Sense of Place: Alpine-modern style in Tyrol
Alpine Modern talks with local interior design expert Martin Wetscher about the quintessential style of modern mountain homes in Tyrol. Wetcher is the president of the namesake interior architecture firm, carpentry workshop and furniture store his great-grandfather founded in 1912 in Fügen, Austria.
Traditional mountain living in Tyrol was simple. The Bavarian-style homes were built from materials the alpine farmer could source around the site. Dyes and paints were made from herbs and flowers; the color red derived from ox blood. Design was determined by practicality and durability. “Everything we perceive as ‘sustainable’ today inevitably gave those traditional homes a distinctly local style,” says Wetscher.
"Everything we perceive as ‘sustainable’ today inevitably gave those traditional homes a distinctly local style."
Vacation architecture in Tyrol is highly exaggerated to give visitors an immediate sense of place. “At home, that’s different,” Wetscher says. “A home has to reflect the person, with reference to where you are.” Hence, a ski chalet that dramatizes Kitzbühel — the legendary winter sports town in Tyrol, Austria — would quickly become kitschy as a permanent home.
The interior concept Wetscher Chalet celebrates the Tyroleans’ ruggedness without being crude. While the craftsmanship is very much refined, materials such as oak wood (which is characteristic for the area) retain a pastoral touch. “People here in the Alps love to see that it doesn’t have to be either or, rather, that Wetscher Chalet is rich and clever, modern yet authentic,” says the head of Austria’s oldest independent furniture retailer.
In Tyrol, generations of families live in the same house for hundreds of years. Thus, it is particularly important to balance modern design with authenticity by integrating heirlooms, such as antique rugs or artisanal art, and found natural objects from the surrounding environment, such as driftwood from a nearby creek. Moreover, after an era of booming industrial manufacturing, quality craftsmanship is back in Tyrol, once again coveted and elevated.
“One has to begin where the alpine farmer left off,” Wetscher says about creating a sensible modern Tyrolean interior. To him, a beautiful mountain home has little to do with new furniture and a lot with bringing in shapes and materials found around the outside.
“One has to begin where the alpine farmer left off."
Mixing materials and eras
Mixing natural stone with oak is big right now at Wetscher. The contrast makes it chic. “Then, add deftness by bringing the present moment and the season into your home with flowers and accessories,” he says. Easily interchangeable objects, such as a coffee table or curtains, offer balance between consistency and change. In the current Wetscher Chalet line, for example, furry textiles represent that transient element. Prints, on the other hand, are passé. “We find them rather tacky.” Instead, Wetscher likes to play with materials like natural stone as patterns.
His Chalet concept is further characterized by exceedingly loungy seating furniture one can lay back and stretch out in. Various seating areas with low tables encourage conversation. Furniture low to the ground is more sophisticated and comfortable, while higher furniture can exude stiffness.
Understatement is key. A backdrop in Wetscher’s showroom, for example, is paneled in softwood reclaimed from an old corral. However, a smoothed surface adds calmness to the rustic wall. After all, Wetscher knows, “Jump too far into the Tyrol, and it will actually look like a cow stable.” △
“Jump too far into the Tyrol, and it will actually look like a cow stable.”