Architecture and Nature: A Perfect Match
Josée and Claude have built their dream cottage at Saint-Adolphe-d’Howard in the Laurentians. Majestic Lac de la Cabane is the only horizon visible from this veritable haven of peace for all seasons.
In 2011, Josée and Claude, the owners, visited one of the many lots of land that one of their friends wanted to sell in the region. It was love at first sight for this exceptional location. “We had had a cottage at Mont-Tremblant for fifteen years, but we wanted someplace quieter,” Josée admitted. This little piece of heaven measured 100,000 square feet. Barely an hour’s drive from Montréal, it provides absolute tranquillity surrounded by bourgeoning nature.
For two years the couple worked hard on what they now call “the most absorbing, and also the most stressful, project of our lives”: building their dream cottage. Happily, both are very knowledgeable about design and architecture. Josée worked for a number of years at Céragrès, a business specializing in the sale of ceramic tiles, and Claude is an urban planner. They also used the services of Claude’s brother’s architectural firm. They immediately knew what they wanted: “A house full of light from all its many windows.” The architect studied the lot carefully to make sure that the house would have a full southern exposure and get sun all day long. Another important criterion was that every room needed a view over the lake, so immense glassed-in bays were installed throughout. As a result, the interior gives a spectacular view of the horizon and extends out into the surrounding natural environment.
Natural materials for a warm, modern style
The 7,000 square foot living space is on three levels. The ground floor includes the living room, dining room and open-area kitchen, along with the guest rooms, accessible by a glassed-in hallway. “We love having guests and we wanted our friends to be able to sleep over instead of driving after having a few drinks with supper,” the owner explained. A floating staircase leads to the mezzanine on the second floor, with a master suite that comes with an elegant bathroom and an incredible view of the lake. The couple’s children each have their own bedroom. The basement holds a pool table, a home theatre, a sauna and a magnificent cellar, perfect components of a festive evening, especially in the cold weather.
Natural materials like wood, steel and stone have pride of place to give the cottage a warm, contemporary feel. The owners worked with Mario Lafrenais, designer and director of Moine Urbain, a firm specializing in designing furniture from raw materials. Moine Urbain fabricated steel plates to cover the fireplace in the living room, the buffet in the dining room and all the kitchen cupboards. It also carved the kitchen and bathroom sinks out of stone. To echo the grey tones in the furniture, Josée and Claude covered the floor with beautiful Brazilian slate from Josée’s former employer, Céragrès.
They trusted their own good taste and respective experience and did their own interior design. They chose furniture from a few top-of-the-line design houses, like Maison Corbeil (kitchen furniture, sectional sofa and living room table) and Quartz Design (light fixtures), and had some furniture made by Moine Urbain (living room buffet) and by a woodworker (dining room table and wooden doors). The result is a very serene atmosphere and an impression of comfort associated with spare, clean lines: the ideal setting for a four-season cottage that fits right into its natural surroundings. The cherry on the sundae is an elaborate home automation system giving remote control over the heat, lights, alarm system and music. As beautiful as it is practical and functional, the cottage was carefully thought out for daily life in a family with children. For instance, the couple installed not one but two dishwashers in the kitchen!
A long-term personal investment
While the owners did indeed know a certain amount about architecture and design, this was their first construction project from the ground up. “We had already done a number of renovations to our principal dwelling in Mont-Royal, but we had never built a house on an empty lot,” Josée explained, adding that, “you need an awful lot of patience and good organizational skills” to carry out a project like this one. “I put together lots of file folders of articles cut out of magazines. We used 3D Sketch Up, software that lets you make plans based on your materials. But sometimes what looks great on a computer screen isn’t so great in reality,” she said with a laugh.
Today, the couple’s efforts have born fruit and their dream is a reality. When Josée and Claude drink their early morning coffee on the deck facing the lake, fanned by gentle breezes and entertained by birdsongs, they don’t remember the two years of hard work. The beauty and enchanting serenity of nature have pushed those memories aside.
Text: Diane Stehle
Photos: Caroline Bergeron