Shelter: Single mom plants strong roots in N.D.G.

The living room in Stephanie Pascal’s N.D.G. apartment.
Graham Hughes / Montreal Gazette

Stephanie Pascal grew up in Nouveau-Bordeaux, in the north end, but she lived for many years in the Plateau. Although she studied history at university, she ended up working in the retail trade. At one point, she even ran her own company — a second-hand toy and clothing store for children “aged from zero to 10.” Pascal subsequently sold that business and today she works for a TV and film production company.

Pascal may have had an eclectic professional life, but when it comes to her home she has been steadfast, living in one place for quite a long time. More than a decade ago, she put down roots in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, and there she has stayed. Pascal chose N.D.G. in part because she got tired of the Plateau. She was also planning to have children one day and she wanted to live in a neighbourhood that was family-friendly and had easy access to stores and parks.

She and her then partner moved into a duplex in 2002 and three years later, their son, Noah, was born. The building was (and still is) owned by a friend of Stephanie’s and when he got married, he bought a house and moved out. While he was living there, the landlord had renovated the kitchen and spruced up the rest of the apartment, including refinishing the hardwood floors. The apartment, in other words, was in good shape, so Pascal and her partner moved upstairs.

Noah’s father no longer lives with the family, but Pascal has stayed put. Her upper storey home has three bedrooms, a balcony and a sizeable terrasse – what she calls her “extra room” for the summer. An artist friend, G. Scott MacLeod, has a studio in the basement.

Q: You certainly have tons of space! Do you use one of your three bedrooms as a home office?

A: Actually no. I host a foreign student from time to time to earn some extra income. One just left on Friday – a Japanese girl who was studying English at McGill. She stayed with me for a month.

Q: Sort of like having a part-time roommate?

A: Exactly! I’m 44 years old and I don’t want to have roommates any more. I’ve done that. This way I meet all kinds of people. It’s great for Noah as well, because he’s being exposed to people from different cultural backgrounds.

Two of the walls of the guest bedroom are painted tomato red.

Graham Hughes /

Graham Hughes/The Gazette

(Pascal leads me into the ‘student room’. It’s furnished with a single bed, a sofa, bookshelves and a small work area. Two of the walls are painted a striking tomato red. A sliding door leads to a balcony.

(Stephanie’s own bedroom is a restful space with pale green walls. Several pieces of art hang on the wall, including a sketch of her holding Noah in her arms – a present from the artist whose studio is in the basement. There are many other pieces by him throughout the apartment.)

The master bedroom is a restful space that contains a mother and child photo done by an artist friend of Pascal’s.

Graham Hughes /

Graham Hughes/The Gazette

Q: What a lovely ‘mother and child’ picture!

A: I’m very lucky to have an artist friend. You feel like a grown-up when you have original art on the walls!

(By her bedroom window, standing on a shelf, are a cyclamen and two beautiful orchids in full bloom. They’re clearly thriving.)

Q: You must have a green thumb. I find orchids really hard to grow. They take one look at me and die!

A: (Laughs.) Both of these are on their third or fourth flowering. All my windows seem to have the right kind of light. I think they’ve just found a ‘happy space’ here! I put most of my plants on the terrasse in the summertime.

The rear balcony serves as an “extra room” for the N.D.G. apartment. 

Graham Hughes /

Graham Hughes/The Gazette

(She leads me out to her ‘extra room’. Pascal measures its dimensions by placing one foot in front of the other and walking across the deck — roughly 250 square feet of outside space. Patches of snow remain and a glass-topped table and patio chairs stand in the corner, as if just waiting for the white stuff to disappear.)

(We walk into Noah’s bedroom. He sleeps on the upper part of an Ikea bunk bed, which Pascal bought second hand from a customer when she ran her children’s store. Against one wall is a bookshelf/drawer unit filled with toys and books. The floor is covered in a mad jumble of action figures and building bricks.)

Stephanie Pascal’s son, Noah, sleeps in the upper part of an Ikea bunk bed.

Graham Hughes /

Graham Hughes/The Gazette

Q: Definitely a young boy’s room!

A: My Japanese student had a really interesting reaction when she came in here for the first time. She said Noah’s room reminded her of Toy Story! In fact, she thought my entire apartment was like a movie set! Isn’t it funny how things that are ordinary to us can seem exotic to somebody from another culture?

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Shelter is a weekly series featuring a conversation with tenants or condo owners.

Occupants: Stephanie Pascal, 44, son Noah, 12, and Happy, a marmalade cat

Location: Notre-Dame-de-Grâce

Size: 1,100 square feet (plus a 250 square-foot terrasse)

Rental: $1,100 (includes heat)

Been there: Since 2006 (in the upstairs apartment)

The kitchen was renovated before Pascal moved in and features a lot of storage space.

Graham Hughes /

Graham Hughes/The Gazette