written by:
photos by:
April 13, 2016
Originally published in Smaller Is Smarter
as
No Half Measures
This bisected 17th-century house in the Swiss Alps transforms into a 970-square-foot home for a British designer and his family.
Swiss family getaway small space renovation with facade

Sliced in half long ago, the 17th-century Halbhaus (or “Half House”) in Switzerland was recently reworked by designer Jonathan Tuckey as a family getaway

Photo by 
1 / 12
Swiss family getaway small space renovation with Ize pendant in dining kitchen area

Among the furnishings that came with the house are the table and chairs in the kitchen–dining area. The pendant is by 6a for Izé. 

Photo by 
2 / 12
Swiss family getaway small space renovation with exterior wood panelling

The exterior retains its centuries-old shingles.

Photo by 
3 / 12
Swiss family getaway small space renovation with stubli and ikea beanbags and heirloom rug

Original wood paneling envelops the stübli, a small, cozy room Tuckey decorated with a vintage cocktail chair from Poland, IKEA beanbags, architectural monographs, and a family heirloom rug

Photo by 
4 / 12
Swiss family getaway small space renovation with bedroom with rosewood bed and side tables and double windows

One of the daughters’ rooms has a Danish rosewood bed and side table from Modernistiks. Tuckey found the 1970s red enamel-and-chrome lamp at Golborne Road market in London. Double windows help keep the Alpine winter chill at bay.

Photo by 
5 / 12
Swiss family getaway small space renovation with living attic pine

Tuckey borrowed space from the former attic to create one open living space with a ceiling that complements the pine. “I think it’s important to have a small space, a medium space, and a big space in every project,” he says. 

Photo by 
6 / 12
Swiss family getaway small space renovation with stove in main room

wood-burning stove in the main room heats much of the house, including the mezzanine and the dining area.

Photo by 
7 / 12
Swiss family getaway small space renovation with dining area

The space “is a contrast in scale with the rest of the house,” notes Tuckey, who added a super-insulated roof he says works “like a woolly hat.” 

Photo by 
8 / 12
Swiss family getaway small space renovation with pink bathroom and enamelware tub

For the pink bathroom, the couple chose enamelware and a claw-foot tub

Photo by 
9 / 12
Swiss family getaway small space renovation with stubli and wood stairs

Wood stairs lead from the ground floor to the stübli; another set leads up to the mezzanine bedroom. The children gathered and dried the flowers hanging on the wall. 

Photo by 
10 / 12
Bedroom of Swiss renovation by Jonathan Tuckney.

Like the stübli, the top-floor bedroom is meant to be moody. Tuckey designed the bed, the brass wall light is by John Glew Architects, and the chair is another piece inherited from the previous owners, a couple who lived there for decades.

Photo by 
11 / 12
Swiss family getaway small space renovation floor plans

“We made something the size of a doll’s house feel like a cathedral.” —Jonathan Tuckey 

Photo by 
12 / 12
Swiss family getaway small space renovation with facade

Sliced in half long ago, the 17th-century Halbhaus (or “Half House”) in Switzerland was recently reworked by designer Jonathan Tuckey as a family getaway

Project 
Halbhaus
Architect 

When British architectural designer Jonathan Tuckey was hired for a project in Andermatt, Switzerland, he didn’t expect he’d end up moving his family from the hurly-burly of London to a serene Alpine village surrounded by nature’s marvels. Such a bold change of pace—he commuted four days a week from Andermatt to London to run his design studio—reflects the joy in contrasts that informs and energizes his award-winning designs.

Applying the term “fixer” to Tuckey is an understatement, given his reputation for poetic approaches to structures. In cases of derelict buildings, whose most recent inhabitants may have been pigeons, he says, “I see our job as being mediator between the client’s aspirations and the building’s aspirations.” 

Swiss family getaway small space renovation with Ize pendant in dining kitchen area

Among the furnishings that came with the house are the table and chairs in the kitchen–dining area. The pendant is by 6a for Izé. 

