written by:
photos by:
February 22, 2012
Originally published in Less Is Modern

When the plan to add a second story to a century-old Montreal house crumbled due to a weak foundation, architect Marc-André Plasse eked out another 500 square feet with a clever multilevel addition on one side.

main rooms separated by levels
A series of levels gives the house a sense of separation between the main rooms.
Photo by 
1 / 10
Minimalist dining area kitchen with colorful wall art
The architect designed the kitchen cabinetry, and used wood left over from the demo of the house’s exterior wall for the dining table. A piece by Nicolas Grenier hangs above a cabinet the residents found at a garage sale.
Photo by 
2 / 10
kitchen island with Nicolas Gervais pendant lamps
Nicolas Gervais designed the pendant lights above the kitchen island, which was designed by Plasse and built by woodworker Stéphane Bilodeau.
Photo by 
3 / 10
Ramacieri-Soligo tiles in bathroom
Tiles from Ramacieri-Soligo brighten the bathroom, off the hall.
Photo by 
4 / 10
Modern kitchen overlooking living room
The kitchen overlooks the sunken living room, beneath the master bedroom.
Photo by 
5 / 10
master bedroom interior balcony cube
Raymond takes a break on the master bedroom’s interior balcony, which is cantilevered over the dining area.
Photo by 
6 / 10
Music room play area dark wood shelves
Near the entrance is the front room, or music room, their daughter’s current favorite play area. “Every space needed to be used efficiently,” Parisien notes of the home’s remodel.
Photo by 
7 / 10
Miniature model of the Parisien / Raymond Residence
As shown on the model, the architect traded the brick on the rear facade for steel, wood, and an Alumilex door leading to the family’s new backyard; he retained the brick at the entrance.
Photo by 
8 / 10
Backyard garden workspace with Alumilex door
“Three things were clear when we started working with the architect: One, we had a limited budget; two, we had to plan for a kid; and three, every space had to be planned for—we didn’t want extra space we didn’t need.”—Francis Parisien
Photo by 
9 / 10
Black and white facade brick entrance
The entrance.

Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!

Photo by 
10 / 10
main rooms separated by levels
A series of levels gives the house a sense of separation between the main rooms.
Project 
Parisien / Raymond Residence
Architect 

After spending a year in their “new” house—a century-old, 800-square-foot two-bedroom in Montreal’s small but bustling Rosemont neighborhood—Francis Parisien, a marketing director, and Yannick Raymond, an early childhood educator, scraped together enough cash to hire an architect to add a second story and remedy some of the home’s ill-advised 1980s additions. They found Marc-André Plasse, a partner at the firm Naturehumaine, after reading about his work in the local paper, and brought him a tight budget of $175,000. When the initial site analysis determined that the tired foundation simply could not support the extra weight above, Plasse, fueled by the couple’s enthusiasm and determination, conceptualized a way of going out, rather than up.

Minimalist dining area kitchen with colorful wall art
The architect designed the kitchen cabinetry, and used wood left over from the demo of the house’s exterior wall for the dining table. A piece by Nicolas Grenier hangs above a cabinet the residents found at a garage sale.
Meanwhile, Parisien and Raymond’s need for a remodel was growing rapidly: Foster parents to a little girl, the couple hoped to carve out just enough space to give her a solid comfort zone. The house’s previous owner, an elderly woman, had raised five children in the home, so they knew it was doable. But they desperately needed to modernize the layout. “There was no storage, and the backyard was completely paved—the lady used to wash it every week,” says Parisien. “Half of the basement was filled with soil…we still can’t figure that one out.”

For Plasse, the spatial breakthrough came when he found three feet of usable attic space and then discovered that they could build down to ground level and another four feet into the ground. (A thick layer of bedrock made deeper digging impossible.)

“We were left working between the roof up top and the rocks below,” Plasse explains. “We compressed all the new spaces together within those upper and lower limits and began playing with the levels and volumes.”

master bedroom interior balcony cube
Raymond takes a break on the master bedroom’s interior balcony, which is cantilevered over the dining area.
Plasse’s team gutted the house then tore off its rear wall. There, they built an addition that increases the footprint by just 375 square feet but yields 508 square feet of living space distributed over three levels. From the kitchen in the existing space, three steps lead into the new double-height dining room, its 14-and-a-half-foot ceiling made possible by the extra space at the roofline and a drop down from the original raised foundation to ground level. Another set of treads leads from the dining room into the sunken living room; its ceiling is the floor of the 133-square-foot master bedroom suspended above and accessed through the walk-in closet.

