Ottawa residents discover a life beyond the city

Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by LA Group


With the pandemic crisis, we’ve all had a lot of time to consider the places we call home. Some would say too much. Many of us now work in the same place we used to associate with downtime, rest and family. The ideal function of the home is evolving at an accelerated pace.

Even as a builder, I could never have predicted the immense swell of remote working that has now engulfed us. I don’t think anyone could have. Not a builder or a city planner. The change has been really quite incredible. 

The sheer number of us setting up shop in our living rooms, bedrooms or kitchens is colliding with the growing sentiment amongst city dwellers who wish to flee the hectic inner city life. And now, with the shocking surge in home prices throughout the nation’s capital, there is more reason than ever for the urban exodus to load up the moving trucks for a more balanced life beyond the city limits. 

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We are collectively suspended in a moment that has enabled more people to see that this dream has roots not just in reality but in practicality. But there are still those who are plagued by indecision, fearful of what they might be giving up by moving away from what’s familiar and the convenience of the urban lifestyle. 

Without an ounce of apprehension, I can assure that this fear is foundationless.

Especially in Kemptville, tucked in to the municipality of North Grenville, where you can find yourself sitting by the UNESCO World Heritage designated Rideau River after a walk on any one of the accessible 150-kilometre walking and cross-country trails that weave their way through Eastern Ontario’s largest tree nursery. It calms me every time.

When I reflect on it, I realize that without the recharging benefits I derive from this habit (or luxury, depending on your perspective), I don’t know that I could devote so many concentrated hours to my own business. Active people may already know that road cyclists have hailed the paved roads as yellow-jersey-worthy as they wind between historic hamlets. I’m very happy to just drive them. If you’re a paddler, you can get your ankles wet at many a landing. Neighbours who indulge in this know that if they still lived in the city, they’d have to plan such impromptu excursions around longer commutes and traffic. Again, their ability to work remotely serves for a work-love balance they couldn’t imagine in their old life. 

The community centre, baseball diamonds, pool and curling rink don’t require midnight time-slots or pocket fulls of cash to access. The shopping selection here ranges from great little boutiques to big-box stores. Dining options range from the mom-and-pop takeout to full four-course experiences. Despite this sounding like a country song lyric – if there’s something you can’t get, I haven’t found it. There’s even a park with one of those classic clocks in the middle. Who doesn’t have time for that? And, though I hope none of us need it, the local hospital is minutes away and it’s top-notch. 


As North Grenville mayor Nancy Peckford recently commented, “North Grenville is a wonderful and caring community, where neighbours look out for one another. The generosity shown by residents and businesses has amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, where we’ve seen daily examples of kindness in the community.”

I moved to Kemptville four decades ago. I’ve seen it grow. As a builder, renovator and the owner of LA Group I’ve helped shepherd its growth. We have a community development in the works called Oxford Village. It will sit amid 50 acres of protected wetland and forest with managed trails – almost like living in a mini provincial park. You can’t find that in the city. Yet it’s still four or five minutes to good schools, cafes, shops and community hubs. And, it’s just a short podcast-length drive away from the nation’s capital. 

People are catching on to the idea of a custom home in the country in greater numbers. It’s easy to focus on the house itself. Obviously, that’s far from an inconsequential aspect but its surroundings are just as crucial. There’s the community it’s in. And there’s the lot it sits on. When people are interested in one of my homes, I tell them to come and choose a lot with me. I ask them questions designed to get them to see the decisions they can make. Do they want the morning sun to wake them up in the master bedroom or light to stream into their home office? These are the amazing things you get to consider when you decide on a custom home. 

People have this idea that custom homes are the domain of the wealthy. This just isn’t true. People deserve to design the space they live, and now work in, to accommodate what they need and want out of their day, their week and weekend. Really, the ideal home is one that serves people as they go through the stages of life. They can have an office space that is sound-proofed. They can dedicate a closet to the clunky printer. They can custom-build the desk right into the wall with the best light. They can plan for the nursery to become a yoga studio. And a garage that accommodates a rec room. The house that now contains the office, recreation activities and family should be able to morph throughout its life just as you do. 

The surge in interest in custom homes is a reflection of the times. And, with good reason. Imagine not competing for space or silence when the whole family is home. Imagine a lunch hour spent in hiking boots or in a kayak. Imagine your commute at the end of the day being a flight of stairs to the other highly-liveable room. 

Kemptville and North Grenville may not have been on your radar. One quick podcast of a drive down the 416 will bring you to the life you never knew you needed. 

GillesGilles Brisebois is the CEO of LA Group and vice-president for the Oxford Village development in Kemptville. His career spans more than 30 years building award-winning custom homes as well as residential and commercial construction throughout the Ottawa region.

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