Wow factor: Mountain slope inspires home design in Quebec’s Laurentians

A steep plot of land that slopes down to a lake inspired the pier-like aesthetic of a home in Quebec’s Laurentians.

“We wanted to create the atmosphere of a wharf,” explains architect Pierre Thibault about La Résidence du Lac Masson.

Thibault also wanted a simple building that would take advantage of both the site’s dramatic topography and the beauty of the surrounding hardwood forest.

The house, about an hour and a half north of Montreal, totals 2,700 square feet and is actually made up of two square structures connected, but divided, by a courtyard. Thibault likens it to an oyster shell.

The first section, closest to Lake Masson, has a roof terrace that creates the feeling of being on a dock since the angle of the property makes the water seem very close. Inside, floor-to-ceiling windows surround a guest bedroom with bunk beds designed in the middle of the room to give the impression of being in the cabin of a ship.

Architect Pierre Thibault designed bunk beds in the middle of the guest area for the ambiance of a ship's cabin.

The second, larger part of the house includes a double height living room with a walkway leading to the terrace. It connects to the kitchen and dining area on the main level. On the second floor is the master bedroom.

A variety of woods were used including cedar for the exterior cladding, American walnut for the built-in furniture and oak for the floors.

Completed in 2013, La Résidence du Lac Masson took 20 months to design and build.

Open wooden risers on the staircase allow natural light to stream into the living areas and up to the master bedroom.

Pierre Thibault, from Atelier Pierre Thibault in Quebec City, answers some questions about La Résidence du Mason Lake.

What inspired your design?

Built-in appliances and cabinetry showcase the warm grains of American walnut furniture and oak floors.

We wanted to create a very simple volume that reveals the topography of the site and the beauty of the trees. We wanted to create the feeling of a dock.

The house consists of two volumes connected by a walkway – one becomes a habitable area with spaces for overnight stays, and the other consolidates the essence of the house.

How did you work on the design in the steep site?

The courtyard creates an oyster style effect that joins and separates the two structures of the house.

The house site is a relatively narrow wooded strip that runs from the road to the lake and allows the south facade of the house to overlook the lake.

The site is on a steep slope from the road and we had to decide whether to locate the house closer to the lake or on higher ground. We chose to place it about 20 meters from the lake, keeping the trees in order to preserve the privacy of the lake.

A single window on the north side, in the kitchen, provides privacy from the road.

With the slope and surrounding trees, how did you bring in natural light?

We have oriented the facade to the south to favor passive solar as much as possible to heat the house in winter. We filled the walls with a higher degree of insulation with only a small opening to the north. Deciduous trees serve as a screen during the summer heat.

What were your challenges?

Vertical cedar planks, mirroring the surrounding trees, shine in the home's exterior lighting.

The first challenge was to make the site buildable, make the path for the construction site and create two small levels, one near the lake and the other near the road for the garage, while cutting as few trees as possible. The other challenge was to brace the house, because the south facade is completely fenestrated — has lots of windows. We had to install steel elements.

The bunk beds have a unique position. Why in the middle of the room? We wanted to create a small, more distinct all-wood space for guests, giving the impression of being in the cabin of a ship.

Georgie Binks is a Toronto-based writer and freelance contributor to The Star. Contact her at [email protected]

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