This semidetached house has been sitting on the slopes of Mount Royal, near the centre of Montreal, since 1910. An extension in 1920 by the pedigreed architecture firm Ross and MacDonald saw the house grow. In more recent decades, it was fixed up here and there, but as the city grew around the house, it quietly served its role as a residence for different families.
When new owners acquired the house in 2020, they were drawn to its historic charm, but neglect and many years of deferred maintenance meant it was in dire need of updating. But beyond the nitty-gritty work of making the house function, the new owners also wanted to uncover the spirit of the original house that had been masked by ad hoc renovations. They turned to Alexandre Bernier, a Montreal-based architect.
Together with Bernier, the owners were determined to avoid yet another patchwork renovation. Instead, they set out to do something more cohesive. Bernier carefully evaluated materials, turning to mahogany for window frames, a herringbone floor, and patterned ceramic. The team uncovered vintage elements: brick walls, steel columns, and cast-iron heaters, and they incorporated the original stained-glass windows into the fabric of the new architecture.
For the kitchen, which had been designed as a area for a kitchen staff to serve residents, Bernier dismantled those social hierarchies to make it a place to mingle as a family and to entertain guests. Though it is now equipped with all the trappings of a 21st-century kitchen, marble countertops and mahogany millwork connect the space to a sense of history.
Though the design can point to certain elements and features that are historical or modern—the period mantel, say, or the contemporary kitchen—but one of the measures of success in this project is how the overall atmosphere of the residence floats between historic and new: it functions as a new house, yet it somehow has the feeling of an early 20th-century building.
Photographs by Maxime Brouillet.