While it's 6,154 kilometers from Parliament Hill to the Matterhorn on the Swiss-Italian border, the Alpine design influence is much closer, given the highlands, mountains and winter climates shared between regions. Likewise, there's a shared rustic sensibility about architecture and design that suits the rugged surroundings found in abundance in these locales. It's no wonder the steep-roofed A-frame style pops up all over Canada, along with cozy interiors aimed at warming the soul as much as the body.
Alpine design style (known also as Swiss chalet style in places where the phrase doesn't conjure thoughts of rotisserie chicken) has much in common with Canadiana as well as the Canuck tendencies toward timber frame and log cabin construction.The steep slope of the roof helps shed heavy snow during the winter.
Those steep gables are, after all, a practical consideration that use gravity to help shed the weight of deep snow, as necessary in Smithers as in Zermatt. Exposed beams, highlighting the beauty of construction materials and large windows to expose majestic vistas, are also mutually appreciated.
German-Swiss originsImage via Wikipedia Commons
Architecturally, chalet-style finds its origins in the late 18th century, originating in rural Switzerland, nudging across lower Germany and the other Alpine countries, before spreading virally through the burgeoning tourism industry. Since this was primarily an indulgence of the well-to-do, they would often introduce chalet design elements closer to their own, non-mountainous homes. By the turn of the 20th century, the growing popularity of chalet-style spread to Scandinavia, the Netherlands and even Cincinnati.
Alpine interior textures
Few would equate the terrain of southwest Ohio as even remotely Alpine, which demonstrates the appeal and adaptability of chalet design. Fitting in with a Canadian audience is even less of a stretch. The rock, pine and water trilogy that defines the country is a natural fit for the chalet influence even without considering the ski lodge culture that crosses the nation.The use of stone and wood beams help give this contemporary home a chalet feel.
Wood is perhaps the fundamental buzzword of the chalet interior. The honey hues of logs and timber, along with rough-hewn flooring, provide a warm and golden backdrop that delivers long wear with low maintenance, perfect for Canadian cottage living.
Raw wood immediately suggests other elemental decorative touches. Wrought iron, stone and textured fabrics are natural accompaniments that reinforce the alpine feel. Faux replicas of animal hides and furs, a nod toward contemporary sensibilities, serve to soften the harsh edges of lumber, metal and stone, as do soft, warm throws. The Hudson's Bay point blanket is right at home with Canadian versions of chalet style.
And what is a chalet without a magnificent stone or masonry fireplace, with perhaps a hearth using another thick slab of wood? In lieu of that, an iron wood stove is apropos in a more modest chalet. The fire itself is an essential part of the décor for many.
Chalet style blends well with plenty of other design styles and trends. Virtually anything rustic works and the alpine mystique is a perfect backdrop for inspired upcycling. For instance, DIY hanging mason jar lights provide a crafty opportunity to paint your chalet with complementary glows.
The alpine interior favours natural light by day and warm firelight at night, so point lighting for diffuse accents avoids competition with these desired elements.
There's a versatility to chalet-inspired design that suits the Canadian personality every bit as well as it does the European Alps. Intensely personal, often casual, occasionally formal, chalet style is always comfortable.