Located in Vale Flor, Portugal, the Chestnut House is a minimal home designed by local architect João Mendes Ribeiro, centered around a chestnut tree. The glass walls of the home provide close-up views of the majestic tree, making it seem as if the tree is a part of the house. The home is clad in black-painted timber, and covered in plywood panels as well. It has also been lined with oriented strand board and cork panels for thermal insulation. The secular chestnut tree functioned as the motto for the development of the home.
Designer: João Mendes Ribeiro
“The reference to ‘genius loci’ summarises the design starting point: the place and the large century-old chestnut tree. The main idea of the project was to shift interest from the architectural object to the place and site so that the context is the starting point of the project,” said Ribeiro.
Defined as an “elegant shelter”, the home occupies 25-square-meter and includes a kitchen, a living area, and a sleeping section – all placed within one room. A central fireplace is placed in the middle of the room. The walls of this room are positioned in such a manner, so as to subtly envelope and hug the chestnut tree. Impressive windows provide views of the tree’s massive trunk, further highlighting the home’s close proximity to the tree.
A cute wooden ladder placed at the southern side of the home provides access to a mezzanine level, which is small in size but has sufficient space for an extra bed. At the northern end of the home, a bathroom has been placed. The mezzanine section also provides stunning views of the peaceful surrounding landscape.
The interiors of the home – the walls, ceiling, and furniture have all been equipped with a plywood finishing, creating a warm and minimal vibe within the home. The interiors perfectly complement, and in fact, accentuate the minimal exterior of the house.
“The geometry (of the home) is broken and tensioned by the tree trunk and its branches, opening the building towards the tree canopy. The house reveals throughout the year the changes in the seasons and weather. It is the changing game of nature that determines the life of the inhabitant,” said Ribeiro. The home allows the residents to always feel at one with nature, and experience the changes in nature as closely as possible.
By incorporating and making room for an existing tree in the design of the home, Ribeiro has managed to minimize the disturbance caused to the site, and protect a beautiful mature tree.