Nature at the heart of
Maison du Pommier
A minimalist and modern glass residence in perfect harmony with the beauty of the surrounding nature
January 13, 2023
La Maison du Pommier, a family home located in the heart of the Lanaudière region of Quebec, is situated on a private lot surrounded by a dense boreal forest. The single-storey glass house is a perfect example of the architectural approach that aims to foster the connection between humans and nature.
Instantly incorporated into the shared vision, the apple tree became the central pillar, creating a link between the architecture, the house and the family.
Built by ACDF Architecture on a private wooded lot of 250,000 sq. ft., the modern residence meets the expectations of an urban family who wishes to be more in harmony with nature, inside and out, while enjoying this peaceful haven to strengthen family ties or take advantage of moments of solitude.
La Maison du Pommier
During the initial concept exploration, the architects sought a sensitive way to put nature at the center of the project. That’s when the owner shared his memories of growing up in an orchard.
The apple tree was symbolic of his first experiences with nature and his connection to it, years later, while apple picking with his own children became a family tradition of spending quality time together in a natural setting. The apple tree was instantly incorporated into their shared vision.
“The nostalgia of the orchard provoked pure, heartfelt emotion, and we knew immediately that we had to incorporate an apple tree into the heart of the project, to plant the seeds of this family’s future history,” explains Maxime-Alexis Frappier, partner and co-founder of ACDF. It became the central pillar, creating a link between the architecture, the house and the family.”
The inclusion of the apple tree allows its adopted family to enjoy this special connection to nature, which translates into the intimate experience of the different moods of the day, the passing seasons and the changing weather conditions. The children learn, and the parents relearn, how to take care of the apple tree: watching it grow, pruning its branches, treating it against possible diseases, admiring its blossoming and harvesting its fruits.
‘A living example of how humans can, and should, (re)learn the fundamental principles of cohabitation with nature.’
The surrounding nature offers much more than a passive beauty display; it is an integral part of the family’s daily life and contributes to an awareness of its fragility and its vital role on our planet. The special relationship thus created is a living example of how humans can, and must, (re)learn the fundamental principles of cohabitation with nature.
Interconnected wood and glass boxes
In order to integrate the apple tree while blurring the boundaries between the interior of the house and the beauty of the surrounding nature, as the family wished, ACDF relied on transparency and openness as basic architectural principles resulting in a modern and minimalist glass house.
The architects began by defining the living space boundaries with two horizontal planes covered with rigid aluminum siding. While the polished concrete floor would provide the desired durability, the wood ceiling would provide a sense of comfort and warmth. An opening was made in the center to allow for the replanting of the apple tree and to maximize light penetration throughout the day while providing unobstructed views of the sky and treetops.
Three individual wooden boxes were then inserted between the horizontal planes, each slightly prominent, with a different purpose. The concept for the boxes was clear and the ACDF team pushed, moved and redesigned them to fulfill exactly the role they were assigned.
‘The large, open floor plan of the all-glass main living area, with floor-to-ceiling windows, creates a direct and powerful connection to the surrounding natural beauty.’
One box houses the garage and kitchen, while the second box houses the children’s bedrooms and bathroom. The third box contains the master suite consisting of a bedroom, private living room and bathroom. Each of these individual boxes provides comfortable seclusion from the main common areas of the house, while maintaining a visual connection to both the outdoor nature and the indoor spaces, thanks to the open central courtyard that houses the apple tree.
“The house was designed to encourage connections, and no matter which way you look, your eyes can wander from one space to the next thanks to the openings into each room,” Frappier says. That being said, the boxes were designed to respect privacy needs, and their walls were positioned to allow for moments of privacy.”
The design and layering of compositions allow for a connection to the surrounding nature, creating a transition from the outside to the inside. Thus, as one approaches the house from the side, skirting the box that houses the garage, a wide concrete step forms a Japanese step-inspired pathway, leading to the main entrance. In designing the two plans, it was important to the architects that the garage and main entrance doors lead to the same experiential entry point into the home.
