Influenced by the Case Study Houses and Frank Lloyd Wright, Chevalier Morales weaves a riverside dwelling into its bucolic setting.
Building a new home is often the culmination of many years spent planning—but for a Montreal couple with two young children, it was something of an accident. The duo had no plans to move from their suburban home, nor had they ever envisioned building their own residence. However, when they discovered a site along the Rivière des Mille Îles on the outskirts of Laval, Quebec, the couple decided to embark on a journey to create their dream home in the location.
With no preconceived ideas of what they wanted to build, the owners approached award-winning architecture firm Chevalier Morales with a simple brief for their home. They wanted the residence to engage with the surrounding site delicately, and they also asked for the home to include four garage spaces and a guest suite.
"The clients approached us with a scrapbook of images, predominantly from midcentury-modern architecture and interior design, which imbued the essence of their dream house," reveals Stephan Chevalier, principal at Chevalier Morales alongside Sergio Morales. "Understanding their passion for the site and the positive aspects of the suburban lifestyle, we developed this idea of reinterpreting the midcentury architectural codes to [make] a new comment about today’s suburban lifestyle."
This reinterpretation of midcentury-modern design principles is evidenced in the topography of the home’s ground floor and ceilings, as well as through its built-in timber furniture and masonry veneers. The expansive carport also references the 1950s relationship between the automobile and the suburban world.
The home—known as Residence de l’Isle—is designed as a perfect square with two courtyards that extrude from the interior gathering areas. The open-air spaces bring natural light into the heart of the residence and integrate the backyard and swimming pool. Meanwhile, a large, metal-clad beam creates a threshold between the surrounding landscape and the indoor/outdoor living areas, which span a total of 10,000 square feet.
At the narrowest section of the building, the entrance to the Residence de l’Isle opens up to a spectacular view of the river. "It was designed this way to emphasize the feeling of being constantly surrounded by the exterior gardens, and to bring the river closer to the house," says Chevalier.
The home’s open kitchen and dining areas connect to a sunken living space with built-in timber furniture, all of which look out over the river through a wide, glass-paneled wall. On the upper level, a glass mezzanine offers additional views of the scenery and breaks up the horizontality of the home.
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While the structure was initially designed as a single-story residence, the architects decided to incorporate elements such as the lowered lounge area and upstairs pavilion to "create a variety of spatial experiences" throughout the home.
"The ground floor becomes a topography that generates various perceptions as you move through it," Morales explains. The interior levels are connected by a dramatic white-steel staircase that is enclosed by a brass screen, which brings an element of tactile warmth to the otherwise minimal interior.
Sustainability was also a key aspect of the project, which was completed in 2019. The architects made an effort to conserve as many existing trees on the site as possible, and some of the rooftop areas were also landscaped to offer a temperate environment on the glass mezzanine level. In addition, geothermal wells provide heating and ventilation for the residence.
"My favorite part of [this] project is the simplicity of the square and how we managed to generate a rich, complex, and luminous space within it," says Morales. "The clients are also very enthusiastic—in their own words, they pinch themselves everyday on how privileged they are to live in such a house."