In the mountainous area of Las Tancas, in Nevados de Chillan, a Chilean home design and architectural studio called Del Rio Arquitectos Asociados has built a wonderfully tall V-shaped cabin retreat home called La Dacha Mountain Refuge.
In order to get just the right mountainside feel to the home’s aesthetic and atmosphere, designers opted to wrap the subtly luxurious cabin’s exterior walls in charred wood. Far from making the place look too dark or closed off, however, the team ensured that this look was broken up enough to stay light using large glazed windows that give dwellers breathtaking views of the rugged terrain and stunning natural surroundings right outside.
Las Trancas, the lovely little ski town that the Refuge sits on the edge of, is nestled in the heart of a mountainous area that boasts a number of active stratovolcanoes. The multi-story cabin sits below these, jutting gently from a slope and blending quite well into the natural scenery of the area. Looking at the seemingly simple cottage, you might not guess that it was built with several internal water and energy systems that make it run more eco-friendly than the average home.
The development of these systems, which include high-thermal efficiency, stemmed from the fact that this cabin was a site-specific design. This means that teams developed the whole concept, layout, and so on with that very plot in mind, as opposed to some scenarios where the plot is found afterwards and simply used as a site for a previously conceptualized design.
The loosely V-shaped cabin spans an area of 140 square metres within a half-hectare plot of land that is generously studded with trees. Designers specifically oriented the cabin to take advantage of the sun for as long as possible on its path over the mountains. This helps keep the outdoor areas and sports by the window quite warm, but the main energy efficient warmth in the refuge comes from a thermal core and a high insulated perimeter.
Masking this outer insulation are the purposely blackened wooden planks we mentioned earlier. These planks are long cuts of pine that have been charred using a traditional Japanese method called shou sugi ban. Burning the wood in this way is more than just aesthetic; it also helps to increase its resistance to natural weathering, insects, and decay typical of wooden buildings.
The cabin’s exterior walls are clad in pine planks that are charred using the Japanese technique of shou sugi ban. Burning the wood helps increase its resistance to insects and decay. This makes the cabin quite low maintenance to stay in and care for, all while also helping it blend beautifully into its location and natural terrain.
Contrary to the style of many houses, the private zones of this house (like bedrooms and bathroom suites) are situated on the bottom floor of the house, while the public and common space areas where dwellers might entertain guests are located up top. The main entrance to the cabin is located in a sort of middle floor space, which is accessed from outside by a charming wooden bridge.
On the same level as the main entrance, before you’d move on to the bedrooms or the kitchen, living, and dining room, is a small transitional space. Here, you’ll find a wood-burning masonry stove (also known as a kachelofen). This stove helps safely store heat in the thick, insulated walls, generating a whole day’s worth of warmth from a single load of wood.
The use of this stove is quite innovative, despite looking simply traditional and cute. It’s actually an ancient housewarming technique from Europe that is making its way more commonly into certain places in Southern Chile as an eco-friendly response to crucial issues like pollution and high wood consumption.
The outside of the cabin isn’t the only aspect of it that has a welcoming, rustic feel! Inside, you’ll find wonderfully earthy tones as well as stunningly natural materials that once again reflect the beautiful terrain outside the cabin’s walls. These include stone and wood in kinds that are native to the local region.