Jean Verville’s Fahouse is a restrained take on an A-frame, with fun flourishes that offset its minimalism.
Eastern Townships, Canada
Jean Verville Architecte, Montreal, Canada
If Mr. Tumnus from Narnia were a modernist, he’d live in Fahouse. Located in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, the three-storey family dwelling reconciles mid-century elegance with storybook whimsy. The latter is the calling card of Montreal architect Jean Verville, who has a tendency to spice things up with touches of weirdness that unburden his projects of the seriousness that sometimes sucks the life out of good design. His minimalism is flawless, but it is also full of life.
Fahouse (the “Fa” is short for “family”) draws on the familiar A-frame typology, but with two exaggerated gables – one small, one large – nestled together like two conifers in a dense forest. To heighten the theatrical effect, Fahouse is clad entirely in black corrugated metal, making it almost unnoticeable among the dense trees or by neighbours. The larger of the two gables terminates in a dramatic cantilever above a terrace, from which you can open sliding glass doors to enter a kitchen and living area. It’s not hard to imagine how pleasant it would be to hang out in this covered space; even during a rainstorm, you could still have a picnic among the evergreens.
“Fahouse is so, so, so smart. There is a great use of negative space within its pyramid structure, which is a very difficult thing to do. And then you get this beautiful greenery outside that complements the exterior form so beautifully. It’s outstanding.” – Alessandro Munge
Inside, Verville stuck with a simple material palette of steel framing, concrete floors and, on the walls, Baltic plywood. The restrained scheme is then offset with eye-catching flourishes. In the pristine kitchen area there’s a well-weathered dining table with a workmen’s bench where the family of four can gather for meals, while a hallway used for storage is painted Crayola red.
The attic-like top floor is perhaps the most enchanting, with beams and trusses painted a clean white, the colour of sea spray and clouds. If you’re an adult, the space might remind you of a church or a Gothic farmhouse. If you’re a child, you’ll look up at the articulated ribs and imagine that you’re inside a whale.