Artists shape log home

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Recreation & Investment Properties - SHEILA BRADY

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.

Bruno Sch­lum­berger, Ottawa Ci­ti­zen

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.

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