Organizing your life in a small city house

When little Hubert was born in 2014, Gaëtan Havart and Violaine Camal knew that they’d soon have to leave the attractive apartment that they had so tastefully decorated, because they needed something bigger.
Gaëtan Havart et ses deux enfants

Aficionado of architecture and urban planning, Gaëtan wanted to stay in Montréal. When looking for a home, he came across a small house that, despite jumbled renovations done through the years, had kept its charm of yesteryear.

“The house was constructed in 1870,” explains this young Belgian now living in Québec. “The upstairs was once a hayloft, with living quarters below.” Fieldstones were applied to the façade, the roof was transformed, a projecting window added, and room divisions were ‘remuddled’.

The house, lived in by many families during its 150 years, was not very large, but Gaëtan could see its strong potential. “But first I had to convince my girlfriend to live in this little house,” he laughs.

In the past, ceilings in houses were low and rooms were small to retain the heat. During the first few months, Gaëtan hit his head on the living room ceiling beams several times. “But I got used to it quickly,” he adds.

Small, but spacious

The first thing Gaëtan and Violaine did when they moved into their new home with Hubert was to repaint everything in white. “The brightness immediately gave a sense of space,” explains Gaëtan.

Then, furniture was required. “Do we need a huge sofa or a massive wardrobe?” wondered Gaëtan. “Designing smaller spaces is about making choices to maximize comfort, eliminate the unnecessary, and keep the essential,” he adds.

Everything has been designed to make the space attractive for living. Of course, Hubert’s toys take up some space. But the fire truck and the Lego bricks scattered around are part of the life of the house.

Prior to the arrival of their second child, Gaëtan started to think about renovating their home. “I wanted to restore the original spirit of the home, the roof pitch, the exterior volumes,” he says, showing the plans. “We also want to give it a contemporary touch.”

Now there are four in the family. The renovation project is starting to take shape. Gaëtan has bought himself blocks, like Hubert’s, to visualize his dream house in three dimensions. With experts, he has produced a file in which everything has been calculated. “There’ll even be a room just for the fire trucks and the other toys,” he explains.

One of the other large advantages of staying in Montréal for this small family, is that there are parks close by. With the wise priorities of a four-and-a-half-year-old, Hubert is the first to take advantage of them. Every chance he can get, Gaëtan goes out with him to explore the playgrounds and parks in the neighbourhood.

When asked if it would not have been easier to leave Montréal, Gaëtan doesn’t need to stop to think: “Leave the island? Are you crazy?” And he adds, philosophically: “We’ve chosen life in the city, we don’t want to live closed in on ourselves.”

Some tips to maximize small spaces

  • Paint the walls, ceilings—and why not the floors—white, or in a light colour.

  • Place mirrors on the walls to multiply perspectives and increase light.

  • Create storage space under beds and sofas.

  • Use recessed ceiling lights.

  • And, if you’re ready to do more extensive work, create openings in the walls or use room dividers that allow light to pass through.

Learn about our Home Purchase Assistance Program

Published on December 2018