State of play

By de­sign­ing a home mod­elled on the vil­lage hay barns of Italy’s South Ty­rol, where he grew up, ar­chi­tect Ste­fan Rier has fi­nally re­alised a child­hood dream.

VOGUE Living Australia - - LIVING - By Martina Hunglinger Pho­tographed by Mads Mo­gensen VOGUE­LIV­ING.COM. AU

EENGLISHWRITER, POET AND PHILOSO­PHER GK Ch­ester­ton once said, “The true ob­ject of all hu­man life is play... heaven is a play­ground.” Ar­chi­tect Ste­fan Rier seems to have taken this no­tion to heart with the de­sign of his own home, once the site of the his­toric Mess­ner Haus (the house of the sac­ristan, or keeper of the sa­cred ves­sels and vest­ments of a re­li­gious house) in the Ital­ian vil­lage cen­tre of Alpe di Siusi. Co­founder of stu­dio NOA ar­chi­tects, based in Bolzano, South Ty­rol, Rier has re­alised his child­hood dream of liv­ing in a hay barn, cre­at­ing a home softly im­ple­mented in keep­ing with the tra­di­tional ap­pear­ance of the lo­cal vil­lage. Hav­ing grown up in Alpe di Siusi, in the UNESCO World Her­itage-listed area of the Dolomites, Rier spent many win­ters as a child play­ing with his friends in the vil­lage’s hay barns. “It was the best play­ground; we had so much fun jump­ing from the open up­per floors into the soft, fresh hay,” Rier re­calls. Th­ese ‘ play­grounds’, with their sweep­ing spa­ces and ex­posed wooden beams, be­came the main source of in­spi­ra­tion for his home. A cir­cus-like ex­u­ber­ance res­onates through­out Rier’s home, which he shares with his wife, Ste­fanie; in fact, he ad­mits he drew in­spi­ra­tion from Alice in Won­der­land and the sur­re­al­ist 1958 Jacque Tati film Mon On­cle. Two black plas­tic mon­keys swing through the large liv­ing space on pen­dant lamps; a huge cop­per tur­tle pokes un­hastily through the guest bath­room; and a colony of white mice dances on the ex­posed beams and sills of the top-floor sauna. “At some point, I was asked by St­effi, who has a more grounded ap­proach to in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tion, to limit my­self in or­der not to go too wild,” Rier says with a laugh. He was given free rein with his ma­te­rial choices, how­ever. For ex­am­ple, Rier de­signed the bed­rooms as three in­di­vid­ual cubes that tie in to the home’s wooden frame­work. Th­ese cu­bic rooms, though sup­ported by wooden beams, give the im­pres­sion of be­ing sus­pended — as though they float on air. Wash­able Trace ge­o­met­ri­cal wall­cov­er­ings from the Arte col­lec­tion for Ef­feitalia adorn the cubes, pro­vid­ing a nat­u­ral linen look. Laser-cut metal forms the stair­case, and colour­ful glazed ter­ra­cotta re­lief tiles from Mi­lan’s Domenico Mori cover most of the kitchen and bath­room el­e­ments. The house’s outer shell re­mains faith­ful to the aes­thetic of the area’s other build­ings — that is, homes with both a stone base, which of­ten houses the garage, laun­dry, cel­lar and gue­strooms, and a wooden struc­ture above it, which serves as the pri­vate res­i­dence. (The re­gion’s sta­bles and haylofts are also made this way.) Rier like­wise de­signed the home with a stone plinth for the lower lev­els, which house the garage and a guest apart­ment. On top of this, too, a wooden tim­ber frame forms the hay sta­ble for the pri­vate home. But in the in­te­rior, apart from the three se­cluded and ‘sus­pended’ bed­room cubes, there’s no such sep­a­ra­tion: the main floor’s liv­ing area and kitchen are open, in­ter­com­mu­ni­cat­ing spa­ces.

The higher you as­cend on the dec­o­ra­tive stair­case, which winds across the space like a rib­bon, the more in­ti­mate the rooms be­come. The bed­rooms — and open­plan bath­rooms — are on first floor. But the most per­sonal space sits on the top floor, which is de­voted to the sauna area and an out­door ter­race fea­tur­ing a spa. “It is the space ded­i­cated to in­ner and outer cleans­ing — the ideal sanc­tu­ary to with­draw into af­ter a busy day at work… and so close to heaven,” he says with ob­vi­ous de­light. From here, Rier and fam­ily can ob­serve na­ture, mon­i­tor the weather and en­joy breath­tak­ing views of the Dolomites and the sur­round­ing val­ley.

Though Rier opted for clas­sic ma­te­ri­als — wood, stone and felt — his colour choices are quite the op­po­site. Rather than lim­it­ing him­self to con­ven­tional com­bi­na­tions, he chose un­ex­pected shades, in­clud­ing blue, turquoise and ‘petrol’. “I com­bined the two worlds in which I grew up,” he says, re­fer­ring to both his child­hood in South Ty­rol and his ed­u­ca­tional years near the Mediter­ranean, where the re­gion’s use of pat­terns and colours in­flu­enced him.

The ar­chi­tec­tural sup­port­ing struc­ture has shaped the in­te­rior de­sign and al­lows light from the large roof sky­lights and tall glass front to cir­cu­late through­out the open space. “The main sen­sa­tions of liv­ing in the house come from its open­ing, its views and its light games on the walls,” says Rier. “But what makes me hap­pi­est is when I ob­serve an amused smile on the face of our guests. It’s a fun, play­ful space that evokes pos­i­tive sen­sa­tions, which we are so lucky to ex­pe­ri­ence daily.”

“It is the ideal sanc­tu­ary to with­draw into af­ter a busy day at work... and so close to heaven”

this page: in the SAUNA, Ver­mis­sen vel­vet chair; Moess­mer felt cur­tains; Bianca floor lamp from Life­style Home Col­lec­tion. op­po­site page, from top: in the KITCHEN, Elec­trolux cook­top; Domenico Mori tiles; Kar­man Sa­hara glass pen­dant lights. In the main...

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