A chalet with a difference: Transformed Asian-inspired 1840s barn becomes most sought-after in Verbier
We talk to Indira Kithsiri about just how she brought this exciting project to life
Perched on a sunny plateau in the heart of the Swiss Alps, with its slate-roofed chalets, Verbier has carefully maintained its charm as an alpine village. This is the gateway to the 4 Vallées ski area – with nearly 100 lifts and more than 400 km of ski runs for all levels of expertise at your feet.
A freeride paradise, the resort is a must for skiers and snowboarders from all over the world, and its après-ski and aperitifs are a veritable institution on terraces where a cosmopolitan clientele of all generations is to be found. While this resort is a true paradise for winter sports, its summer options are just as appealing and are an open invitation to endless discoveries.
With all of its charms, it’s unsurprising that Verbier has become such a much-loved haunt of the rich and famous, with the likes of Spencer Matthews and even Prince William regular visitors to the resort. With a loyal legion of fans, the village is alive with visitors all year round, with most choosing to stay in traditional mountainside chalets for a convenient base from which to conduct their activities.
Not all chalets are created equal, however, and for those in search of somewhere special to rest their heads at night, Asian-inspired barn convert ‘INDAMA’ is slowly but surely gaining a reputation as the chic-est and most sought-after accommodation choice. This luxurious, bespoke barn sits in the heart of Verbier village, a surprising mix of rustic and contemporary influences, and designed using the finest local materials and finishings.
Brought to fruition by Indira Kithsiri, who inherited the 1840s building from her mother, the barn has been artfully and painstakingly transformed into a beautiful bolthole that draws influence from her Sri Lankan roots– and the result is a chalet that is quite unlike any other one in Verbier.
Located just a 15-minute walk from the Medran gondola in a peaceful and authentic spot, the property benefits from a spectacular view on the mountains across the valley. A 175 square metre duplex composed of 4 bedrooms with en suite bathrooms and direct access to balconies, the barn boasts a spacious living room with a fireplace, and a dining room with an outside terrace. All bathrooms have Italian tiles and vintage-style fittings. Hardwood flooring, reclaimed wood doors, curtains in cashmere and design furniture all feature throughout the build, making it a stylish and contemporary space everywhere you look.
A lot of thought has gone into this project – that much is clear. But with a busy professional life that includes her role as Community Specialist for India and South Asia at the World Economic Forum, in Geneva, Switzerland, it’s an all the more impressive feat for Indira. Here, we get the low-down on just how she brought INDAMA to life.
Tell us more about the transformation of your old barn and how you brought it to fruition.
“I feel most fortunate to have inherited barns built in 1840 from my mother in the heart of Verbier village, and I thought it was time to convert them into unique homes. The 18-month transformation was an interesting exercise during which I learnt everything from “de-constructing” the existing old barn to rebuilding and redesigning the external façade, selecting materials, working on the floor plans to optimize space given initial constraints, and find ways of bringing a maximum of light inside the house.
Once I finalized the layout, I started to think about the look and feel, the design elements, the materials I wanted to use. Given my Asian origins and passion for travels around the world, I wanted to bring these flavours in and contrast them with the authentic, rustic, alpine style. I also opted for a contemporary design, mixing antique with modern to have more freedom in creativity.”
What has been the biggest driving force behind this project?
“One important aspect for me was my aspiration to preserve heritage. With this project, I could bring an old barn back to life, and it was a fantastic experience. I also feel that my passion for design and architecture, need for creativity and innovation have helped me develop a sense of aesthetics and attention to detail over the years. Above all, my passion was the driving force that kept me going. It brought me great energy and enthusiasm throughout. Ultimately, as Steve Jobs used to say: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
Who, or what, inspires or influences your designs selection?
“Good question. All design choices have been highly influenced by my travels around the world to vibrant and unusual places, experiencing different cultures while interacting with locals. When I built INDAMA, I wanted to bring these fond memories and emotions inside the home. The result is an alpine home, with Asian flavours with influences of Georgia, China, India and Sri Lanka to contrast with the rustic, traditional mountain style. All design furniture has been carefully hand-picked, piece by piece, to ensure harmony and uniqueness.
Art is also a significant source of inspiration. A beautiful painting by Priyantha Udagedara, renowned Sri Lankan contemporary artist along with a composition of colorful butterflies from South America are a part of the decor.”
Which materials, fabrics and fittings did you use? How did you combine both traditional and contemporary styles?
“I wanted to use local materials, mostly – so, reclaimed wooden doors, natural stone flooring, ultra matt finish clay paint as a base to bring texture. I have used Italian tiles “Fioranese Ceramica- Cementine black & white” and vintage-style fittings – Dornbracht “Madison” for all bathrooms to accentuate the antique style.
I also used colourful cement tiles hand painted by Marie Hugo for Carocim with India and “the tree of life” as its theme. I have used Italian cashmere for curtains and silk made cushions from Good Earth, India. Lighting designs are represented by Ingo Maurer “Lucelino”, Le Deun “Circle” and the acclaimed Secto Design lamps from Finland, born of a genuine need, the innovative use of wood material and skilled craftsmanship.
As for the furniture, I picked the chairs “Masters” by Kartell, bedside tables “Attila” by Philippe Starck, and carpet “Maglia” by Ruckstuhl, knitted skilfully and sustainably in fique (the national fiber of Columbia used in former times for the production of coffee bags and agricultural yarns). The craftsmanlike processing of the irregular material results in wonderfully authentic patterns. For the funky and pop side of the barn, I selected the wallpaper “Les doudous peace & love” by Elitis showcasing magnificent warriors in ceremonial dress with a colored metallic background.”
What’s next on your agenda?
“A few exciting things! I am currently working on a second transformation of a barn located next to INDAMA with a totally different concept and design – a contemporary, authentic, traditional and minimalist barn with natural stones, old wood and a lot of windows for the light to come in, allowing contact with nature.
Other than that, I am also authoring a book on successful entrepreneurs and inspirational leaders with Sri Lankan roots around the world, to inspire millennials and encourage them to discover their passions, believe in their dreams and maximise their potential. I hope this initiative will further help create an environment of entrepreneurship and innovation, especially amongst the younger generation, to shape Sri Lanka’s success story.”
Born in the mountains of Switzerland to a Swiss mother and Sri Lankan father, she holds a B.Sc. in International Hospitality Management from the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne (EHL), Switzerland, and is the founder of SAHANA Sri Lanka, a non-profit organisation aiming to improve the living conditions and educational opportunities of underprivileged youth and women in Sri Lanka.
Indira’s professional career has spanned more than 8 years working on project development, relationship management and communications across Switzerland, India and Sri Lanka. Today, she is a Community Specialist for India and South Asia at the World Economic Forum, in Geneva, Switzerland.
To find out more about INDAMA, visit http://www.indama.ch/