Ren­o­va­tions, and blog­ger’s dis­cern­ing eye cre­ate a jewel

Montreal Gazette - - HOME FRONT - ANNE GARDON

When viewed from the front, this house, which was built in the 1970s near the vil­lage of St-Sau­veur in the Lau­ren­tians, looks like any other cute lit­tle chalet. But its un­pre­ten­tious colour­ful façade hides a de­light­ful and cosy home in­te­rior full of old fur­nish­ings, art ob­jects and other beau­ti­ful cre­ations by lady of the house Gil­lian Lee, a mas­ter quilt maker.

Ma­ture ap­ple trees grow­ing on the 1,860-square-me­tre (20,000 square foot) lot on which the house sits pro­vide in­ti­macy for Lee and her hus­band François Thérien. There’s also a back­yard gar­den aptly named Un­der the Ap­ple Trees, that in­cludes a pond fea­tured in mag­a­zines and books. It is equally di­vided be­tween flowers and veg­eta­bles, and is the in­spi­ra­tion for Lee’s blog From Land to Ta­ble. The blog fol­lows the evo­lu­tion of the gar­den with won­der­ful pic­tures and healthy recipes. A must-see at from­land­totable283497661.wordpress.com.

When Thérien bought the chalet-size house in 1993, it was only 25 feet by 25 feet. He built an ad­di­tion (used as an of­fice to­day) right af­ter set­tling in. When Gil­lian moved in with him in 2004, the cou­ple added an­other room to ac­com­mo­date her work­shop. In 2007, they built a sec­ond ex­ten­sion partly to in­cor­po­rate a big­ger kitchen, thus dou­bling the hab­it­able sur­face area of the house.

Gil­lian de­signed the kitchen her­self and ac­tu­ally had to change the lay­out when the cou­ple pur­chased an old butcher’s block, now stand­ing promi­nently un­der an ar­ray of cop­per pots and pans.

The floor is a mo­saic of oddly shaped and multi-coloured slate tiles, while the coun­ter­tops are cov­ered with smooth flag­stones. Wooden beams run­ning across the eight-foot ceil­ing echo the orig­i­nal old part of the house found in the liv­ing room. The pinewood laths in be­tween the large win­dows are painted a warm mus­tard yel­low. The many jars and con­tain­ers on the shelves hold spices and pre­cious herbs grown in the gar­den. The open plan kitchen al­lows Gil­lian to cook while chat­ting with her guests in the din­ing room.

The cou­ple love to en­ter­tain in their home, which they see as an oa­sis of peace and hap­pi­ness. The con­ti­nu­ity be­tween the two rooms is em­pha­sized by the same colour scheme, mus­tard yel­low on the walls, beige on the ceil­ing and dark toned brown beams and slate tiles for the hearth. The fo­cal point of this room is a mag­nif­i­cent Royal Bélanger wood stove. The cou­ple would have liked to have an orig­i­nal, but they are extremely rare and sought af­ter, so they had to set­tle for a re­pro­duc­tion model. It’s man­u­fac­tured by Poêle à Bois Blais in Berthier-sur-Mer. The wall be­hind the stove is slate bricks. A col­lec­tion of old prints, draw­ings and me­men­tos hangs on the wall of the pinewood stair­case.

Some were pur­chased dur­ing the cou­ple’s many trav­els, some were made by fam­ily mem­bers. The light fix­ture above the din­ing ta­ble is unique, as it was cus­tom-made by a lo­cal crafts­man. “We had all the pieces and he put them to­gether for us, hard­ware, wires and all,” says Lee.

If the knot­ted pinewood floor, the stove and beams give the feel­ing of olden days in the din­ing room, it is re­ally in the liv­ing room where the true char­ac­ter of the orig­i­nal struc­ture is ex­pe­ri­enced.

The walls and the rough-hewn ceil­ing beams show it was once a rus­tic log cabin. The fur­ni­ture and dec­o­ra­tions were care­fully cho­sen by the cou­ple to keep the at­mos­phere rus­tic and cosy. Most are an­tiques, among them an old school bench. On the back wall hangs a beau­ti­ful flo­ral quilt made by Lee, who has won many awards at the an­nual Cana­dian Na­tional Ju­ried Show.

