Geneviève Tousignant and Philippe Beauchamp acquired this pretty century-old shoebox in 2014, located in the heart of Rosemont, a stone’s throw from Molson Park and lively Rue Beaubien. Having appeared in Montreal at the beginning of the 20th century, these single-family houses intended for workers multiplied until the 1960s. Like several families living in these small one-story houses, Geneviève Tousignant and Philippe Beauchamp, parents of two children, cherished the dream of expanding their home.
“It was clear when we arrived that it was going to be tight, four people in 800 square feet,” says Philippe Beauchamp. It was small. We loved the neighborhood, the alley full of children. We wanted to stay in the area. »
“When the moratorium arrived, it shook us because it changed our plans,” continues Geneviève Tousignant. In our project, there were some pitfalls. The first is the moratorium, the second, the pandemic. » (The work began a few months after the first confinement.)
Although agreeing with the need to preserve this modest heritage, several owners had expressed their dissatisfaction with this restrictive measure. Acting as one of the leaders of this opposition, Geneviève Tousignant sat on a working committee set up by the borough. There she met the architect Laurent McComber, whose firm L. McComber – architecture vivant signed the plans for this expansion, a project they aptly named “Shoe Up! “.
If the moratorium was lifted the following year, it was because a new regulation aimed at protecting these houses was adopted. The 561 shoeboxes which were then located on the territory of the district were classified according to their architectural value. That of Geneviève Tousignant and Philippe Beauchamp having obtained the highest value (3), the possible interventions were limited.
“There are shoeboxes that are worth keeping, others that aren’t,” thinks architect Laurent McComber. Here, it’s a beautiful, friendly little facade on a street scale, on a street where the buildings are not very tall. It’s not very dense for a central neighborhood. »
“I’m a historian. We are not against the idea of preserving modest heritage, adds Philippe Beauchamp. But the fact remains that when you tell a young family, ultimately, maybe you can’t stay there… We had to find a way. Ultimately, we are very satisfied. »
The addition of a new floor was therefore possible, but it had to be set back at least one meter from the facade of the ground floor. “[The regulations require] not to build in the alignment and that’s good because it would crush the volume,” notes architect Laurent McComber. But that means having a small piece of roof to drain. »
To meet this requirement, facade drainage with a gargoyle was installed. “It saved us from having to add an interior drain,” explains the architect. When you bring water into the house, you bring cold and a risk of infiltration. » Not to mention the additional costs that would have been incurred by installing an interior drain to the basement. In order to recover the space lost by this withdrawal, the expansion was extended to the rear with a cantilever structure. “It wasn’t super complicated for us, this withdrawal,” summarizes architect Olivier Lord.
A wood cladding, lighter than masonry, was favored and accepted by the district. On the facade, the original shoebox still predominates. For the sake of visual harmony, the large openings made upstairs are aligned with the geometry of the crowning and the old sash windows on the ground floor.
When they tackled this project, just before the pandemic, the couple had a budget that was considered tight for the scale of the work desired. He wanted to add four bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and renovate the kitchen on the ground floor. Architectural offices had refused the project, judging the budget insufficient. For some, it was imperative to redo the entire ground floor. “We have proof that it is possible not to strip everything,” underlines Laurent McComber.
In order to save money, the architects focused on modular construction. To their knowledge, this is the first time in Montreal that this technique was used to add a floor. Thus, three modules of the same size housing the bedrooms and the bathroom were manufactured in the factory, then shipped and assembled on site. Each of the wood-framed modules measuring 25 feet by 12 feet was hoisted by crane, a spectacle witnessed by many neighbors.
The operation still gave the owners a cold sweat. Lightning appeared in the weather forecast, forcing the postponement of delivery for about a month. Since this required cutting off electricity in the street, they had to obtain authorization from Hydro-Québec, pay the costs and assume the delays associated with this interruption.
Initially enthusiastic about the reduction in costs and site nuisance that modular construction allows, Laurent McComber is today less categorical. “At the time, we said to ourselves: “Of course it’s going to be cheaper in modular.” Today we would be a little more nuanced. »
The architect, however, sees other advantages: “Rather than having the hazards of the construction site with traffic, congestion, the electrician who is not there, the storm, the frost, we are in controlled conditions at the factory. Waste is better managed. It’s cleaner, it’s drier, it’s straight. »
If the budget could be respected, it is in particular because the existing structure did not have to be consolidated. It was strong enough to accommodate the weight of the expansion.
After spending the first months of the pandemic living, working and studying in an 850 square foot space (plus a partially finished basement), the family now enjoys having their own space. “Instead of being at the kitchen table, I’m in an office. We each have our own rooms. The space is brighter,” rejoices Geneviève Tousignant. And even if they have a separate room, their space is connected by a wardrobe which cuts out the sounds accompanying sleepless nights without completely isolating the two parts.