Where modern design and rustic stone arch meet

In contemporary architectural practice, there are rare opportunities to give new life to historical objects, which are the carriers of the visual identity of the wider environment. We had one such opportunity during the reconstruction and adaptation of a stone house in Dalmatia.

While the contact of the house with the street is embodied in the traditional façade of the building, we found inspiration for the design in the stone arch (volta), characteristic of the region, which connects the space of the street to the courtyard. The whole plot consists of a “large house” with bedrooms, located on the street front, and two small houses in the yard, intended for family gatherings and socializing. It is by designing the relationship between these three objects and emphasizing their individual characteristics, that we have created a specific whole that uses rustic details – becomes a modern space for living.

Arches in design

Inspired by the characteristics, sculptural and artistic value of stone and volta, we decided to not only keep the material and the geometry of the arch but also introduce the design as a recognisable signature of the entire project, which constantly balances between traditional Mediterranean construction and minimalist architecture. In this regard, in the architecture of the courtyard façade, the arches create the dynamics of the stone wall canvas, on which narrow arches alternate allowing the breakthrough of light, and an oval arch with an accentuated archivolt, through which one enters the courtyard. In order for the stone to become even more noticeable, the façade of the first floor is designed as a minimalistic white surface with calm rectangular openings, thus creating a contrast of geometries and materials in the level of the walls of the exterior.

The modern redesign of the volta from the entrance is the most explicit in the zone of the small house, where we “coated” the existing geometry with a white arch frame, and thus got a new reading of the traditional architectural element. This interpretation of the arch of the “small house” was used as a symbol of the project, and a connective element of the entire ambience of the exterior. In the covered open space that this arch defines, there is a porch with an open-air dining room, which defines the space for spending time and family gatherings.

As a geometric contrast to the arches and an additional emphasis on the continuity of the use of the house, the living area of the “small house” retains elements of exposed wooden roof beams, which on the one hand emphasize rustic details in the space, while creating a rhythm which visually elongates the space. As massive details of the wooden structure, the beams are visually facilitated and made a functional part of the design by hanging lighting, which creates a direct connection between the wooden elements of the dining room table and the roof structure.

Bedroom design

Special attention in the project of this villa is paid to the design of bedrooms, as individual parts of the house, in which we worked out with clients special ways of expressing their character through subtle differences in basic design. motifs of stone and arches run throughout all bedrooms, and with different accents and transformations in the space, obtain various ambiences, which respond to the individual needs of clients.

The master bedroom is designed as a suite with sandy tones, in which one can see the functional wholes of the bathroom, wardrobe, and sleeping area, but also seating and rest areas. In the design of the master room space, the application of the arch as an accent in the wall is emphasised in a repetitive rhythm. Layering the arches by depth replaces the headboard, and thus becomes the focal point of the room. Along with this system of masonry arches, opposite the rectangular windows, as a contrast in materials is a glass arch– a portal to the wardrobe, whose geometry and materialization are a quote of the ambience of wine cellars, which can often be found in traditional Mediterranean villas.

Symmetrical in relation to the arches behind the bed, in the seating and relaxation zone, this geometry is used in the form of niches with shelves, which together with furniture create the rhythm of paired structures in the room. A specific accent that we have introduced into the space, is a window sill along the entire room, which creates a comfortable sitting space with an unobstructed view of the environment. By deviating from the white colour found in the gathering areas and introducing sandy tones and natural textures, the ambience of the master bedroom has acquired a subtle softness, and the intrusion of light is reduced to a pleasant geometry, without strong reflection.

The kids’ rooms of this Dalmatian villa are defined as independent microsystems that permeate several functions and, using the stone wall as a base, in a special way modernize the villa, in accordance with the needs of two girls. While in the master bedroom, the arches represent an earthy sculptural accent, in the children’s rooms the geometry of the arch is emphasized by lighting, and its repetition was realized in the storage area, which framed the workbench in one room and the entrance to the bathroom in another, whereby the volta’s function is partially restored to its traditional role of the portal.

To create functional units of worktables and shelves, we used light wood, which introduces another natural material into the interior, in a way that does not contrast the stone wall, but in an almost identical tone – translating the irregular geometry of stone into a rectangular architectural motif.

Roof terrace

The hidden gem of this project is the unusual roof terrace, inspired by Mallorcan architecture, on which natural sand tones are joined by bright colours and decorative elements. As the perimeter of the terrace, we designed a solid masonry seating area that emphasizes the corner and forms the centre of the space for socializing, while the second part of the ambience consists of reed armchairs – gentle spatial elements of a distinctly Mediterranean character. According to the wishes of clients, we designed the socializing area with a low centre of gravity, and using different textile details created both fixed and mobile units for sitting – from masonry benches to an open area for floor cushions, which allows flexibility in a number of users.

By using and preserving the existing elements such as voltas and stone walls of this rustic villa, and its reconstruction in a modern way, we have created a unique design space, which erases the boundaries of the contemporary and rustic and creates new principles of interweaving modern trends and heritage of irreplaceable value.