Virgil unbound: Italian Alps ruin becomes dream budget home

When his wife inherited a ruined stable in Italy’s Orobic Alps, architect Alfredo Vanotti reinvisioned the space as a family home, reflecting local craftsmanship and his love of modern design.

To daylight the home, Vanotti created a long skylight and four large windows facing the Valtellina Valley below. To create exterior walls that resembled the “dry stone” technique of the the region’s traditional homes, he used local stone and a minimal amount of cement to hold it together.

For the interior, Vanotti used reinforced concrete, along with natural larch and iron to give the home a more modern feel. “Concrete is misused,” he explains. “It shouldn’t be perfect. The advantage of concrete: it shouldn’t be smooth, beautiful, precise.” The fireplace, sink, bidet, shower and toilet are all custom-designed from unfinished concrete. To showcase the material’s imperfections, Vanotti chose to leave the material untreated and uncovered. “Concrete is a refined material. You don’t have to hide it.”

With just a “small budget”, and relying on help from his father, Vanotti transformed the ruin into a weekend home for his family over the course of five years. He designed the home from the ground up, including the kitchen sink. Everything was designed by the architect, including the concrete sink/bidet/toilet and fireplace. Nearly every detail was personalized, like the door/cupboard handles made from strips of leather.

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  1. bob k
    August 19, 2017

    As an owner, hands-on renovator of multiple projects over my life time (thanks Dad for giving me the bug), I like most just have to shake my head over the many flaws built into this house. I love the location though. Too bad the stairs are deadly, for adults and kids. The toilets! enough said about them. And yes concrete is cheap, and great! Duh? The under the stairs drawers are too deep and need a set of runners to operate smoothly. It's like a total beginner built this place, Yikes!

  2. bhhardgr01
    August 22, 2017

    The house is very nice…But is made to be looked at, not lived….

  3. Rebecca Gutierrez
    September 3, 2017

    Beautiful home but he won't be able to enjoy it in his older years. I wonder why people don't think of this when they construct and build.

  4. Jeff Bingaman
    September 4, 2017

    This guy made everything simple because the view is so complex or maybe the right word would be complete.
    Those four windows look like four mouths in awe.
    The movie of this house should be. "Every Room with a View.
    Just build a house that looks like a huge boulder with windows.
    That would be the perfect natural blend. Except for the windows or the fake boulder. But still.

    It's funny that the comments are all about amenities. It's all about the view and how simple humans are to the beauty of nature.

  5. hgordonf
    October 8, 2017

    Beautiful and Breathtaking !
    Comfortable yet Simple !
    Stunning and Fantastic !
    Great Design !

  6. Mollie White-Evans
    October 14, 2017

    It's a beautiful Home, but not for a physically handicapped person…

  7. critical thought
    October 22, 2017

    Thin, breakable  strips of leather "designed"  to pull out massive,  heavy drawers…wth?!?   "Oh,  but it is MY unique design and it  is  like no other one  out there". The bathroom reminds  me of  the  roughed in ( bare bones) plumbing you might find leftover and  incomplete,  down in the musty old basements,  hiding behind a hideous  plastic shower curtain , inside   homes built in  50's and 60's.  His desire to be able to say all of these uniquely  odd designs  were  his alone,  suggested his gigantic  ego took precedence over safety, function, comfort and aesthetics.  Most telling,  was his decision to forego  the use of  guard  rails on the stairway and upper loft area.

  8. Raffaella Vitiello
    November 15, 2017

    beautiful site, amazing view, very lovely outside building, but to my taste horrendously ugly inside, only a maan could design a house so unconfortable!!It is all about him

  9. doge fm
    November 15, 2017

    l'hipster de noaltri

  10. doge fm
    November 15, 2017

    bella casa davvero ma le scale senza i corrimano mi spaventano

  11. Josepha Black
    November 16, 2017

    I love the choice of material, well considered and greatly implemented!

  12. Gregory May
    November 19, 2017


  13. owen mifsud
    November 20, 2017

    belisima casa

  14. Tony L
    November 21, 2017

    I like thinking different and trying unusual things, but there is really nothing I like about this house except for the view. It appears to be very uncomfortable and dysfunctional.

  15. Jennifer H.
    November 22, 2017

    So where's the cement tub? Is his wife made of stone? & daughter a few cement pieces sown together?

  16. Jennifer H.
    November 22, 2017

    One of the ways this home could have been saved is if he decided to add leather over his walls to make leather walls

  17. Sapphire Camui
    November 25, 2017

    how do you clean a toilet made of concrete? it didn't look hygienic to me at all. and knowing myself, the whole bathroom would go wet f i showered there. i liked everything else [or almost everything else]

  18. Pero Vaper
    November 26, 2017

    budget house….as the title mentions…all budget not bad but not good also…

  19. Andrea23111977
    November 27, 2017

    Fuori bello, dentro moderno senza senso, giusto per stupire ma senza un minimo di praticità… Non serve a nulla una casa così. Solo una sega mentale per chi in casa non ci vive davvero. Il bagno è allucinante! Nemmeno in prigione è così! Il rubinetto della cucina è a mano, quindi se devi sciacquare ti spari in testa che fai prima! I cassettoni sotto scala sono mezzi inservibili perché non sfruttano tutto il volume disponibile ma ne lasciano una parte morta. Le camere poi sono la ciliegina sulla torta visto che le finestre non si possono spalancare ma solo guardare, non si può andare a dormire di giorno perché hai la luce in faccia dall'alba al tramonto, non c'è insonorizzazione visto che tutto è aperto e poi non c'è il minimo di spazio per un armadio… praticamente inutile e inadatta a viverci. Da impazzire!
    Il parapetto rovinava la linea? Speriamo che se quando per sbaglio qualcuno cadrà giù, il gesso della gamba rotta non rovini anche quello lo "stile" della casa!
    Non sono architetto, ma a mio modesto parere qui ci saranno tante idee, ma fanno davvero pena!
    Calcestruzzo dappertutto senza motivo… ma è una casa per viverci o una cantina/garage? Ma davvero una persona deve sentirsi a casa propria in un luogo così freddo e inospitale? Pure il fuoco di quella specie di caminetto mi trasmette freddezza!

  20. Margaret's New Toy Lynn Parks
    December 1, 2017

    Only one thing I would fix. THE RAIL. Other than that its perfect….

  21. s3xyScorp
    December 3, 2017

    Nice design,,except that fireplace looks very ineficent,,and why dont people remove outside shoes when going inside the house,,?

  22. Panos Dramitinos
    December 4, 2017

    Appart from the location which is stunning, and the building which wasn't his work, everything else is dysfunctional and dangerous in the case of the railing upstairs. He justifies certain decisions as design intentions but they are really just facade for lazyness and poor planning. It really gets on my nerves when I see irresponsibility in design, especially when it comes to safety. I mean it is enraging that he told his daughter to "be carefull" and just install a flimsy railing upstairs, unsupported and of such small cross section.

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