“Our daughter has quickly adapted to our house,” notes Parisien. “She has her own spots—the front room is full of her toys. When we get home, she points out that it’s her house.”

Fit and Finish

Road Tested
To keep costs down, Plasse specified Zig-Zag by Prolam Floors for the kitchen countertop. Typically used as the flooring in transport trucks, the pre-laminated, one-and-three-eighths-inch-thick wood can handle much more than the errant paring knife. Plus, “It’s much cheaper than having your cabinetmaker glue the pieces together, and it comes in lengths up to 40 feet,” Plasse says. The result is a bit rougher than that of a craftsman’s hand but adds another interesting texture to the home’s material palette.
prolamfloors.com

Backyard garden workspace with Alumilex door
“Three things were clear when we started working with the architect: One, we had a limited budget; two, we had to plan for a kid; and three, every space had to be planned for—we didn’t want extra space we didn’t need.”—Francis Parisien
Great Reveal
During the interior demo-lition, the contractors discovered wood beams in the ceiling, which Plasse, Parisien, and Raymond unanimously agreed to leave in place. “We wanted to express something about Quebec and its tradition of wood houses,” Plasse says. “We liked the idea of keeping that flavor and not making the house too refined.” They painted the beams white to create the illusion of a larger space.

Look-Alike
Parisien and Raymond requested concrete floors, but when they priced out beyond the couple’s budget, Plasse proposed a trick he’d used before: installing half-inch-thick smooth fiber-cement panels instead of poured concrete. The contractors at Les Constructions JJL attached the Finex panels to the subfloor with stainless steel screws, finished them with a sealer by Sika, and piped a line of water-resistant exterior caulking between each one to allow for subtle expansion and contraction due to humidity.
gofinex.com
usa.sika.com

Ramacieri-Soligo tiles in bathroom
Tiles from Ramacieri-Soligo brighten the bathroom, off the hall.
Back to Life
In the early 1900s, when this house was completed, Montreal builders stacked large pieces of wood atop each other to construct a home, a technique derived from log house construction. While demolishing the rear wall to allow for the addition, Plasse and the team uncovered a wall of 3-by-12-inch hemlock boards. Cabinetmaker Stéphane Bilodeau gave the timber a new life in the form of the table and bench that now grace the dining room.
stephanebilodeau.net

Go Natural
“A bathroom without a window is sad,” Plasse says. Parisien and Raymond’s lacked access to natural light, so the team replaced a section of the wall between the bathroom and kitchen with a large sheet of translucent acrylic. The three-eighths-inch-thick material by Deglas draws in light while maintaining necessary privacy.
deglasamericas.com

On the Slide
By limiting the addition’s footprint, Plasse reserved space for Parisien and Raymond’s three backyard requests: a garden, a parking spot, and an outdoor barbecuing and dining area. The large sliding glass door at the end of the dining room opens onto a finished deck, which extends the living area outside. Plasse selected less expensive windows so the couple could splurge on the Alumilex sliding door.
alumilex.com

Miniature model of the Parisien / Raymond Residence
As shown on the model, the architect traded the brick on the rear facade for steel, wood, and an Alumilex door leading to the family’s new backyard; he retained the brick at the entrance.
Double Duty
“Everyone thinks they need one space for each function,” Plasse says. “We try to mix programs together to come up with simpler solutions that take up less space.” In the kitchen, the 16-foot-long island serves as a food prep station, office, bar, and breakfast nook. The sunken living room holds the promise of one day transforming into a third bedroom. The front room, which currently acts as part music room and part play space for the couple’s daughter, could become a living room if needed.

Reading Light

Though the ample glass on the rear facade creates a visual connection to the outdoors, Plasse knew its north-facing orientation would fail to adequately illuminate the double-height addition. To compensate, he installed a skylight over the dining room. Its clever placement allows light to fall directly onto the indoor balcony that extends off the master bedroom, creating a perfectly lit reading nook.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

