An alpine farm, located in Saint-Gervais-Les-Bains, in Haute-Savoie, has been renovated by a couple of architects DPLG Christophe and Emmanuelle de Laage from the Deca-Laage architectural firm, based in Chamonix. The latter has managed to preserve the charm of the 18th-century building while giving it a contemporary spirit.
When the owner of the place, a mountain lover recovers this old family farm, lost in the Mont-Blanc massif, an exceptional site at an altitude of 1500 meters, he dreams of only one thing, to transform this construction into a comfortable and warm chalet to accommodate a dozen people. He wants to go there with his family and friends, in summer and winter during the ski season but also to rent it by the week or for short stays to share his vision of the art of living in the mountain. He entrusts the rehabilitation project to local architects who, despite the tight budget, will not run out of ideas.
Its demands? Retain the rustic spirit of the construction and achieve a contemporary interior design. The ground floor mostly needed refreshing, few alterations were necessary while the upper floor, still used to store hay, needed complete rehabilitation.
How was the building organized before your intervention?
Déca-Laage: It was a construction characteristic of mountain farms with a basement in stone that accommodated the inhabitants and their animals, on which rested a wooden structure sheltering the straw and the grain reserves.
What was your bias for this rehabilitation?
Déca-Laage: We followed the choice of the owner who wanted a modern intervention while keeping the charm of the building. We have created two different spaces. Under the framework, the living rooms: living room, dining room, kitchen and master bedroom take on a contemporary look while the bedrooms, located on the ground floor, in the masonry part, keep the rustic side of the place.
Could you tell us more about your intervention upstairs?
Déca-Laage: To preserve the authenticity of the existing volume and always for the sake of economy, we have decided to keep the posts of the structure, the roof frame, and the wooden facades. In this structure, we created an isolated and largely glazed “box”, set back from the original facades of uncertain linearity. On the south side, we have cleared a passageway that we have dressed with shutters and a pleasant loggia to the west. It was obvious for us not to partition the space to obtain a beautiful living room, warm and friendly, with a central fireplace.
To the east, the gable is glazed up to the roof to bring maximum light to the room and offer a splendid view of the Bionnassay glacier. To the west, the windows are horizontal and offer a panorama of the bottom of the Sait Gervais valley and the setting sun. ”
We have also installed the master bedroom upstairs. Its floor and walls are treated in the same way as those in the living room (waxed concrete on the floor and paneling on the walls). It has a bathroom with floor and walls covered with porcelain stoneware.
Could you tell us more about the materials?
Déca-Laage: We followed the owner’s wish to have a contemporary and bright interior. We, therefore, opted for white waxed concrete for the floor and whitewashed spruce boards for the walls. The original frame, in wood, is left natural. We like to favor local materials and have chosen granite for the kitchen worktop and the base of the fireplace.
And the decoration side?
The architect Emmanuelle de Laage: As in most of our projects, I also take care of the interior design and decoration. Here, I completely designed all the wooden furniture: the larch kitchen furniture which camouflages all the appliances, its central island, the cupboards, the bookcases, the bench located around the table, which reinforces the friendly side of the place and the sofa placed around the fireplace. I chose the lighting: a Northernlighting pendant light above the kitchen island, light balls with polyethylene diffusers by Foscarini “Gregg” placed on the shelf, a “Hopper” pendant by Metalarte at the top of the stairs. The lounge chairs were purchased from AMPM. The Artek stools designed by Alvar Alto are chosen in light wood for their
And this fireplace?
Déca-Laage: We were happy to find this old “Bourne” on site. It is a typical Savoyard fireplace that was used at the time to dry ham. It has the shape of a truncated pyramid and is entirely made of wood. We moved and positioned it in the center of the room. On one side of it is organized the cocooning space. The floor level was higher. We covered it with parquet and designed a long bench with cushions.
And on the ground floor, what was your intervention?
Déca-Laage: The rooms are located on the ground floor, in the old house where the layout has remained almost unchanged. The kitchen has become a cloakroom, the living and storage spaces are transformed into bedrooms. All the old wood (paneling and floors) has been washed and preserved. The bathrooms have been simply redone. The rustic atmosphere with the old woodwork, the small openings, the low ceiling height (2m) gives a cozy side to these intimate rooms.