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Flashback to 1967: The Chatelaine Expo Home

It was 1967 and the whole world was headed to Montreal for the Expo to get a peek at what life might look like in the future. Chatelaine built this minimalist house as our pavilion for the momentous event — and everything in it (including a car!) were offered as a contest giveaway.
Flashback to 1967: The Chatelaine Expo Home

Modern living: Expo house

Design brief

Chatelaine partnered with the Canadian Lumbermen's Association to build and furnish this prizewinning house. It was designed by Vancouver-based architect Gustavo da Roza and toured by thousands of people.

The three-storey layout, designed for a family of five, had two bathrooms and a galley kitchen. It was ahead of its time with its wine cellar, laundry room, and gardening and workshop areas on the ground level. The kitchen, living room and dining room were on the second level with bedrooms on the third. (Bungalows were the most common layout at the time.)

And the winner is...

Instead of the imagined family of five getting the home, the winning ticket belonging to a 17-year-old boy: Douglas McEachen from Regina. The grade 12 student used his savings to fly to Montreal for the final weekend of Expo. He visited the house and submitted his ticket, and the rest is history! But because the house could only be built in Quebec, he opted for the $30,000 cash prize (which he planned to use to fund a music degree at university).

Flashback to 1967: The Chatelaine Expo Home

Still standing

After Expo 67, da Roza received tons of calls about the pavilion. To keep up with the demand he created a revised edition of the drawings with construction instructions and sold them for $100 each. Some of these Chatelaine Expo-style homes are still standing. We found one in Pennsylvania and another just outside of Montreal, in Boucherville.

Flashback to 1967: The Chatelaine Expo Home
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A home run

We caught up with Chatelaine Expo Home architect Gustavo da Roza to talk inspiration, design and taking the prize.

What was your inspiration?

"Winning! Competitions were the best way to get commissions and build a network. I entered the contest sponsored by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Canadian Lumbermen's Association. Wood-frame construction is more common out west than in the east so I knew the design would have to focus on wood. In the late 1950s, I spent a few years teaching at the University of California, Berkeley and was greatly influenced by my colleagues and the residential work we were doing there."

What was the prize?

"The grand prize was $10,000. I really wanted to win, so I submitted three different plans: a one-storey, a split-level and a three-storey (the grand prize winner). Then Chatelaine commissioned the winning design for its pavilion at the World Expo. I did well by that competition." (It was later revealed that da Roza's designs actually took second and third place as well, but they chose to announce alternate winners.)

What were the cutting-edge features?

"There is no such thing as 'cutting-edge design' — then or today. The majority of single-family houses in Canada in the 1960s were designed by developers, not architects, and dictated by what families could afford and the size they were limited to. It's still the same — architects rarely design houses!"

What made this house stand out?

"The combination of glass, flat roof and various finishes of wood running vertically gave it a modern look for the time. The two-storey wall of glass let in lots of natural light, but there was privacy at the same time."

Flashback to 1967: The Chatelaine Expo Home

What were we thinking?!

While the exterior of the Expo house showcased the latest trends, the inside was stuck in a time warp.

Department store sets: This house would have been better suited to mid-century modern classics like Florence Knoll sofas and Eames chairs.

Clashing furniture: A patterned sofa, traditional wood desk and wicker chair are mismatched and don't suit the modern exterior.

Fun fur + shag carpeting (eek!): Where do we begin? Lilac walls, fun fur bath accessories and mustard yellow carpet in the bathroom. This one we can't explain!

See more blast from the past rooms

Flashback to 1967: The Chatelaine Expo Home

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