french evolution paris daniel rozensztroch living area eames la chaise butterfly chair moroccan berber rug
A tastemaker brings his distinct vision to an industrial loft with a centuries-old pedigree.
February 07, 2016
senses touch products
The haptic impact can’t be underplayed. The tactility of a material—its temperature, its texture­—can make the difference between pleasure and discontent.
February 07, 2016
senses smell products
The nose knows: Though fleeting and immaterial, scent is the lifeblood of Proustian memories, both evoking and imprinting visceral associations.
February 06, 2016
design icon josef frank villa beer vienna
Josef Frank: Against Design, which runs through April 2016 at Vienna’s Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, is a comprehensive study of the prolific architect, designer, and author.
February 06, 2016
senses sound products
From an alarm to a symphony, audio frequencies hold the power to elicit an emotional call-and-response.
February 06, 2016
Italian Apline home with double-height walls on one facade.
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 05, 2016
A built-in sofa with Design Tex upholstery marks the boundary between the two-level addition and the bungalow. Leading up to the master bedroom, a perforated metal staircase, lit from above, casts a Sigmar Polke–like shadow grid on the concrete floor.
From a minimalist Walter Gropius design to a curving sculptural stair, these six stairways run the gamut.
February 05, 2016
distant structure lakeside prefab norway facade stones green roof
Dwell has traveled all over the world, from Tasmania to Indonesia, to report on modern houses.
February 05, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment master bedroom atrium
Get ready for a weekend of rest with these sleepy, little cocoons.
February 05, 2016
lamp show 99 cent plus gallery 0
At Brooklyn's 99¢ Plus gallery, 30 artists and designers re-imagine the lamp in an illuminating light show.
February 04, 2016
Hidden storage stairwell with raw brass hardware
Having ample space to stow items is a daily struggle—peep these modern homes for some ideas on maximizing your square footage.
February 04, 2016
modern fairhaven beach house blackbutt eucalyptus living room Patricia Urquiola sofa
Whether it's along a coast in Australia or the French Alps, wood provides a natural touch in these interiors.
February 04, 2016
Glass and steel sculpture in Printemps store of Paris.
In the Paris' venerable Printemps department store, two Toronto-based firms were tasked with enlivening a new atrium and creating a unique experience for visitors. YabuPushelberg, partnering with UUfie, designed this stunning steel "sail" embedded with vibrant dichroic glass.
February 04, 2016
Monochromatic Master Bedroom in Copenhagen Townhouse
Whether it's to maximize limited light or create a soothing interior, these five projects go white in a big way.
February 04, 2016
EQ3 Assembly quilt by Kenneth LaVallee
The new Assembly collection from EQ3 celebrates up-and-coming figures in Canadian design. Discover this newly appointed class, which debuted at Toronto's Interior Design Show, here.
February 03, 2016
The Greenhouses of Half Moon Bay
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 03, 2016
Deck of Australian addition to Edwardian home.
A 1,500-square-foot home in Melbourne welcomes a modern black and white kitchen, dining, and living area.
February 03, 2016
open plan concrete home in japan
Embracing the organic, imperfect material, these raw concrete surfaces are a step up from exposed brick.
February 03, 2016
Renovated DC Row House loft space with Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair.
The classic designer's signature and comfortable forms continue to be popular in homes today.
February 03, 2016
Zinc-roofed cabin France.
An architect builds an energy-efficient home near one of France’s most popular pilgrimage sites.
February 03, 2016
1973 Palm Springs home
Made for casual design enthusiasts and Palm Springs connoisseurs alike, Unseen Midcentury Desert Modern offers a peek into 51 buildings—some not open to the public—in that Southern California mecca of modernism. Begun in 2008 by photographer Dan Chavkin, the book is set for release this February 9th and will be available on Amazon and at multiple venues of Modernism Week in Palm Springs, February 11 - 21. Here we preview some of its images.
February 03, 2016
Millennial concept home with an outdoor living area
A concept home aims to reflect the requests of the Millennial market.
February 03, 2016
The two twelve-by-sixteen-foot bedrooms, directly above a comparable pair on the first floor, feature a glass transom that follows the pitch of the roof. “The stair and railings were very simple,” Depardon observes. “We added a bit of design, with panels
Skylights needn't be simple overhead daylighting; sometimes they can truly define a room.
February 03, 2016
Modern small space Rhode Island cottage with landscaping and cedar cladding
Surrounded by nature, these cottages are tranquil retreats from the city.
February 03, 2016
The couple kept original touches, including the arch.
Historic archways belie these contemporary homes with physical reminders of each structure's storied past.
February 03, 2016
modern guesthouse in norway with angular facade and cutaway patio with spruce cladding and ikea chair
These houses make room for nature, not the other way around.
February 02, 2016
Modern kitchen with yellow sectioned walls and monochrome appliances
Whether it's a splash of color or bold strokes, this collection of interiors brightens up these homes.
February 02, 2016
Rust-washed concrete wall in Moscow apartment renovation.
This 590-square-foot apartment was stripped down to admit sunlight and dramatically reveal forgotten surfaces.
February 02, 2016
Nendo's collection of objects inspired by Star Wars
In a galaxy not so far away, Japanese studio Nendo has released a versatile collection of objects inspired by classic Star Wars characters.
February 02, 2016