Positioning and architectural composition are fundamental to any process, and no matter where you enter this house, you will be immediately immersed in the same experience,” says Frappier. We wanted to avoid adding a secondary entrance that would be architecturally irrelevant, or that wouldn’t fit with the transparency and openness of the overall design.”
As you approach the main entrance, the glass walls provide a glimpse of the interior lobby. Further along, the central opening of the house provides a glimpse of the covered terrace at the back and the breathtaking view of the forest. On the interior side of this terrace, in the center of the main structure, a small wind-protected courtyard features the family apple tree thriving in its natural environment.
‘The design and different layers of compositions allow for a connection to the surrounding nature, creating a transition from outside to inside.’
With its wood-burning fireplace and comfortable seating, the deck was designed to serve as a gathering place with an indoor-outdoor vibe in harmony with its surroundings. Open on two sides, the covered deck features retractable screens that ensure the best of both worlds by providing protection from insects and the elements. Once the screens are down, the protected terrace seems to be an integral part of the interior spaces of the residence.
The ACDF team also took great care to position the house to maximize the sun’s exposure throughout the seasons, and to create openings that connect the spaces, ensuring an abundance of natural light throughout the day. In the winter, the abundant light also helps to warm the concrete floors and prevent heat loss.
A window onto the world
Careful planning and attention to detail define ACDF’s approach to the internal functionality of Maison du Pommier. An upright piano rests near the main entrance, adding a touch of elegance and sophistication from the very doorway. The piano is nestled in a custom-built alcove, strategically placed so that occupants can play without intruding on the overall dynamics of the main living area.
‘With its wood-burning fireplace and comfortable seating, the deck was designed to serve as a gathering place with an indoor-outdoor feel that is in harmony with its surroundings.’
The large, open floor plan of the all-glass main living area features a polished concrete floor and floor-to-ceiling windows, creating a direct and powerful connection to the surrounding natural beauty. To reduce the reverberation sometimes created by an abundance of glass walls, ACDF installed wood planks in the ceiling, spaced half an inch apart. Underneath the planks, the architects inserted acoustic wool masked by a black fabric that contributes to the reduction of reverberations and preserves the acoustic harmony of the vast room.
Emotion without extravagance
This vast space is articulated with the fluidity of a work of art, its focal point being the natural beauty that surrounds it and evolves with the seasons, framed by the transparency of the glass walls. The Gyrofocus hanging and rotating fireplace, an iconic French model created in 1968 by Dominique Imbert, is the only decorative note on this minimalist canvas.
The furniture was carefully selected for its neutrality in order to preserve the right balance. This is the case with the solid wood Italian kitchen table, with its clean lines that blend perfectly with the overall concept. Comfortable seating in light grey, pink and green, designed in Quebec, completes the welcoming living room and adds subtle touches of colour to the room.
The beauty of an architecture inspired by a single tree and focused on the blossoming of human emotions” summarizes Maxime-Alexis Frappier. The Maison du Pommier is a perfect example of our ability to make deep connections with our natural environment, without sacrificing anything on either side of its undefined boundaries.”
ACDF Architecture is a leading Canadian firm internationally recognized for its new generation of striking and meaningful buildings.
Architecture team: Maxime-Alexis Frappier, Martin Champagne, Mireille Létourneau
General contractor: Marion Gauthier
Structure: Poincaré – Paul-Henry Boutros
Interior: ACDF Architecture
Landscape Architecture: ACDF Architecture
About ACDF Architecture
Founded in 2006, ACDF Architecture is one of Canada’s most forward-thinking architecture firms. Based in Montreal and focused on the world, the studio has propelled its rise through its humane approach to urban development in the 21st century. Led by Maxime-Alexis Frappier, Joan Renaud and Etienne Laplante Courchesne, the 95-person collaborative, flexible and inventive studio combines creative energy and broad expertise to design inspiring spaces, often transcending grand gestures and iconic appearances in favour of emotive and democratic architecture.