In 2012, Virginie Confino, a photo editor, and her science journalist husband Bastien fall in love with a 100-year-old chalet in Val-d’Illiez, near the Portes du Soleil ski resort in the Swiss Alps. Without any prior knowledge in building or renovation, the couple abolishes their resolution not to entrap themselves in any kind of serious remodeling project and deconstructs the faded chalet. The result was so beautiful, it propelled Virginie into the new adventure of launching her own interior design business, Gris Souris.
The story in her own words…
We were looking for a holiday home for our family of four. We visited some chalets, but none of them felt right for us. Until we found this one. We fell in love with the balcony at first sight; its whimsical railing looks like lace.
Inside, the chalet was old and untouched since the 1960s. The walls lacked any sort of insulation, the house had no heat and a ladder in the living room was the only way to reach the upstairs, no stairs.
Intention out the window
Right away, we had a vision for how we would transform this chalet. Although, when we first began searching for a property, we had no intention to throw ourselves head-first into a renovation project. Our limited budget meant that we had to do almost all of the work ourselves. What’s more, neither of us had any experience even close to remodeling or construction — me a freelance photo editor for the press and my husband a science journalist. But Bastien has always believed, “Anything is possible.” And we did it!
My husband learned a lot from books, the Internet and YouTube videos, and I joined him at the chalet two days a week for a year and a half. We required professional help with the masonry in the entrance, because the rain was coming in, with the terrace outside, and with the heating and plumbing.
We virtually gutted the inside of the house. We just wanted to keep some of the old elements, such as the old wood floors, stairs and doors. Once we finished insulating the house from the bottom to the roof, we put the old wood back on the walls. We used a lot of wood on the inside, old wood, and slate for the bathroom floors.
1912 on the outside, Swiss modern on the inside
The chalet is a mix of old and modern. Because we have a big entrance, I wanted to do something special there. We chose a transparent door that gives view to the log wall, which is a decoy we created by cutting about 4000 logs of wood into five-centimeter pieces, 15 centimeters at the top. We dried the logs and fixed them together. The wall alone took ten days of work.
We remodeled the kitchen simply by changing the cabinet doors and painting the walls. Almost all of the furniture is from IKEA. We didn’t want to furnish the chalet with special pieces because we are renting it out when we are not using it.
Bastien built the dining room table himself, because we couldn’t find one that was three meters long and not too expensive. We painted the table top with chalkboard paint so we can write on it when we play games.
The dining chairs are old Tolix chairs that sat outside for a long time, which gave them the perfect rust-like patina for the chalet. Two Butterfly chairs and Tolomeo Artemide lights on the walls, not much else. We incorporated old sleds we found in the cellar into the decor.
Outside, we have a nice terrace with amazing mountain views of the Dents du Midi. We enjoy looking at this mountain range while we take a Swedish bath outside, even when it’s snowing.
Chalet Le 1912 became my “business card.” Once the renovation was finished, friends started asking me for interior design advice and even wanted me to renovate their chalet. Soon, my new adventure began, and I created Gris Souris, my interior design company in Lausanne. △
Photos by Myriam Ramel Baechler / Lumière du jour