Passionate about cycling on gravel paths, Sophie Seguin-Lamarche and Nicolas Côté had never thought of owning a chalet until the pandemic made teleworking easier. Their first instinct was to look for land on the edge of a body of water or on the side of a mountain, but they had reservations, not wanting to contribute to urban sprawl. They finally acquired land in the heart of Notre-Dame-de-Ham, in the Centre-du-Québec region.
The two Montrealers had discovered the municipality of 400 inhabitants by following an itinerary, which had its starting point there. They had often returned there, seduced by the beauty of the mountains. “We looked a little in Estrie, but the prices were completely crazy,” underlines Nicolas Côté. In the Centre-du-Québec region, it was much more affordable. »
He was the one who came up with the idea to look at options in the village. “It has the particularity of being set back from the main road, on the banks of the river, since it was born from the timber industry and a sawmill, at the end of the 19th century.e century, he said. Houses were gradually built around the mill, which used the current to activate the saws. »
Their choice was strategic. By settling in Notre-Dame-de-Ham, they were 2 hours from Montreal and 1 hour 40 minutes from Quebec, where their respective families live. They did not expect the warm welcome they received, which touched them greatly. “We formed real connections with several people,” says Sophie Seguin-Lamarche, who returned to horse riding and bought a mare. People want us to feel good. We in turn got involved in the community. »
Low budget, buy local
From the outset, the couple knew that they were not going to build a castle, having no intention of going into excessive debt. He is the father of two daughters in their twenties; she is the mother of a teenager. Aware that their children would not come all the time, they chose to have a relatively small house, which, well insulated and well oriented to the sun, would have the advantage of not costing much for heating in winter.
“We didn’t want to have a chalet with four bedrooms that are free 90% of the time,” emphasizes Nicolas Côté, who is a senior designer and team leader at Aedifica, an architecture, design and urban planning agency based in Montreal.
We made versatile pieces. Depending on who is coming, we configure things differently so that everyone can sleep. It is a compromise which is effective and which is entirely acceptable.
Nicolas Côté, co-owner
After purchasing the land, in February 2021, he worked on the design of the house, seeking to optimize the space. As he and his partner intended to build the interior of the house, they needed to find a contractor willing to build only the shell. To limit costs and speed up construction, Mr. Côté had in mind the use of factory-made insulated walls. Looking for a construction company in the region, Sophie spotted KEVLAR habitation on Instagram, using geolocation.
“We found it interesting that they chose us and it made us happy to participate,” says Guillaume Larochelle, co-owner with Kevin Desruisseaux of the company, based in Victoriaville.
It’s unusual that they chose to set up in the heart of the village to bring it back to life. Usually, people who come from outside settle in the woods, to have peace. I have never seen this. But it was part of their approach and if people talk about it, it could contribute to an awakening to try to reinvigorate the villages.
Guillaume Larochelle, co-owner of KEVLAR habitation
Initially, Sophie Seguin-Lamarche admits that she had doubts. “I wondered what it would feel like to be in the countryside,” she said. Nicolas had the good idea of putting the common living areas upstairs. As the land is sloping and the living areas are very high, we have a view of the mountains and not of the people. The land is mainly agricultural, so you can still see very far. »
Once the shell of the house was complete, they set about making the interior with the stack of plywood they had ordered. “We had it for 10,000 piastres,” estimates Nicolas Côté, who made the technical drawings as they went along. We did all the floors, all the furniture. We wanted light wood throughout the house to have unity in terms of visual appearance. »
They did this for an intensive month for economic, but also ecological, reasons. “The truck came once to deliver two large pallets of plywood, then afterwards, we made arrangements,” explains Sophie Seguin-Lamarche, who specializes in sustainable development and adaptation to climate change… and who handled the saw. It must be said that we are still eccentric. »
They don’t feel like they’ve made a compromise. “We can experience the countryside the same and perhaps even better,” believes M.me Seguin-Lamarche, if we reinvest the heart of our villages, which are an extraordinary heritage in Quebec. »
La Musette in brief
Purchase of 35,000 sq. ft. land2 (3251m2): February 2021
Groundbreaking: September 2021
Handover of the shell with the completed concrete slab: December 10, 2021
Intensive work to create the interior: December 10, 2021-January 10, 2022
Cost (land, landscaping, planting of food trees included): $250,000
A beneficial contribution
Every municipality benefits from the arrival of people who are involved in their community, whether they settle permanently or part-time, indicates Geneviève Boutin, general director of Notre-Dame-de-Ham. “It’s always interesting to have new people coming to lend a hand,” she emphasizes. I have been working for the municipality for more than 10 years in community development and I have seen what people who arrive with new projects can bring. » According to her, one of the strengths of her municipality is knowing how to welcome newcomers so that they feel included and want to push the wheel.