There is hardly a more recognisable vernacular style than the traditional Alpine chalet, but the contemporary mountain interior takes the best ideas from traditional design and fuses them with a modern ethos. Top-end designers seamlessly incorporate luxury features with what is most appropriate for a mountain setting, by using local materials and enhancing the relationship between the interior and the stunning scenery beyond.
At Hotel de Rougemont in Switzerland, which was designed by Alpine specialists Sieber C Architecture with interiors by IHD and Plusdesign, there are large picture windows and bathrooms encased in glass, but also lots of natural materials – timber, linen, leather and fur. “The harmony between natural and artificial is the key to the philosophy of the project,” says Plusdesign’s Claudia Sigismondi. “The design had to find a common ground between the traditional Swiss chalet style and the glamorous appeal of the world-famous ski resort of Gstaad. We searched for a contemporary yet timeless style that could reflect and celebrate the authentic charm of Rougemont and the untamed beauty of its landscape – and we added some twists to it, by combining the traditional materials and elements with more innovative solutions and contemporary details.”
Plusdesign used lumber salvaged from old Swiss chalets to give an authentic look, and Claudia Sigismondi explains how “the clean shapes of contemporary design gain life and charm from the rich texture of the aged wood; the contrast between the pureness of the lines and the rustic irregularity of the timber conveys a natural and sophisticated effect.”
At the Eden hotel in Bormio, Italy, architect and designer Antonio Citterio created four tall buildings, with glazed links between them, so the hotel is, in spirit, more like a series of smaller chalets. Timber cladding and natural materials feature heavily, but with a more slick, stripped-down look. A more minimal approach to interiors matches a mountainous setting better than might be expected: the purity and simplicity of the landscape seems to have a natural affiliation with this look, and by reducing the decorative elements, all the attention is directed towards the great outdoors.
There is no sacrifice to comfort, however, which remains an essential: people still want to feel safe and cocooned. Throw in some eclectic traditional elements – a sumptuous fur throw or log fire – and you have an aesthetic mix that has warmth and heart, and critically, retains a sense of place. The power of the mountains to invigorate, heal and restore have long been touted: these interiors work in parallel to do just the same. Haute-Savoie’s Chalet 1864 (named after the year it was built) feels very much like a restorative, personal retreat; just five rooms are spread across three buildings – including the Suite Avrais (main picture, above), created from a former barn – and there is a spa and restaurant.
Living at altitude means bending to nature’s will. Nowhere on earth are there such harsh extremes of climate, or such spiritual and physical rewards to be had from the vast landscape beyond the front door. The best mountain architecture and interiors successfully respond to the outside world, embracing nature while protecting their inhabitants from the elements.