The Wood Duck By Atelier L’Abri In Bolton, Quebec

Native to the Eastern Townships of Quebec, a lone duck has found a new home overlooking Mount Glen. Comprised entirely of hemlock spruce, Atelier L’Abri was tasked with designing a simple home with traditional construction methods and a modest budget for a carpenter who wished to build his own home.

Is there anything more Canadian than having a local firm design a home for a Quebecois native using indigenous materials? Je ne pense pas! (I think not!)




Situated at the top of a gorge, the home is oriented south to take advantage of the view of the mountains and river below. The configuration of double-height windows was arranged to optimize the view, which is then reduced to two small openings towards the north end of the home facing the public domain. The small and secluded footprint of the home is a humble reflection of the surrounding landscape, an evolved coexistence of architecture and terrain.




The exterior of the home is clad with Hemlock spruce in board and batten fashion, which is representative of the vernacular architecture of the area. The layered arrangement of boards not only adds interest to the simple façade but also proves to be highly tolerant of the damp and windy climates characteristic of eastern regions. The roofline slants downwards to the north, opening up the south façade to the hills and acts as a convenient slope for Quebec’s heavy snowfalls. The oblique roofline and exposed soffit give the home its “duck-ish” features.




The untreated hemlock is continued on the interior, bathing the kitchen, living room, and dining room in a warm reflective glow. The private spaces, including two bedrooms, an office, and a washroom, are located on the second floor accessible through a small staircase and mezzanine which overlooks the entertainment space. Keeping it simple and monochromatic, concrete floors and black window frames were incorporated to contrast with the wood.






The square floor plan allowed for the structure and framing to be simplified in order for the house to be constructed with minimal tools and labor. 





Although it may seem that the geometric shape might result in simple rectangular spaces, the design makes use of an open spaces that blend into each other. The design is a reflection of the owner's desire to live in a compact home that has a place in the landscape nor competes with the beauty of the site. The cubic home is prominent against its wooded surroundings, but the uniform siding allows the home to recede into the landscape.


All photos courtesy of Jack Jerome.

To see more projects by the studio, visit their website at Atelier L'Abri.


To see other self-built projects by carpenters, take a look at these stories on

-Joel Allen's Magical Hemloft in BC!

-Carpenters can be artists too, such as Carpenter Craig's artisanal paintings.


This article was researched and written by Emily Suchy, Undergraduate Student of Architecture at the University of Toronto.

Posted In: Quebec

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