When design duo Dylan O’Keefe and Haley Fiorenza were asked to plot a ski lodge at Mont Sainte-Marie, the site was a steep, rocky, forested slope on the mountainside.
“We scaled the hill, we climbed, we stood in the trees to get a sense of the site,” says O’Keefe. “Then they blasted the rock and we adjusted the orientation of the house and photoshopped the design on site to show to clients.”
After that, very little changed. “They were very confident clients,” says Fiorenza of Lindsay and Harley*, a young couple who work in the mental health and technology fields respectively. “It was really nice to work with them. They stayed the course and made no major changes.
The brief was simple: a comfortable, warm chalet suitable for receptions. “Our townhouse is quite contemporary. We went in the opposite direction for the cabin,” says Lindsay. “We really wanted it to be like a refuge in the mountains. We wanted it to look rustic, but we didn’t want to compromise on luxury.
“For the interiors, we wanted the materials to have a raw yet warm feel. For example, we chose wood floors that had lots of character and grooves; we didn’t want anything too fancy. Also, I love to cook and we love to entertain at home, so the kitchen had to be functional and beautiful while still maintaining the warm, rustic vibe.
*first names only at the request of the owners
The kitchen is at the very center of the house and is central to the living room. It features a stunning La Cornue range in black and brass, an oversized gray quartz countertop on a thick wood base, and rustic accents such as reclaimed barn beams incorporated into the custom plaster hood vent. A white tile backsplash laid in a herringbone pattern, Lee Industries cowhide and leather counter stools, and simple white farmhouse-inspired cabinetry add additional layers to the myriad of textures that make the space so warm. .
Adjacent to the kitchen, the living room has high two-story ceilings, but the space retains that warm vibe thanks to a Paulig rug – it looks like river pebbles but looks like tiny clouds. A pair of square coffee tables in triple burnt black teak lends a contemporary yet natural touch. The soft gray Montauk sofa speaks to the towering wall of gray granite that covers the wall of the three-sided wood-burning fireplace, finished with a reclaimed barn beam mantle.
“A stone fireplace was an absolute must, and for me it had to be one with tons of texture,” says Lindsay. “I had to convince my husband to buy a wood-burning fireplace, and now we both agree that it was the right choice. The smell, sound and sight of burning wood is the perfect sensory experience in the cottage.”
The designers made sure to incorporate plenty of glass to take advantage of the high vantage point. Oversized windows, framed in wood, overlook the surrounding hills and lakes in the distance.
“We wanted to make sure we could enjoy the scenery even when we were indoors,” says Lindsay. “The topography of the land determined how we placed the house. Everything revolves around this view!
This view can also be enjoyed from a glassed-in balcony (equipped with heaters for the colder months), an outdoor dining area and a hot tub. “It was a priority for us to be able to enjoy the outdoors, even in the cold.”
Family rooms are located upstairs — the couple have two young children — while guests enjoy privacy on the entry level. The master bedroom with en-suite bathroom is decorated in soothing shades of grey, cream, white and wood. With heated floors, a double-headed steam shower with a built-in bench, a deep soaking tub, and gently sloping ceilings, the space is very comfortable.
Above the bed, a resin wood chandelier hints at the surrounding nature, and an alpaca rug (which came with its own hairbrush) is distinctly luxurious.
“We wanted everything to be very comfortable, so we chose things like the plush white rug in our bedroom, one of my favorite features,” Lindsay says.
On the entry level, a steel and wood floating staircase with solid six inch steps leads to the living room, dining room and kitchen. The ski lodge vibe is enhanced by decorative elements: a pair of vintage wooden skis, as well as a framed patrol jacket that belonged to Harley’s grandfather.
In another direction, heated polished concrete floors lead to the guest bedrooms, sauna, cinema and a cloakroom with lockers. There’s also a huge boot room with a wall-mounted boot drying machine – a must for any ski lodge, as there’s nothing worse than getting your feet stuck in a cold, damp pair of ski boots. .
The ground floor walls are clad in paneling made from used scaffold planks imported from England. The effect is rustic yet refined and endlessly practical, preventing knocks and scratches from skis, poles and boots to drywall or plaster.
When the world shut down in March 2020, the couple found themselves spending more time at Mont Sainte-Marie. “We certainly didn’t expect to live up there at the start of the pandemic — it was a surprise! But we were grateful to have this house, and even more grateful to have an office to work from,” Lindsay says.
Nowadays, the chalet is less about work and more about family leisure, relaxation and the great outdoors. “What I love most about the chalet is how relaxed I feel when I’m there,” says Lindsay. “My favorite space is the sitting area next to the three-sided fireplace. It’s perfect for morning coffee or an après-ski cocktail. I also love how the downstairs is completely open; we we can all be there together, but we don’t feel on top of each other.