When Building Their Home, These Architects Knew to Avoid a Common Design Mistake
Their solution does double duty.
Published Dec 19, 2021 1:30 AM
When architects Morgane Thomas and Rémi Gilliard decided to leave northern France in 2018 to live closer to the ocean, along the southwestern Landes coast in Capbreton, they set out to build a home they could live in year-round but that always made them feel like they were on vacation. “When our friends visit us, they always say that there’s something special that makes this home peaceful,” notes Thomas. That je ne sais quoi probably has something to do with the big sliding glass door leading to the pool and all the untreated wood inside. The built-in dividers in the living room and the kids’ bedroom, as well as the kitchen cabinets, are all made out of white spruce, a pale yellowish, straight-grained variety that met one of the couple’s main criteria: They wanted to make the space as bright as possible while keeping it very minimalistic. “We wanted the house to feel like a cozy ocean cabin,” says Thomas.
The perk of being architects and designing your own house from the ground up over the course of a year is that no detail goes overlooked. Thomas learned from past projects that people usually regret not having enough storage space. So instead of investing in freestanding chests, media consoles, or drawer-filled side tables, the pair decided to splurge on custom cabinet units made out of the raw wood. Attached to the kitchen peninsula, a giant floor-to-ceiling structure houses outdoor clothes on one side and displays cooking utensils on the other, all while acting as a visual barrier between the cooking zone and the nearby living room.
The designers took full advantage of the home’s horizontal space, too: A long, low-profile unit runs the span of the living room wall. The piece doubles as a stand for the family’s TV, as well as bonus seating for guests, but underneath, it hides 3-year-old Joseph’s and 4-year-old Léonard’s many toys—in other words clutter can be swept behind the cupboard doors in a flash.
Upstairs, in the boys’ large shared bedroom, yet another wood structure plays the role of divider—and jungle gym (their little ones can access a secret loft nook from a ladder). “The idea was that when they get older, we’ll be able to separate the room with a wall, in lieu of the divider,” explains Thomas (luckily they thought ahead and gave each area its own electrical source so the transition will be a breeze).
But for now, the family’s top priority is to enjoy their home’s open and airy flow. “We’ve worked hard to make this come to life. For us, being able to bring the outdoors in was precisely the reason why we moved to the west coast of France,” says Thomas. Mid-construction, the couple realized that adding a swimming pool to the property, especially in this coastal region of the country, would add a lot of value to the home. (Not to mention, it would provide a nice respite on hot summer days when they don’t feel like lugging shovels and buckets to the beach.)
“This was by far our biggest splurge, but the return on investment makes it all worth it,” admits Thomas. The couple made up for the expense by saving on the waxed concrete flooring. “I would have preferred to go with wood, but our budget didn’t allow for it,” she notes.
In the living room, the sliding glass door, once opened, provides direct access to the deck, which is made of the same raw white spruce wood used throughout the interior. But Thomas’s best tip for seamlessly nailing indoor-outdoor flow is sage green paint, pale yellow upholstery, emerald shower tiles, and trailing plants. “You have to let your natural surroundings guide your choices,” she explains.
And instead of hanging paintings or prints on all the walls, the couple carved out an additional picture window above the built-in living room storage bench that effectively acts as a piece of ever-changing art. “Watching the seasons change while drinking my tea snuggled on my sofa is my biggest luxury,” admits Thomas. Every day is a holiday at Morgane and Rémi’s place.