Peaceful Bungalow Makes for a Dream Retirement Home

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By Laura C. Mallonee / Published by Dwell
Architect Michael Klauser created an ideal setting for one Austrian couple to quietly live out their days.

A couple years ago, two elderly doctors approached Abendroth Architects to design a country bungalow, just outside Althöflein in Austria’s wine country, in which they could enjoy their old age. Their south-facing plot sat next to a small stream with bucolic views of rolling hills. Herbert and Monika’s wishes for it were simple: they wanted the house to be single-level and handicap accessible, with a private, outdoor garden that didn’t require too much work.  

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The whimsical façade is clad with irregular, unplaned white fir slats that thoroughly insulate the structure. These echo its energy-efficient timber construction, which includes triple-glazed super-windows and a comfort ventilation system. The poppy-red front door introduces a burst of color.

"They showed me examples of realized homes they liked, and together we developed the layout of their new residence," architect Michael Klauser explains. He brought their dream to life with a rustic 3,283-square-foot wooden ranch house with an expansive patio and inner courtyard built for ultimate comfort. The thoughtful dwelling is filled with simple luxuries, from the nostalgic wood-burning stove that warms the home’s occupant’s in winter to the extra mudroom with shower they use when coming in from a summertime hike with the dog. All in all, not a bad place in which to live out their retirement. 

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Seamless silver fir panels known as “Täfer” cover the interior walls and ceiling. “In old farmhouses in lower Austria, it’s traditional to cover interior surfaces with wood, and we wanted to continue this tradition in our new building to give the clients a cozy atmosphere,” Klauser says. The architect selected rustic parquet and slate stone flooring for the combination living-cooking area that continues the idea of connecting old and new.

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A wood-burning stove that had occupied the clients’ previous home now dominates the bungalow’s main room. “It’s the heart of the house and serves for cooking as well as for heating,” Klauser says. The space is filled with furniture purchased in antique stores or crafted by the residents themselves, though the cooking table was made by a local metalworker.

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A wide roof overhang on the south side terrace provides plenty of protection from the sun. At its eastern end, a standalone bedroom offers guests extra privacy.

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To the west, a fitness room in an external building lets the home’s owners work up a sweat while taking in expansive views. Closer to the main bungalow, a small kitchen garden (known as a “garteln” in the local dialect) soaks up morning sun.

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The home’s current site was formerly occupied by a pond teeming with fish, which posed challenges to laying the new foundation. The architect solved the problem by exchanging several feet of marshy soil with crushed stone that could bear the building weight and evenly distribute the load.

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The two buildings on either end of the house form an intimate, private courtyard between them — a common feature of farmhouses in the region. Within, a Mediterranean-style gravel garden designed by architect Joachim Kräftner offers an ideal spot for play and relaxation. Klauser calls it “a walk-in sculpture.”