‘Ottawa’ Heidi Helm: For the Love of Design
Growing up in Sudbury, Heidi Helm knew she had a calling. It just took her 24 years to figure out what it was.
It was 1999 and she was working full time in a bank in her hometown when it donned on her: If she stayed where she was, she’d go crazy. So, she packed her bags, moved to Ottawa and enrolled in the interior design program at Algonquin College.
“I was always rearranging my bedroom furniture,” she recalls with a giggle, to explain her creative flair and lifelong love of design.
“It’s always a new adventure with design,” says Helm, who opened her own home-based business, Urbanomic Interiors (urbanomic.ca), in 2004. “With design, there is a lot of question marks … it appeals to my internal need to be pushing the boundaries.”
And that’s something she does extremely well. Take, for example, Marc Lepine’s hip restaurant, Atelier, located in a house just off Preston Street. Helm worked for three years with the award-winning chef to expand and remodel the intimate eatery, including a new private dining room called THRU, which is opening this spring. For added drama, Helm used a bold black-and-white colour scheme, hits of shimmery metallics and textured walls that look like crinkled paper on the second storey. A diagonal line runs across the floor and onto the ceiling, splitting the room in half with an all-white dining room on one side and sleek black bar on the other.
At the Bijou Lounge on Bank Street, Helm turned up the funk factor with moody purple, pink, blue and yellow lighting and a tufted wall of velvet. A raised VIP area with armless sofas adds to the hip vibe.
“I like to play with the latest and greatest materials. I’m very experimental,” says the hands-on designer, whose dark hair is cut in an asymmetrical bob with short bangs streaked turquoise blue and purple. She describes the work she does as “youthful, energetic urban spaces for forward thinkers, trailblazers and non-conformists.”
Boutique restaurants and residential kitchens are her favourite spaces to design.
“I don’t cook often, but I cook well,” says the self-confessed foodie, whose signature dishes include sushi and Eggs Heidi, her take on Eggs Benedict, but with prosciutto ham, sautéed mushrooms and Havarti cheese with jalapeño.
“I love food and public places where food is shared.”
She recently designed a contemporary kitchen in Alta Vista featuring white lacquer and walnut veneer cabinets with a horizontal grain offset by white marble counters and a chartreuse accent wall. Open shelves flank the sink and a glass tile backsplash runs up the wall behind a stainless-steel hood fan.
In an Orléans home, she created a cottage-chic kitchen, complete with white and grey cabinets crowned with deep mouldings, grey and smoky blue mosaic backsplash and a built-in banquette for casual family meals.
“I pride myself in being able to design all styles,” says the shy, soft-spoken designer, who readily admits she’s not a big fan of florals, heavy patterns or too much ornamentation.
Some may call her quirky and her design ideas a tad off-the-wall, but that’s OK with her.
“Normal is boring.”