Design Fusion – Thredbo Chalet by Nicholas Gurney
Thredbo, NSW, Australia
Nestled within the arresting alpine topography of the Snowy Mountain region in southern New South Wales, Thredbo Chalet by Nicholas Gurney is an antipodean fusion of Japanese schematics, mid-century design integrity, Scandinavian simplicity, and native Australian sentiment. The intents imposed on what functions as a secondary home have informed an unfussy and enduring contemporary residence in a quiet accord with its breathtaking surroundings and grounded by beautiful usefulness and a study in the absence of white.
Thredbo winters usher in the spring with a subtle lightening of the dusk sky from inky black to the darkest of greys. In autumn, just as the season turns, silvery green foliage yields to rich, golden hues which imbue the landscape with cosy sonority and the awesome majesty of nature. Sitting at the base of the ski fields in Friday Flat, Thredbo Chalet seamlessly reflects these nuances of its surrounding landscape, amplifying and homaging them through considered design resolutions unaffected by a singular era or style.
Thredbo winters usher in the spring with a subtle lightening of the dusk sky from inky black to the darkest of greys.
Originally built in the mid-1990s, Thredbo Chalet sits in what is essentially a large subdivision dominated by multi-residential developments. Its wooden construction bears similarities to contemporary Japanese architecture, which is complemented by a functional spatial economy and the clean lines prevalent in the mid-century design movement. Thredbo’s built environment is today subject to a ‘style guide’ which mediates between design cohesion and environmental integration. Adhering to this, the Chalet presents as a black, timber-clad standalone residence distinguished by sharp angles gently tempered by curved apertures.
For an architect whose work is defined by functionality before form and the beautility inherent to the success of small spaces, Nicholas acknowledges that the Chalet was actually “quite palatial, especially for a second home.” The client brief, however, brought it back into the realm of intelligent organisation of space with the Chalet’s interior volumes and navigation called upon to successfully host up to 10 guests at any one time. “When you sleep 10, you need to be able to dine and bathe 10,” he acknowledges, yet the project’s role as a secondary home also brought freedom to the design process.
In autumn, just as the season turns, silvery green foliage yields to rich, golden hues which imbue the landscape with cosy sonority and the awesome majesty of nature.
“When we were talking about how a second home could feel at the outset of the project, we realised you could let yourself go. It didn’t have to comply with what a [primary] home should be,” he says. “We could impose things that perhaps wouldn’t work in an everyday scenario.” Walls have been dissolved to introduce the allusion of space in unbounded living zones on the ground floor. The remaining expanses of wall have been painted in an elegantly earthy green which serves to draw the eye out to magnificent views of silvery eucalypts and unbroken skies. The colour suffuses natural light and acts as a canvas for the dance of shadows that filter into Thredbo Chalet by day. And with the practical requirement to sleep, feed and bathe 10 in mind, the three interior levels have been intuitively re-arranged allowing for freedom of movement alongside the fundamentals of domestic privacy.
Prior to the new works, “the house was quite tired,” Nicholas recalls. “The clients were wanting to remove any kitsch elements and imbue a sense of appropriateness.” Highly customised joinery has provided resolutions that max out the floor plan and profoundly optimise space. “Everything is bespoke. Everything has been custom made. We did that because the original spatial arrangement was so strange the schematics had to be totally redone,” he explains. The luxurious proportions of a bespoke sunken lounge, for example, and the kitchen island, which “tracks the boundary of the surrounding room and is then offset for access from all sides,” cleverly amplify the William Morris dictum of being both beautiful and useful.
Upstairs, two bedrooms continue the need versus want philosophy, whereby spatial organisation takes precedence while allowing for the natural outcome of pleasing lines. Windows again frame stunning views, becoming a part of the interior in place of artwork. Bold burgundy walls instil warm intimacy in bedrooms while bathrooms are inherently timeless and impeccably considered with slate floors, palettes reminiscent of the seasonal setting, and the clever provision of changing space to eliminate the need for naked dashes between bathroom and bedroom.
At the pinnacle of the Chalet’s interior is a loft. Steeply sloped rooflines allude to the exterior terrain while creating an exalted air to an otherwise complex geometry leaving a space that feels removed and quiet: where the warmth rises from an open fire below and where sounds lose their tenor, leaving a rarefied stillness especially sought in holiday homes in which time is marked in quiet relaxation.
Thredbo Chalet pragmatically responds to the unfettered design freedom found in resolving a tertiary dwelling as opposed to a primary residence. Gently reflecting the physical characteristics of its aspect through an imperfect material language that is based around natural timbers, slate, and silvery green hues, it lends itself easily to the demands of indelicate use and minimal upkeep leaving, as Nicholas reflects, “no evidence of how long it has been in its current state.” This is a ‘cabin’ that has retained all the essential qualities and nostalgia of that title. Contemporary lighting with lantern aesthetics, raw brass, buttery leathers, and concrete basins exist cohesively alongside Turkish rugs and artisanal elements in a manner that strips away the complexities of design to achieve an accord with the striking Australian landscape of Thredbo and the notion of breaking away from the demands of urban life.