In our more ambitious moments, we at est are often drawn to the potential of converting a public space to private. For one thing, there’s plenty of inspiration out there; clever warehouse conversions that make the industrial comfortably habitable, factory lofts and former oil mills turned to inviting modern homes, and even a small barn transformed to a cosy weekender. Sooner or later though, our wild imaginings hit reality when we inevitably have to consider how to actually transition those spaces for everyday living.

Thankfully the clever thinkers at Canadian design studio Atelier Barda have shown us just that with their Villeneuve Residence project in Montreal. In the midst of the inner city metropolis (and with storefront windows, no less), Atelier Barda have redefined a building that was once two units and a grocery store to gracefully accomodate a family without sacrificing their privacy.

DESIGN Atelier Barda | PHOTOGRAPHY Maxime Desbiens

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While originally the clients hoped to completely covert the ground floor, change the side yard to a courtyard and add new living areas above the building’s garage, Atelier Barda realised that due to the orientation of the main façades and proximity of neighbours, this transformation would come at the cost of their privacy. Instead, the final design positions the home around its residents, allowing them the space to enter and exit public zones with ease.

Working from the central idea to ‘stage’ the public areas in order to create privacy behind them, Atelier Barda were inspired by cinematographic framing to repurpose the building for effective residential living. The existing large commercial windows of the storefront façade were preserved, while a central block was added to provide a barrier between the entry spaces and private areas. The entry now includes a cloakroom, bathroom and a library, serving as a transitional space from the community of the street outside to the intimacy of the spaces tucked away behind the block – the kitchen, living room and dining room.

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The theatrics of the structural elements are offset by an understated colour palette. As previously demonstrated in their Saint Laurent Apartment project, Atelier Barda are adept at choosing subtly complementary hues that still present a minimalist backdrop to the furnishings and design details.

In this home tones of pink, gold and emerald green segment the different spaces, while specific materials (such as the terrazzo concrete of the kitchen or herringbone parquet floors of the living areas) help to differentiate areas without blocking them off spatially. Even the smaller details like the handrail of the staircase or inbuilt upstairs cabinetry add character, yet work together to present a fully-formed home. By playing up the dynamic between public and private, existing and new, Atelier Barda have revealed the soul of the space and created a truly surprising family home.

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