The house is in Rüti, a 25 minute train ride from Zurich, small town well-known for its textile factories. Built on a steep hillside, in the past a region of vineyards, the contemporary construction looks as if it’s clinging to the slope. No less than 64 steps lead to the front door, this fact has forced Cécile and her family to become quite clever with the way they manage trips up and down the stairs, « I keep heavy items in the garage, it serves as storage room as well as parking, but our Labrador Aila doesn’t care about stairs and keeps everyone in shape by demanding frequent walks around the neighborhood ! » The construction began five years ago and lasted close to two years. Cécile and her husband Walty did not want a large home, « we had lived in a nice, old loft, we loved it but it was too dark, we were more interested in having something very special and light, built for us ». They settled on a collaboration with the architecture bureau « Fuhrimann Hächler » based in Zurich. The concrete foundation is anchored to the slope, it has a ventilated Eternit Façade, the particularity lays in the fact that the Eternit material is used upside down and the corrugated side, usually invisible, is the « right » side, showing off nicely all its structures and veins. « we quickly realized that in order to be able to use the site it was necessary to terrace the immediate surroundings » the house was elaborated using the lines of the actual topography.
Four terraces were consequently created, they function as exterior spaces, each linked to a specific interior space. On the northern slope of the hill the house is surrounded by large old trees and a charming, natural garden. Inside, a stairway core constitutes the centre of the house, which is spread over three levels. At the entrance level are the childrenʼs rooms and bath. Mia Aimée their 10 year old daughter and Ian Loïc, their son of 15, happily share the privacy of their own floor. Down the hall are the basement and more storage space. Above, at the top of the stairs, set on different heights cleverly differentiating the spaces, are the kitchen and dining room. The kitchen is set in grey-green tones very subtle and natural they melt with the view out of the huge striking picture window on the wall right above it. Adjacent is the living room from which one reaches the master bedroom or goes up one more flight of stairs. « we really like how the doorways on the intermediate level with the living room and our bedroom allow a free circular movement ». The walls are made of birch plywood, the floors are polished concrete, the walls are raw concrete. On the floor above, is Cécile’s atelier ; she is a graphic designer, specializing in books but she is also quite a painter, all the art pieces on the walls are her own work. She likes « un-colours » as she calls them and tends to decorate her interior in natural, monochromatic tones with an occasional, discreet splash of colour. The overall feeling is zen, calm, the neutral tones and sparse decor bring out a sense of serenity.
Tell us about the challenging choice of building on such a steep slope ?
The house is situated on a former hillside vineyard that had remained undeveloped. The steep slope and the opening were a very challenging task indeed.
But when we visited the terrain the first time, we already fell in love with it.
It was the final result, the view and the silence right in the middle of large old trees, which we always kept in mind. It was necessary to terrace the immediate surroundings, and the house was developed along the lines of the naturally existing topography. The four terraces came to function as exterior spaces, each corresponding to a specific interior space.
Could you explain a bit the choice of « cheap » materials used to build the house and the philosophy behind that choice ?
Most oft the walls and ceilings are lined in unostentatious plywood panels to render the rooms warm and cosy. The use of concrete for the construction further reflects this simplicity. The interplay between purity, modesty, contemporary comfort and architectural sophistication lend the house a very specific character.
Do you apply the same general philosophy to your work ?
Yes, for the most part. As a matter of fact, I like projects that in their formal and material minimalism represent a challenge for me as a designer. And I aim for a project-specific approach, thus allowing content to be communicated in the best possible way.
4 words to describe your work methods ?
Conceptual, inventive, playful and surprising.
A designer who inspires you ?
It is probably no surprise that . I admire iconic graphic designers from Switzerland: Max Bill, Josef Müller Brockmann, Wolfgang Weingart. A certain common approach in their work is evident. This is revealed in the excellent awareness of quality, in the strikingly skilled handcraft as well as in the reduction to essentials.
How do you go about decorating your place ?
I don’t like the word decoration, since it somewhat suggests superficiality to me.
Most items in our home have a story.. I don’t decorate my rooms, but I capture experiences, memories and visited places…
What countries and cultures inspire you most ?
All of them. But if I had to limit myself: the rough beauty of the Swiss mountains, the lavish landscape of the Piemont just as most large, vivacious cities of Europe.