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Harmonious Extension: Appareil Architecture’s Transformation of a Montreal Duplex

The L’Écrin Residence, Montréal, CA / APPAREIL Architecture

Canadian practice Appareil Architecture has skilfully  designed the extension of a Montreal duplex in the vibrant neighborhood of Côte-des-Neiges. This expansion not only transforms the kitchen and living area but also creates a partially covered outdoor space, ensuring privacy. Seamlessly blending with the existing residence, this addition creates a gentle transition between the indoor and outdoor spaces.

The L’Écrin Residence, Montréal, CA / APPAREIL Architecture

The duplex consists of two condominiums, posing a unique challenge for the project: expanding the ground-floor living space while maintaining the quality of the unit above. With the addition in the backyard, the owner above now enjoys a brand-new terrace-like area, allowing both occupants to relish the outdoors without intruding on each other’s privacy. By reconfiguring the layout and landscaping, each owner also has their own separate access to the terrace, eliminating the need for a shared exterior staircase. This design decision not only respects the harmony between neighbors but also safeguards the personal space of the first-floor residents.

The L’Écrin Residence, Montréal, CA / APPAREIL Architecture

Overcoming the demanding urban density of the neighborhood while embracing sustainability on social, environmental, and economic fronts was a significant challenge in this project. For this family of four, preserving and enhancing their existing space proved to be the environmentally conscious choice.

The L’Écrin Residence, Montréal, CA / APPAREIL Architecture

Marie-Andrée Bérubé, an architect at Appareil, explains that the challenge of the project was to reconfigure the backyard space in a way that allowed for natural light while also maintaining privacy, considering its location at the end of the block and its visibility to neighboring homes.

The L’Écrin Residence, Montréal, CA / APPAREIL Architecture

To address this challenge, the Appareil team conducted an initial feasibility study. This study helped the clients assess the possibilities for expansion and make decisions that would not disrupt the existing parts of the residence or exceed the initial budget. The study explored different options for expansion and analyzed how each would impact the site, taking into account the regulations set by the city.

The L’Écrin Residence, Montréal, CA / APPAREIL Architecture

In order to seamlessly integrate the new extension, the entire rear part of the residence had to be renovated. This renovation was necessary to create space for a new living area, which then led to three small steps descending into the extension. The extension includes a new kitchen and dining room, as well as a multi-level terrace that allows for a safe and gradual transition into the backyard.

By lowering the ground level and incorporating floor-to-ceiling windows, the ceiling height in the kitchen and dining room has been enhanced, resulting in an abundance of natural light. As a result, these rooms have become the brightest and sunniest spaces in the home.

The L’Écrin Residence, Montréal, CA / APPAREIL Architecture

The small and intimate living room and kitchen are connected through a custom-built walnut storage unit, which serves as a central link between the two spaces. This storage unit not only provides integrated storage on both sides but also maintains a visual boundary, ensuring that the living area remains calm and tranquil even when the kitchen is in use. Additionally, the unit conceals certain mechanical elements, combining functionality with aesthetics. By optimizing every square foot of space, it effectively combines the form and efficiency of integrated furniture. The walnut cladding adds warmth and character to the space, creating a balance with the kitchen’s more industrial elements such as polished concrete flooring, stainless steel cabinets, and quartz countertops.

The L’Écrin Residence, Montréal, CA / APPAREIL Architecture

To add a touch of craftsmanship and contrast to the kitchen, fine vertical ceramic tiles are used to cover the curved walls. These tiles bring a textured and handcrafted feel, which nicely contrasts with the sleek and uniform appearance of the stainless steel. Esther Leduc, the interior designer at Appareil, explains that the project incorporates contrasting smooth and textured surfaces to enhance its character.

The L’Écrin Residence, Montréal, CA / APPAREIL Architecture

One of the challenges faced during the project was the need to reconsider the insulation in the existing renovated space and the extension in order to enhance the comfort of the occupants. Since the garages were located just below the new living spaces in the extension, a strategic decision was made to install a radiant heat system beneath the new concrete floor between the two levels. This innovative heated floor effectively addressed the insulation issues that had previously caused heat loss on the floor above. Consequently, the clients can now enjoy the coolness of the concrete floor in the summer and a well-heated floor during the colder months.

The L’Écrin Residence, Montréal, CA / APPAREIL Architecture

On the exterior, the project involved extending two walls on the new terrace to provide the desired privacy and create a welcoming porch-like appearance. This covered area not only offers protection from the elements but also allows for natural ventilation on hot, rainy summer days. Preserving the heritage of the building was a central focus of the project.

The L’Écrin Residence, Montréal, CA / APPAREIL Architecture

The extension was designed to seamlessly integrate with the existing elements, showcasing the original character of the building’s typology. The two pale masonry facades of the extension contribute to its sensitive architectural language and harmoniously blend with the dominant colors of the surrounding neighborhood. This renovation not only accommodates the contemporary needs of a family living in a dense urban environment but also aligns with the sustainable choice of remaining in the city.

The L’Écrin Residence, Montréal, CA / APPAREIL Architecture

Similar attention to detail was given to the interior design, where the designers carefully combined noble elements with industrial materials. The use of cedar and steel in the project adds a contemporary and unique character, which stands out proudly in its 1940s surroundings. Straight lines and slender columns were incorporated to create rhythm and height in the space, further enhancing the extension’s overall aesthetic.

The L’Écrin Residence, Montréal, CA / APPAREIL Architecture

Appareil Architecture has ingeniously crafted a layout that transcends mere functionality, offering an expansion that not only safeguards the core of the dwelling but also establishes a seamless connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces. This remarkable design incorporates a captivating terrace and a revitalized yard, providing an idyllic setting where one can bask in the sun while indulging in a captivating book or relish delightful evenings in the company of loved ones.

Image courtesy of Felix Michaud