Penthouse in Downtown Montreal by René Desjardins
Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Area: 3.300 sqare foot
Photos: André Doyon
Description:The client, after spending many years in a large home on Ile-des-Sœurs, had taken an apartment with a panoramic view of downtown Montreal, Mount Royal and the St. Lawrence River. From the start, it seemed to me that this magnificent view – one of the best in Montreal – should become the focus of the project. The client wanted to live in a bright, warm loft-style apartment. I suggested a space much like the large contemporary lofts of Manhattan or Los Angeles, a loft that would speak of calm and comfort yet look out over the continually changing showcase of the city.
Since the building was still under construction, anything was possible. The space consisted of a large 3,300 sq. ft. unit assembled from two penthouses on the 23rd floor. As a point of departure, space intended for a corridor to one of the penthouses could now be used to house the mechanical and electrical systems. This meant that the apartment could take the form of a great pure rectangle spanning across the full length of the building, with full-height windows on the North, East and West sides that would provide exceptional natural light.
The apartment comprises two zones: on one side, the shared areas: the living room, dining room and kitchen as well as a living area/home theatre; and on the other, the private quarters of the client and his son. Detailed work began on the interior envelope, playing with different coatings and colours for the volumes, using whites and shades of grey and brown to create a pared-down, warm environment.
The very high ceilings were lowered slightly to accommodate lighting fixtures and conceal the electrical controls for the window coverings. Each recessed lighting fixture has two spots, multiplying the lighting possibilities with a minimum of means. Window treatments received particular attention. Sheets of fabric combining natural fibres with threads of stainless steel – completely invisible when raised – descend from the ceiling at the touch of a button to temper the light and preserve privacy. In order to maintain the spirit of a loft, the structural columns were simply sanded down and painted in the same shades and finishes as the walls.
In the large main room, the floors are finished in planks of ash baked to a warm caffe latte. A great interior wall of white oak stained a charcoal grey forms a perfect backdrop, maximizing the sense of space and turning the focus to the spectacular view and the contemporary furniture. A detail: all the baseboard heating units have been covered in ash to match the floors.
The dining room and the adjoining kitchen are at the far North end of the room. The dining room table is surfaced in solid French walnut with a patinated steel base and can t ten people. The kitchen is very simple yet has a very strong presence. The cabinets feature countertops of charcoal granite quartz and are faced in glass, creating bright surfaces that reflect the cityscape. A door leads to the outdoor terrace, which runs the length of the dining room.
At the other end of the room, couches finished in walnut, cotton and linen are an open invitation to conversation. The red Saarinen chair and the books suspended on the walls – through an ingenious invisible storage system – provide an accent in this section of the apartment. The living area/home theatre adjoining the living room carries over the same natural shades. The wolf on the wall (by Josée Pedneault) provides an unusual and humorous note that sets the tone for this multifunctional room, which also serves as a guestroom.
The private quarters of the apartment have a more classical layout and volumes. At the end of a corridor framing a sculpture (by Jean-Pierre Larocque), a large wood wall is flanked by two wide doors leading to the father’s and son’s personal quarters.
The bedroom of the master of the house is in a rotunda facing due east. Furnishings include a fluted walnut king-sized bed in a charcoal alcove, a long floating walnut chest and two zebra chairs. The hematite curtains can insulate the room from the outer world. The suite includes two walk-in closets and a master bath that has a very refined feeling, with its heated white Calacatta marble floors, the white granite quartz used on the walls, counters and sink, and two curved alcoves finished in gold-leaf tiles with a floral pattern.
The son’s quarters are in the style of a boutique hotel that has been handled in an almost austere manner. Mostly charcoal, due to the alcove of the bed and the woodwork on the ample storage units, the room has linen curtains and opaque window coverings that can be closed to provide total darkness. These quarters also have a walk-in closet and a bathroom.
Through its clean design, a range of natural hues and many architectural details, the apartment is a great success. Surrounded by the sky and the ceaselessly changing light from the city beyond, one has the impression of being in a great airborne vessel that provides passengers with all the warmth of a home, yet the freedom of expansive views.