As seen from the adjacent reservoir, the cottage appears as a ship cabin peeking out from between the trees. Its unique profile, formed by a jagged roofline and softened with grey-larch cladding, sits comfortably atop a rustic stone foundation that steps down in terraces and staircases to the water’s edge. But it is inside the cottage where Prodesi/Domesi, the Czech architects responsible for the project, make their most evocative design gestures.
Prodesi/Domesi was approached with a straightforward but challenging brief: to rebuild the inherited cottage, which is sited along the reservoir of the Vranov Dam in Vranov nad Dyjí, with modern amenities. “Our goal was to design a building that humbly integrates into the green slope above the water and fits with the existing modest cottages in the surrounding area,” explains project architect Klára Vratislavová. Adding a degree of complexity to the rebuild, expanding the building’s footprint was prohibited, limiting the project to the cottage’s pre-existing foundation.
With the original foundation providing only a forty-three-square-metre footprint, the architects drew inspiration from the interiors of ships, where space is similarly at a premium. “The construction of the house went hand in hand with its interior design so that we could make good use of every inch of space that the original cottage had set for us,” says Vratislavová.
The interiors are fittingly compact, without being too small. The ground level orbits around a central block of wet and storage spaces, leaving the rest of the footprint open for living spaces. A comfortable entry space and hallway lead into the open kitchen and dining area with panoramic windows looking out onto the water and adjacent forest.
The exposed cross-laminated timber interior makes the space feel remarkably cozy — an effect bolstered by careful detailing. With the desire to provide “a place for everything,” storage and cabinetry are found throughout the interior, with drawers stashed under built-in seating in the kitchen and closets concealed behind flush panels and minimalist handles. Midway up the dining room’s back wall, a series of vertical cuts in the wall bring shafts of light into the darker stairwell and create a connection to the upper floor.
The second level was designed to be more sculptural, while still maximizing the available square-footage. Vratislavová describes the design strategy for the upstairs as a process of first organizing all the required bedrooms and then carving the roofline around them, to minimize the cottage’s profile such that it would fit in with the surrounding vacation homes. Inside, the bedrooms take on the quality of an attic space, as the timber-faced ceilings dip downwards around windows and into corners, creating nooks that are just asking for someone to curl up inside them and take in the picturesque view.
Outdoor terraces provide additional living and entertaining spaces — easing the pressure on the house proper. The first, a stone platform, extends out from the cottage, overlooked by the kitchen window. The second, which is stepped down and away from the house, serves as an outdoor living room, bounded by trees and cantilevering over the water’s edge.
The mass-timber building fits a whole lot into very little space, creating an impressive cottage from a limited footprint and small material palette. One design detail, in particular, caps the entire project: on the ground floor, an upholstered bench is integrated into the staircase. It’s not particularly long — half a metre, at most — but it’s just enough to form a tiny timber reading nook. Lit from above and looking out onto the reservoir, it’s hard to think of another space this small that is able to delight in such big ways.
Prodesi/Domesi maximizes space with ship-like detailing in this waterfront cabin.