The Ottawa Citizen .  Apr 21 2007 . Sheila Brady

A miracle of determination

Hours before the official opening of four model homes beside the Mer Bleue Bog, it was mud and madness. Come showtime, the homes were spotless. An inside story.

There is always a rush in the final hours leading up to the opening of a new model home — touching up scuffed paint, rearranging furniture, making sure the sales brochures are ready for the expected rush of the curious and serious buyers.

Last Friday, it was more than the usual jitters at Bradley Estates, the new community being put together by Valecraft and Monarch on the edge of the Mer Bleue Bog in Ottawa’s east end. It was mud and madness.

Landscaping crews laid paving stones and placed potted cedars to add an element of green outside Monarch’s two gleaming model homes on Joshua Street, while a street cleaner washed away mud and crews erected a tent for a community party and barbecue set for Saturday afternoon. That was the controlled part.

On the other side of the street, designers jostled for space with painters, while stainless-steel appliances bound for the kitchen and still wrapped in plastic sat in the magnificent great room of the Marlene, Valecraft’s 3,433-square-foot model home.

“It’s all going to be ready,” predicted an unflappable Micheline Boucher as she shot out instructions to six members of her team who were hanging drapes and assembling a huge leather sleigh bed in the master bedroom. “We worked until midnight last night in the other model home, and it is basically done, and this one will be done on time,” said the petite owner of Decoration Micheline Boucher in Rockland.

Nearby, a perspiring painter lugged a can of paint up a ladder two floors above the ground floor to give a final coat to the moulding, while in the kitchen crews installed cabinet doors.

It’s been 17 years since Valecraft president Jean-Guy Rivard bought this land from the Bradley family. When completed, there will be 185 family homes on lots bordering a pond and Mer Bleue, which is one of the largest bogs in southern Ontario and home to the rare spotted turtle, beavers, muskrats and a host of birds.

“This is an ecological gem, and if you live in the east end this is where you want to live,” said Frank Nieuwkoop, director of sales and marketing for Valecraft, which is developing Bradley Estates in a joint venture with Monarch.

Prices start at just over $300,000 for a smaller bungalow on a 41-foot lot, but some larger, two-storey homes on 50-foot lots will top out at $700,000 and be filled with upgrades, said Nieuwkoop.

“This is a second, third or even fourth home for some,” he said, adding Valecraft has sold 25 homes since last fall. During the past week, warmer temperatures brought another seven deals, mostly from buyers already living in the east end.

Monarch has sold 36 houses, with seven families moving into their homes last month, said Ottawa-area housing manager Rosemary O’Shea during a tour of the model homes.

If it was mud outside, it was clean luxury on the inside of Monarch’s two models — one, the Nantucket, set up with standard finishes so buyers have a clear idea on what they get for the $349,460 base price.

“It is Monarch’s policy to have one model home show our standard finishes,” said O’Shea. There was only a bit of cheating, including pot lights and porcelain tiles leading from the kitchen to the front door, but Monarch is giving buyers a $10,000 bonus and the lights and tiles are available for less, said O’Shea.

The Nantucket is an appealing house, from the large family room opening to the kitchen and breakfast room to the second-floor generous master suite and oversized walk-in closets.

“This is a home for growing families because there are areas for kids and areas for adults,” said O’Shea, noting the small living room or front parlour is perfect for an adult, the dining room is closed off for entertaining, and the family room is ideal for gatherings.

“We have put back some walls and private spaces in our homes,” she said. “It is not all wide open.”

If the Nantucket is appealing, then the Maple is a runaway winner, dressed to the nines with $150,000 in upgrades loaded into a 3,080-square-foot home priced from $403,900.

From the front door to the designer kitchen and to an incredible fireplace in the adjoining family room, the brick home is smartly crafted. The Toronto architectural firm Viljoen, designed the Maple, a popular house that already accounts for 20 per cent of all Monarch’s sales in its south-end golf course community of Stonebridge. There is a lot to drool about, from the oversized crown moulding and deep baseboards to the entertainment centre in the family room with cabinetry stained to match the cabinets in the kitchen.

Viljoen turned a large landing halfway between the first and second floors into a library, which adds a sense of space and efficiency to the generous home. There are four bedrooms on the second level, all with direct access to a bathroom or a private bath. Lucky adults get their own empire, with a vestibule leading into the master suite, a sinful ensuite and a walk-in closet designed to keep your Visa card on melt alert.

Toronto designer Janice Wilson worked with Franca Dinardo, manager of Blinds with Flair in Kanata’s Centrum Plaza, to create a golden aura in the sunny house, starting with heavy silky drapes in the living room to padded valances and silky drapes in the master bedroom. Wilson also designed upholstered headboards that were simple, yet elegant.

But she was at her best in a pink and green little girl’s room, creating a sense of magic with a funky little pink chandelier and a green upholstered chair that could easily double as a throne for a princess. Across the street, Valecraft president Rivard was the design inspiration behind his company’s two new models and his staff turned them into dramatic combinations of brick, mortar and windows. Rivard relied on big banks of windows in both homes to bring in lots of natural light, designing two-storey great rooms to add a hefty helping of drama.

Both the Orford, a 3,020-square-foot home with four bedrooms, and the larger Marlene are filled with upgrades, from pot lights to pillars and stone fireplaces. The Orford, which is set on a 44-foot lot, is priced at $387,900, while the Marlene is on a 50-foot lot and priced at $496,595. Both homes have more than $100,000 in upgrades. The great rooms define both of the Valecraft homes. They deliver big design and, on a practical point, connect to a large kitchen and breakfast room or dinette. This is the area where most families would spend major blocks of time — lucky families, on either side of the street.

And Micheline Boucher was absolutely right about finishing on time. When the first burger was served last Saturday to the first of hundreds of hungry visitors, all four model homes were spotless.

It was a miracle of determination.