Atelier L'Abri presents Maison Melba, a place of life, creation, and exchange designed in harmony with the landscape and rustic heritage of the Village of Frelighsburg, on a small Eastern Townships road leading to Vermont...
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From the architect: Anchored in preservation and sustainability, this unique architectural project tells a story: that of the sensitive and sustainable renovation of a rural building nestled in the heart of the meadows and orchards emblematic of this agricultural region of southern Quebec.
Embodying the new owner's values of sharing and hospitality, the former 1970s automobile garage has been transformed into a living space that is open to the community and the development of collaborative projects.
Inspired by the fertile ecosystem of Frelighsburg, Maison Melba now houses a residence, a work studio, a workshop, and a culinary production and meeting space. Outside, the small plot of land also includes a greenhouse and a garden dedicated to small-scale vegetable production, with the majority of food production to be consumed or processed on-site.
The timeless architecture of Maison Melba reflects the vision and values. The project's design is based on sensitivity to details and the passive-house expertise of the architects, resulting in a project where beauty is in harmony with performance.
A sensitive architecture
The building plan is distinguished by a large interstice slicing through the center of the building. Beneath a high skylight, the local natural stone floor extends the landscaping indoors to create a transitional space between the house and the creative areas. The entrance doors to the residence and the workshop each open onto this narrow common alley adorned with plants.
Inside the house, the open plan is softly punctuated by furniture. The atmosphere is calm and warm. The sequence of spaces is composed of small moments conducive to the appreciation of materials, details, and nature. The eye wanders over the Douglas Fir floor, the lime-coated walls, the white oak furniture, the massive hemlock structure, the tall linen curtains, and the large wood windows that frame the landscape. On the workshop side, industrial-grade materials in neutral colors blend subtly into a bright canvas that invites collaboration and creativity. On both the residential and public sides, modular kitchens on legs integrate lightly with the rest of the composition. In each space, the careful selection of lamps completes a tableau drawn with care and delicacy.
The exterior of the building wears a noble and timeless look that blends with the countryside. The steel roof will protect the natural-colored building for a long time, while the wood planks will gradually shift from brown to gray under the influence of time and the elements. Beneath the large weeping willow tree, the long horizontal structure of the former garage will age quietly in the landscape of native plants.
A sustainable transformation
To age well, a building must first be well-designed. In accordance with L’Abri’s Passive-House approach, Maison Melba will soon be LEED Platinum certified, the highest level of this reference standard for sustainable buildings.
To begin this transformation, the building’s envelope that had reached its end of life was carefully dismantled to preserve only the original wood frame behind the house’s distinctive mansard silhouette. A new double-stud wall structure was then built within the existing skeleton to allow for increased insulation thickness, while reducing thermal bridges. These new thick walls, reminiscent of ancient constructions, are filled with cellulose fiber, a natural insulation material made from recycled paper. On the exterior, the intermediate cladding is composed of ecological and insulating sheathing panels made from entirely recycled wood fiber, another bio-sourced product. PassivHaus certified triple-glazed windows complete the envelope and promote passive-solar principles. Finally, an exemplary air tightness rating of 0.37 ACH at 50Pa gives the building exceptional energy efficiency performance. With this technical rigor, Maison Melba will be part of the Frelighsburg landscape for many decades to come.
A holistic vision
L'Abri’s design vision is based on the fundamental and necessary balance between beauty, utility, and durability in order to deliver truly timeless architecture. Driven by values shared with the project’s founder, the sustainable transformation of Maison Melba is an inspiring demonstration of this ideal. The successful completion of this ambitious project relies on an integrated design process led by the design-build team of Atelier L'Abri and Construction Modulor, as well as the exemplary execution of the entire project team.
The project's design integrates and celebrates the exceptional work of a long list of suppliers, manufacturers, designers, artisans, and consultants. The architectural language of Maison Melba highlights the material richness of the Kebony wood cladding, artisanal lime plaster, Dinesen wood floors, and Bisson Bruneel textiles. The carefully selected furniture features pieces from international design houses such as Vipp, Dinesen, Frama, Santa & Cole, and Ligne Roset, alongside works from talented local designers and makers like Clara Jorisch, Kastella, Atelier Vaste, Mark Krebs, Montauk, and Ema ceramics.
The landscape design was carried out by Écomestible, a firm specializing in ecological, edible, and regenerative landscaping inspired by permaculture principles. Écohabitation supervised the LEED certification process of the project. Finally, the project was captured through the attentive eye of photographer Alex Lesage, who remained on site for several days.
Maison Melba is the fruit of this beautiful and collaborative work. It is a project enriched by the invaluable contributions of all these actors gathered around the creation of a new chapter in the life of a building in harmonious relationship with its context and its environment. Maison Melba is a project of the heart that looks towards an optimistic future.
Architect: Atelier L’Abri
Location: Frelighsburg, Québec, Canada
Area: 450 sqm
Project team: Pia Hocheneder, Vincent Pasquier, Nicolas Lapierre, Francis Martel-Labrecque
Contractor: Construction Modulor
Engineers: Robert Harvey Ing.
LEED Certifiers: Écohabitation
Landscape: Écomestible, Braska
Photography: Alex Lesage