This Haystack-Inspired Home in Montenegro Is Sharp as a Tack
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This Haystack-Inspired Home in Montenegro Is Sharp as a Tack

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
And it’s one of the nation’s most energy-efficient buildings, to boot.

Located on the edge of a larch forest in Kolasin, Montenegro, Chalet Jelovac is a 3,229-square-foot home created by Sonja Radović Jelovac, the principal of Studio Synthesis Architecture & Design. The residence serves as both Sonja’s family retreat, and as a teaching tool for architecture students.

It’s also one of the most energy-efficient buildings in Montenegro—complete with smart heating and cooling systems, three-layer, low-emission glass windows, and a wood-fired central heating system that recirculates hot water through large-capacity heaters in the basement. "Even at extremely low temperatures, the house still maintains an optimal internal temperature without too much energy consumption," Sonja says.

The home’s wood-paneled exterior is outlined in black to make it stand out against the changing colors of the seasons. 

The facade was made by local craftsmen, and all of the shutters are custom made. 

The home’s exterior features a sharp mix of black galvanized sheet metal and timber, and it was designed with a strong sense of place and a sensitivity to the local landscape. "When the window shutters are completely closed, the home simply resembles a haystack," Sonja points out.

The architect worked with local craftspeople on the details of the home. "The facade was made by local craftsmen, and the shutters are all custom made for each individual window," she says. Sonja also planned the interior of the home—and she even designed some of the custom-made furniture pieces herself.

The black roof and siding is all galvanized sheet metal painted black.

The large front window serves to frame the landscape. It can be also completely closed with "mega wooden shutters."

Sonja wanted to use materials that "make you feel as if the home has always been there"—a notion she values because of her strong connection with the land. "I've spent a lot of time in this area since I was a child at my grandparents’ home, so for me, this represents an extended childhood—while for my children and extended family, it is a true family nest," she explains. 

The home’s materials were chosen to blend into the surroundings and to give the home a timeless feel.

The fence references the vernacular architecture of the region. 

Sonja loves sharing Chalet Jelovac with her family—but what brings her equal pleasure is using the home as a teaching tool for students of architecture. She organizes both formal and informal research events and architectural workshops, and she is proud to share that Chalet Jelovac was recently used for Montenegro’s 2019 Architectural Student’s Congress—an annual gathering of students and architecture professors.

Sonja also planned the interior of the home—and she even designed some of the custom-made furniture pieces herself.

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Sonja designed the dining room table using three solid fir beams that were treated by local craftsmen and set on top of a black steel base. The countertops are made of a composite laminate that has the texture and shade of weathered wood.

Studio Synthesis Architecture & Design recently received a 2019 Architecture Masterprize for architectural design and residential architecture.

The living room holds a Freemood sofa by Desiree Divani, a solid wood coffee table by Sonja, and a Fork floor lamp by Diesel Living with Foscarini.

The modular wood coffee table was designed by Sonja, and is one of her favorite pieces in the home. The four pieces can actually be separated and used as additional seating. (There are additional pieces under the low shelf on the left). The floor is made of solid fir with an abundance of knots, adding to the room’s character.

The stairs and guard rail are made of Ash. Vertical beams are connected to the white, steel substructure with hex-head screws that have been concealed with putty—a simple technique that makes a strong impact. "There are barely any other decorative elements in the interior space," explains Sonja. "It is all about the play of forms, plans, surfaces, and the patterns of the different wooden coatings under the light."

The tiles in the upstairs bathroom are Memory of Cerim from Florim.

Inspired by a haystack, Chalet Jelovac was designed to have a "good visual, spiritual, and physical connection" with its natural surroundings.

Related Reading:

9 Eco-Friendly Homes With Smart, Sustainable Features

9 Effective Ways to Bring Sustainable Design Into the Home

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: Studio Synthesis Architecture & Design

Lead Architect: Sonja Radović Jelovac, PhD 

Design Team: Radovan Radović

Civil Engineer , Milić Đerković, Architect

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