When Chevallier Architectes, a firm based in Chamonix, France, was hired to renovate a mountain guide’s home, it began with little more than a self-built timber cabin nestled into the steep hillsides of Les Houches – a popular ski destination on the French border of Italy and Switzerland.
The location offered impressive views of rugged, snow-sprinkled Mont Blanc and Chamonix valley, and because the owners intended to use the cabin as a second home, they tasked the firm with creating a sustainable new space with more light and more views. Equipped with the knowledge of the area, Chevallier Architectes sought to maintain the charm and traditional feel of the original build through renovation, while further complementing it with a contemporary addition that introduced modern materials and innovation.
While bedrooms and bathrooms are located in the renovated original shell, the firm installed a cantilevered volume of glass and lacquered black aluminum. This sleek addition houses the shared spaces: the living room, dining area, and the kitchen. A deck with sweeping views of the mountains wraps around the addition and features glass barriers, ensuring views are not disrupted. Underneath, the architects incorporated a recreational area and a sauna.
What’s more, the home’s owners were incredibly conscious of the ecological impact. The firm responded by opening the south-facing facades towards the sun (there are no north-facing windows). Additionally, the home is the first in the area with an insulating green roof. Called Chalet Soleya, the second home demonstrates how the integrity of the vernacular can be maintained and enhanced with thoughtful and smart use of new materials.
Nina Boccia is the Director of Programs at Design Exchange, Canada’s Design Museum.