Outremont residence, built in the 1940s
“Palimpsest” refers to a type of medieval manuscript whose original text has been erased so that it can be reused. Often the new text appears among fragments of the initial text. By analogy a place can be made like one of these manuscripts by leaving traces of former uses. Rather than freezing these remnants in time, the architectural palimpsest updates them. Fragments of the past can then be used as veritable drivers of a contemporary creativity.
When the clients gave Desjardins Bherer a mandate to renew the interior of their home and add an extension, they asked the designers to keep remnants of their lives in a resolutely modern decor.
The imperatives were to open up the ground floor, which consisted of four closed rooms, and add a great room, i.e. a space that would combine several functions – living room, music room and dining room – to create a living space for various gatherings.
The clients also wanted to re-use their existing furniture as much as possible, and showcase many dearly-loved objects they had accumulated over the years.
Clients — A couple, lifelong managers, and their young adult daughter.
Starting from scratch
The walls were demolished and the space was completely stripped and reimagined. The windows were replaced, but their leaded patterns were carefully conserved. The home’s storage space was rethought and closets were integrated. We started with a clean slate. The only vestige of the past would be the main staircase, which leads upstairs from the ground floor, although its handrail was slightly simplified. The stained glass was restored and the mouldings were redesigned, although with same proportions. And the dormer in the roof was expanded to bring more light into the wife’s study.
The newly opened space creates a harmonious whole. Exotic hardwood flooring runs through the adjoining rooms, all the way to the terrace. The warm colours of the furnishings work well with the lighter tones of the walls, carpets and fabrics, in perfect balance.
An imposing extension
The extension begins at the far edge of the kitchen and ends on the terrace, which is accessed through immense sliding glass doors that provide the perfect connection to the out-of-doors. Family members have everything they need to welcome guests in comfort.
The nearby trees dictated the extension’s size and location and shelter it from the sun in the summer. Four skylights in a traditional design rise from the roof to channel natural light into the room.
The built-in furniture in the living room frames a fireplace, and a grand piano commands the space set aside for it.
The zinc cladding on the extension provides a touch of luxury to this expansion that, due to the high ceiling and generous dimensions, has lived up to its promise.
The client’s dining room furniture has been used in new and astute ways. The former dining room table is now in the dinette, along with a bench and contemporary chairs, and chairs from the former space have been reconsidered to complement a new and daring gold table.
The suspended and flush-mounted ceiling lights are arrestingly original. Selected for their grace or transparency, they create strong focal points. More discrete recessed lights, judiciously placed, complete the lighting and showcase the owners’ beloved prints.
The winning combination of old and new continues throughout the home: newly reupholstered chairs and white marble in the entry, Italian bedside tables and Baccarat lights in the bedroom, an antique mirror and Italian couches in the living room, and a modern range hood cloaked in antiqued mirror in the kitchen.
Throughout the home, sumptuous materials, fabrics and finishes have been skilfully, even cleverly combined to create a warm and satisfyingly complete interior.
Collaborators: Maurice Martel architect, Vertige Paysage