If you had the know-how and were given the chance to build your own home with no constraints (except your budget) and were free to choose the style, would it be a traditional-looking home, a contemporary one or something quaint and unique like this Scandinavian-inspired architectural log home?
For Simon Auger, an entrepreneur and seasoned homebuilder with many talents and ideas, the choice came down to simply building a house for himself.
“I wanted it to be very personal and never thought about the resale value,” Auger said.
Situated on a three-acre wooded lot in the Eastern Townships near Mont-Orford, it is a distinctive log home with such unusual features as an outdoor bathtub that sits on a small platform that extends outside the master bedroom under the roof’s apex.
But after almost a decade of occupancy, Auger was ready for a move and a new challenge. So he sold the house quite easily despite its design and quirkiness. It went to a friend, who had followed the construction step by step and had always been in love with it.
It took Auger three years, from 2008 to 2011, to complete the construction, doing the work mostly on his own during his spare time using various materials and techniques — some old, some new.
The odd mixture of materials he used gives the illusion that the Scandinavian log portion of the home is sitting on top of another house. The lower part is built with insulated concrete forms (ICF) that, as the name implies, are concrete blocks with insulation on the inside. The red-painted wall is made of recycled white pine planks fastened in the board-and-batten style (long strips of wood that secure each plank in place). The cedar logs that form the second and third floors were salvaged from a tornado-ravaged wood lot not too far away in the region from where the home stands.
“I was driving by one day while some men were clearing the damage and when I saw those beautiful trees, I bought them,” Auger said.
He put them in storage for several years not knowing at the time what to do with them. This let the timber dry, thus avoiding shrinkage during the construction of the house. The logs are not all the same size or shape. Some are thick at one end and more narrow at the other end, but he assembled them all together to fit snugly. For the corners, he used the Swedish cope technique, in which the logs are round inside and out, but have a half-moon-shaped groove on the bottom.
The balcony is covered by a roof and has a style reminiscent of Italian loggias from the mid-18th century. This is where he liked to watch the sun set over Mont-Orford. But for his morning coffee, he usually sat on the small exterior platform extending from the master bedroom, where he installed his bathtub.
“I felt like a little bird up there,” Auger joked.
The house has three storeys, besides the basement used for storage and utilities. The ground floor is not occupied by a kitchen, dining room and living room as one might expect in a traditional home. Instead, there’s a vast entryway that also serves as a guest bedroom with the main bathroom located behind a closed door.
Because the house is surrounded by lush vegetation and lots of trees, Auger figured he would do away with a traditional interior design in order to get a better view by establishing the living quarters higher up.
The guest bedroom is indeed spartan in decor, furnished with only a double bed that Auger fabricated himself using pieces of solid wood. The main bathroom is lit by three windows, including one in the shower-bathtub stall. The ceramic floor is heated. The vanity was made by a friend who is a cabinet-maker, and is topped with a modern-design wash basin. A beautifully crafted staircase made of cherry wood curls its way to the top floor. The steps embedded in a vertical standing beam have no risers, giving the ensemble the grace of a sculpture.
In the living-room area on the second floor (the main floor used for relaxing and cooking), which is an open-plan design, a thick slab of recycled wood is set on a blue chest and serves as a coffee table. The floor, which seems to be made of large ceramic tiles, is actually polished concrete and has an integrated heating system. Auger cut joint lines with a saw to make it look like tiles.
“It is an economical solution,” Auger said, and quite an original one at that.
Though the room is filled with lots of natural light from the many windows, he painted the logs white to brighten the place even more. It’s a tradition found in the Adirondacks, he said. Tucked in a corner, the small kitchen needed something to make it stand out, so he painted the cupboards bright red. The U-shaped countertops are fitted with slabs of pine. A plain dining table made of red cedar and pine is flanked by three elaborate wraparound armchairs that come from Indonesia.
The master bedroom is situated on the top floor and is just big enough for a king-sized bed. Behind the headboard, a walk-in closet is accessible by two small doors where you can choose to enter through one door and exit by the other. Because the space was limited, Auger did not make a separate bathroom, so he installed the wash basin and toilet in the open. As previously noted, there is also a bathtub outside on a small extended platform, but to gain access to the tub, you have to go through a window.
Why an outdoor bathtub, a three-season affair at most, one may ask?
“Because I feel stifled when I take a hot bath in a closed area,” Auger said.
He particularly relished soaking in the tub when it was raining, his head protected by the roof overhang and the raindrops splashing in the water. It was a most pleasurable and soothing experience, he said.
In 2014, Auger abandoned the design and construction of traditional log homes. Maisons Éléments (maisonselements.com), the new company he founded afterward, builds eco-friendly, high-performance houses, and he is now constructing one for himself. It will be a passive house, using such latest technologies as cross-laminated timber or CLT. This relatively new material is ecological, lightweight and economical with a good thermal insulation rating. Quick and easy to install, the prefabricated panels are being used more and more nowadays in the construction of highrise buildings.
His new home will be modern in design, with sleek lines, the opposite of his former one. Keenly aware of new living trends, Auger says it will be bi-generational this time, keeping in mind the resale value.
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