RENO STRAIGHT FROM THE ART
Couple in their 80s — an artist and a retired major general — had no qualms tackling top-to-bottom project
Joan Pattee’s artwork graces homes throughout North America and Europe, yet she casually describes herself as “an excellent Sunday painter.” This unfussy attitude, paired with an instinctive eye for beauty and detail, guides her art as well as the many home renovations she and her husband, Val, have done in their retirement. Joan’s art and the couple’s latest renovation will be on display as one of five homes open to the public Sunday in the Gallery Associates 2017 House Tour.
Visitors will be able to see Joan’s variety of artworks, from oils to metal works, in the home that she and Val created over the last two years.
The Pattees’ Uplands home has been renovated from the roof down.
The couple, who have been married for 60 years, had no qualms about taking on a major renovation in 2015, after a house Joan had coveted decades ago came on the market.
“For most couples, renovations are divorce material,” Val said with a laugh. “But it’s not for us. We enjoy renovating homes, and we’ve gotten pretty good at it.”
The house seemed like the perfect home to downsize to from their larger home around the corner: It was one storey, had a large garden and was on a quiet street. It needed work to fit their vision, but the couple loved its potential.
Their first call after buying the house was to contractor Tim Agar, the project manager at Horizon Contracting. The company constructed the couple’s previous new build on Cardigan Road, and the Pattees had worked closely with Agar.
“Tim is knowledgeable, he’s genuine and he does what Joan asks him to,” said Val, only half joking. “We look for someone who will participate in critical design decisions, but has the flexibility to make ongoing changes. That’s Tim. He’s very collaborative.”
The couple wanted to enhance the exterior esthetic of the house by adding a porte cochere at the front door and a covered patio at the back. The inside was to be completely redone. It’s the kind of challenge Agar likes. Their pre-existing relationship also helped the renovation process.
“This was an opportunity to collaborate with clients who had a clear vision of what they wanted. It was extremely helpful to have a longstanding relationship, as we had developed a common language before the project began,” Agar said.
The Pattees moved out of the house for much of the renovation, but Joan was on site most days. She brings the same vision to designing a home as she does to her artwork.
“She moves things around until the structure and colour are just right,” said Val.
Joan’s sense of space and light is evident throughout the airy home.
“I have to be hands on. I have to be doing,” said Joan, who describes herself as “visual and not terribly organized.”
She’ll stand with the construction crew, sussing out the size of a doorway and deciding it needs to be larger.
“I look. I see the space and I make it work. I don’t have any great plans when I start with a painting and I do my homes and gardens the same way.”
Joan’s artwork — everything from oil paintings of Uplands Park to copper enamel creations evoking the Prairies — are displayed throughout the house. Her first teacher was Arthur Lismer of the Canadian Group of Seven. One of his drawings is in the entryway of the house. While raising a family, she studied at the University of Quebec — where she specialized in copper enamelling — as well as the University of Winnipeg, the New School of Art in Toronto and Concordia University in Montreal.
The couple moved every few years as Val’s career in the military progressed. He’s a retired major general who was chief of intelligence and security for NATO in Europe and Canada.