Born of a client’s desire to reconnect with the natural environment, Forest House I, attempts to distill the essence of a place by folding the landscape into every nook and cranny of the home. It is the first in a series of similarly themed homes presently being developed by the team at Natalie Dionne Architecture. The Forest Home series reflect the architect’s growing desire to promote the ecological use of renewable materials.
The three-acre site, located in the Eastern Townships, is roughly 100 km southeast of Montreal. Valued by city dwellers for its natural beauty and relative proximity to urban life. Discreetly inserted onto an outcrop of the Canadian shield, surrounded by mature hemlock and deciduous trees, the home is meant to pay tribute to the living forest. Wood dominates a restrained palette of materials, both inside and outside. The prematurely aged plank cladding, exposed framework, and various other interior finishes showcase all the richness of the natural material.
A natural cleft in the existing topography, suboptimal orientation, and the presence of numerous rocky outcrops presented a major challenge for both clients and architects. During a careful and thorough ‘walking of the site,’ a particularly impractical rock formation near a precipice caught their eye and provided inspiration and insight as to how to place the home. Standing on top of the 3m tall rock, all parties agreed that, in order to get the most out of available light and views, the living quarters, set parallel to the ridge, had to be jacked up to this level and reach out across and over the bowl in order to make a soft landing on the rocky outcrop to the north where the best light was to be found.
The main floor, the heart of the home, which hovers over the rocky cleft and projects a vast, outdoor, partially covered terrace towards a moss-covered escarpment to the north. From this exterior perch, dedicated to relaxation and outdoor living with its embedded spa and leisure furniture, one passes to the fluid interior spaces of the kitchen, dining room, living room, and the couple’s bedroom suite at the southern end of this linear building. Adjacent to the entrance hall, we find, a bunkroom, capable of accommodating up to 10 guests.
The sitting area, glazed floor to ceiling on both sides, is bathed in natural light. To the east, a dramatic incline exposes a spectacular view of the forest canopy. Several alcoves, projecting out from the façades, grant extra space to the kitchen, dining area, and master bathroom and provide additional views and sunlight to penetrate from the south.
Solid maple was used for the kitchen islands, the vanities the stairs, and the catwalk whereas Russian plywood was used throughout for the rest of the built-in cabinetry. The bright palette chosen by the architects for the interiors contrasts sharply with the, at times, dark forest around the house. Polished concrete floors, gypsum walls, and the natural aluminum windows blend harmoniously with the wood and help brighten the abundant natural light.