This French family wished for a home made entirely out of timber.
Two years ago, designer Alexandre Reignier and his partner Aude Bertrand decided to leave the city centre of France’s Aix-en-Provence for the green hills of the charming village of Ventabren in the nearby Provençal countryside. It was a bold move driven by his childhood dream to live in a made-to-measure home with contemporary lines built entirely out of wood.
“We both wanted a radical lifestyle change and to live in harmony with nature,” says Alexandre. “We needed to reconnect and find the true value of things.” With the words ‘ethical’ and ‘simplicity’ top of mind, they researched until they came upon the work of Thomas Walter, founder of Atelier Ordinaire, an interior design and architectural studio that specialises in the use of timber.
“We just fell in love with his work,” says Alexandre. “I prepared several moodboards expressing our vision and Thomas really listened – we had a lot of common ground.”
First, Thomas proposed a system of construction using custom-formatted structural panels. He then drew up the home’s spaces, taking into account the technical and practical requirements of a family home that also needs to function as a workplace for both Alexandre and Aude, a freelance digital strategist who also blogs at thelittleworld.fr. “The idea was to focus on volume and large openings, to remove as much detail as possible so we could use raw materials,” says Alexandre, whose own designs (from furniture to salt and pepper shakers) are a study in minimalism and efficiency. “The finishes were also simplified to reduce the cost and construction time.”
Ultimately, the two-storey house was delivered as a kit and assembled in just 10 weeks. The result is a wonderfully personalised creation characterised by its simple geometric form, untreated wood, clean lines and large windows that let the leafy outside in and create a real sense of serenity.
“The house is on a slope among some pines,” says Alexandre. “We positioned it as high as possible to make the most of the unobstructed view from the hillside lounge and the view of the forest behind the house. The interior wood is spruce and it feels really good. It’s warm and relaxing, and contrary to what you might think, it’s quite bright.”
It’s also nice and cosy. “Our home is very well insulated,” says Alexandre. “It’s a real little cocoon – we’re never cold. The sunlight coming through the bay windows and the heat we generate just living here is enough to keep us warm. The stove is really just for pleasure and for use during harsh winters; we love to gather around it with friends and family.”
Inspired by the spirit of Scandinavian, bohemian and Japanese homes, and with a perfectly imperfect wabi-sabi vibe, the interior décor is pared right back and enhanced by the extraordinary light for which this region is famous. Alexandre designed much of the furniture and homeware himself, including the kitchen, storage cupboards and daughter Daphné’s bed.
“I mainly use wood in my creations,” he says. “It’s the ideal material for me. It’s beautiful, warm, soft, resistant, lightweight and ecological. There’s virtually no downside to it.”
As a finishing touch, the couple added a few carefully selected new and vintage pieces to the mix. “It was a childhood dream to build a wooden house that was simple, beautiful, efficient and minimal,” says Alexandre. “And that’s exactly what we did.”