Martine Brisson | White canvas on a green roof
Martine Brisson designed the landscaping of the roof terrace of the former residence and studio of painter Betty Goodwin, for which she has just won one of the GRANDS PRIX DU DESIGN 2012 in the “Terrace” category. Always keeping in mind a feeling of warmth, functionality, and simplicity, Brisson created an outdoor environment that is coherent yet open, with different functional zones (kitchen, living area, bathroom, garden, etc.) that fit together as naturally as the rooms in an interior space.
A coherent and functional space
Straddling the roofs of two semi-detached former bottling plants, the roof terrace has an area of 3,320 square feet. Brisson chose to articulate the outdoor living area around an attic that creates a transition between the interior space of the ground floor and the different functional rooms of the terrace. Although its black-metal envelope evokes the façade of the residence, the inner siding, made of oak, echoes the floor of the living-room lounge and the kitchen-dining room, as well as the balustrade that runs completely around the terrace.
Brisson skilfully alternates physical connections and permeable divisions to create partitions without interrupting the flow of the space. Although the attic is an interior area, it is open on three sides thanks to a large bay window and two French doors. The kitchen-dining room and living room-lounge are unified by a cedar floor, yet their perimeters are clearly defined. The former is edged by a pergola whose structure is composed of flowerboxes in which growing plants provide a vegetation screen. The latter is sheltered from neighbours by a plantation of seven-foot-high shrubs and evergreens, extending the foliage of the trees at ground level that rise above the roof. Elsewhere, the long cedar flowerbox that serves as a balustrade also provides a physical connection between the living spaces, with their wood floor, and the green zones planted with perennials and trees.
The simplicity of the white canvas
With simplicity as her creative trademark, Brisson constructed the terrace space using basic geometric volumes – as if she were juxtaposing a series of empty functional boxes – each of which is defined by its furniture. “A successful space,” she says, “is one that evolves, one that the people who live in it can appropriate and change to make their life easier.” The balustrade-flowerbox was conceived with this in mind. With its large area of plantings, it allows for customization of the vegetation screen. Yet, by combining two functions, it also avoids overloading the perimeter of the terrace. This concern with simplifying the space to the point that it is natural is reflected even in the choice of materials: cedar, stone (marble kitchen counter and quartz and marble in the bathroom) and plantations of perennials and evergreens.
Because of this simplicity, the box-spaces constructed by Brisson become timeless. Only their contents may age. The bathroom off the terrace is a good illustration of this. In it, everything is smooth, straight, and unadorned, like a blank canvas. The designer took advantage of structure of the former elevator cage to evacuate the shower water below the marble floor, avoiding a change in elevation that would interrupt the linearity of the surfaces. A monolith of quartz and marble, the bathroom becomes a powder room without apparent separation between the different areas except for pocket doors. Simplifying the space even more, Brisson used a single long sink that traverses from the shower area to the toilet. Because the latter space is very tight, she opted to have custom built-in plumbing fixtures installed.
About Martine Brisson
Martine Brisson’s unusual career path has given her an approach to space that sometimes has more to do with architecture than interior design. Before she becomes involved with the content of the space, she concentrates on the envelope that defines it. “I like to create boxes, like jewel boxes, that my clients can arrange in their own image.”
Before engaging in training as an interior designer, Brisson began her professional life as a lyric soprano. It was during her international tours that she cultivated her talent for design and her love of architecture and spaces. “I always had a little notebook and a pencil so I could sketch the places I visited,” she recalls. After working as an on-stage artist, she became a fashion designer and opened a women’s clothing boutique in Montreal. A few collections later, she launched her career as an interior designer.
From her artistic and creative experiences, Brisson has taken a taste for simple, human-oriented spaces. “Rather than strike the imagination,” she notes, “a space has to make people feel good.” Thus, instead of imposing her own style, she tries to understand the tastes and needs of her clients and offer them a virgin space in which they will be able to express themselves. “My clients bring me their music score, and I’m the orchestra conductor.”Location: Canada Architect: Martine Brisson Photos: Marc Cramer