One of her award-win­ning quilts is on dis­play above the dou­ble bed with an an­tique iron frame in the blue painted log guest bed­room. It is called Tur­tle Pond and rep­re­sents shim­mer­ing wa­ter with flowers. Lee also made the quilted com­forter and cush­ions on the bed. In front of the win­dow, a gate leg ta­ble sup­ports two ce­ramic planters where she grows gera­nium cut­tings dur­ing the win­ter sea­son.

The first ad­di­tion made to the house is now her of­fice and work­shop. Her quilt­ing sup­plies are kept in a beau­ti­ful oak side­board. She wanted this room to be perky to stim­u­late her imag­i­na­tion, so one wall was painted baby blue, with cur­tains and a floor lamp that nicely match.

The up­stairs floor is re­served for the mas­ter bed­room, which is di­vided in two by the chim­ney con­duit cast in red bricks. On one side is the bed­room with a queen-size sleigh bed cov­ered with an­other award-win­ning quilt Lee named Decade. Though she doesn’t keep track, she es­ti­mates it took her 1,000 hours to make it. The bed and night ta­ble were pur­chased at Ash­ley Home­store, and the paint­ings on the brick wall are from Que­bec artist Guy Pa­quet, based in Charlevoix. They rep­re­sent sum­mer and win­ter. The floor is pinewood planks and so is the vaulted ceil­ing that is 11 feet at its high­est point.

On the other side of the brick wall is a cosy sit­ting room that has a beau­ti­ful view of the Lau­ren­tian Moun­tains. This is where the cou­ple likes to sit and re­lax, read or lis­ten to mu­sic. Above the leather sofa hangs an­other colour­ful quilt rep­re­sent­ing the tree of life. It is in the style called mola, which is a tra­di­tional craft of the Guna indige­nous peo­ple of Panama. Lee got the in­spi­ra­tion when the cou­ple vis­ited the coun­try.

The main bath­room on the ground floor was de­signed to have an old-fash­ioned look with wooden slats on the walls and ceil­ing, but it of­fers all the mod­ern comforts with a large glass and tile 8x4­foot shower stall equipped with a rain shower head.

The room would not have been com­plete with­out some form of art­work by Lee. Here, four small wool ta­pes­tries rep­re­sent­ing sheep in the four sea­sons are promi­nently dis­played. In the hec­tic world we live in, one may won­der where Lee man­ages to find the time for her quilt­ing, gar­den­ing and blog­ging ac­tiv­i­ties. But all is very man­age­able when you have a deep pas­sion for dec­o­rat­ing, healthy eat­ing and a de­sire to in­spire oth­ers.

If you would like your home con­sid­ered for an ar­ti­cle in the Mon­treal Gazette’s Home­front sec­tion, please con­tact Perry Mastrovito at pmas­tro@look.ca


This cute lit­tle chalet-look­ing house with its colour­ful façade was built in the ’70s near the vil­lage of St-Sau­veur in the Lau­ren­tians.


A mag­nif­i­cent Royal Bélanger wood stove re­pro­duc­tion man­u­fac­tured by Poêle à Bois Blais in Berthier-sur-Mer is the fo­cal point of the din­ing room.

A col­lec­tion of old prints, draw­ings and me­men­tos pur­chased add char­ac­ter to the wall of the pinewood stair­case.

The painted blue log guest bed­room lo­cated in the orig­i­nal struc­ture has a dou­ble bed with an an­tique iron frame.

The true rus­tic cabin char­ac­ter of the orig­i­nal struc­ture is ex­pe­ri­enced when sit­ting in the liv­ing room with its rough hewn ceil­ing beams and bright painted log walls.

The main bath­room on the ground floor has an old-fash­ioned look, with wooden slats on the walls and ceil­ing and all the mod­ern comforts.

In the kitchen de­signed by Gil­lian, an old butcher’s block stands promi­nently un­der an ar­ray of cop­per pots and pans.

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