Mod, minimal, and memorable: renovating a shoebox home

deNormanville - T B A, Montréal ,Canada

T B A, a small Canadian architectural studio, has undertaken the renovation of a famous shoebox house in the Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie borough of Montréal. Known as deNormanville, the house has been transformed to accommodate a growing family, with a focus on expanding the space, creating an open layout, and allowing for easy adaptability as children transition into their teenage years and parents move from picking up toys to proudly displaying graduation certificates.

deNormanville is part of the first wave of post-moratorium additions that explore new possibilities for transforming the disappearing one-story typology known as “shoeboxes” in the city. T B A explains that the project starts with the preservation of the original structure and mature trees on the site, and responds in a straightforward yet radical manner to the challenges of designing an addition to this small, vernacular structure located at the rear of the lot.

The exterior of the house centers around a Siberian elm tree. Its curved, pale brick facade not only protects the elm, but also complements the tree with its confetti-like color palette.

Inside the renovated shoebox house, the interior spaces are characterized by crisp, white walls that create a sense of lightness and transparency. The kitchen and dining area feature a light timber bench with a white countertop, while the storage along the kitchen wall is also finished in crisp white. These clean colors enhance the natural light that floods in through the floor-to-ceiling windows and backyard door, effectively opening up the space.

Technical Sheet
Project Type: renovation + extension
Function: single family house
Location: Rosemont – La Petite-Patrie, Montréal, Québec
Building Area: 135 m2
Architect:  T B A
Project Team: Jennifer Thorogood, Mikaèle Fol, Pascale Julien
Structural Engineer: Latéral
Construction: Rockethammer

The bedrooms are integrated within the original masonry of the house, with clean geometric shapes interrupting the open layout of the living room. The new part of the house, which includes the living room, is located at the back. This area, along with the bedrooms and bathroom, offers a more private and intimate atmosphere with lower ceilings and smaller windows. In contrast, the more lively spaces, such as the living room and kitchen, are positioned at the front of the house. The kitchen is well-equipped with a sink, stove, large kitchen hood, fridge, and ample storage space.

“The more boisterous family spaces move up front, street side,” explains the studio. “They are large and open, punctuated by the clean geometry of sculpted forms (cube and cylinder) that define the generous entrance. The kitchen-dining room serves as the social heart of the new house, functioning as a communal family workspace and assembly hall.”

deNormanville emphasizes the importance of designing homes that can grow with a family, as a home is meant to last a lifetime. This requires careful consideration of how a space will be used and the location of the house, ensuring it contributes positively to both the family and the community.


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