By Sabrina Sciama, Houzz
Angela Sabine Staffler’s property lies nestled in apple orchards just outside of Bolzano, Italy, in the Dolomites, and offers stunning views of the countryside. Staffler enlisted the help of architect Peter Pichler to create two living spaces on the grounds. She wanted to build vacation homes where she or her guests would be able to immerse themselves in nature, in complete privacy and with all the comforts of home. This resulted in the Mirror Houses, which combine the skillful use of materials and technologies with respect for the environment — and the birds (more on that later) — and an appreciation of the charm of the surrounding scenery.
Photos by Oskar Da Riz
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: Angela Sabine Staffler and her guests. Each house can accommodate up to four people.
Location: Just outside Bolzano, in South Tyrol, northern Italy
Size: 860 square feet (80 square meters) total, each unit is 430 square feet (40 square meters) in area; each house has a bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom
Year built: 2014
Architect: Peter Pichler Architecture
Pichler’s past work includes collaborations with noted contemporary architects such as Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas. The houses he designed for this project are a beautiful example of how modern architecture can blend perfectly with the surrounding environment. Mirrored facades reflect the landscape. The houses’ orientation prevents the mirrors from overheating surrounding buildings.
They are also good for the birds: They are covered in an ultraviolet coating that, though invisible to humans, allows birds to see the glass and avoid it.
Pichler worked to achieve several goals, including accentuating the relationship between the units and the natural environment, and catering to Staffler’s desire for privacy.
The houses’ wooden structure was covered in black aluminum to make them appear smaller from the outside. Pichler also integrated renewable energy into the design: The homes are heated with geothermal energy, and solar panels installed near the fencing power the water heater. The units are certified Climate Houses, a local energy-efficiency standard that is being used increasingly throughout Italy.
Both units face east. Each has its own private garden, independent access and a parking space. They share a small basement with a separate entrance.
They are balanced on a base that is slightly smaller than their footprint, making it look like they are floating above the ground. This makes them seem lighter and also enhances the panoramic view from the windows.
Pichler staggered the units to give them some individuality, achieve an overall sense of fluidity and ensure that each unit would have privacy.
“The client asked me to design … two houses that she could use or rent out, where everyone can enjoy a luxurious vacation,” Pichler says. “Each unit has its own little independent apartment that makes it possible to enjoy … living with nature without compromising on the quality necessary for maintaining high living standards.”
Each features an open kitchen-living room area, a bedroom and a bathroom.
The bedrooms are separated from the living room by wooden pocket doors. Each offers a view of the surrounding apple orchards.
Huge skylights provide the bedrooms with natural light and ventilation.
The bathroom areas are sleek and compact.
All the design solutions aim at sustainability, the optimal arrangement of space and the incorporation of advanced technologies.
The interior furnishings are essential to the overall effect: The simplicity of the white walls and lightweight, contemporary table and chairs lets the outside views take center stage.
When the houses aren’t flooded with natural light, Tolomeo Mega Terra lights, designed by Michele de Lucchi for Artemide, beautifully illuminate the interiors.
Monza armchairs: designed by Konstantin Grcic for Plank
A large window looks out onto the unit’s garden and the surrounding landscape.
“From certain angles, it is possible to see the garden reflected in the glass of these contemporary houses, and the whole composition gives life to the seamless merger of a variety of architectural concepts with the environment,” Pichler says.
The houses are available as vacation rentals. The price per night for two guests is $215, with a two-night stay minimum.