Attention to Detail Makes an Alpine HUUS a Home

HUUS means house, or home, and homeliness is the driving concept behind this holiday experience HUUS Gstaad 1,111m above sea level in the Swiss Alpine region of Switzerland. Homeliness, and the enduring attraction of raw nature. “The main asset is the fantastic nature,” Erik Nissen Johansen tells The Plus, “it’s the hotel that really encourages you to go out there and explore”. And Erik would know: he’s the architect and designer responsible for reshaping the space and decking out the interiors of this hotel, one which specialises in package holidays that get people out into the 250 km of Alpine slopes and trails on their doorstep, be it on sleighs, skis, or their own two snowshoes.

Fact File:
136 rooms
Wellness and spa area
Restaurants, lounge, and bar
Seven storey structure with panoramic mountain view

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The back side of the Alpine-inspired HUUS hotel

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Just one part of the panoramic view from HUUS’ back windows

Erik, originally from Norway, now living in Sweden, was originally a student of art in Florence, Italy, and has since taken his compositional know-how to the three-dimensional medium of interior design. He is now the founder and creative director of multidisciplinary design studio Stylt Trampoli AB.

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We met Erik in the Stylt studio in Gothenburg

HUUS Gstaad hotel is one that has been crafted down to the last detail in such a way as to offer the homely experience of board games around an open hearth, whilst never losing sight of the majestic Alpine slopes.

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Open shelves of books in the living room area invite curious hands

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The window seats offer stunning Alpine views

Erik’s focus is on creating the same cosy accessibility that houses offer: the 500 books on the shelves are for reading, the wine on the walls is for drinking, and the Alpine-inspired interiors filled with rich colours and locally sourced materials are to be filled with adventurous chatter.

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The logo is inspired by the two mountains visible from any window in the front of the hotel

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More installation art than signage, HUUS uses ropes to pick out its symbols

The designer’s renovation of the space has kept its rustic alpine charm, whilst capitalising on the location by enlarging the windows onto the landscape and exploiting the cosy potential of comfortable seating and welcoming, dark colour-schemes: “if you really want to make an environment that feels really nice to get back to after exploring the mountain for a fun day, then it makes a lot of sense,” he tells The Plus, when we caught up with him, CEO Günter Weilguni, and General Manager Mirka Czybik at HUUS Hotel to talk through this Design Hotel featured location.

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The Plus: Whats the inspiration behind the design?
Erik Nissen Johansen:
They wanted to take all the functions of this hotel – the guide, and the ski rental and the equipment rental, the lobby, the restaurant, the bars – and put it all together in one big living room and shake it all up. It’s a little bit like a base station before you go to climb Mount Everest, where after it happens you gather in front of the fireplace in the evening and talk about your adventures with your families and kids. So I think that’s the main inspiration, to create a hub, a stepping stone before you go out to explore.

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TP: What were some of the more drastic changes you made, and why?
ENJ:
This hotel is the hotel that is aware that our greatest assets are outside in the fantastic nature. We wanted to pay respect to that, and use local materials as far as possible, or materials that look like they are derived or inspired by the nature or the colour scheme outside. We changed all the surfaces, we enlarged the windows so we actually could see the peaks of the mountains when you enter the room. More or less I think all the square meters have undergone at least a soft refurbishment. We made new windows from the bathroom to the room, so that you were able to take a shower and see the mountains at the same time.

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TP: And what sort of materials did you use?
ENJ:
We actually used local stuff; we found the main piece of the reception desk in the river – the River Saanen – a beautiful stone shaped by nature, and we picked it up with a big lorry, and chopped it into the right pieces. The important thing for us was the touch and feel, the hotel that understands that the outside is the reason why people go there. The stones in the wall in the bathroom are river stones: they’re actually sanded by nature itself, and they are really soft to touch, so I think that was the easy material to pick.

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TP: You have a lot of heavily stacked shelves, what was the thinking behind this?
ENJ:
We really want people to read from the space that you’re allowed to take a board game and sit with your friends and play. That’s also the core of hospitality, someone who opens their arms and opens their homes for you – ‘here’s the key, and feel free to enjoy the fridge’.

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TP: How did you get hold of all the books?
ENJ:
We actually went to Paris, to the flea markets! We do that a lot, because you can actually hand-pick and select stuff, just to get the right patina, and trustworthiness. It’s an important thing to mix and give it a human fingerprint, and not always be so perfect, you know. Brush out the hair a little bit, and be more alive, and wild!

