- Paul Bernier
- Anick Thibeault
Built in a forest, this lake house lets its location inform its sinuous shape. “A good client is one who tells you ‘I want to cross a river,’ not ‘I need a bridge,’” says Quebec-based architect Paul Bernier. In 2012 his firm was approached by such a client, who wanted to build a sustainable home on their wooded lakefront property that both embraced and preserved its environment. “They gave us carte blanche, and let us bring them somewhere,” Bernier says. Built between the lake and a steep incline, the resulting design bends, twists, and opens up to offer superlative views. Its exterior, made of locally sourced white cedar, helps the building blend in with the nearby trees. To the south, the structure curves to guide its residents first to a view of the forest, then to a stream flowing into the lake. The kitchen and living room form the heart of the home, where white walls and polished concrete floors contrast with the rugged outdoors. Made of hickory, three intentionally pared-down, built-in objects—a storage and seating area, kitchen island, and entertainment system—mark the communal space, letting the surrounding forest take center stage.
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“Our central challenge was to add a home to the forest without undermining nature,” architect Paul Bernier says. “We allowed the house’s function and relationship with its site to shape the design.”
The main entrance to the house is partially concealed, allowing the structure to blend into its environment. While soil currently surrounds the structure, natural vegetation will gradually regenerate.
Locally sourced white cedar camouflages the home’s exterior. Bernier and his team installed weatherproofing behind the vertical wood panels, which vary in width and thickness, as a means to hide the molding and trim that are usually visible on traditional wood structures. From a distance, the home looks like a palisade that follows the shape of the terrain.
Bernier’s firm designed the built-in storage, seating area, and kitchen island to be intentionally abstract, directing attention to the forest outside. Cabinetmaker Pixel & Scie manufactured the furniture.
An unassuming hickory entertainment system, also designed by Bernier, contrasts with the living room’s polished concrete floors and white walls. Custom seating by Meubles Reno and fixtures by Axis Lighting further complement the space.
Large aluminum windows by Alumilex offer striking views while taking advantage of the sun’s orientation. In the summer, the leafy trees help shield the house from heat. During cooler months, sunlight filters through bare tree branches to flood the home with warmth and light.
A small box atop the home looks out onto a green roof, designed by local landscaping firm Toits Vertige.