Owners Les and Amanda Szkoda made the decision about five years ago that with the kids’ all grown up and their UK businesses in good order they would head to France for a year or so with the plan to find a holiday home they could renovate and have to enjoy in the future.
Starting their search the couple viewed well over 50 properties, with none quite tugging on the heart strings like they had hoped. Then one day they went to view something a little more unusual – an old cow shed situated in Morzine on the Porte du Soleil Mountains.
Amanda explains, “We didn’t know too much about the property or its condition when we agreed to go and take a look, and it was a wet rainy day when we went to see it so the location and views couldn’t really be appreciated. However after months of looking as soon as we saw the old cow shed we fell in love with it.”
Situated 1350m up the mountain the shed was part of a series of eight buildings all owned by a local family, with this one remaining untouched and still in its original barn use condition. With its original timber frame and slate roof the ground floor still contained the cow stalls, and upstairs you could see the remains of the hay loft where hay would be left to dry during the summer ready to have food for the cows for the long snowy winters.
“We knew it was going to be a big job, but we could see the immense potential the barn had, and suddenly our original plans to spend a year or so creating a holiday home escalated and we sold our UK home and both our businesses ready to take on the project and make a permanent move to France.”
The couple’s vision was to turn the property into a fully catered modern ski chalet, which could also be used by walkers during the summer months. It was in an ideal location where guests can ski straight down to the front door of the chalet at the end of each day.
Returning to the property to start making plans on a clear day the couple were able to appreciate the incredible location and views – however the project would not be without challenges which included months of winter weather where road access to the home would not be possible and freezing temperatures working in a building with no heating.
“To start with we moved into a rented house located in the main village. We planned on doing a lot of the work ourselves and one of the first jobs I set about working on was reclaiming all the exterior timber cladding and reconditioning it to be used inside the chalet. This was painstaking work, I think there must have been around 150 years worth of build-up including plenty of cow dung to clean off. It took me a whole winter to complete, scraping and jet-washing every piece. I then left it to dry out for a summer before starting the re-staining process, using a mix of colours to create an authentic aged appearance. It was incredibly hard work but I had such a vision of how good the original timber would look re-instated within the chalets interior.”
As another year passed the couple relocated up to one of the holiday homes nearer the barn and started to make even more progress. “There were times we wondered if we would ever turn that corner and see the home really taking shape as there was so much work needed. But taking advantage of another summer season, and not having to try and work in temperatures as low as -25 the spaces started to come together and we knew we had made the right decision and that we were creating something truly special.”
The couple sourced most of the materials for the chalet from the UK, working closely with V4 Approved Retailer Bosanquet Ives were able to help them pick the right floor to work with the design. They were keen to avoid the very standard interior styles found in many Alps holiday homes, and wanted a more unique and contemporary feel for their chalet.
“We were installing underfloor heating so knew we were best to go for an engineered wood floor. We knew a renowned carpet and flooring fitter in the UK who has worked on super yachts and hotels across Europe and asked him for advice on our wood floors. He was very quick to recommend V4 Wood Flooring and we were happy to follow up on his recommendation. We took a look at the floors on their website and got in touch with the team to make sure we could organise delivery to France. They were incredibly helpful and assured us the whole process could be taken care of.
“Within days samples of our preferred floors arrived and we absolutely loved the Tannery Brown finish in the Urban Nature collection. The darker tones and rich character would blend beautifully with the reclaimed timber cladding going onto the interior walls.”
250m2 of the engineered oak wood floors has been installed in the completed chalet. The finished space has five double guest bedrooms on the ground floor, all with luxurious en-suites, and on the old hay loft level are the living spaces, comprising a stunning living room complete with bar, large kitchen and dining space and a cinema room where guests can chill out after a long day skiing – all benefiting from the amazing mountain views.
“We opened for business at the start of 2019 and our first ski season is going well. The floors have been fantastic to live with, are proving extremely durable and are also very easy to keep clean. I think the dark tones help too as they are very forgiving.
“The past five years have been incredibly challenging but also incredibly rewarding. Our dream of finding a little holiday home in France certainly escalated, but we couldn’t be happier with our new life running the fully catered chalet and benefiting from a wonderful lifestyle and setting in the beautiful French Alps.”
To learn more about holidays at the chalet visit www.lestroissieges.com
V4 Approved Supplier: Bosanquet Ives