Montreal 'Trend House' is in good hands
Couple fell in love with the home not knowing its significance
March 17, 2009

Dave LeBlanc

While the paint on the mullions is shedding and the roof shingles are, as owner Susan Shaughnessy describes them, rather "ugly," there's no need to apologize.

"In a few weeks, it'll look much better," she says for the third time.

Regardless of the fact that painters and roofers need to work on the dwelling in Beaconsfield, Que., it's clear the residence -- one of 11 "Trend Houses" built across Canada by a consortium of British Columbia lumber manufacturers in the early 1950s -- is in good hands.

Eric Boulva and Susan Shaughnessy weren't looking for a Trend House; in fact, they weren't looking for anything at all eight years ago when Mr. Boulva cycled by and saw the à vendre sign in front of the two-storey, four-bedroom home. Although content in a much larger house in the same area, the seven-member family felt compelled to move because of the Trend House's fantastic location across the road from Lac St. Louis.

"I really like the cottage feel of the house," says Ms. Shaughnessy. "We're county people and we love being able to be close to the water." In fact, they often roll their canoe-caddy across the street and go for a paddle.

It was only after they'd purchased the home and inherited architect Philip Foster Goodfellow's blueprints and the glossy 32-page brochure, "Western Woods Present 10 Canadian Trend Houses," that the couple learned of their home's significant place in Canadian architectural history.

The Trend House program began in 1951 with the intention of generating interest in the East for West Coast architectural styles using B.C. lumber.

Originally, only one Toronto exhibition home was built, but, based on the more than 200,000 visits to the 1,000-square-foot house at 48 Rathburn Rd. in Etobicoke (now demolished) in the spring and summer of 1952, it was decided to expand the program across the country.

While the Toronto house had been designed by a Vancouver architect, designs for the 10 additional houses in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, London, Montreal, Halifax and a second in Toronto were to be handled by local architects. Through his family ties to the lumber industry, Mr. Goodfellow -- a McGill University graduate and ex-navy sonar operator -- was awarded the contract in 1953 for a house to be built in what was then called Beaurepaire.

Mr. Goodfellow's 81-year old widow, Betty, recalls her husband trying to do something innovative.

"I remember he put in a sort of a playroom in the centre of the house," she says. "The idea of that was sort of like a family room for the children. In those days there weren't houses with family rooms; they all had basement playrooms and he thought it was a good idea to have a family room on the main level."

At some point over the past half-century, this playroom -- since it was beside the kitchen -- was turned into the dining room, which allowed the living room to swallow up the old dining area and double in size. A small bedroom off the original playroom has instead become the family room. Other changes have seen the original garage converted into a massive laundry room and a new garage built beside it.

Unfortunately, much of the home's original wood panelling was covered with generic panelling then wallpapered by previous owners. Mr. Boulva and Ms. Shaughnessy have since removed the wallpaper, and painted. The living room, however, looks much like the sketches in the brochure, retaining its Western red cedar ceiling, dominating fireplace and a low trellis -- similar to the one in the first Toronto house -- that provides a sheltering coziness.

The kitchen, too, has many original features, such as the boxed fluorescent ceiling fixtures and the high-quality windows. The old electrical system is problematic and complicated. "Whenever we have an electrician, it takes an hour just to figure [it] out," Ms. Shaughnessy jokes. So the couple's plan is to leave the boxes but replace the fluorescents with modern spotlights in what is Ms. Shaughnessy's favourite room. "I live in the kitchen," she laughs.

"If I'm doing dishes I'm looking outside, if I'm cooking I'm looking outside; I will never again have a house where I cook up against a wall."

Outside Ms. Shaughnessy's kitchen window, past the trees and across the calm waters of Lac St. Louis in Ville de Léry, Mrs. Goodfellow tries to recall the projects her husband got as a result of the Trend House publicity. While he did many houses in Léry and neighbouring Châteauguay, as well as a few schools and churches, his career was cut short when he fell ill in his late 30s. After an operation for an aortic aneurysm at 42, he lived only 10 more years, dying in 1972.

To support her family, Mrs. Goodfellow attended McGill and became a house appraiser, because, as she puts it, "I had some knowledge, I knew how to read plans."

While Ms. Shaughnessy and Mr. Boulva have no desire to leave their beloved Trend House, perhaps they might invite Mrs. Goodfellow over for an appraisal of their own; it's a good bet she'll be able to see past the peeling paint and ugly roof.

Dave LeBlanc hosts The Architourist on CFRB Sunday mornings. Inquiries can be sent to