Sustainable design makes this forest home timeless

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Atelier C by Nicholas Francoeur is an artists’ residence in Quebec that transcends common forms of green design. The house incorporates multiple sustainable design strategies and has even received LEED Platinum certification.

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Front view of the dark wood house in the snow encircled by trees

The house is clad in charred cedar that complements the white aspen used for the soffits and ceilings. This dark, cedar exterior juxtaposes with the bright, airy interiors. A selection of tall, rectangular windows creates vertical framed views to the outside. This verticality and rhythm further emphasize immersion in the lush woods.

Related: Off Grid House takes remote sustainability to new heights

View from the forest to the edge of the cedar-clad house in the early evening

One of the clients’ main requests was to incorporate spaces for working on their creative pursuits. The couple practices writing, photography and music, thus requiring ample workspace. To meet this requirement, Atelier C boasts four studios. The two south-facing studios are dedicated to music and fabrication. The two that face the north are for photography and writing and are integrated into the floor plan as spaces that one circulates through instead of as two separate rooms.

Cedar-clad house with a mono-pitched roof with a forest in the background

For Atelier C, Francoeur intended to shift from typical green architecture and infuse the project with beautiful, modern details that support sustainable design strategies. For him, the house’s functional components needed to be aesthetically pleasing, too. One such example is the mono-pitched roof and overhangs. Beyond their elegant appearance, they manage climatic conditions to enhance user comfort and project longevity. During the harsh winters, the roof slope and overhangs efficiently drain off the snow. In the warmer months, they limit direct sunlight in the summer afternoons, keeping the interiors naturally cool. To further support these thermal comfort strategies, the house uses double the insulation required by code, minimizing energy needed during colder months.

Side view of the house from the forest, looking into one of the studios

Sustainable material choices were also an important consideration for the project. The clients opted to use natural materials wherever possible, including cellulose insulation and various types of timber. The designer also selected furnishings to limit Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions without sacrificing aesthetics.

Woman sitting in the dining space with a bowl of apples on the table, while a dog moves out of the image frame

Another green design aspect Francoeur considered is longevity. This meant prioritizing well-crafted technical details and a timeless design. Creating spaces with the intent of aging well is crucial, as architectural details become elegant and follow universal design principles instead of seasonal trends. Furthermore, the meticulous design details mean the project will not require frequent renovations, thus minimizing costs and environmental impact.

View towards the kitchen with dark appliances, high ceilings, and tall rectangular windows

Through his work on Atelier C, Francoeur has been able to prove that sustainable architecture need not be unattractive and purely functional. Instead, through well-crafted details, environmentally-friendly design can be timelessly beautiful.

Bird's eye view of the house encircled by trees with a path leading out to the road

Project collaborators include general contractor Renovia Inc., structure by Maisons Éléments, kitchen work by À Hauteur d’Homme, and cabinetry by Xavier Hackenbeck.

+ Nicholas Francoeur

Photographs by Raphaël Thibodeau and Ronny Theriault



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