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.
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...