Building and buying

Modern and full of light: Rose-Marie’s winegrower’s house

Cécile Maurer

Rose-Marie is 66 years old. Although she retired a few years ago, she still helps out as a school nurse. Even in her home on Lake Geneva, she is rarely alone and enjoys the hustle and bustle: as well as her own children and grandchildren, tourists from all over the world come and spend the night at “Mamma”.

Rose-Marie is leaning against the railing of her patio. A terracotta-colored house with blue shutters can be seen in the background.
© Natascha Vavrina

In this article

A typical winegrower’s house – love at second sight

From the street below, the houses don’t look like anything special. But if you take the trouble to climb up the long flight of stairs to the former winegrowers’ houses, you will discover breathtaking views and hidden gardens. Rose-Marie lives in one of these houses that are so typical of the region.

It is here, in a picturesque village on Lake Geneva, that Rose-Marie’s children grew up, and it is here that her grandchildren now play board games or ball on the spacious patios. However, it took Rose-Marie a while to fall in love with the property: “When I first saw the house, I didn’t think it was anything special. It was gloomy. There were dark wooden beams everywhere, and the small windows let hardly any daylight through.”

The property had been in the family for generations, but Rose-Marie, who loves light and open spaces, was unhappy with the small dark house. It was clear to her that she would have to start by completely rebuilding it. So the old winegrower’s house was turned into a bright and friendly family house, just like she’d always wanted.

Rose-Marie is reading at a large dining table on the covered part of the patio; her house is visible in the background, and there are flowerpots and a tricycle in the foreground.

A welcoming atmosphere with friendly open spaces – Rose-Marie has had her grandmother’s house redesigned.

A dark house is transformed into a bright home

On the ground floor, workmen tore down the walls between the house and the patio and installed large window fronts in their place. They removed the large, engaging fireplace in the living room and transformed the area into a dining area. “We always say we’re having dinner in the fireplace tonight,” says Rose-Marie with a smile.

In Rose-Marie’s living room there are armchairs in the foreground and a dining area and stairs in the background.

White walls, white beams: Rose-Marie’s living room, seen from the patio.

The windows on the first floor were also enlarged to make the rooms brighter. Rose-Marie modified the entire floor plan as well: the walls of the small rooms were knocked down to create two bright bedrooms and a bathroom.

The interior is simple and elegant. “Having too many objects around makes me nervous. I’ve always preferred a Spartan life.” But there is one piece of furniture she did not want to give up: a modern armchair, which she spent a long time saving up for. It now stands in her bedroom and is a joy to look at each day.

A large bed with a white and blue cover can be seen in a room painted white.

A deliberately reduced design: one of the two bedrooms on the first floor.

Her son’s nursery has become a guest room for tourists and people passing through. And since it was not common in the 1970s to build several bathrooms in a single-family house, Rose-Marie now shares her bathroom with her guests. But this will not always be the case: “My next project is to finally build a second bathroom with a shower.”

The guest room has two beds placed side by side. Fresh towels are provided at the foot of each bed.

Vacancies: in her guest room, Rose-Marie accommodates tourists and people passing through.

An additional top floor for the old house

However, the largest construction project was the addition of an extra floor to the building. The top floor was initially where Rose-Marie’s daughter slept, as well as serving as her children’s play and TV corner. Today, this bright area with high ceilings is one of Rose-Marie’s favorite places.

Here everything is white – even the floor. The large windows allow sunlight to shine in almost all day, bathing the room in natural light. Especially in the colder months of the year, Rose-Marie likes to spend time up here reading and writing or listening to the radio.

But the attic is not her only favorite place in the house. In the summer she loves to sit in her kitchen. When the large doors to the patio are open, it feels like living on the Mediterranean coast.

View of the patio with plenty of space for guests. A large white sunshade can be seen in the middle of the picture. On the left there is a table with a bench and two chairs, on the right there is a lounger.

A touch of the Mediterranean: Rose-Marie’s large patio.

Vintage quality that has survived decades

The entrance of the house is also located on this side. And although so much has changed in Rose-Marie’s family’s winegrower’s house, the kitchen, right behind the patio door, has remained exactly the same since 1975: “At the time, everything was of such high quality that the appliances and furniture have survived trends and decades.”

Rose-Marie laughingly describes her kitchen as “vintage” – everything is still original – even the brown tiles. But as long as something works, why change it? True to this motto, Rose-Marie has also left the bathroom in the same vintage design from the 70s. As a result, the old utility rooms form a stark contrast to the gleaming white, puristic living area.

From the kitchen, a long corridor leads to the living room – with a dining area instead of the fireplace. Behind it, you reach the second patio overlooking Lake Geneva and the village center.

Rose-Marie is standing on a landing stage that leads to Lake Geneva.

Lake Geneva is only a few minutes’ walk from Rose-Marie’s house. Her big dream is to have her own boat.

The dream of her own boat

Rose-Marie is able to look out and admire Lake Geneva day in, day out – which explains why her desire for a boat of her own on the lake has grown over time. “My new mortgage saves me money every month,” says Rose-Marie, “which I’m setting aside for my dream. I’d like to buy a sailboat and enjoy the lake with my friends.”

A project spanning several decades

Rose-Marie also gained inspiration from various sources, for example from a bourgeois apartment in Lausanne that she lived in on a temporary basis a few years ago. She loved the high ceilings, the spacious floor plans and elegant stucco work. When she returned home, at first she wanted to replace and renovate everything. But it didn’t take long before she fell in love with her kitchen and bathroom from the 70s all over again. She nonetheless had everything painted white – wooden beams included.

The house has changed again and again over the years. But one thing that has remained the same, apart from the bathroom and the kitchen from the 70s, is Rose-Marie’s love for clear, modern lines, bright rooms and contemporary furniture. Puristic and simple, the whole house is reduced to the essentials. And in the future Rose-Marie will no doubt continue to realize projects in her winegrower’s house, just as she has done regularly up until now.

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