Stroll through the neighbouring vineyards to the pristine sands of this home’s nearby beach and you are met with a sea view that matches any in the beauty spots of St Tropez or Toulon. Let your gaze drift towards the surrounding hillsides and you could be forgiven for not noticing this house, so cleverly does its glass and local stone façade blend into the scenery. This is a home that treads lightly on its setting.
The original building on this plot was, in the words of Alex Michaelis, co-founder of architecture practice Michaelis Boyd, ‘rather sweet, but had lost touch with its surroundings’. Thanks to the vision of its owners and the open-minded nature of the local planning system, Alex and his team were able to create a new house that completely corrects that wrong.
‘Had this property been intended for St Tropez,’ says Alex, ‘we may have had to consider traditional details, such as a tiled roof and small windows, but being further along the coast afforded more space for architectural innovation.’ The most striking of the home’s contemporary touches is the double-height glass doors that lead onto the courtyard at the building’s centre. These, combined with the glass walkway and balustrade, provide uninterrupted views across the coastline. And to offer glimpses of the hillside behind, large slices of glazing stretch up the walls and over the ceiling in the hallway – when the sun dips in the late afternoon, the shadows they cast are magical.
‘The philosophy of the design,’ explains Alex, ‘is that the house is like a modern-day ruin. In the summer, you slide open the doors and all you are left with is a bare structure.’ Reflecting this ethos, the palette of materials is strictly pared-back – just simple stone floors and natural rendered walls. So organic is its appearance that it is often difficult to tell whether you are inside or out.
To aid the fluid way the home connects with the landscape, furnishings and decorations are kept minimal. Bulthaup designed the streamlined white kitchen and design classics by the likes of Piero Lissoni and Naoto Fukasawa occupy the living room, but the owners have decided not to rush into any new purchases. And, when tending to the barbecue beside the infinity pool, or sat in the kitchen watching dramatic storms play out across the sky, it is easy to understand why there is no hurry. michaelisboyd.com
This feature appeared in ELLE Decoration November 2019.
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