the long run

When architects design dwellings for their own families, client expectations are high. The modern mountain lodge that Henriette Salvesen and Christopher Adams built satisfied even the toughest critics—their three 20-something children. The “kids” praised their architect parents for making a great space that suits its singular setting. “We're a family that's enjoyed skiing since the kids were [toddlers],” Salvesen says, “so when sites came open in this particular resort, we decided to go for it.”

The architects and their offspring all prefer contemporary architecture, but they also craved après-ski coziness. “We wanted to create a modern way of getting a traditional log cabin atmosphere,” Salvesen says. A spruce box stained black and wrapped in raw concrete stands up to blizzards and sub-zero temperatures while evoking an abstraction of logs and stone. Limiting the interior palette to spruce, oak, and raw concrete materials preserved the minimalist aesthetic but added that sought-after measure of warmth. Radiant heat floors, a wood stove, and a fireplace take it the rest of the way to cozy.

The Hemsedal mountain range in southern Norway contains the highest peaks in the country and skiing of all types, which lured the adrenaline-seeking family to its slopes. The site's proximity to the range's eponymous resort village was another draw. “We like to be sociable on weekends and holidays,” Salvesen says. “That's why we wanted to be part of a community rather than [in] a more remote location.”

Remote this site is not. The owners and their guests simply snap on their skis and swish their way down the mountain. The lot hugs the tree line, at an elevation of about 3,300 feet, giving it unimpeded views of a rugged landscape softened by mountain birches. Although their parcel slopes along both its length and width, Salvesen and Adams wanted to disturb the area as little as possible. A long, slender footprint aimed lengthwise down the mountain eliminated the need for blasting, and its concrete-strip foundation required minimal excavation.

“A narrow building was easier to fit to the site,” Salvesen explains. “And we exploited the slope along the length of the plan to create a height change in the family room.” Those high ceilings make the open living/dining area and kitchen feel even more spacious, as do their adjacent terraces. In addition to their panoramic views of the slopes, the communal area and all four bedrooms have full southern exposure. Those direct rays are key for passive solar gain in this exposed northern setting.

Ski Chalet Skarsnuten, Hemsedal, Norway

div.A Architects, Oslo, Norway

general contractor:
Bøygard Bygg AS, Ål, Norway

project size:
1,464 square feet

site size:
0.25 acre

construction cost:
$478 per square foot

Michael Perlmutter

"better than home" continued ...