There are plenty of beautiful luxury ski chalets to choose from in the Alps; in fact, you’re pretty much spoiled for choice and if you want to go one better and you have a healthy budget you could spend a couple of weeks living like royalty; but if it’s something a little different you’re looking for, something with character and the required luxury to match, you should head for Zermatt and stay in Heinz Julen’s latest creation, The Backstage Loft.
So, what’s all that got to do with a sheep’s barn? I hear you ask, are you sitting comfortably? let me explain. Having secured a plot of land for the Backstage Loft project, Heinz was presented with a dilemma, included in the foot print of the plot was a 700 year old Stubli; a stable or barn for sheep to shelter in during the worst of the weather in the high Alps. It would obviously have been sacrilege to demolish such an historic structure, part of Zermatt’s heritage, the Stubli had to stay, no matter what, but what to do, how to incorporate an ex sheep’s barn in to a high tech, state-of-the-art luxury ski chalet. It was an interesting problem, how to meld the oldest of Zermatt’s structures with the most modern up to date accommodation and yet somehow get the two disparate elements to make sense, to speak to each other, across the centuries. On the one hand you had ancient, weather worn timbers, and on the other, steel, glass and concrete, modern building materials literally worlds apart from the fabric of the Stubli. It would be pretty easy to make a hash of the whole project with the Stubli ending up looking like an ugly wart on the face of a starlet.
Luckily for Zermatt, and for the Stubli, Heinz Julen is just the kind of free thinker to make light of such an obstacle. His solution was to treat the Stubli as a kind of annexe to the main building, to turn the Stubli in to the master bedroom, connectable in two ways, allowing easy access. Further to that he dressed the sheep in wolves clothing, to mangle a phrase, by cladding the barn with hi-tech glass and much newer timbers, in effect giving the ancient a modern twist and a welcome update. Problem solved, with some style. The new, updated Stubli stands apart but still feels like it belongs to the grander building that stands proud at it’s shoulder, almost like a parent with a favourite child, protecting yet showing it off to the world. The Backstage Loft is a project of which Heinz Julen and his team of builders can be justly proud.
The Backstage Loft has other great features too. A Spacious living area features a table and superb chandelier, designed and fashioned by Heinz himself, that can be winched towards the ceiling to clear the space for socialising. Another great feature is the stunning indoor/outdoor hot tub, at the flick of a switch the glass partitions that separate the indoor hot tub for the outdoors are raised and Voila! the indoor becomes outdoors, with fabulous Matterhorn views to enjoy as you wallow in the tubs soothing waters. As you wander around the property you’ll be delighted and surprised by the invention and playfulness on show, not only is Heinz Julen a fine architect but he is an artist with a unique take on everyday objects that most take for granted, no trip to Ikea for Heinz, he makes almost everything in his workshop, from door handles to dining tables. The huge floor to ceiling windows flood light into the interior and the drama of ever changing weather moods is fully played out indoors, an inspiring feature in any structure but even more so given the stunning mountain scenery on show in Zermatt. The Backstage Loft can accommodate twelve guests in five bedrooms in the main structure and another double in the Stubli, as mentioned. Two of the doubles in the main building are on a mezzanine platform in the living area. The Loft has a gym area and a Cinema games room too. Time spent in this exciting and inspiring property is a life enhancing experience and an introduction to the creative mind of Heinz Julen.
Rebecca Taylor is Director at SkiBoutique.