Providing a real design challenge, the open-plan ground floor St-Denis space’s rectangular floor plan can’t have been easy to divide up into a free-flowing residential space. Facing the challenge head on, Canada based architect Anne Sophie Goneau has however, succeeded in carving out two bedrooms, and separate living and kitchen/dining areas out of the industrial space in her bright, white signature style. Although the space transmits a rather cold ambience as a result of her monochrome palette, upon closer look, warmth becomes evident in a multitude of details.
With every exact angle and every surface, whether made out of white lacquer or black mirror, gleaming under closely studied lighting, it becomes apparent that nothing - not even charm – has been left to chance. This is evident in each and every one of the building’s original features that have been carefully left on show; from the original brick walls, sometimes painted stark white seen in the bedroom, sometimes left in unadulterated terracotta, in the wall that runs along the kitchen counter. As Goneau says herself ''The concept was to highlight the raw materials, discovered during the demolition (brick wall, wall hemlock and steel structure), in order to communicate their material, their relief and colour environment.''
The 119 sqm flat might seem clinical upon first impression, what with its straight angles, sharp lines and restricted palette. However, natural details like the driftwood washboard wall in the bathroom and strategically exposed brick walls lift the atmosphere and add much needed warmth and balance to the space. The large bay windows that run around the two sides of the apartment also play their role, letting in plenty of natural light allowing the ambiance inside to change according to the light of day, the weather and the colours outside.
Espace St-Denis is Anne Sophie Goneau’s latest project and as is the case with her previous ventures, that same signature element of freshness is given to linear spaces where perfectly contrasting partnerships between startling white surfaces, lots of natural light sources and well-chosen natural materials, used sparingly, to evoke the great outdoors are all used to great effect.
Other details such as the JCBs which hold up the structure and form the passageway compliment the brick walls and cold hard surfaces, bringing a latent industrial edge to the space. The floors, covered in a light gray epoxy and polyurethane matt finish to replicate the natural colour of concrete, also contribute to the clean-cut style.
The bedrooms and bathroom are delineated via the floor, evoking the award-winning Carrer Avinyó apartment by David Kohn Architects in Barcelona. But in this case, instead of using a change in colour, the floor’s finish changes where a glossy white epoxy is used to distinguish between the space’s private areas and the common area. A similar idea is continued in the bathroom, where the floor is covered with white epoxy whereas in the shower room, a dark grey epoxy has been applied. Anne Sophie Goneau explains that the contrast between the colours form a psychological boundary between the two areas: one is clear and bright, while the other, darker, creates the illusion of privacy in the WC and shower area.
Resembling a self-contained box, which sits on the fence between being open-plan and providing real intimacy, this is a space that is undoubtedly unusual in its layout. Although the hard surfaces and bold use of black and white may bring a clinical atmosphere to the space at first, this is gradually dispelled as the eye picks out the carefully thought-out natural details throughout.