On a former paved parking lot now sits a house with a unique design, perfectly integrated into the yet heterogeneous environment that borders the Jean-Talon market in Montreal. It is in this effervescent sector of Little Italy that a couple settled when their children left the nest, to live their European life.

The swimming pool, the green courtyard and the large house of Mont-Royal served the daily life of a family with young children. Now that the boys are studying abroad only to return in the summer, “suburban” life has had its day. Lisa Wolofsky and Joey Mastrogiuseppe long for a “more urban, more fun” life.

The couple already owned a six-unit building on rue Drolet, in Little Italy, with a large paved parking lot in the back. It is this part of the lot that they have claimed to build the house of their second life, with three floors, including one, on the ground floor, which serves as an office and which they will eventually be able to convert into accommodation to facilitate their old age.

The house has a wall of arched glass topped with the same treatment on the almost immaterial mezzanine. Curves and openings confirm the Mid-Century spirit of the place and elegantly tie the building to those around it. At the heart of the lot, the asphalt has been crumbled to make way for an interior courtyard that becomes more intimate as evergreen trees grow. The roof terrace offers other excuses to stroll outside and a view of the life of the neighborhood which is teeming with merchants, good cafes and restaurants.

10 years ago, Joey bought the Leopoldo fruit store at the Jean-Talon market and became a fruit farmer like his father and grandfather before him. A lawyer in the entertainment sector, he visits his business on weekends and appropriates this profession which is inscribed in his DNA. Lisa runs their production company which has presented several films and shows internationally, including Funny Girl on Broadway. “We never stop,” Lisa says.

The COVID-19 will still have forced a slowdown which kicked off this life project, entrusted to the architects Loukas Yiacouvakis and Marie-Claude Hamelin, of the firm Yh2. Named Maison Carlier, in tribute to the contractor who built it before retiring, this good-sized pavilion, winner of a 2023 Award of Excellence in Architecture, managed to slip smoothly between several buildings.

“On one side, we have a small shoebox, on the other, a five-storey multi-unit apartment from the 1960s. In the back, another six-unit building. The challenge was to design a house that would give unity to this decor,” says Loukas Yiacouvakis. The new construction – a rectangular volume crossed by strips of glass and wood – acts as a link between the neighboring buildings. The brick, worked like a braiding reminiscent of tartan with its alternating hollow and solid joints, ties in with other coverings in this street segment and creates coherence.

The entire building converges towards the semi-interior courtyard while the openings are concentrated to the south-east to obtain optimal thermal gain in winter and maximum luminosity in all seasons. The exterior is rooted in its soil and yet light; the interior is bright and intimate despite the proximity.

“We leave the clean side of Scandinavian design to obtain a sensual result with mahogany accents and curves. There is nothing cold in all this, “says the architect. The owners knew what they wanted. Over the course of their travels, they collected several decoration ideas in an album which could be reopened with this project, says Lisa.

The result is warm and meticulously thought out in every detail, which implies not having always chosen the easiest paths.

Several tiles were imported from Japan; the frescoes, from Italy. The brass switches come from England. The rounded hardwood walls, rather than veneer, took days to build to satisfaction: so many choices made with durability in mind.

The second level accommodates the bedrooms and is divided into two areas: the master suite and the children’s suite. However, it is on the upper floor, open onto the glass mezzanine, that the common living rooms and the most felt favorites are concentrated. From there, the owners take the last steps which give access to meals and summer evenings under the stars. “If one day it becomes difficult to climb the stairs, we can always occupy the ground floor and use the inner courtyard. One thing is for sure, we don’t move from here anymore! »