Exposing History Near Atwater Market: Loft Duvernay

Atwater Market in Montreal, Canada is the crown jewel of the city’s historic Saint-Henri neighbourhood. This market hall, located a stone’s throw from the Lachine Canal, has been an art deco landmark since it began operation in 1933. Home to prominent French-Canadian butcher shops, bakeries, fishmongers, and purveyors of fine wines, Atwater is both a tourist destination and a staple for locals. It is also an iconic marker of the city’s changing seasons — bursting with flowers in springtime, laden with thousands of pumpkins and faerie lights in the fall of the year, and transforming into a magical, glittering Christmas village once the first snow begins to blanket the chic island city.

Historically, Saint-Henri and the bordering neighbourhood of La Petite-Bourgogne were far less wealthy than nearby Westmount or Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. Saint-Henri was traditionally home to working-class citizens of French Canadian, Irish, and African American descent, while the 1960s and ’70s saw the construction of over a thousand low-income public housing units in La Petite-Bourgogne. In recent years, however, both have been subject to gentrification, particularly with the re-opening of the Lachine Canal in 2002. (This waterway had been closed to commercial navigation since 1970.) The middle and upper classes have flocked to Saint-Henri and La Petite-Bourgogne for their proximity to the water, historic architecture, and access to Atwater Market. The result has been an influx of condos and new developments in the area, as well as redevelopments of large industrial structures.

Loft Duvernay is an example of one such renovation project. This loft is located in a former factory, which was converted and annexed into private dwellings in the 1980s. This particular unit recently underwent a second transformation to take advantage of its original volume and features, decompartmentalizing the interior to expose elements like masonry walls, high ceilings, and a steel skeleton.

Atelier BOOM-TOWN was the firm behind this impressive reimagining of the loft. Materials were strategically chosen to complement the existing materials (like brick, lumber, and steel) and emphasize an industrial aesthetic. The kitchen countertops, for instance, are made from a sleek concrete, a material that also appears in the panel lining; elsewhere, raw steel harkens back to the original factory days. Lines throughout the space are sober and refined.

At the beginning of the massive renovation project, the clients did not have children; the end of phase one was scheduled to coincide with the birth of their first daughter. By the time the second phase had been completed, there were three little girls in the picture! The renovation project had come at a perfect time for the growing family, advantageously reconfiguring the space as the number of inhabitants more than doubled.

The kitchen features a large new island, designed to function as the heart of the living areas. The poured concrete countertops are juxtaposed by quartz countertops, which brighten the space. This island offers plenty of space for meal preparation, an absolute necessity for young families. (It also serves as a handy wine tasting area for the adults.) The cabinets, overhung by a concrete panel wall, are fashioned out of warm walnut.

A multimedia wall in the living room makes this space perfect for family time and entertaining, with discreetly installed (and even hidden) electronic equipment. This wall separates two flights of stairs that lead to an upper mezzanine. The stairs have been reconfigured from the earlier blueprints of the loft, making the living area more open and inviting.

The upper mezzanine is the domain of the parents, with a master bedroom, relaxation area, fireplace, and TV. A skylight filters natural light into these spaces. A key design feature is the clear and satin glass walls that separate the mezzanine from the living room, offering privacy while also allowing the parents to keep an eye on activity below.

In order to access the new master bathroom, which is situated under the eaves, one must pass through a grand steel truss. It’s a large space that the parents don’t need to worry about sharing; below, each of the children’s bedrooms has its own bathroom.

As the firm explains in a recent press release, “the old reveals the new.” Loft Duvernay is an excellent example of honouring existing historic architecture while creating a dwelling that is fit for the 21st century.


Images via v2com.
Photographer: Steve Montpetit