Based on the samples in this book, "chalet style" has to have common elements unifying Switzerland and France, the US, and Japan (among others) - a tall order already. But really, it's there, and carries itself beautifully across the changes of scenery and culture. First, these are chalets of grand style, the kind that most of us mortals can only dream about. Well, books like this help us dream. Then there's the environment: mountains, as promised in the title, with snow. Lots of snow - wintry weather creates a critical backdrop for these dramatic residences.
In the chalets themselves, the first unifying principle seems to be connection with the outdoors. Exterior walls of "Bighorn" seem layered in porches. "Haus Hild" thoughtfully surrounds the chalet's second story with porches, acknowledging that drifts will sometimes cover the lower part of the building. "Chalet Sonnenhof" seems girdled with porches, and "Le Chalet des Fermes de Marie" sets an elegant outdoor table overlooking the mountain's snowscapes. Even when indoors, vast windows give the outdoors immanent immediacy. "Le Chalet" features walls of window in the social areas, bedrooms, and even bathtub areas. "Chalet Les Brames" glazes the biggest part of the structure's end, "Chesa Musi" and "La Stailina" feature some of the biggest single panes of glass I've ever seen, and "Zermatt Peak" seems almost to be a glass bubble, expanding its transparent facade outward beyond normal rectangular limits. Clearly, the chalet is a convenience in enjoying the environment, not an alternative to it.
I identify natural materials as the second common feature. Wood figures heavily - bare wood interiors, open framing, decks, stump coffee tables, flooring, exteriors, staircases, and furniture. Many present a "log cabin" appearance. (David Pye's The Nature and Art of Workmanship offers insight into how rough construction can coexist with elegant style.) Knotty pine features frequently, as in the fantastical staircases of "Chesa Farrer", elegant mouldings of "Chesa Cresta", and fluted columns of "Der Turm." And, when possible, the organic shape of the tree itself comes indoors, as in the four-posters of "Chalet Antonia" and birch visitors to the "Rosenbach Residence." Stone appears often in the structure, too, and interiors often featuring leather, furs, and other animal remains. For example, Bonnemaison's fur-covered bathtub offers a clever response to Meret Oppenheim's non-functional fur teacup. And the fireplaces - remember that fire was one of the West's classic four elements comprising everything in the world.
For all their similarities, these architectural artworks each have their own character. Japanese chalets offer precise, soothing geometries, even Zen rock gardens. North American samples give an industrial feel, exposing the steel brackets and bolts that hold the building's framing together. Every look has its representative here. The most rustic appears, with waned planks as tabletops. Bold art collections dominate some interiors, as do interiors designs as artworks in themselves. There's something for every imagination here, even if not something for every budget. But, sometimes, just knowing it's out there for someone is inspiration enough.