Setting (building type): Family home in the woods. Year of construction: 2011 Clients: A couple in the 30s with three young children and possibly a fourth.

    “Wonderful people. They are enthusiastic and accessible, very much in love, and each of them regards family life as the greatest gift of all. Once they had chosen a wooded site, the mandate was to create a house that would specifically address the children’s well-being. From there, the mother was interested in colour and the father wanted a design that would last ‘indefinitely.’ As for the style, they agreed it would be modern but "not minimalist." This being said, if a designer’s work is to translate his client’s desires, his role is to expand their thinking.”

    Comprising two levels, the living spaces come as a surprise. Highly refined, they are the antithesis of popular notions of a family home, excessively “cosy,” overburdened with colours and objects. Then one begins to perceive the sensitivity of the approach taken. When you ask: What does a child need to feel at home?, designer answers: freedom of movement, achieved through ample spaces, fluid circulation for joyful fun of all kinds, and the removal of barriers between public areas and family spaces.

    Anne (4 years old), Marie (2 years) and Louis (8 months) are welcome throughout the house, including in their parents’ room, which features a sitting area for storytelling. The living room can easily become a play room, with Italian sofas (Flexform) good for innumerable capers and romps easily cohabiting with a “rocking chair” for breastfeeding. From the start, it was understood that life in this house would minimize restrictions and allow for lots of laughter. To this end, the furniture and materials were chosen for the kind of durability that can only be achieved through superb quality and ease of care that, of course, have beauty as their natural extension.

    The double-height space of the living room is bathed in light from a glazed bay, which also serves the mezzanine leading to the bedrooms. The real star here is the view out into nature and the subtle, discrete colours, as well as the rigorous lines of the bookshelves and the Bianco Carrara marble fireplace they respectfully frame. “It is the children who bring it all to life,” says the designer. When night falls and the electric drapes draw closed, the windows become a screen for shadows from the back-lit trees outside.

    Despite the minimally furnished rooms, a monochromatic bias and the Sucupira (Pianeta Legno) floors throughout the house, the decor comes across as anything but minimalist due to accents borrowed from classical architecture. Reinterpreted from a modern perspective, the coffered ceilings, theatrical openings in the passages and wide matt-white mouldings running along the base of the silk-grey walls combine to create a sense of elegance and harmony, but, surprisingly they bring comfort, too.

    Here and there, furtive splashes of colour add an indispensable touch of dissonance, much like grace notes in an overly serious score. This is true of the violet chairs in the dining rooms, where the brushed white oak doors of the china cabinets (Maxalto) open to tangerine lacquer interiors. In the bathroom, the frosted glass partitions concealing the water closets and the shower add a youthful blush to the Grigio Fior di Pesco marble, and in the kitchen a mosaic in hard-candy stripes (Bisazza) creates mayhem around its anthracite-lacquered wood cabinets, granite and stainless steel. Here and there, paintings strike some major chords. Each was carefully selected, from the "Totem of Spontaneity" in the stairwell to the large mixed-media panel in the master bedroom (both by Stephen Spadzuk) and Élise Palardy’s three pastels on mylar in the living room. “There is something naive about them that I thought the children could relate to,” explains Desjardins, a staunch advocate of art in design: “a touch of dreams and poetry.”

    If the interior lets the surrounding landscape in on all sides, in the veranda such contact is absolute. The same can be said for comfort. Adjoining the kitchen, this room has a rusticity that is misleading, with its heated ceiling, insect screens, transparent windbreaker blinds, Spanish cedar panelling and stone tiles. A wall of stainless steel tiles adds a bright note to the custom BBQ area, and iconic Louis Ghost chairs in bluish Plexiglas (Kartell) surround a robust farm table. The contrast of strong/delicate, rough/smooth, massive/transparent yields an exemplary modernism that stands the test of time. As requested, the house will hold its own for many years to come, and will see many years of joy, too.

    Project manager : Anne-Joëlle Chamberland / Photographs : André Doyon