Quebec’s Charlevoix region is primarily a sleepy stretch of rugged, forested hills and green pastures that roll along the north bank of the St. Lawrence River. But at its centre, the town of La Malbaie is known as much for its hospitality (including Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, a five-star hotel dating back to the 19th century) as for its natural landscapes. In recent years, a crop of luxury getaways has risen up and down the hills that overlook the river. Here, Montreal firm ACDF has erected an all-white chalet that is thoroughly contemporary, but pays subtle tribute to the history of architecture in the region.
The box-like chalet sits on a concrete foundation that extends, plinth-like, past the ground floor’s rectilinear footprint to form small decks at the front and back. Both above-ground storeys are clad in white-stained wood, forming a blank surface accented by a wide section of vertical planks tilted to form a louvred windowcovering on the street-facing side, ensuring the family’s privacy.
The 400-square-metre interior houses four bedrooms centrally located on the ground floor to free up the second storey, with its views over the river valley, for common areas. At either end of the chalet, the kitchen and dining room are wrapped in 360-degree windows, while between them, the living room projects from the building in a dramatic cantilever. Bookended by thick black beams, the living area is lined almost entirely with warm wood, with only a log-burning stove to disturb the symmetry. The cantilevered section was added specifically to take in the region’s famous sunsets, with views up and down the shimmering waterway.
While the chalet is undeniably modern in its minimalism, it pays subtle reference to rural Quebec’s vernacular architecture. The concrete foundation, for one, pays homage to the stone-foundation wooden barns that were once common across Charlevoix. The white-stained wooden planks of the exterior facade reference the white lime plaster used cover the region’s ancestral homes, and the heavy diagonal beams of the cantilevered living space mimic the covered bridges that dot the area.
The use of materials is similarly inclined to direct its inhabitants’ thoughts to the contemplation of nature, with stone, wood and blackened steel linking the building to its natural context, and to La Malbaie’s architectural past.