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Houses of the Gatineau Hills

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the January 25, 2017 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Old world charm on River Road

by Ben Bulmer

'"I haven't met anyone who has come into the house and not totally fallen in love with it.'" Stepping into Monique Larocque's house, it's easy to see why people tell her this.

'"I think it has a natural character,'" she said, '"that attracts people.'"

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Monique Larocque in her artist's retreat surruonded by brushes and paint. Ben Bulmer photo.

Larocque isn't 100 per cent sure about the history of the house, but believes it was built as a school sometime in the 1840s. The school was also used as a church on weekends starting in the 1940s. Conversion from school and church into residential home took place sometime in the late 1950s. Larocque bought the property in 1986, having moved to Chelsea from Ottawa.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Monique Larocque in her artist's retreat surruonded by brushes and paint. Ben Bulmer photo.

The 900-square-foot space appears surprisingly large and light due to the open plan design and nine-and-a-half-foot ceilings. What the one bedroom property lacks in size it certainly makes up for in character. Although Larocque had to get rid of the carved graffiti in the doorframe that dated back to the building's school days, the house still oozes character and history.

'"This little school house has an awful lot of history. That's what I fell in love with,'" said Larocque. '"The character of this house is that it's like a sculpture, it has texture, it even has its own smell, it has a spirit...I think it is part of the makeup of this whole area.'"

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
She bought the old school house in Farm Point in 1986 which she thinks was built some time in the 1840s. Ben Bulmer photo.

A rough oak ceiling complements the maple and pine floorboards and sits well with the antique and eclectic furnishings. And it all adds to the house's organic feeling.

There's no new fitted, designer kitchen - just the original cupboards from when the school was converted. Larocque has added a century-old cupboard she bought at a yard sale for seven dollars - and she wouldn't change a thing. '"To me, it has character, and for all the tea in China I wouldn't want to put modern cupboards in there,'" she said.

A bannister made from an old birch tree branch leads up the staircase to the house's only bedroom, which is in the converted attic and has sloped walls.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
The loft of the old school was converted into the bedroom. Ben Bulmer photo.

When ice damaged the exterior walls three years previously, what was originally going to be an easy fix turned into almost a complete rebuild. Wooden exterior walls were replaced and the interior walls were re-plastered, to which Larocque applied her own style.

'"I plastered the walls with a spatula. I wanted them to have character - a flat wall is boring,'" she said. Creating just a little bit of texture helped the walls to fit in with the old wooden features. '"It's like a beautiful old piece of wood that has character, it has life, it has lived.'"

It may not be cutting-edge, contemporary design, but the little River Road schoolhouse has old world charm and a true feel of history.

'"It's full of character,'" said Larocque. '"It has personality.'"


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