Natalie Dionne Architecture recently completed 'La Duette,' a new house for two families in a quiet Montréal neighborhood dating back to the '50s and '60s. In its own, unassuming way, this recent building is part of a movement that is gradually transforming Montréal's traditional streets, as a growing number of young families are moving in.
La Duette is designed for a brother and a sister wanting to live under the same roof with their respective families. One of them occupies the upper two floors while the other one is on the lowest level.
The upper unit of this new three-story duplex is accessible from the front façade, off the street. Access to the lower unit is from the side alley. A small marquee above each entrance signals their presence from the street and helps create a feeling of intimacy for both families.
Set slightly below ground, the lower unit is a two-bedroom apartment with a living area extending outside to a small private courtyard. Light floods in from the large openings at the back as well as from side windows.
At the front of the house, stairs lead up to the upper unit, which is raised above the street level. The ground floor is treated as an open-concept living space. The kitchen and the dining area are directly connected to a generous covered terrace overlooking the back alley. The master bedroom, two children's bedrooms, and a small play area are on the upper floor.
The building is predominantly clad with light-color clay brick, conferring the narrow structure with a monolithic expression. The choice of this durable, noble material for all three façades was intended to stress the importance of dealing respectfully with Montréal's urban landscape, including its back alleys.
A playful entry porch enlivens the minimalist composition of the tone-on-tone façade. The gray-painted steel stairs and marquees contrast with the light-hearted graphics of the laser-cut guardrail. Eastern cedar used for steps and soffits adds a final touch to the overall composition.
Photography: Raphaël Thibodeau