Artists shape log home
Two artists bound by creativity, memories and a love of recycling live under the metal roof of a charming log home.
Visitors to the chocolate-coloured house, which is framed by flower beds and massive hanging baskets, often plunk down on open steps in the living room and immediately exhale.
“The house has an immediate calming effect,” says Deborah Lyall, who is the business brains behind Lyall’s Art and Design, a framing company she launched in 1993.
While Lyall has large federal and municipal contracts to provide simple frames with coloured mats for diplomas and service awards, this practical woman with a razorsharp wit also specializes in creating elaborate, velvet-lined shadow boxes that frame family memories — be it a series of watches, silver forks or a delicate lace and white cotton baptismal dress.
Her studio is on the ground floor of the not-yet-finished log home in Greely, Ont., she shares with her husband Stephen. It’s a busy place where she practises her framing skills and holds workshops.
“Framing is my passion. It is my creativity,” says the woman who reinvented herself four years ago after losing 70 pounds.
As the weight fell away, so did her “servant nature,” cultivated by necessity when her mother, Alice MacKay, died when Deborah was only 17, propelling her into a new and demanding job as a surrogate mother for her young brother and sister.
While her weight was high, Lyall was a chef in Ottawa’s ByWard Market, commuting from her father’s home in the south-end of the city, a home that did double-duty as an antiques shop, MacKay Antiques.
She has incorporated furniture from the old antique shop, including a corner cupboard made in the 1800s and jam cupboards, into her log home.
“I can’t help it and I don’t apologize for it. I see design in everything,” says Lyall, who went back to school for certificates in design, staging homes and colour consultations. “I put together pieces from many periods,” says Lyall.
It was her father who gave her the hefty red wooden and glass door that is now the main entrance to the log home, a home built by her husband, Stephen Lyall.
He is a heavy equipment operator for the City of Ottawa — and the sweat and smarts who built the house log by log on 0.4 hectares the couple bought shortly after they were married in 1985.
He practised his skills on a shed that still stands behind the log house. Then this quiet, determined man hefted the logs into place with the muscle of his old tractor, but not before Deborah had slowly peeled off the bark. “The house is Stephen’s dream. We designed it ourselves,” she says.
He created the home from logs cut down on a farm to the east, adding decorative touches on the large wrap-around porch with iron and wooden wheels found in area shops. Recycled steel beams supported by slim steel bars anchored into cement along the rear wall of the house form an open grid accented by a wall of coloured windows rescued from a pool room.
A group of sterling silver forks sits on a bed of velvet in a wide frame. “Always keep your fork because you want dessert and because the best is yet to come,” says Lyall.
Recycled steel beams form an open grid along the back of the log home of Stephen and Deborah Lyall. Stained glass windows add a jolt of lively colour.