Bright modern sideboards accentuate this exceptional Engadin House in Switzerland
Steivan Liun Könz, son of the author of A Bell for Ursli and a talented restorer, has devoted himself to preserving the characteristic decor found in Ardez, Switzerland while working on this spectacular house. Along with fellow artist Not Vital, their home – the “von Planta” estate, built in 1642 with a floor added in 1757 – underwent renovation by Not’s brother, Duri Vital, in 2005. Architects and designers selected bright USM Haller sideboards in orange to play against the traditional features of this inspiring home.
Engadin houses typically consist of massive stone walls from entrance gate to foyer, funnel-shaped windows, bay windows, and sgraffito-style decorations. These exemplary homes can be found across Ardez, a Swiss village selected as a pilot community for the European Monument Conservation for the exemplary restoration of Engadin houses.
These houses are fact a unique conglomerate of different building types: farms, houses, storehouses, stables, barns, which often also integrate gazebos and courtyards. Former outdoor areas that were likely originally used within the stone exterior can also function as internal streets of sorts, leading to the entrances of various buildings on the property.
Vital opened these internal streets, or bowers, back out along the exterior space, where he made use of the traditional separation between the living and working quarters in order to improve the supply of natural light. He also demolished the massive wall to the barn to create more space. Designed as a vault and equipped with electrically operated sliding glass doors, hallways now lead into the partially bridged airspace, which had originally been left out for a pulley, pictured here in the images below.
Then, Vital had sections cut out of the opposing wooden wall in the barn that would not only let light fall in, but would also frame panoramic views of the village. The white epoxy-coated hardwood on the floor also has an effect that improves lighting and focuses on the contrast of old and new. Vital left the original wooden planks in the foyer, the former passageway to the barn, where the warping of the wood can be seen, and bridged them only with a “catwalk” made of pine. He analogically came up with a geothermal heating unit and preserved it with blackened soot parts from the kitchen, which contrasts the stainless steel countertop and the white fronts of the built-in furniture.
In the same way Vital treated architecture, the owners Marcus Bühler and Regula Ernst treated the interior, namely with a combination of historic furniture and modern design classics by iconic furniture designers like USM. The buffet, which was sold to the Lower Engadin Museum in Scuol 70 years ago and which can now again be found in its original location in the living room, is one of the traditional highlights of the home. These are joined by Stabellen: chairs with cut-out carved backs, which replaced the stool as a seat in the 16th century. The modern design comes into play with Le Corbusier seating, lamps by Ingo Maurer (Table Light Birdie's Busch) and Poul Henningsen (ceiling lamp) – as well as modern sideboards from the USM Haller modular furniture collection.
Like the renovation, these modern furniture pieces contrast with the traditional interior wherever they are placed to create the “industrial appearance” of the steel sheets juxtaposed with the rustic ambiance from the stable and foyer. The light touch of orange from the USM sideboards provide a nice balance to the wood interior.
Like the stone cladding of the house, the steel USM furniture offers a variety of uses for this unique interior. For more inspiring designs by USM, visit our Home section or browse our Quick Ship Shop.
Text: Rahel Hartmann Schweizer, Photos: Bruno Augsberger, Architect: Duri Vital