Every Canadian city has its Cottage Country – rustic homes away from the pace of everyday life where families go to reconnect with nature and one another. In Montreal it’s the Laurentians, a series of gentle mountains and clear lakes an hour’s drive from the city. For Diane and her family, the Laurentians were the weekend destination of choice for many years before they decided to buy land and build their own family retreat overlooking the Saint Sauveur valley.
“I used to come here as a child,” remembers Diane. “Then when my kids learned to ski, it became a very convenient place to visit.” After 4 or 5 years of numerous weekends ‘Up North’, the family finally decided to buy their own home in the area. “We fell in love with the lifestyle, the outdoorsy atmosphere,” explains Diane. The couple found a plot of land in the perfect location, and set about demolishing the existing house that was on site, before designing and building their weekend getaway.
In contrast to the couple’s home in the city, which is more pared back in style and colour palette, the concept for the 4-bedroom, 2.5 bathroom country house was inspired by a visit to an Artemano store. “The first time we stepped into Artemano we both felt, ‘This is our dream destination’”, says Diane. “That’s where our vision started, to incorporate the outside indoors, to use noble, natural materials.” Both Diane and her husband Denis have a deep respect for the environment, especially the philosophy and spirituality of the native populations of Canada. The desire to create a space that respected the surroundings and Canada’s heritage synched perfectly with Artemano’s commitment to natural materials and building furniture to last.
The couple worked with an architect to put their vision down on paper, making improvements along the way, such as installing geo-thermal underfloor heating for every room in the house. They used local wood and Canadian slate, and designed elements of the home themselves, such as the tree branch railings that stretch along the outside terrace and up the stairs, created by a local artisan blacksmith. The result is a warm and welcoming space with a clear connection to the family’s love of the outdoors.
With the structure of the home complete, the couple turned to Artemano for solid wood pieces of furniture that will age with the house. “The furniture is well loved and well used,” laughs Diane, “if the pieces get a few nicks along the way, it becomes part of their history and ours.” An impressive dining table draws the eye in the main living space, comfortably seating 8 or 10 people, just right for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner with the extended family. In the kitchen, a wooden island brings warmth and colour to the stone-walled room, the caramel tones echoed by custom-made recessed niches either side of the stove, which were built by Denis.
In fact, the wood for the niches started life as an Artemano headboard. As Diane explains with a smile, “We sort of tweaked the bedroom set a little bit.” The couple had originally purchased a king size bed frame and side tables from the store, but were later inspired to replace the headboard with a 4-inch thick slab of Suar wood that started life as an Artemano table. They removed the old headboard in favour of the new freeform shape, and set about re-purposing it, into the kitchen niches, and even a frame for one of the mirrors in the house. “Not a splinter was wasted,” says Diane. In the master en-suite, Denis built a custom wood counter to fit around the conical washbasin to tie in with the overarching concept of using wood in its natural form.
Out of all of the Artemano pieces in the home, Diane’s favourites are in the entrance hall -
a console table made from ironwood tree roots, and a bench cut from a huge tree trunk, with the original lumps and bumps still preserved. Explaining her love for the pieces, Diane says: “They are so unique. No two pieces are alike.
Diane and her family enjoy the house in all four seasons of the year, watching the colours change with the approaching fall, the heavy snows of winter, and the summer joys of swimming in the river just below the house. And whether they are entertaining friends from out of town, or just enjoying the sense of space and peace that comes from being in the mountains, the family cherishes their country hideaway that is just a short drive from the city but feels like worlds away.