Turning historic rural properties into modern residences can always prove to be challenging for architects as they must balance preserving the vernacular heritage of older buildings with the demands of modern living. In the case of this centuries-old farmhouse in Morvan, a highland region located in central-east France, the task was complicated by the fact that part of the building had already been renovated twenty years ago. Commissioned to revamp the rest of the property, Paris-based architectural practice minuit was faced not only with preserving the farmhouse’s historic charm but also making sure that any interventions were in harmony with the modern style of the existing renovation.
In response, the team radically reconfigured the building’s interior, chiefly by constructing a new floor within the existing volume, while preserving the building envelope as much as possible. In combination with new large windows and doors that bring in views of the countryside, the old farmhouse has been transformed into an airy, light-filled residence without losing its vernacular character. Embracing a minimalist aesthetic of industrial elegance, the house strikes a fine balance between crisp modernity and rural authenticity.
At the heart of the renovation is a metal and wood structure that has been surgically inserted into the building in such a way as to not disturb the original masonry walls and timber beams. The structure divides the space into a generous living room and a private area with two bedrooms on two levels, while also functioning as a support framework for an array of furnishings such as suspended shelves, luminaires, railings, sliding doors and even a hanging net suspended above the living room.
Structural beams, floor decking and door panels made from galvanised steel, a material chosen for its visual lightness and structural efficiency, add industrial touches while the use of Okoumé timber, an African wood with a warm, mahogany-like, red-brown appearance, imbues the spaces with warmness, also complementing the exposed masonry wall construction.
Large patio doors that open onto a newly constructed balcony usher plenty of natural light into the living room as well as frame an idyllic vista, as do the wide carriage doors, once fully open, across the space – the latter a nod to the building’s agrarian past. Similarly, an expansive window, complete with a lengthy windowsill seat, introduces light and views into the main bedroom, all the way to the en-suite bathroom in the back. Housed in a wooden box fitted with a frameless glass opening, the bathroom is yet one more example of minuit’s detail-oriented, technically-sophisticated design approach.