Montreal is well known for tony residential neighbourhoods like Westmount, where tree-lined streets are filled with well-preserved Victorian houses. Côte des Neiges-Notre Dame de Grâce district, however, can be decidedly more utilitarian. Located north-east of Mount Royal, its streets are defined by red-brick houses that reflect the area’s former Postwar status as Montreal’s “first-ring suburb.” The neighbourhood has changed and evolved since then, and over the years some decidedly contemporary new builds and renovations have emerged. Most notably is Black Box II, by local firm Natalie Dionne Architecture.
From certain angles, the two-storey renovation blends in with its semi-detached neighbours. From the back, however, its profile is dominated by two added volumes that expand the house interior. Each square volume is clad in Swisspearl fibre cement panels that have an iridescent black finish. According to architect Natalie Dionne, the inspiration behind the two volumes came from jewelry boxes; each unfolds like drawers to reveal a striking interior.
On the main level, floor-to-ceiling windows swing open to provide uninterrupted entryways between the kitchen and backyard patio and garden. The additions are largely wood: the exterior alcove is lined with western cedar, a hardy timber that is more often used in outdoor applications, and there is an abundance of oak used on the floors, walls and on the kitchen island.
The firm was also conscious of sourcing materials locally. Pixel&scie, for instance, provided the room’s white and black cabinets; they also provide the oak panelling in the kitchen and bathroom. The porcelain kitchen flooring came from Ramiacieri Soligo, the folding windows are by Sistemalux Nanawall, and the chairs and stools in the kitchen and dining area came from by the Mile End boutique Jamais Assez. The slate used on the exteriors was provided by Ardobec.
Dionne’s design team – comprised of Martin Laneuville, Ariane Côté-Bélisle, Corinne Deleers and Dionne herself – call the house a “search for quality, both technical and aesthetic.” Upstairs, that idea continues with one bedroom featuring full-height accordion windows that face onto the perforated loggia and backyard beyond.
The blond wood, ceramic and slate palette continues upstairs in the bathroom. Ceramic and slate were provided by Ramacieri, while the freestanding soaker tub (from Montréal-les-Bains) sits below the window.
Dionne says her firm is always looking for a subtle balance between the new and the old to create a coherent whole. Black Box II fits that mandate to a T, while also supporting Montreal’s burgeoning design scene by shopping local.