January 1, 2013

Northern Exposure: A Modern Mountain Chalet in Quebec

Come winter, the Lau­rentian Mountains, a jagged range in Quebec, are blanketed in powdery snow, mak­ing them a prime skiing desti­nation. It’s there, in the rural township of La Conception, that a Montreal couple chose to build a year-round chalet for themselves and their two young children. The pair had only two requests: a calm, contemplative atmosphere and a spa. Marie­ Claude Hamelin and Loukas Yiacouvakis, prin­cipals of Yiacouvakis Hamelin, Architectes, designed a moun­tain retreat that’s as meditative as a monastery with a minimalist’s attention to detail. Al­though the house is only 1,300 square feet, the spare palette of materials and colors makes it feel expansive.

A traditional wooden tobog­gan inspired the structure’s sloping shape as well as its siding of white cedar planks. (For variation, one section is clad in Cor­Ten steel.) In summer, sliding doors open the house to the 11⁄4 ­acre tim­bered property. Interior walls and the ceiling are paneled in horizontal and vertical strips of untreated cedar, evoking a scandinavian spa. Flooring throughout is mostly white oak. In the living area, a sus­pended hearth provides a focal point for après­-ski gatherings. The adjacent open kitchen is outfitted with custom maple cabinetry—garage ­door panels craftily concealing appliances— and countertops of stainless steel and ipe.

The architects didn’t skimp on the requested spa amentities. Although the cedar deck’s sunken hottub is used even in the snowiest months, it is un­derstudied by the bathroom’s free standing soaking tub. And while most saunas are boxy and claustrophobic, this ver­sion offers a floor­ to­ ceiling nature view for as many as four occupants. There’s no doubt the sight of northern wildlife passing silently among the trees answers the call for contemplative calm.

Project Team
Construction CYG: Woodwork.

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