By Shaun Markey –
Despite its massive size, a gorgeous, wooden front door swings open effortlessly and quietly when Luigi Giammaria welcomes me into his impressive home at 608 Byron Ave.
Let’s put the Giammaria house in context. Situated near the corner of Byron and Golden Avenues, the home stands in sharp contrast to the smaller, traditional homes nearby.
Perhaps the most tell-tale sign that 608 Byron Ave. is not your average new build is an array of narrow blue and white panels that adorn a wide perimeter around the front windows of the house and are also featured on the wall leading up the front stairs. As Luigi points out, the white panels are unpainted concrete called Oko Skin imported from Austria. The blue panels are painted aluminum, which he sourced locally and had painted to his choice of blue colour. “If we get tired of it, I can take them down and have them repainted,” he adds with a laugh.
Iron metal cladding, called Corten, surrounds an equally large upper window on the front of the house. It is meant to oxidize over time to a rusty brown colour. Luigi also uses it in his landscaping projects. Dark grey acrylic stucco completes the exterior on the front and sides of the house.
Regarding some of the unique aspects of his home, including the blue tiles and the metal window surrounds, Luigi admits he was after something totally original.
“I tend to be a little more out there in trying different styles,” he says. Luigi is also an advocate of recycling in his projects and avoids plastics and materials that include glues.
The Giammaria home is just west of Golden Avenue and is home to Luigi, his wife Samar, and their children Atia (10), Bruno (8) and Mila (5).
There’s a lot going on in this area – any day of the week. Directly across the street is the Byron Avenue linear park, great for a lazy stroll on any day, and the site of the popular farmer’s market every Saturday from May to October.
The many shops and restaurants of Richmond Road, which essentially start at Golden Avenue and continue east, are a stone’s throw from their front door.
A hop and a skip away, one spies two dozen people at the Highland Park Lawn Bowling Club enjoying a beautiful morning. The dew is still wet on the lawn as they send their lawn bowls rolling across the expanse of green.
It becomes clear quite quickly in talking with him that Luigi has packed a great deal of construction experience into his 46 years. He was “on the job” so to speak, at the age of 12 with his father, Bruno Giammaria Sr., an industrious plumber who started his business in Westboro in 1970. Luigi says his father “technically” hasn’t retired but stopped working for clients about ten years ago. Readers may remember Bruno’s Plumbing store on Richmond Road where Kitchenalia is now. Luigi worked alongside his father improving the properties he owned.
Luigi considers his best skill to be working with his hands and problem-solving. He attributes his knack for repair to his father and his artistic and design flair to his mother, Norma.
Judging from his stunningly modern home, the construction of which he supervised, Luigi is very much hands-on. “I love working with my hands,” he says. “I did 50% of this work.”
[Click photos to enlarge.]
With this particular home design Luigi says he was after “a unique style, a certain modern look.” Everywhere in the house, there are features that reflect this. From the use of 4ft. square ceramic tiles on the floor which he installed himself, 10ft. high ceilings on the main floor, steel stairs capped with marble, a set of hammered silver metal cupboard doors in the kitchen on motorized hinges, massive sheets of porcelain tile used in the first floor powder room and for the kitchen backsplash, and an elaborate walnut accent screen beside the entrance, this house is certainly one of a kind.
Luigi used Linebox Studio architects for the overall design but he was responsible for the interior. “If I had another life, I’d be an architect,” he adds. Luigi spends much of his spare time reading about local housing matters and experimenting with construction software applications.
Before diving into the home construction field, Luigi worked in the local high tech sector. However, the ups and downs of the industry sent him to the sidelines and he decided to return to housing construction. In the interim, he married Samar and started a family.
Luigi and his brother, Paolo, took over one of their father’s properties. Instead of renovating it, they decided to raze it and build a new double in its place. That’s when the house-building bug bit them both.
“We fell in love with the process,” Luigi remarks. “We built three more together.”
Since then, Luigi has defined a new role for himself in business. He has carved out a niche as a custom project manager with his company: Kallini Homes Inc. In this role, Luigi helps clients manage the entire building process. “I like to help people realize their dreams,” he says. His two newest projects for clients will start in the fall, a home in Pleasant Park and a duplex in Centretown.
Although his work takes him to other parts of Ottawa, Luigi is a keen supporter of Westboro. ”I love the diversity of this neighbourhood and I love walking through it and seeing the different styles of architecture,” he says.
As he looks to the future, Luigi sees himself continuing in the home building sector. He’d like to continue building modern homes and source the latest and greatest products and finishes. Luigi, however, keenly understands there are some constants that make a home a great home: bright and comfortable spaces, natural light, big windows that open to keep a home fresh and cool, and a home design that you love and makes you smile.
Sitting at the dining room table with the sun streaming in on us, Luigi looks back on what it took to build 608 Byron Avenue. “I am emotionally attached to this house,” he says. “We won’t sell it until I find an equally fantastic site.” One has to think that despite those reservations, it won’t be too long before Luigi Giammaria finds his next “dream” and starts the process all over again.
The KT “Who lives here” series takes a closer look at some unique homes and the people who live there. Which Kitchissippi-area homes are you most curious about? It could be an old home, a new one, a big one, or a small one. Email a street address and a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do the rest. To read other stories in this series, click here.
This feature is brought to you in part by Engel & Völkers Ottawa Central, Brokerage.