Shelter: Colour and Charm in Remodelled Plateau Home

When Lisa Finken was 18, she met a group of students at college in her home city of Vancouver who had what she describes as adifferent outlook on life. These kids were always having fun and, she recalls, they had a "real spark" about them. At first, she couldn't quite put her finger on what that was - until she discovered they were from Quebec.Finken was so intrigued by Quebec culture that in 1979 she enrolled in a French immersion program in Trois-Rivières. By September of that year she was living in Montreal, having "abandoned her studies to start her life." While living in this city, she has worked in the textile trade and then the tourism industry. Today, Finken is considering whether to retire - she is 58 - or to embark on a new career.Not everyone has the financial luxury of being able to make such a decision, but Finken has "scrimped and saved" all her life, and made a couple of wise investments over the years - namely purchasing old buildings, sprucing them up, then renting them out. (Finken describes this as "the only way a mere mortal can make some money.")One example was in 1986, when she and some friends purchased a 6-plex in the Plateau. She and her fellow investors converted the 1920s-era building into three apartments instead of six, and rented out two of them. In 2004, the apartments were renovated and converted into condos. Two have been sold, but Finken still lives in the third - a 1,190-square-foot space (plus two balconies) on the top floor. She nowshares her abode with her husband, Jacques Desautels, who works as an accountant.Their home has three bedrooms. One is a double room divided by pillars that was probably a formal "salon" at one time. Another bedroom serves as a guest room/studio for Finken (she has taken up rug hooking and her work frame and materials are kept there), while the third is Desautels's home office. Both the living room and kitchen are roomy - the outcome of reconfiguring the original interior.Our goal when we renovated was to maintain the cachet of this old building - the mouldings, plaster columns, hardwood floors and so on, but there was quite a bit of wasted space. The kitchen was first renovated in 1992. At one end was a cold room and pantry, so that was knocked away to make the kitchen bigger. (Laughs.) I'm afraid not. I thought I was good with colours until we had a few trials on the ground floor and then the second floor. When I got my hands on the building, I tried sponge painting - I was into that at the time. Three colours! That was my attempt at creating a homey decor but it didn't work.By the time we did the third floor - that was in 2004 - we hired a decorator. I can't remember what she charged because it was part of the overall renovations, but it was the best idea. I could never have come up with anything close to what she did.I've been following her work for a while, and what I like about it is that she captures the tranquility and beauty of our neighbouring wilderness areas - the Adirondacks, the Laurentians - and brings those feelings inside. The painting above the sofa is Lake Placid. Holly calls it "A recipe for monarchs" because the flowers are milkweed and they attract butterflies.Shelter is a weekly series featuring a conversation with tenants or condo owners.Lisa Finken, 58, and Jacques Desautels, 68 Plateau Mont-Royal 1,190 square feet (plus two balconies) Undisclosed: Since 1986

Shelter: Colour and Charm in Remodelled Plateau Home 1

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