On the shores of the Lac des Deux Montagnes in Quebec, this modest weekend cottage makes a playful allusion to its owner’s favourite outdoor pastimes. Here, at the meeting of the Ottawa and St Lawrence Rivers (the latter flows through nearby Montreal to the east), is a large body of water that serves as the region’s premier boating and sailing destination. The lake-side cottage sits right on the water’s edge, with a raised sleeping area that evokes the bridge of a ship.

The project’s nickname, ‘Le bateau dans les arbres’, reflects this eccentric design, undertaken by local architect Paul Bernier as a way of countering and conquering the complex site conditions. 

"Le bateau dans les arbres", Oka, Canada by Paul Bernier Architecte
The cottage is surrounded by a veranda, with far-reaching views across the water

The need to stay within flood lines dictated the cottage’s angular footprint, with the internal volume surrounded by a covered veranda. A large white roof contrasts strongly with the vertical red timber cladding, while the sleeping area, along with a bathroom and small sitting room, is set within an elliptical volume perched on the roof, part wooden boat, part conning tower.

From the bed, a curved bank of windows offers views through the treetops to the lake beyond. It’s strongly reminiscent of another self-consciously boat-like space, David Kohn and Fiona Banner’s 2012 Room for London installation; just swap out the London panorama for a distant Canadian riverbank.

"Le bateau dans les arbres" lake-side cottage, Oka, Canada by Paul Bernier Architecte
The bedroom offers elevated views across the lake and access to the green roof and terrace

Downstairs, all is minimalist and hard-wearing, with concrete floors and chunky wooden furniture. The living space is lined with windows on the lake-side elevation, with a veranda that’s protected from direct sun and rain by the oversailing roof to create a true inside-outside space. The front façade also has large floor to ceiling windows, although these can be concealed by sliding wooden panels when the cottage is not in use.

"Le bateau dans les arbres" lake-side cottage, Oka, Canada by Paul Bernier Architecte
The bedroom rises up above the main house like the hull of a boat

The supporting steel structure is left in plain sight, with slender white painted columns visible inside and out to give a modernist rhythm to the façade. They support the large white roof that extends over the veranda and helps cool the interior in the summer. This also contains soil and planting for the green roof system, alongside a compact roof terrace, both of which are accessible from the master bedroom and the upstairs sitting area. 

"Le bateau dans les arbres" lake-side cottage, Oka, Canada by Paul Bernier Architecte
Concrete floors, minimal furniture and exceptional craftsmanship define the simple interiors

The asymmetric planning and unconventional forms give the structure a playful and idiosyncratic character. Heat comes from a wood burning stove in the heart of the space, and all the windows can be covered by floor to ceiling curtains, setting up a warm, traditional cottage-like feel that’s at odds with the delicacy of the structure.

Bernier, who completed the project with his colleagues Anick Thibeault, Alexandre Bernier and Francis Martel-Labrecque, set up his Montreal-based practice in 1999. Fine craftsmanship and minimal detailing are characteristic qualities of the studio’s work. §

’Le bateau dans les arbres’ lake-side cottage, Oka, Canada by Paul Bernier Architecte