular finishes inside and out. You’re going to want to buy that ticket after seeing this home!”

Stay tuned for an interactive virtual tour and information about viewing the home in person. To show your support for the CHEO Foundation, along with the children that depend on the care provided by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, be sure to purchase your tickets for the Lottery.

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