Real Estate

Inside Manoir Blackswan, an extravagant modern-day palace in Montreal’s suburbs 

Owned by an antiques dealer, this mansion is part-residence and part-showroom
Isabel B. Slone

On the outskirts of Montreal, there’s an imposing 6,500-square-foot Georgian mansion in Châteauguay, Quebec. It looks like something out of the Gilded Age, with an ornate hand-carved entrance and turn-of-the-century copper sconces. In fact, the house was built just last year. 

Its owner, antique dealer Emmanuel Hébert, created the modern-day palace on the footprint of his 2,000-square-foot childhood home. He purchased the property from his mother when he was 18, using money he had saved from a job restoring paint on cars. Manoir Blackswan, which serves as both Hébert’s primary residence and a showroom for his antique business, is named after the theory of black swan events: unpredictable situations that change the trajectory of your life but make sense in hindsight. When Hébert was 26 years old, he went on a trip to India that led him to the world of antiques. He saw the country’s respect for its artistic history and felt compelled to look into Canada’s past too. 

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He read voraciously about the decorative arts and craftsmanship of Victorian homes; in 2017, he founded his own company, Historical Lights, named after his love of chandeliers, and sold pieces online. At first he only dealt in items that adhered to his personal taste, which skews baroque and rococo, but that changed as he gained more knowledge of the field. Now he only trafficks in the rarest of antiques, including a full set of hand-carved Odd Fellows chairs sourced from an Odd Fellows lodge in Napanee, Ontario. “I’m trying to purchase museum-quality pieces,” he says, “because that’s where the real value is at.” 

In 2020, he embarked on an ambitious renovation to transform his two-bedroom, one-bathroom family home into a six-bedroom, three-bathroom mansion. To accomplish this, he hired a handful of craftspeople: a coppersmith for the house’s gutters and dormers, a master plasterer for the interior cornices and ceiling medallions, and a cabinet-maker who replicated the crown mouldings from a 19th-century hotel in Quebec City.

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Nearly everything you see in Manoir Blackswan is for sale—though there are some off-limits items, like Hébert’s four-poster bed and the mantel over the fireplace. The mansion’s interior has a unique vintage-meets-Versailles aesthetic, with marbled floors and taxidermied animals. “Manoir Blackswan is all about opulence and exuberance,” he says. His living room has a checkerboard floor made from Italian Bianco Carrara marble and Spanish Nero Marquina marble. There’s an Italian settee covered in gold leaf, a Spanish hand-carved marble fireplace and an elaborate ceiling display of roughly 50 chandeliers. “When I want to feel like the king of the world, I go into my living room,” he says. “You feel like you’re in a castle somewhere in France.”

Every room adheres to a different theme based on an era or antique style. The living room focuses on eclectic decor. The tea room, which has a botanical mural hand-painted by artist Sonia Laurin, is Hébert’s homage to chinoiserie, a Western genre of design that imitates Chinese art and motifs. His bedroom is done up like a Victorian parlour, replete with a fringed lamp, velvet chaise longue and mahogany four-poster bed in shades of ruby. (Naturally, it’s nicknamed the Red Room.) “The beauty of maximalism is there are so many possibilities,” he says. 

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Next year, Hébert will commence construction on phase two of Manoir Blackswan, with the intention of adding another 8,000 square feet to the home. After posting photos online, he received numerous requests for photo and film shoots. “There’s nothing like it on the market right now,” he says. He intends to add a commercial kitchen as well as a Gilded Agestyle ballroom, private art gallery, speakeasy, wine cellar and winding staircase entryway, so he’ll be able to host weddings and corporate events too. “My life needs to be filled with beautiful things that give me joy,” he says. “I’d be sad in an all-white apartment or home. Maximalism completes me.”