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Virgil unbound: Italian Alps ruin becomes dream budget home

When his wife inherited a ruined stable in Italy’s Orobic Alps, architect Alfredo Vanotti reinvisioned the space as a family home, reflecting local craftsmanship and his love of modern design.

To daylight the home, Vanotti (of EV+A Lab) created a long skylight and four large windows facing the Valtellina Valley below. To create exterior walls that resembled the “dry stone” technique of the region’s traditional homes, he used local stone and a minimal amount of cement to hold it together.

For the interior, Vanotti used reinforced concrete, along with natural larch and iron, to give the home a more modern feel. “Concrete is misused,” he explains. “It shouldn’t be perfect. The advantage of concrete: it shouldn’t be smooth, beautiful, precise.” The fireplace, sink, bidet, shower, and toilet are all custom-designed from unfinished concrete. To showcase the material’s imperfections, Vanotti chose to leave the material untreated and uncovered. “Concrete is a refined material. You don’t have to hide it.”

With just a “small budget” and relying on help from his father, Vanotti transformed the ruin into a weekend home for his family over the course of five years. He designed the home from the ground up, including the kitchen sink. Everything was designed by the architect, including the concrete sink/bidet/toilet and fireplace. Nearly every detail was personalized, like the door/cupboard handles made from strips of leather.