Setting (typology): A small cottage in the woods (800 ft2 on the ground floor) built in the 1950s on a steep site, with a view to the lake below. Year of construction: 2015 Clients: A semi-retired couple. She is rather delicate and he is very rational. They are a bit bohemian and rather contemplative, lovers of beautiful things and the great outdoors.

    In its time, this was a typical family cottage: rather modest, built to provide a minimum of comfort, rather closed-in. Now its stands transformed. Each vanishing point was considered, so that the occupants could interact with nature from every vantage point. The simplified plan creates an impression of space, and the layout expresses utility, well-being and…abstraction.

    The couple had been living in the cottage for some time. The wife had enjoyed vacations there as a child and appreciated writing there, in the absolute calm. But, oftentimes, taking up permanent residence in a house built for short visits just ends up highlighting its faults. Finally the owners began to dream of a brighter architecture in their cottage. Appreciating the firm’s intelligent and sensitive approach, they called Desjardins Bherer to the rescue.

    Two main ideas came out of the discussions with the clients: take advantage of the view, while staying within a controlled budget, which would include refurbishing the foundations and the roof. This structural work would nevertheless allow the designers to make the most of the living space. By introducing a large sliding bay in the new foundation wall on the south side, the previously unused basement could house a study with a view to the lake, and under the elevated structure of the roof, room was found to add a spacious, deliberately stripped-down master bedroom with a panoramic view of the undulating forest.

    Freed from partitions, the ground floor appears larger than before. Its openings, stretched to their maximum, and the transparent staircase contribute to a sense of living expansively. Taking just one step inside the cottage, the eye is immediately drawn here, there and everywhere. One can see the landscape beyond the riser-free staircase, discover the lake through the glazed basement wall, and apprehend the ridge of tall trees framed by the bay of the sitting room. Beyond the dining room, the kitchen, butted up against the slope of the land, has the best view into the woods, while a large square window, in the washroom upstairs, shows just enough of the sky through the branches and leaves.

    Desjardins Bherer developed a conversation with the cottage’s history, as seen in the original wooden frame and the stucco ceilings. Among the posts and beams, left in their natural state, a more modern tone is set by the clay-grey stained oak flooring, woodwork and walls, the exemplary simplicity of the custom storage units and the ceiling lamps. Here Desjardins Bherer have created a theatrical production in which nature, as the protagonist, becomes the centre of attention.

    Project Manager: Marc Bherer / Photographs: Adrien Williams