This renovated 1930s Montreal duplex has its own Escher-inspired staircase –

The Brunique family wanted a modern family home. They got it, along with a custom staircase inspired by Dutch artist MC Escher’s mind-blowing design.

Frederic Brunique, a long-time advertising director and professor of copywriting at the University of Montreal, knows that bringing a creative vision to life takes time, sometimes a lot of it. This level of patience came in handy during the nine-year renovation of his family’s 1930s duplex in Montreal’s Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie district, which he and his wife, Geneviève Duchesne, purchased for $350,000 in 2012. When they moved in, the property was divided into two separate 800-square-foot, two-bedroom apartments, previously rented to tenants.

The couple was eager to remodel the space (last renovated around the ’50s or ’60s) to give it a bright, modern design in which to raise their school-aged daughters. They turned to local residential architecture firm Naturehumaine, led by owner Stéphane Rasselet, to make your vision a reality. “Frederic wanted the architecture to have a solid idea behind it,” says Rasselet. “Something wild and out of the ordinary.”

With this freedom in mind, Rasselet proposed that the reindeer revolve around a dramatic central feature: in this case, a grand, functional yet sculptural staircase that echoed the jumbled design of “Relativity,” a labyrinthine lithograph by Dutch artist MC Escher. . Frédéric and Geneviève were quick to accept it, an enthusiasm that at first surprised Rasselet. “All those stairs are a little scary, so I probably wouldn’t have raised very young children in that house,” Brunique says. “But it’s perfect for my now teenagers.”

Rasselet chose to construct the staircase from curved pieces of hot-rolled steel, giving its panels a textured appearance that complements the staircase’s overall zig-zag structure and contrasts with the home’s neutral palette. (A local metal welding company prepared the panels.) The completed staircase ascends from the ground floor to the second level of the house, culminating in the mezzanine, which houses Brunique’s head office. From different points of view of the house, the singular structure appears to be three separate staircases. As a final touch, Rasselet installed a skylight to top the stairs, allowing natural light to highlight his masterpiece.

The Escher-style staircase may be the house’s main attraction (Rasselet calls Brunique’s house one of his firm’s “most theatrical” projects), but the entire interior was gutted to make room for new features. The Naturehumaine team also built a cantilever bridge on the second floor of the house, creating a new hallway between Brunique’s daughters’ bedrooms and the master suite, built for added privacy. Meanwhile, on the main floor, a new combined kitchen, living and dining area is a hub of activity. “We have long desks where the girls can do their homework, while my wife and I prepare dinner,” she says.

Both plant lovers, one of the couple’s favorite additions is a 20-foot vertical garden, designed by Ligne Verte of Montreal. The green wall, which extends from the kitchen counter to the mezzanine, includes 10 different species of plants, including rhododendrons, palm trees and various cacti, all flooded with sunlight, courtesy of the home’s new skylight. The stunning garden provides a relaxing backdrop for family dinners, as well as a touch of tropical atmosphere during Montreal’s notoriously cold winter months.

Brunique says that while the entire family is pleased with the results of the renovation, it was particularly beneficial for one of her daughters, who is currently pursuing a degree in architecture. “Last semester, she had an assignment that asked her to analyze different residential interiors,” he says. “The professor included ours.”

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