Résidence Margaux by René Desjardins

Résidence Margaux by René Desjardins

Architects: René Desjardins
Location: Montréal, Canada

Once the baby had arrived, the clients decided to leave their apartment for an English-style brick house. It was very nice, but had been ‘disfigured’ by the addition of an inappropriate solarium covered in aging white cladding. The clients’ priorities were to expand the living space and adapt it to their current lifestyle. When they approached me, they made it clear that they wanted a true family home that would be comfortable, practical and filled with light. She wanted a kitchen in muted colours, he saw it filled with potted plants.

Résidence Margaux featured quirky rooms, difficult circulation paths, a disparate collection of wood floorings, dark oak, and that dusty feeling found in old homes. One year and much work later, a contemporary interior had settled in to a classic piece of architecture. This is the project’s strength: despite its uncompromising modernity, the design respects the spirit of the period in which the house was built.

Once the solarium had been demolished, the structure was extended on the garden side with a modern cubic volume, used to accommodate a living room on the ground floor and the master bedroom upstairs. Seen from the outside, this new volume melds into the body of the house by means of contemporary anthracite-grey wood cladding whose boards and openings pay respectful homage to the existing brick masonry and cornice. Its row of bays, which recall the style of large English homes, now let the daylight stream in. This was the only way to brighten up this old home, since a municipal regulation limits changes to the existing fenestration.

Without making fundamental changes to the original house type, the rooms have been restructured into a coherent ensemble with the sense of freedom that open spaces provide. The arches have been kept as vestiges of the past, but their form has been simplified and improved, much like the doors on the ground floor. The ceilings now appear higher than they are, giving the impression of larger volumes.

With its fluid circulation, the new floor plan enhances the house’s liveability. The kitchen and central dining room, both of which are open at each end, double as passages connecting the entry with the dinette, the heart of the home. From there, three steps lead down to the living room, which is at garden level. On the other side of the vestibule, the former living room has become a sitting room, treated as an independent entity. The alignment of these rooms frees up perspectives that let the eye wander and light travel in a way that, again, enhances one’s sense of space.

Logically, the upper floor is for private spaces: the nursery and the guest room share a washroom, the study has also a water closet. The new extension is reserved for the parent’s suite at the end of the hallway, a veritable private apartment with a vestibule, a luxurious bathroom, and a large dressing room off the bedroom that also serves as an imposing support for the bed. All three levels feature ample storage spaces based on the principle of “a place for everything and everything in its place,” making the house highly functional.

Simple materials and a limited colour palette emphasize the purity of the volumes. New natural ash floors extend throughout the home, the walls are a particular shade of white, the colour of eggplant flesh, with the ceilings in a lighter shade, and the curtains and Roman blinds are in unbleached linen. The kitchen cabinets are of anthracite-stained ash with white marble work surfaces, and the walls are clad in oversized white ceramic tiles. White marble has also been used on the chimney in the living room and the master bath, where it is combined with black granite in a basket weave, a traditional pattern in English architecture.

Rejecting the “total look’ approach, the furnishings are a combination of custom tables in blackened steel, mottled chests of drawers and brands known for comfort without fuss (Flexform, Maxalto, etc.). Louis Ghost plastic chairs are combined with a Louis-Philippe mirror, and oriental carpets, contemporary tables, and reconditioned radiators complete the space. The sole purpose of this cohabitation of styles is to create relaxed yet elegant surroundings, a very 21st-century approach to living.

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