Brazilian couple makes a house their home

| December 29, 2018 | 0 Comments
The home of Brazilian Ambassador Denis Fontes de Souza Pinto and his wife, Maria do Carmo de Moura Rocha de Souza Pinto, was built in the Tudor Revival style and is designated a heritage property by the City of Ottawa. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

The home of Brazilian Ambassador Denis Fontes de Souza Pinto and his wife, Maria do Carmo de Moura Rocha de Souza Pinto, was built in the Tudor Revival style and is designated a heritage property by the City of Ottawa. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

It’s a big house. The official residence of Brazilian Ambassador Denis Fontes de Souza Pinto and his wife, Maria do Carmo de Moura Rocha de Souza Pinto, commands the property at 400 Wilbrod St. in Sandy Hill.
Showing many characteristics of the Tudor Revival style, the home features towering chimneys, a splash of bay, gabled and flush windows, and an extended portico — clearly a later addition — to keep visitors dry as they wait for the heavy wooden front door to be answered.
Inside the home, which is a designated heritage property, there are six fireplaces (most are now decorative) and enough main-floor space to accommodate 60 or more guests. The dining room seats 20 comfortably.

The ambassador and his wife are shown here with Dan, their beloved 12-year-old Yorkshire terrier, who has his own passport. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

The ambassador and his wife are shown here with Dan, their beloved 12-year-old Yorkshire terrier, who has his own passport. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

Despite its size, the ambassador, who assumed his current post in early 2017, says, “This house has a soul, a personality. It has a human dimension. You don’t feel like you’re in a big house because it is cosy and warm.”
Indeed, the wood-panelled foyer, the warm yellow walls and deep white mouldings in the main living area, and features such as the small, bright plant conservatory looking out on Wilbrod Street all conspire to lend the official residence a homey — even laid-back — feel.

Pride of place is occupied by a Heintzman piano that belongs to the residence and has been restored.  (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

Pride of place is occupied by a Heintzman piano that belongs to the residence and has been restored. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

The location is also convenient. Just steps away from the Brazilian Embassy at 450 Wilbrod, “it makes me able to wake up a bit late because it doesn’t take any time to get to work,” jokes the ambassador.
The three-storey red brick home was built in 1910 for lawyer J.S. Ewart. It’s been the official residence of Brazilian ambassadors since the Brazilian government bought it in 1942, one year after the establishment of Canadian-Brazilian diplomatic relations.
While the main floor is often given over to official functions, the top two storeys, accessed directly from the foyer, are the private quarters of the ambassador, his wife and Dan, the couple’s beloved 12-year-old Yorkshire terrier. Perky and sociable, Dan travels everywhere with his human companions and has his own passport.
He’s also a fixture in the neighbourhood. “I walk with Dan three times a day,” says de Moura Rocha de Souza Pinto. “I like the area. It’s very nice. There’s the university over there and young people coming and going.”

This reception room opens into a small sunroom full of light. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

This reception room opens into a small sunroom full of light. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

The couple, who have an adult son in New York City (another child died in an accident 14 years ago), clearly have a flair for making wherever they live their home. In the case of their Ottawa residence, that includes outfitting it mostly with their own furnishings and possessions. “The official house turns out to be your house because it has your memories,” the ambassador says.
Those memories include handsome Chinese vases in the foyer and elsewhere, collected during the couple’s posting to that country from 1989 to 1991.
They also have a taste for fine paintings, including one by the late Brazilian artist Lula Cardoso Ayres. Titled The Ghost, the mysterious painting — who is that person whose shadowy outline we see against an uncertain background? — hangs above the fireplace in the expansive living room. It was a gift to the ambassador from his wife.
“This is my favourite,” he says. “I very much like the colours and the idea of it being called The Ghost because normally you don’t have a picture of a ghost.”
Surrounded by such examples of artistic generosity and creativity, it feels almost impertinent to ask how the recent election of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro might influence the ambassador’s work in Canada.

The dramatic foyer features this chandelier and is two storeys tall. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

The dramatic foyer features this chandelier and is two storeys tall. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

He’s careful in his response. “It’s a new president. There is going to be conversation. Naturally, with a new government there are new emphases, new avenues of co-operation. We will see,” he says.
What won’t change with shifting political winds are the dishes offered to dinner guests at the residence.
Brazilian favourites, such as moqueca de peixe (a fish, vegetable and coconut combo), feijoada (a national dish made of black beans and meat) and bacalhau (salted and dried cod) rank high among the fare served in the dining room, where blue and white wall panelling and similarly coloured ceiling beams add notes of both warmth and ceremony.
Noting that owning an old home means frequent updates, the ambassador offers a visit to the basement. Far from damp and dingy, this 110-year-old space has been recently upgraded following some water damage and is a bright, functional area that will be used for entertaining.

This fireplace, one of six in the residence, greets visitors when they arrive. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

This fireplace, one of six in the residence, greets visitors when they arrive. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

Pride of place is held by a gleaming Heintzman baby grand piano that belongs to the residence and has been restored. With a bit of coaxing, de Moura Rocha de Souza Pinto picks out a few notes, explaining that, after years away from playing piano, she is again studying the instrument.
“The guy who repaired it said it needs to be played,” she recounts. “So I said, ‘Let’s do both: Take care of the piano and enjoy myself.’ It gives such pleasure.”
The entire home is clearly a source of pleasure and pride for her and the ambassador. Like any of us, each also has a favourite spot in the home. In their case, though, that’s close to each other in a couple of comfy living room chairs with a large window behind them.
“We sit here and read,” says the ambassador. “During the whole year, there is a lot of light.”

The pretty blue and yellow dining room seats 20 comfortably. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

The pretty blue and yellow dining room seats 20 comfortably. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

 

Sunny yellow walls are prominent in the residence. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

Sunny yellow walls are prominent in the residence. (Photo: Ashley Fraser)

Patrick Langston is an Ottawa-area writer with an abiding fondness for older homes (he lives in a 1904 farmhouse), dogs (his is a Lab-German Shepherd mix who answers to Betty) and art (he would like to be a renown watercolourist, but keeps his day job).

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