Built-ins abound in this renovation of a 1970s lodge perched high in the French Alps. H2O Architectes devised a plan to increase livable space while leaving the structure intact. What results is a contemporary ski chalet that makes the most of its small footprint thanks to bunk beds, hidden storage, and streamlined circulation.
Four brothers own this apartment located within a larger building and use it for family vacations as well as a rental. The clients were familiar with H2O's work (namely the Front and Back Apartment and Chatou) and enlisted the Paris-based firm to refurbish the space. The original apartment consisted of five cramped rooms squeezed into 592 square feet. The clients wanted to maximize the living space, add storage, make the most of views of the surrounding mountainous terrain, and fit in eight beds and two bathrooms.
While the architects had license to revive the interior, they couldn't touch any of the existing structure, walls, or services. Construction couldn't take place when anyone was occupying the building, which left them with a two-month window to renovate. To streamline building, many of the parts were prefabricated offsite.
Santiard says that there was a lot of investment in the French ski industry in the 1960s and 1970s and many of those buildings have deteriorated. The city of Les Menuires is in the middle of a five-year plan to modernize its resorts and offers some incentives to rehab older buildings if they meet certain requirements—having a lamp for each bed, a certain mattress quality, ample storage, and a well-equipped kitchen, among others. "The city really pushed us to make a little chalet inside this massive 70s building," says Santiard.