In the winter, the snow is deep in Ville d’Estérel, Quebec, about 100 kilometres north of Montreal. This popular skiing destination is the perfect spot to carve out a serene getaway. But no matter the season, this house by Montreal architect Paul Bernier interacts with nature on many levels. Bernier has built several award-winning chalets in Quebec, all with a similar understated elegance. Clad in vertical cedar strips that will grey over time mimicking the trees around it, the meandering building cantilevers out over the heavily wooded lot at one end (where you can hear the sounds of a nearby stream), and extends into the landscape with full-height windows and sliding glass doors.
“The building itself folds, opens and tightens like a river digging its bed,” says Bernier referring to how the building bends and turns as dictated by the site — to offer views and preserve trees. A green roof helps offset the house’s ecological footprint and further blends it into the environment, not to mention adding passive heating and cooling. An orthogonal-shaped study upstairs (the only second-storey room) “is like a little house in the trees,” says Bernier.
Most striking inside is the large hickory wood divider in the entryway that functions as a bench, closet, and as a partition between the hall and the bedrooms. It extends down the hallway to create a sense of arrival while leading to the main living space. The house then unfolds to reveal a large, angular, combined living area and kitchen, with cabinetry cut to echo the multifaceted profile of the building. Its palette is simple and comfortable in polished concrete and white, letting nature be the focal point.