Discreetly inserted onto an outcrop of the Canadian shield, among mature hemlock and deciduous tress, the home is meant to pay tribute to the living forest. Celebrated both outside and inside, wood dominates a restrained palette of materials. The prematurely aged plank cladding, exposed framework, and various other interior finishes showcase all the richness of the natural material.
Born of a client’s desire to reconnect with the natural environment, Forest House I, attempts to distill the essence of place by inviting the landscape in to inhabit every nook and cranny of the home.
The architectural program
The main floor, the heart of the project, (anchored at one end, atop a base where a lonely rock once stood) hovers over the rocky cleft and projects a vast, outdoor, partially covered terrace towards a moss covered escarpment to the north. From this exterior perch, dedicated to relaxation and outdoor living with its embedded spa and leisure furniture, one passes to the fluid interior spaces of the kitchen, dining room, living room and the couple’s bedroom suite at the southern end of this linear building. The staircase and foyer, which communicates with the home’s main entrance at garden level, is inserted between the living room and the bedroom. Adjacent to the foyer at ground level, we find, a bunkroom/dormitory, capable of accommodating up to 10 guests, a generous bathroom and a storage/mechanical room.
The sitting area, glazed floor to ceiling on both sides, is bathed in natural light. To the east, a dramatic incline exposes a spectacular view of the forest canopy. Several alcoves, projecting out from the façades, grant extra space to the kitchen, dining area, and master bathroom and provide additional views and sunlight to penetrate from the south.
The master suite, the only private space on the main level, features full height windows as well. One of these was placed along the main circulation axis allows for striking views to the forest and the surrounding outcrops from one end of the house to the other. On the west side, the carefully designed bathroom features a perfect spot for contemplation with its bathtub inserted in a glassed-in corner alcove.
Materials and color palette
Wood is everywhere present in this 215 sq m house, which strives towards total symbiosis with the surrounding environment. The striking roof structure, left exposed, is made of engineered wood produced from Northern Québec black spruce. Particular attention was paid to the design and detailing of these structural elements supporting the roof’s regular grid. The façades, clad in eastern white cedar, were pre-treated with a product accelerating the greying process so as to blend into the landscape, like a chameleon sunning itself on a rock, and to minimize any future intervention with respect to maintenance.
Solid maple was used for the kitchen’s island countertops. Built-in cabinetry made of Russian plywood was finished with matching maple. The bright palette chosen by the architects for the interiors contrasts sharply with the at times dark forest around the house. The warm tones of wood brighten up the subtle white and grey palette of the polished concrete floors, the gypsum walls and the natural aluminum windows.
Below deck, the foundation was insulated from without in order to preserve the rough exposed concrete within as a reminder of the blasted rock that now shores up the edge of the precipice. The warm tone of the concrete blends in perfectly with the exposed outcrops of stone seen just beyond the windows. Such is the nature of shelter and place, of being and well-being.
Natalie Dionne Architecture – Photos Raphaël Thibodeau