Whose House? Nils & Melissa’s house.

Photos by Caroline Wintoniw

Nils and Melissa Vik are finally chilling out. It’s undeniably well-deserved. Nils opened up Little Sister Coffee Maker with Vanessa Stachiw, Melissa’s sister, in September of 2013. Melissa gave birth to their first child, Marte, the following February. In between all that, the pair of 31-year-olds oversaw the construction of a gorgeous house in St. Boniface. It’s not a combo that Nils would immediately advocate.

“It was a quick way to get to the grave,” he jests. “There was lots of Lovey’s BBQ and a lot of scotch. I wouldn’t recommend doing it, it was awful.”

The end product seems worth it. Nils’ businesses – Parlour Coffee and Little Sister – are both booming in popularity. Nine-month-old Marte’s growing quickly, already staggering around with the assistance of furniture or a stray milk crate. Their 16-foot-wide house serves as the most distinguished on the block, featuring a burnt cedar exterior, red roof, a cast iron wood stove and vast windows.

“We didn’t want to live in an area where you’re typically able to build, which usually ends up being the suburbs,” says Nils, noting that they’re a 12-minute walk from the nearest grocery store and two minutes from the Seine River. “We still wanted to be relatively central, close to work, close to public transit, and if wasn’t a completely walkable neighbourhood at least be a nice place to walk.”

The Viks bought the land back in 2012. Construction began last August. Nils, who graduated with a Bachelors of Environmental Design in Architecture at the University of Manitoba in 2009, designed the whole thing. Everything’s intentional, from the striking exterior, to art (mostly created by friends), to mismatched chairs at the dining table (“It’s nice to have a different seat for every person,” Nils says). It’s a wonderfully fitting home for the family.

1) Poncho

“We found him on Kijiji. Thankfully, Melissa’s sister and my brother-in-law ended up buying his brother, so they get to stay together. Poncho is an odd duck. There’s something off about him. But in a really charming way. He’s so scared but so brave all at the same time.”

2) Counters

N: “Our kitchen has plywood countertops. Kitchens shouldn’t be precious. It’s also really cheap. And it’s sort of funny because most people only talk about countertops and floors when they talk about home renovations. That’s it.” / M: “So our house is a joke because we got soft wood and plywood countertops.” / N: “Poncho’s ruining the floors by the minute.”

3) Window

“This window’s kind of fun because when you sit here you see an electrical line in the neighbours’ yard that birds sit on. You’re on the same plane as the birds. I can’t say that I explicitly designed that window around that line. That was a pleasant surprise.”

4) Nook

“This is my man cave. I say that as I’m folding a textile design. This is where I listen to records. Marte really likes records too. She responds to fun-sounding music.”

5) Bell

“My grandfather gave me that bell. It’s from Norway. It’s probably from the mid-1800s. My grandpa was born in 1897 and I think he found it in one of the houses he had or he found it in the wood somewhere. It’s a nice bell from a cow in Norway.”

6) Cork drawer

“This is my cork drawer collection. We’ve started over a couple of times when moving. This collection would be from our last apartment. We didn’t collect for one year. We took a one year hiatus from collecting corks when we were in transition from building to here. There’s a lull.”

7) Marco

“Marte really likes these stuffed animals. This was mine when I was a little kid. His name’s Marco and he looks like Poncho. He’s good for dancing.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 14 of The Uniter (December 3, 2014)

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