With a population sitting just under 750,000, the administrative district of Limousin is the least populated region of Metropolitan France. The largely rural area’s architectural profile is, fittingly, sparse — made up of remnants of decades and centuries past, old farmhouses, and stone buildings. In the small village of St-Julien-Le-Petit, however, a simple, box-shaped house anchored on steel rods sets itself apart by re-thinking the bucolic country home.
Designed by Montreuil’s Ciguë studio, the project’s formal structure took references from Arts & Architecture’s infamous Case Study Homes in Los Angeles and Japanese Wayo architecture. Seeking to “reactivate archetypes to produce contemporary environments” in each of their projects, Ciguë looked to the site’s rural context for inspiration.
While the site was historically fertile agricultural land, forests have gradually encroached on the Haute-Vienne region of France, making it the perfect place to source local timber. The architects didn’t have to travel far to find lumber for their project — an incredible convenience, as the house is built almost entirely of wood. This construction method differentiates the house from the more traditional stone houses that are typical of St-Julien-Le-Petit.
The diminutive 88-square-metre box bears a timber-frame structure, painstakingly installed above a steel frame. Then, the exterior cladding, made of black-stained larch wood — one of the more durable types of timber, perfect for withstanding the elements. Inside, interior fittings made of more elastic spruce add to the overall effect — while a fire-resistant calcium-sulphate floor offsets the wood’s potential flammability.
A two-pitch roof — made of corrugated iron — separates the structure into two distinct volumes: the larger one contains the living room and kitchen, while the smaller one houses a bedroom with stunning picture windows. Outside, a modest wraparound deck surrounds the home, allowing its residents to admire the neighbouring valley.
Keeping in mind the principles of bioclimatic design, Ciguë designed the home to exist in harmony with nature. Installed on removable steel foundations, the structure is surprisingly light and can easily be moved to a different location if its owners are feeling nomadic. For the time being, the home floats lightly above a field, barely interacting with the land itself, leaving the flora and fauna below uninterrupted.
Inside, the furnishings are minimal and the focus is on the sweeping views of the landscape and the angular forms of the home. Despite the pared-back furniture and rudimentary design, sleek finishes — like a stainless steel countertop and integrated wall oven — give the interior a sophisticated look. And according to Ciguë, it’s a home that will allow its residents to feel “carefree and unconfined, in direct contact with the landscape and surrounded by bare necessities.”
For the designers of this house in central France, pastoral homes don’t have to be relics from the past.