In an enchanting corner of Morin-Heights, a house built in 1880 was transformed thanks to the efforts of Valérie Bougie and Craig McVeigh, who took charge of its destiny in 1997. The last stage of its metamorphosis was the most complex. The residence now stands on solid foundations. But above all, she retained her soul.
“Something inside me said I couldn’t tear it down,” says Craig McVeigh. We had to make compromises. If we had demolished and rebuilt, we would have had higher ceilings in the kitchen and living room. But we find that having lower ceilings makes it cozier. What makes the house successful is its warm atmosphere. »
Valerie Bougie and Craig McVeigh were 23 and 26 when they purchased the property for $28,000. Already living in Morin-Heights, they wanted to settle there. Their budget being limited, they were ready to get their hands dirty. They fell in love with the site located in the middle of the forest, with an artificial lake at the back.
They estimate that the original square of the two-story room-by-room house, measuring 24 by 24 feet, was built around 1880, at a time when families with 12 or more children were given land of 100 acres when they settled in the “country above”.
In the 1950s, the owners sold 99 acres and kept only 1. A summer kitchen and a shed adjoining the house were then added. The house, passed down from generation to generation, had not been emptied when the new owners took possession.
They carried out the renovations in three phases, as their needs evolved. In the first years, they rearranged the existing rooms. “It was mostly demolition, recycling and reuse,” says Craig McVeigh. I dismantled old moldings and reused them because we had no money. »
“At the beginning, it was practically a base camp,” adds his wife. There was the original kitchen, where we lived most of the time, and the upstairs where we had made a living room next to our bedroom. Our son Theo’s room was ready two months before he was born in 2002.” In 2016, they added a spacious garage, which is used for Mr. McVeigh’s construction business. Then in 2019, they decided to tackle the heart of the house, which rested on fieldstone walls.
Three reasons pushed the couple to take action. The increased land value of properties in the area made home renovation profitable. The construction of houses nearby also made the owners fear that they would no longer be as peaceful, even if they gradually purchased five more acres. Finishing the work was necessary if they wanted to sell their home. Finally, a groundhog had dug its way into the crawl space.
The first meeting with designer Marie-Lise Frenette, owner of the company Antiquité Design, specializing in heritage restoration, was decisive. “She quickly saw the potential and came up with ideas that we had never thought of,” says Valérie Bougie.
“To promote fluidity in movement, she suggested putting the kitchen in the living room and moving the staircase,” says Craig McVeigh. His three-dimensional plans made it possible to visualize the final result. »
As the floor was not straight, the structure was completely redone. A load-bearing wall was removed.
For about six months, the family lived in the garage. In the evening, Théo climbed a ladder to go to bed. The couple wanted to avoid going into debt, so the work was spread over time and carried out on weekends. Craig also put his skills as a cabinetmaker to good use, making the staircase himself from wood salvaged from elsewhere in the house.
Humor and the belief that they would be okay once it was all over helped the family members get through it. Today, what they are most proud of is having preserved the character of the house and having exposed its most beautiful part.