Huus GstaadRima Suqi • Photography by Mark Nolan • June 2, 2017
The Swiss town of Gstaad has historically been a playground for the rich and famous. Elizabeth Taylor owned a chalet there (her daughter designed a sculpture of a cow that remains to this day), Julie Andrews still does, and high-profile names like Madonna, Valentino, Harvey Weinstein, and even hotelier André Balazs have been known to descend upon this alpine wonderland during the holidays. The main shopping area is lined with luxury boutiques, including Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Cartier, which is why the town’s official motto “Come Up, Slow Down” can seem a bit far-fetched.
But the Huus Gstaad, a seven-story, 136-room hotel nestled on a rolling hillside between the villages of Saanen and Gstaad, seems to embody the town’s chill motto. It’s housed in what once was the Steigenberger Alpenhotel, a classic alpine-style lodge that was one of the largest in the area, with incredible views of the surrounding Bernese Oberland. When it was sold two years ago, the new owners tasked architect Erik Nissen Johansen of Swedish design studio Stylt Trampoli with re-envisioning it. “After researching the local hotel market, it was obvious there is very much a Gstaad-style type of hotel—very proper, very conservative, often very luxurious,” says Johansen. “We wanted to make a living room for Gstaad, a place where everyone would be welcome.”
He also wanted to create a hotel where “the landscape—the great outdoors—was very present, even inside,” he says. This seems obvious in a location as picturesque as the Swiss Alps, but a significant amount of work had to be done to achieve this, including replacing walls with larger windows in almost all of the guestrooms and many public spaces, and even putting a window in every bathroom. Materials were carefully chosen with a nod to the outdoors as well. “The reception desk is part wood (piled oak beams held together by climbing ropes) and part stone. In fact, it is a boulder that was found in a nearby river,” explains Johansen, whose team waded in the Saanen for hours until the perfect rock was found. To complete the look, branch-inspired chandeliers hang above the striking piece, which is backed by a wall of split rough oak. Meanwhile, in guestrooms, “wool blankets on the beds, pebble walls in the bathrooms, tree trunk table bases, and leather cushions,” create a sense of authenticity, Johansen explains.
That genuineness continues in the color palette, designed to complement the view, and hallway numbers crafted from climbing ropes. The throws are done in a “typical alpine pattern—a slightly more modern version with a stronger accent color,” he says, and restaurant plaid chair backs and walls echo traditional outdoor clothing with a lack of pretension.
The result is a combination of modern-hipster-alpine living or, as Johansen points out, like guests are staying with a “friend with a gorgeous home who takes you on incredible outdoor experiences and then serves you a delicious meal fireside.” And, as promised, Johansen did create a living room lounge and bar on the ground floor. Here, glass pendants (a reference to ice) hang over a bright orange communal pouf that unites the bar and restaurant. A mountain peak-inspired backbar of various sized boxes houses the bottles and reaches to the ceiling, balancing the lounge’s curated bookshelf wall, which was built from old oak and hot rolled steel and punctuated by a fireplace. The walls were designed to “communicate with each other,” he says, explaining that most of the walls in this space were torn down to make way for the views. “Now, everywhere you look in the hotel, there is nature, beckoning to you to come outside and play.”