Minoosh Taheri and Hughes Brassard spent five years in Montreal’s hip Plateau neighbourhood before packing up for Pointe-Saint-Charles, part of the city’s southwest borough that’s adjacent to the Lachine Canal. “Hughes knew he liked this neighbourhood, but when I came I really fell in love,” Taheri says. Its proximity to Atwater market, the downtown core and their respective workplaces – Taheri is a fashion designer and Brassard is a news producer for the CBC – were definite advantages, but not the only ones. The couple, who travel extensively, value diversity in all its forms, cultural and socioeconomic. “There’s a lot of different families with different backgrounds and we really liked that,” she says.
Although the location was locked down, it took some time to find the house of their dreams. “We didn’t want to compromise,” she says. “We had a beautiful condo in the Plateau and we wanted to do something better.”
And they did. The house, built in 1885, is full of history and perfect for entertaining, which the pair loves to do. They enlisted the help of friend and designer Brandon Tang of New York-based studio 5th26 for styling and decor. “We decided room by room what to do,” Taheri says. “We don’t have kids, we have a lot of gatherings, we travel a lot, so we wanted the house to really represent who we are and our lifestyle.”
That meant opening up the space, introducing modern finishes and a black-and-white colour scheme, while still respecting the original features of the house, such as the wood beams and floor, which they sanded and stained. “We wanted to create a new modern place, but keep certain things that are the soul of the house,” says Taheri.
The kitchen’s the first space encountered upon entering and it’s clean and cozy at once. “We really wanted to create an area where people can sit, have discussions, share and eat,” she says. “It’s an area that everybody wants to hang out in” and, critically for her, a space where the cook is not separated from the conversation.
Slick, reflective black cabinetry hides glassware and below-counter shelves store dishes, so the couple have plenty of space to display sentimental items that double as conversation starters. A framed still from the film Reservoir Dogs was a gift to Brassard, in lieu of payment, for an early gig directing music videos. “I kept it all these years,” he says. “I’m proud of him for how far he came, in his career and where he is in life. So, it’s a reminder,” Taheri says. “It’s a very good movie, too,” Brassard adds.
A cookbook is a memento, too, of Taheri’s childhood and a beloved aunt, who gifted it to her upon a return visit to Iran last year. “I cook and entertain [myself] now, but I have my aunt in my mind. It’s like carrying a legacy,” she says.
Another gift, this one from the house’s previous owner, is a century-old swatch of wallpaper, along with a bill of sale for unspecified professional services rendered in the amount of $9.75, in the year 1907. The floral print, tattered and worn, is just as alive with shades of red, coral and green as it must have been when originally installed. It’s now proudly framed and displayed against contemporary subway tile in the couple’s kitchen – past and present living together harmoniously.
Case in point: One of the oldest neighbourhoods in Montreal, Pointe-Saint-Charles has a rich built fabric and a strong sense of growing community. “The buildings are old, but then young people are moving here, and I find it very interesting,” Taheri says.
According to the couple, it might just be the city’s best-kept secret. “It’s amazing that a neighbourhood that close to downtown is still like it is right now,” Brassard says. “There’s something special about this place that people don’t know.”