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TP: What was the biggest challenge in this project?
ENJ:
Switzerland is a country is known for its efficiency, and the construction time was actually really short. So that was maybe the biggest challenge from the beginning: to understand that we were able to do the project this fast. The overall timeline from when we started the design, our part of the design process, was eight months, which is extremely short. It’s a large-scale example of Swiss clockwork.

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TP: And is there a common style thread that links this project with the other work of Style Trampoli AB?
ENJ:
ENJ: Basically Stylt is a marketing, interiors, and design company. We specialise in hospitality, so I think 99% of the portfolio is hotels and restaurants. Today we are working on three different continents, with projects in Dubai, Switzerland, Germany France, Russia, Canada… I think, in terms of Stylt style, that there is a correlation between the different projects we do. But I also think that there is a totally different DNA in each project. Sometimes people can say they’re a little bit messy, and that there’s a lot of wine and liquor… I think the correlation is that they’re spaces in which people feel at ease. After all, I think hotels and restaurants are actually about escapism today. If you want to dine out at a nice restaurant, it’s about forgetting your everyday self for a few hours.

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TP: What do you do in your spare time?
ENJ:
When I’m not designing hotels and restaurants – and working with my fantastic colleagues at Stylt – I’m a fisherman. The lobster season in Gothenburg has just finished here, and I caught a lot of lobsters with my friends. I try to teach my kids: I’ve got two daughters and a son, and I really try to get them with me into nature, which is my recreation. It’s not easy, because they enjoy Snapchat and their friends more, sometimes.

TP: If you weren’t a creative director at Stylt, what would you do? …Apart from being a fisherman.
ENJ:
Aah! If I weren’t allowed to go fishing, I would travel with my kids. I would demand a large travel budget, and show them this fantastic world, and have them meet new people. That would be my full-time job. I don’t know if that’s a job: ‘Travel with my kids’? But that’s my favourite hobby.

TP: What top tips do you have for designers?
ENJ:
One of my best tips is to decide what you want to design. If you decide from the beginning of your career where you want to go, then time will be with you: the perception of you as a better designer will rise faster, and you’ll get more experience faster than if you bite off something too large. That’s my best tip: decide before you design what you want to design, and become an expert.

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TP: What for you is particularly special about the HUUS Hotel?
Günter Weilguni (CEO):
I was sure we could create something very special, something unique, because we really wanted to create something which doesn’t exist in this area or in the Alps. I think we succeeded. We wanted to have this living room feeling here, so you enter not into a hotel lobby, but instead into a friends home. Everything should be connected, that was our idea.

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TP: What special sort of things does HUUS Hotel offer besides hospitality?
Mirka Czybik (General Manager):
We have different programmes in the summer and in the winter. At the moment, in the winter, we have our own ski school based here in the hotel, and we have our own ski instructor. Kids up to nine year olds can attend the school free of charge: they get ski passes, and ski equipment. We have a shuttle bus from the hotel that goes to the ski area. Then we have hiking tours every day – this is all included in the room rate, so if they would like to use the add-ons they just can use them. We are the only one and the first one with this system. We also work with our snow teachers, we do off-piste, we do guided ski touring, but it’s necessary that people have a guide with them.

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TP: Could you talk us through the collaborations that you have associated with HUUS, too?
MC:
We have Range Rover cars here, and the guests can take a car and use it any time they want, free of charge. And we have a collaboration with Mammut, in each room there is a backpack from Mammut and if they want to go on hiking tours they can take their own backpack from their room. It’s also the same for the kids, the kids have a smaller backpack. If someone is not skiing, we also have hiking shoes, and jackets, and you can rent them and also go outside. Because of course not everyone is travelling with their whole gear.

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TP: What is one of the hotel’s most interesting features, for you?
MC:
All the rooms use Hästens beds. We actually have a really good collaboration – in our suites we have the absolute highest quality beds, so if our guest wants to buy a Hästens bed they can stay here for one or two nights to test the bed. Because it’s important to know how you sleep in the bed. We already had someone stay here for three nights, and every time he changed rooms because we have different kinds of beds in the rooms. And he’s coming back today… he will have to stay like six different nights to try all the beds… it’s funny.

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A homely clutter of eclectic furniture makes for a cosy harmony

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Glassware in the ground floor fine dining restaurant mirrors the icy slopes

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A dark palette creates a cosy atmosphere in this bathroom

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Natural light lifts this additional airy dining space, usually used for breakfast

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This second bar, cave-like, in addition to the lobby bar, is regularly used by HUUS to host parties

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The atmospheric lighting selection is as eclectic as the furniture

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The design is laced throughout with natural elements and nods to the hotel’s adventurous spirit

This story is part of The Plus’ continuing spotlight series, Designer’s Hotels. Check out more boutique highlights here.

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