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Hill Life & People

When In…Celina Caesar-Chavannes’s Ottawa condo

By Martha Ilboudo      
Parliamentary Secretary Celina Caesar-Chavannes shows P&I inside her condo, and reveals the less-than-luxurious lifestyle of an MP on the move. P&I photograph by Jake Wright
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If time were an affordable commodity for Whitby, Ont. MP and Parliamentary Secretary Celina Caesar-Chavannes, she might someday be inclined to furnish her downtown Ottawa condominium.

Caesar-Chavannes’s condo has the ‘minimalist-look’ because, as she tells P&I, she has minimal time. (P&I photograph by Jake Wright)

In the condo of her dreams, the open-concept kitchen and dining room would be transformed into a useable kid-friendly space for when her children visit; the unused flat-screen TV in her bedroom and its unplugged cable box would find their true calling in the main living area; the curved bay window would be flanked by an enviable banquette; the eggshell-white walls would be complimented by a sophisticated grey to pick up the undertone of the wood-embossed tile; and the 650 sq.ft, one-bedroom, one-bath condo would be filled with artwork.

At first glance, Caesar-Chavannes’s condo has all the markings of a minimalist-inspired lifestyle: a sparsely decorated interior, little-to-no furnishings, purposeful décor, and clean lines. Although the design esthetic of her home closely mirrors that of her personal style, her focus here in her Ottawa condo remains on her work, not décor, she explains.

“I’m going for the real ‘nothing’ look,” says Caesar-Chavannes, who is the parliamentary secretary for the minister of International Development. “I just don’t feel the need to decorate. Who’s going to look at it? I’m hardly here,” she tells P&I.

Whether she’s in the House of Commons, attending meetings with cabinet ministers, flying across the country for work, or commuting to her riding in southern Ontario, Caesar-Chavannes is a busy woman on the move.

Living out of a suitcase is a reality faced by some MPs who lives outside of Ottawa. (P&I photograph by Jake Wright)

“This apartment, for me, is just a means for me to recharge a little bit,” she says. “My weeks, even when I’m in Whitby, are so busy, so I’m trying to balance [family]” she explains, listing her children’s diverse activities which she attempts to juggle when at home.

“Sunday nights for me, when I get here, it’s like, literally, I put my plug into the outlet and I just recharge my battery and then it’s go, go, go again,” the first-term MP explains. “But it’s comfortable enough here […] so I can rest, which I think is important.”

The first thing you notice when entering Caesar-Chavannes’s Ottawa home is the sophisticated grey-toned tile that extends well in the home’s open-concept floor plan. The tiles’ artistic perpendicular pattern draws visitors beyond what is missing in décor and furnishings.

Off the main entryway is an ultra-modern and compact U-shaped kitchen with a large quartz countertop surrounded by three silver bar stools upholstered in white leather.

“I put all my stuff here,” explains Caesar-Chavannes, pointing to countertop. “This is my repository for my purse, my keys, anything that I need in the morning,” she says. “Every now and then I’ll sit here and work.”

Caesar-Chavannes’s bedroom is sparsely decorated; there’s a yoga mat and bunk beds for when her kids come to visit. (P&I photograph by Jake Wright)

After a quick look through the various newspapers, magazines and notes that are spread out across the length of the kitchen island, Caesar-Chavannes rummages through her empty white kitchen cabinets, and introduces me to her occasional dinner of choice and “pièce de résistance”: Honey Nut Chex cereal.

“I don’t cook here. I don’t clean here. I have a Swiffer,” she confides. Motioning to the bare- bones space, which looks about as lived-in as a hotel room, she admits that while she loves her job, “It’s not that glamorous. It’s work—and it’s a lot of work.”

Caesar-Chavannes navigates from the main living area and into the equally bare bedroom she calls her “dungeon,” due to its lack of lighting. Near the bedroom door is a small bathroom where an open carry-on suitcase rests.

“The essentials always stay in here in the event that [I have to] go somewhere. I never unpack,” says Caesar-Chavannes, while looking through the contents of the suitcase.

“I understand very well that I have a borrowed job. If you do a good enough job for the people of Whitby, you’ll get your job again. I’m conscious of the fact that I need to spend my time doing work while I’m here and that usually doesn’t involve domestic stuff.”

Caesar-Chavannes shows the bare refrigerator in her Ottawa condo (P&I photograph by Jake Wright)

Beside her bed is her yoga mat, and in the far corner are bunk beds for her children when they come to town for visits. Leaving her bedroom, Caesar-Chavannes notes the unused flat-screen TV before making her way back to the main living area and settling beside the bay window facing West, with views of the Ottawa River and Gatineau, Que. to the right.

“This view is great,” she says, looking out the window, “but there’s a lot more out there and there’s a lot more things that you need to fix,” she muses. “It really humbles you.”

“I’m always crossing over Parliament Hill and seeing the flag—whenever I see the flag, for me, that is the point where I’m like, ‘man, I work for that. This is my job.’ I really feel privileged; blessed—not lucky,” says Caesar-Chavannes.

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