Couple rejuvenates inner-city lot with their passion project

Couple rejuvenates inner-city lot with their passion project

Oldstreet Development and Amanda Hamilton Interior Design collaborate on a family-friendly brownstone.

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When it came to designing their first home, there’s no doubt that Nathan Robb and Laura Moss were on the same page. The couple, with their new baby girl, Eleanor, a three-year-old daughter, Penelope, and an English springer spaniel named Duke, enjoy travel and old-world architecture — the kind found in cities like New York, London, Paris and Boston.  

Robb, who is trained as a lawyer and has practised all over the world, has recently ditched the suit and tie to start a passion project, a boutique home design and build company that creates new build inner-city single-family and paired homes, as well as purpose-built rental projects, all of which spin around beautiful and impactful architecture.

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The couple loves to think outside the box and are big fans of walkable, vibrant neighbourhoods. Robb has lived in London and in Mumbai — his favourite city is Paris, while Moss is a big fan of the architectural streetscapes in Mexico City and the design details found in European cities.

In 2017, the couple found a bungalow in Marda Loop located across from what is now cSpace arts incubator and co-working space. At the time, the sandstone structure, the former King Edward High School, was encased in a web of scaffolding, as the building was undergoing a series of renovations.

“It was a big step for us. We moved out of our apartment downtown and into this lovely local neighbourhood, and we really loved that the house was across the street from this old heritage building,” says Robb, who at the time was still practising law, although he had already begun to quietly lay the foundation for Oldstreet Development, which he named after a tube station located in London’s Shoreditch community.

The couple loved the home’s lot with its southern and western exposures, but the bungalow itself was quite tiny and not at all updated and they knew that eventually they would need more space.

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“We really bought it with an eye to eventually tearing it down and rebuilding,” says Robb, noting that they were hooked on the neighbourhood, its walkability, the park, the tennis courts, the pool, the daycare — all of the perks of inner-city living.

So, in 2022, they took the plunge and began to design their dream home, utilizing Oldstreet Development as the design/build team and bringing Courtney Molyneaux from Amanda Hamilton Interior Design onboard to assist with the interior spaces.

The couple’s goal was to create a family-friendly home, one that would work for their young family, while crafting a design that emulated the look and feel of a classic old-world brownstone, like those found in NYC’s Greenwich Village. Think red brick facades with plenty of black wrought iron and window frame detailing.

As this was to be both a personal and a professional project, they chose to create a walk-out (the lot has a slight slope), four-storey (including the lower level) paired home, with an eye to selling one side.

For inspiration, the couple pulled from their travel experiences, from music and art (they have a beautiful collection) and poured over magazines and home design sites like Pinterest.

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The resulting architecture is accomplished and full of streetscape appeal, while the interior design shines, evoking profound and inviting moments of calm and tranquility, interspersed with hits of drama stirred by moody colours and plenty of texture.

“We didn’t want this to feel like any other side-by-side in Calgary. We wanted this to be really unique,” says Molyneaux, noting that challenge was to find a way to infuse the vibe of the home’s exterior into the interior spaces.

From the outset, Moss and Robb had several must-haves, starting with lots of light.

“Often classic architecture comes with small windows, but we wanted eight-foot windows sitting on the floor,” says Robb. As a result, the home is flooded with sunshine. The oversized windows also facilitate interaction between the inside and outside spaces, a fact that Moss, who is an accountant, and on maternity leave, appreciates.

“There is always something going on at cSpace, lots of outdoor markets and people and I just love watching all of it,” she says.

Because the windows extend the entire height and expanse of the wall, the way that all of the materials and textures interacted was of primary concern, as was absolute precision with building.

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“The windows extend right to the floor, so the details become very important. If any of the walls weren’t exactly straight or if the herringbone flooring didn’t line up perfectly, you would really notice it,” says Molyneaux.

The couple entertains often, so the kitchen design was also very important.

“I really wanted a big island,” says Moss. “A lot of our friends and family have little kids and we spend a lot of time with our parents, so we are always cooking.” A butler’s pantry with a second fridge and plenty of storage is tucked adjacent to the kitchen.

The main level exudes sophistication with neutral colours, gorgeous stone details in the kitchen, wall panelling throughout and a fluted tile and sculptural fireplace. The couple’s art collection adds pops of colour.

In the main floor powder room, deep green marble and dark forest green walls set the tone, while the black and white checker board flooring (also used in the front foyer), creates a nice contrast to the rich wall and stone colours.

Upstairs in the third-floor loft, which doubles as the couple’s home office and a play room for the kids, the wall colour is stunning — a deep sapphire blue.

“We really picked certain rooms and just had some fun with the colour to create an experience,” says Molyneaux.

“It’s just so cool up there,” says Robb, adding that they are enchanted by the entire home.

 “It really resonates with us.”

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