So when he and his wife, Annabel, found an appealing stone-and-timber house dating back more than three centuries in the historic center of the village, they were prepared to honor its simple architectural style. Nicknamed Halbhaus, or “Half House” (the other half was demolished to create a parking lot decades earlier), the three-story structure was 969 square feet. Like other houses of the era, its ceilings were low, its rooms were dark, and corridors were nonexistent. The challenge was to give it generosity of height and light while preserving its 17th-century character.

Among Tuckey’s credos is that every project must include rooms of contrasting proportions. “Curling up on a winter’s night, or a night when you’re feeling gloomy or don’t want to see the outside world, that happens in a small space. A party, a wedding feast, or an optimistic day happens in a big space. Houses need those scale shifts to accommodate our moods and our day-to-day rhythms.”

Swiss family getaway small space renovation with stove in main room

wood-burning stove in the main room heats much of the house, including the mezzanine and the dining area.

A snug space already existed in the form of a stübli, a dark, traditional Alpine room, warmed by a fireplace. “They tend to be rooms that drop off the radar in modern houses because everybody likes everything to be light, bright, and airy,” Tuckey notes. In his own home, which he and Annabel share with their two daughters, he preserved the larch shingle paneling, along with numerous artifacts that belonged to the previous owners. An artfully placed mirror on the ceiling gives one corner a sense of infinite height, an homage to the legendary British architect Sir John Soane. 

While playing with proportion is a timeless architectural strategy, Tuckey acknowledges the difficulty of making room for a big space in a small project. Here, raising the roof wasn’t an option—due to Halbhouse’s location in the old village—but the sloped attic offered a solution. Tuckey swapped floors, relocating the bedrooms to the first floor and moving the living, dining, and kitchen areas up to the second. Knocking out part of the attic allowed for a bright, lofty dayroom with a ceiling that reaches 14 feet. “In some houses in London, 14 feet is very ordinary,” he says, but once you come in through the six-and-a-half-foot bathroom and the two small bedrooms on the first floor, then up through the stübli on the second, “your expectations are that everything will be that size, and you’re quite surprised it opens up.” 

Swiss family getaway small space renovation with pink bathroom and enamelware tub

For the pink bathroom, the couple chose enamelware and a claw-foot tub

The house was conceived as a series of communal spaces, like neighboring properties, rather than a set of well-defined rooms. Adding hallways would have squandered a precious commodity. (“Modern plans can use 15 to 20 percent of the space on corridors,” Tuckey notes.) Plus, the couple liked the charm and ambiguity of the rooms—part sleeping space, part passageway. Tuckey, who has thought deeply about “how privacy is potentially an overrated condition of the modern world,” decided to commit to a public feel throughout. “Other houses are flat-bang against this house,” he says. “You can open windows and almost reach into another house. We didn’t want to lose that quality. In fact, we almost wanted to play it up.” Beds or daybeds furnish nearly every room, and the house can sleep 12 people nearly as comfortably as it can this family of four. Ladderlike staircases reinforce the open feel, while thick curtains inside offer the option of privacy and warmth. “This approach is very much in keeping with the informal way in which such a house would have been occupied 300 years ago.” 

Throughout the project, the designer looked for ways to express the layers of change that have taken place at Halbhaus. The old proportions of the rooms are legible within the retained wall linings. Anything new and pared down, he and his wife brought to the house; anything old, they bought from the family of the previous owners, a couple who died in their 90s. “Clocks are still chiming in the places they were,” Tuckey says. Textiles include Swiss felts, Alpine ginghams, and blankets from Wales. Treasures from the family’s daily walks—dried flowers, sketches, crystals, and heart-shaped rocks—abound on the mantelpiece. 

“My favorite spot is the living room when I get up early and it’s dark,” Tuckey says. “When the sun hits, the snow gets an extraordinary blue light.” Although the family has since moved back to London, they still spend months at their Alpine escape. Taking stock of the design, Tuckey notes, “It’s the contrasts of scale and light that make the house.” Considering the two cities he calls home, such contrasts also seem to make the life.  

Swiss family getaway small space renovation with stubli and ikea beanbags and heirloom rug

Original wood paneling envelops the stübli, a small, cozy room Tuckey decorated with a vintage cocktail chair from Poland, IKEA beanbags, architectural monographs, and a family heirloom rug

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016