After spending few weeks in the mountains, surrounded by nature, wood and stones, I felt inspired to write an article about alpine architecture and design. The style I will be referring to is specific to the Italian region of Val D’Aosta, a beautiful area in the north-west of Italy in the Alps.
The area is located around the Lys river, which was populated up until the Middle Ages by a population of Germanic origins called Walser, which architectural style has been named after.
The key elements of the Alpine Walser architecture are visible in most of the homes located in the Lys Valley: a squared block made of stones, with a wooden structure suspended on top of it thanks to the mushroom shaped columns, a wooden portico on the sunny side of the building façade and the sloped roofs made of big stones.
What I love the most about alpine interior design and architecture is the blends the rustic charm and elegance of mountain chalets with top-notch traditional craftsmanship and the highest quality fittings and finishes, that enable the spaces to acquire the perfect balance between comfort and luxury.
The use of local raw materials create a unique natural scent in these interiors, that accompany the visual experience.
The Walser buildings were very simple originally as they were used for animals and families to live together and find shelter from the very cold winters.
Today the interiors are characterized by natural materials such as wood and stone but with a fresh contemporary edge. Exposed wooden beams, roaring log fires, and plush, cozy textiles add a sense of warmth and wellbeing to this type of decor.
The main features of the walser alpine interior design and architecture are explained below in more detail.
It is fascinating to live in these old buildings and experience how the natural built up of these homes create comfortable interior spaces, fresh in the hot summers, with great indoor air quality, cross ventilation and local natural materials that make these buildings an extensions of the Earth.
THE USE OF WOOD
If we talk about wood in alpine home interior design, you cannot overdo it. It is like wine that just gets better with age and never seems to lose its beauty. Even with the increasing number of modern materials, wood is always the preferred choice. Wood has been used for centuries to create homes and all furniture inside them – from traditional wooden floors to building-quality furniture. It is solid and durable, making it a long-lasting choice.
Due to its low thermal conductivity, wood is a great insulator hence ideal for cold rigid winters of the mountains. The interior walls are generally covered with wood panels, especially the bedrooms that need to remain as warm as possible in winter.
Combined with the woods' delicate and warm appearance, these strengths make it the ideal interior design style and decor material, of course for areas in the world where wood is locally available and consciously sourced. We only use wood that is FSC certified, which means it is wood sourced from forests that are responsibly managed, socially beneficial, environmentally conscious, and economically viable.
In the photo below, a 350 years old Acer tree on top of the mountains around the Lys Valley.
THE USE OF STONE
Alpine interiors and architecture are built using the stone-construction techniques, where stones were used on top of each other to build thick walls, which are great to keep the homes warm in winter and cool in the summer.
Stones were used to build the areas of shelter for the animals, while the family would live on top in the wooden structure.
In the 1800 and before, the stones were laid dry on top of each other, while now these structures are renovated using mortar in between the stones, to close any gap and reinforce the structure.
The photos below show the stone base of a renovated building, and the natural stones available in the nearby mountains.
THE "MUSHROOM" ARCHITECTURAL DETAIL
The wooden structure for the family would be placed on top of the stones block, used by the animals, thanks to a very interesting architectural detail know as the "mushrooms" due to its shape.
Its shape and height was designed to isolate the family area from mice, which otherwise would enter the home from the floor below.
You can see in the below photo this beautiful architectural detail, rustic and very effective!
If you talk about the furniture to be positioned in an Alpine home, the furniture is mostly a mix of wood and warm fabrics. Rustic style of furniture is the essential characteristic of an Alpine home, however nowadays more minimal details are introduced as the style is developing.
There are some decorations that an Alpine interior design for a home must have. A fireplace is a must in those houses, and its location should be calculated through Feng Shui formulas, to ensure the Fire element is in the most suitable sector.