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Design Focus: Chalet Style

Cozy, rustic, warm, and crafted have become popular searches in recent years. There has been a massive growth in people’s interest in homes made of  wood, sloping roofs and well supported, wide eaves. In this fast paced world, with even faster production of generic items and homes, the offer of custom crafted and unique, instead of massed produced, is very attractive.

The Chalet Style is one of the architectural designs that provides that cozy warmth. Inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, the style celebrates uniqueness over uniformity. Some of its architectural elements are visible in other styles as well, like Craftsman and Prairie, especially during the early 20th century.

CHALET STYLE ORIGINS

The term chalet refers to the hut of a herder and was originally used on farms for animal husbandry in the Alps of Switzerland. Over the summer months it was a tradition for the cows and other animals to graze the alpine pastures of the Alps. The style stems from humble roots, but over time came to have significant influence on home design in North America and Western Europe.

Believed to be untouched by time, these traditional structures evolved with the growth in winter sports and the dream of perfect winter escapes. Chalet architectural design has remained relevant, and for good reason. With the rise in winter travel business, chalet homes are very popular in areas of Canada where there’s heavy snowfall, in ski resort communities, and by the lake.

IDENTIFYING A CHALET HOME

Similar to log homes, chalets make an excellent style choice for a vacation home. Their balconies, large expansive windows and overhanging eaves evoke the warm, outdoorsy feeling this style is known for. They are constructed mainly of wood, with little or no finish. The buildings are most times two stories tall, with the top story projecting beyond the bottom story from the broad roof overhang characteristic of the design. Traditional chalet homes featured stone foundations, and a balcony at the front for leisure or entertaining. Today, cladding a concrete foundation with cultured stone gives that same look and feel.

Many chalets could be labelled as bungalow, because they share similar aesthetics like stone bases, exposed beams and full length porches. The primary difference is the single story structure of the bungalow as opposed to chalet’s two. Although significantly influenced by the Arts and Craft movement, identifying the difference between the two is important, despite their comfortable coexistence.

Today’s chalets still preserve pitched roofs, elevated concrete or stone foundations, open spaces and exposed beams. They are still warm and comfortable, but with more grandeur, and they speak to the modern day love for convenience and simplicity. Contemporary chalet homes can be custom built on site, but also are available in catalogs, ready to assemble with prefab materials. Stone veneers deliver the look and feel of traditional stone, without the expense, labour and weight associated with using complete stones.

FEATURES OF A CHALET HOME

The first distinctive feature is the abundance of wood. This is where most of the warm appeal comes from. Stained, solid wood is usually chosen for the floor and wooden beams that support the ceiling. Chalets are known for their hardwood flooring. The wood decor extends to the furnishings in a chalet home, which normally include wooden bed frames, cabinets, amoires and chairs.

For a home built to exude warmth, the fireplace is the heart of the chalet. It’s the gathering place for family and friends. Natural gas typically has replaced wood in modern homes, and cultured stone veneers are used in place of traditional field or river stones.

A prominent single gable, with broad overhanging eaves, is apparent on a chalet home. The angle of the roof is usually designed to prevent the buildup of snow. The eaves project, serving as protection from rain, to keep water off the siding, windows and doors. The overhangs on traditional style chalet homes create a veranda, a place for entertaining, and often a modern hot tub. Chalets with hot tubs and saunas are highly sought after, in a resort setting, for their therapeutic value.

The high ceilings and open floor plan allow for large gatherings. The best resort chalet homes include an area for ski and winter-clothing storage. Natural materials like slate and hardwood flooring, are popular. For a more contemporary look, sleek, clean, minimalist components fit well with the rustic backdrop of the natural interior.

CANADIAN CHALETS

Canada can dish out some of the harshest winter weather, particularly in the mountains, so homes need to be able to withstand the elements. Chalet homes not only deliver superb protection from the weather, warmth and comfort; but they are naturally beautiful. Canadian chalet homes vary from the quaint and rustic, to sprawling lakeside retreats, featuring massive stone fireplaces and vaulted ceilings, fit for vacation getaways or full time residences alike. In places like Quebec, any dwelling near a ski hill is considered a chalet home. In addition to reflecting Canada’s naturalistic, northern sensibilities, the Chalet Style home is both adaptable and stylish.

YOUR CHALET HOME

When considering a Chalet Style home, the main consideration is replication of the warmth and traditional appeal of the design. The style has evolved a lot over the last century, to accommodate modern urban living, as well as construction time fames and budgets. Many chalet homes are pre-fabricated. This can be ideal for construction in areas where winter conditions may exist for three to five months of the year. Insulated panels and timberframe components lend themselves particularly well to this approach. Hardwood and slate flooring are authentic and durable, and laminated hardwoods provide a cost effective option. The look of traditional river stone masonry can be achieved on the foundations, chimneys and fireplaces with products like Cultured Stone® River Rock veneer.

The windows, eaves and exposed architecture of chalet homes create opportunities for your own personal touch, so make the most of it. For the indoors, the colour scheme generally includes neutral hues of ivory, tan, and beige, blending with the earthy tone of the wood. If you’re trying to achieve the chalet feel, in a renovation, you can transform your home to the Chalet Style one element at a time.

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