Could You Find Your Dream Home in an Old Abandoned Workshop?

Could You Find Your Dream Home in an Old Abandoned Workshop?

By Patrick Sisson
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.

While the building's pedigree sounded a little rough around the edges—an abandoned 1950s commercial building in Montreal's quickly changing Mile-Ex neighborhood—architects and designers Jean-Guy Chabauty and Chris Barrie felt they found a structure with grit—and renonvation potential. With their Le 205 project, the partners in Atelier Moderno made a minimalist intervention to an industrial cast-off, rehabbing the space with a rich material palate and custom furniture while keeping the industrial backbone of the brick structure intact. The pair talked us through the transformation, initially used as an office but now a home for Chabauty and his family. 

When Jean-Guy Chabauty and Chris Barrie of Atelier Moderno began tackling the space, they decided to stay true to the character and grace of the old autobody shop. "We wanted to retain the spirit and the grit of the original space as much as possible, while creating something modern, comfortable, and alluring," says Barrie. "Sometimes you really need to work to get that character." After playing with a few options for the 1,600-square-foot building, they decided to keep the existing envelope untouched, instead focusing the bulk of the $250,000 renovation project on building out an open interior that included reclaimed and rich materials.


The old shop, which they purchased in 2009, is located in Mile Ex, an up-and-coming neighborhood in Montreal. The renovation required a great deal of permitting and rezoning, and during the long wait they "let the pot stew with their ideas," according to Chabauty. They decided to keep the facade simple to preserve its character.


The kitchen area was built around the concept of different surfaces working together: stainless steel countertops for work, white Corian for preparation, and solid white oak for storage. A landscape painting by Chabauty's grandfather hangs above the sink, adding a note of serenity to the room. The kitchen contains a Viking range and oven, a Bosch 800 Plus Series dishwasher, a KWC Eve faucet, a Liebherr HRB 1100 refrigerator. Artek A110 Pendants hang above the dining table, a custom oak piece surrounded by chairs from HAY.

A close-up of the steel counter shows the Artemide Miconos lamp hanging near the sink, as well as the diffused light that streams in via a set of skylights arranged throughout the roof.

The open living space showcases the bright, streamlined furniture pieces of Chabauty's own creation (apart from a few vintage pieces, the bulk of the furniture in the home is custom-made).

Reclaimed materials, such as this discolored door, play against the sleek modern touches inside. "You can really feel the old shop," says Chabauty. "It’s a great contrast."

In the bathroom, a small bioethanol EcoSmart burner, along with radiant hydronic in-floor heating, provides warmth in a stark space.

An example of a space with good bones, the original shop floor provided the designers with a blank canvas.

Chabauty chose a black door on the outside of the structure to maintain the original, unassuming exterior. It can still throw off guests who aren't sure what to expect when they walk inside. "People still think it's a business or an office," he says. "They're always surprised."


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