While today’s cabin culture has produced an endless supply of inspirational projects, history has too, especially it seems, the 60’s - a decade similar to ours in a desire to reconnect with nature. Older projects are nothing to sniff at, and if anything, sometimes more impressive than those of today. Besides, you can’t talk about architecture without some precedent studies, am I right.
So that brings us to Casa Garelli, a storage barn turned country refuge in the Val d’Aosta region of Italy, renovated in 1962 by architect Carlo Mollino. Surrounded by borders with Switzerland and France, with local landmarks including the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, a more picturesque location for such a unique project would be tough to find.
An experienced mountaineer and skier, Mollino found his design niche in creating futuristic hotels, lodges, and residences in the mountains of Northern Italy. Casa Garelli was one of many, although not like the others.
Mollino had the original structure, built in 1664, completely dismantled and reconstructed miles from its original site, masterfully adding modern touches along the way.
Suspending the entirety of the structure atop a newly constructed stone foundation, Mollino poised the old grey granite boléri-pillars used to protect surrounding vernacular architecture from rot and rodents- in the interstitial space between the cabin and its platform, a subtle nod to their old function.
A concrete staircase, complete with a steel handrail and wooden steps, leads up to the house’s front door. Inside, refined country simplicity meets surprising elements, like the green-tile clad furnace traveling throughout all three floors, picturing an assortment of musicians and dancers. The furnishings feature biomorphic elements, like chair-legs inspired by the shape of deer-antlers and a little creepily, a lamp shade made of butterfly wings.
Casa Garelli follows a familiar formula as many popular cabins today- combining unique, contemporary details and furnishings with the rustic structure of a classic vernacular cabin-but its time and place make it all the more impressive. Cozy factor still intact, the granary-turned-chalet is a testament to good design in the great outdoors.