Nicky Dobree

Saas Fee, Pearl of the Alps

Saas Fee otherwise known as the the Pearl of the Alps is a charming traditional village of narrow streets lined with old chalets, completely free of cars.

When I was asked to design a chalet for an English family and their four children I was utterly charmed by the village, set in the valley, surrounded by 13,400 metre peaks and its own glacier. This small village has a very special feeling and manages to combine high altitude skiing with the rustic charm of a pedestrian village.

Of course what I hadn’t appreciated was that narrow streets and no cars, was going to add an additional challenge to the build.  On top of which the window for the build was tight and restricted to the inter-season.  Thanks mainly though to Swiss efficiency, we were able to deliver a perfect winter getaway.  Built out of old timbers, the chalet sits alongside the old chalets and storehouses down one of the narrow streets.

The client brief was to create a warm and cosy environment where old meets new, with a touch of indulgence.  As with any project it was important that the building be grounded by its locations and inspired by its landscape.  I therefore used local materials both inside and out combining the old timber with the stone to create the timeless feel that my client wanted.

Inside the chalet, the stone staircase which feature under-step led lighting, acts as the central spine and the glass balustrade, topped with a hand stitched leather hand rail, keeps it light.  Contrasting the sleek elements of the staircase is a rough stone wall which runs the full height of the chalet and leads you up to the sitting room on the top floor where large glass windows we installed to stop the chalet feeling dark and dingy by opening up the spaces to let the light flood in.

The sitting room is a soft palette of wool and velvet and the perfect place to relax in front of the fire at the end of a day’s skiing.  Beyond the sitting room in the large semi open plan floor is a large oak dining table with colourful plaid upholstery on the chairs.  The antler chandelier with its pheasant feather shades hangs above and together with the Ibex mounted on the stone wall are a reminder of the hunting heritage of the valley. The white high gloss kitchen units sit neatly tucked away in the corner.

All five bedrooms below the living space are all very cosy with carpet underfoot, each richly layered with upholstered woollen headboards and fur throws all from the ND collection. The master bedroom features new floor to ceiling windows to take full advantage of the light and view at any time.

The bathrooms, as with many alpine bathrooms, is where space is at a premium.  Here, the vanity unit floats to enhance the feeling of space and the full height mirror reflects the space back into the room.  Having the ability to soak your limbs at the end of a day on the slopes is just as important as being able to have a quick shower in the morning so here, with space being tight, we have combined the two by placing the shower above the bath.  Dornbracht taps and crystal cubed wall lights bring elegance and softness into the room.  The walls and floors are tiled in stone and behind the bath there is a feature mosaic wall too.

My personal favourite spot of all though is the exterior terrace where I could sit for hours in front of the outdoor fire enjoying the stillness and beauty of the mountains.  There something utterly magical and humbling about the mountains that never ceases to amaze.

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