A ‘piece of paradise’

Architectural practice Espace Vital has completed a new residence located in Potton, Canada. Perched up high near the edge of a steep slope, the contemporary dwelling creates a “contrast and a duality between opaque areas hidden from sight and living areas bathed in light,” the architects commented. The practice said the project “is a perfect

representation of Espace Vital’s trademarks with its minimalist design, balanced with warmth and its aerial roof overhang.” Nested on a site overlooking Lake

Memphrémagog, near Owl’s Head ski resort, this property represented the ideal location for the owners. The Montreal couple were looking for “a piece of paradise” near the mountains and the lake to enjoy winter activities during the cold season, as well as boating during warmer months. They wanted a house big enough to entertain friends and family while having all their living quarters on the same floor. The architects commented that when they

visited the site for the first time, they realised that the major challenge would be to design a layout in a relatively narrow strip of ground bordered by the cliff and the road. “The footprint we could build the house in was not very big,” explained Paul Fa ucher, architect and associate at Espace Vital. “Furthermore, even if the road is not very busy, we wanted to design a curved driveway to maximise intimacy and create discovery when approaching the residence,” he adds. The concept is basically a two faced building with the street facade being opaque and the opposite facade being fully

transparent and in contact with nature. This maximises the “cocoon effect” which was desired by the owners. The driveway gives access to the enclosed

volumes of the garage and the main building enhancing the “surprise” effect. Upon entering, the large vestibule does not allow visitors to right away fully appreciate the layout, which is completely open towards the scenery. It is only once inside the main living spaces of the main floor that one discovers the spectacular views towards the forest and the lake.

Living on one level The owners, who plan to occupy the house for their retirement, wanted all their main living areas accessible on the ground floor, without stairs – including the master bedroom – meaning their guests and family would have the lower level to themselves. The architects imagined a house that takes

Images © Stephane Lemire

advantage of the natural grade of the site, which allowed the owners to occupy the same level as the entrance. This floor houses the main living areas, as well as the master bedroom. All the spaces feature floor to ceiling windows. Also fully glazed because of the slope, the lower level houses two guest rooms, a full bathroom, a living room and a gym. Everywhere in the house, circulation is fluid, and avoiding long corridors optimises space. On the inside as well as on the outside, wood was favoured to bring warmth to the clean lines. “We chose pre-stained red cedar cladding to reduce maintenance and maximise durability. On


the inside, natural wood is also used for accents and on the ceiling, bringing a sense of continuity with the overhang and the terrace,” explained Paul Faucher. “Above all, in all the rooms, even in the bathrooms, the view is breath-taking.” The clients were initially “seduced by a

house featuring a huge suspended bay-window, like an observatory,” which they saw in Espace Vital’s portfolio. This prompted them to contact the firm to design their residence. “They wanted their own glass cube perched among the trees and to be able to enjoy and observe the natural environment,” added Paul Faucher. Annexed to the living room, this cube, along with the huge windows, gives the impression of space flowing from the inside to the outside. Finally, in order to protect the rooms from

direct summer sunlight, a large roof overhang was created towards the south and the west, and tapering off to the east, giving the building its dynamic and distinctive look, and providing shade for energy efficiency. By the same token, the large windows include triple glazing for enhanced insulation during winter and for minimising heat gains during summer. In the end, considering a relatively

limited budget, the optimisation of the layout and limiting the size of the rooms allowed the architects to design an elegant, contemporary and warm residence, one that is open to the natural environment. It offers the occupants an ideal and peaceful getaway for their weekend escapes as well as for their retirement.



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