A Peaceful, Rural Retreat up in the Treetops

Extract from Bold and Bright by Maíra S Teixeira, published by Ryland Peters & Small. 

Located 210 km/130 miles from São Paulo in the state of Minas Gerais, the city of Gonçalves is set against the panoramic backdrop of the Mantiqueira Mountains. This region is famous for its dramatic natural beauty and is rich in lush valleys and plunging waterfalls. It is a popular area for climbers and trekkers, who are drawn to the high peaks and the well-preserved forests full of native flora and fauna. Renowned Brazilian photographer Bob Wolfenson first visited the area more than 20 years ago. A frequent repeat visitor, in 2011 he found the perfect spot for a home in the mountains: ‘I saw this site and I fell in love,’ he says.

Bob’s choice of architect was pretty much a foregone conclusion. The architect André Vainer was a childhood friend and the two of them had already worked together on a variety of projects , including a house in São Paulo and a beach house. Bob’s brief for this mountain abode was a modestly sized space that would be both a peaceful rural retreat and a place where friends and family could come together. And, after working on so many projects together, André ‘felt an obligation to create a beautiful home’.

The sloping, densely forested site presented a few challenges, but André came up with an ingenious solution that not o n l y preserved the existing trees on the plot but also made the most of the spectacular views from this elevated vantage point. The house consists of two separate blocks on different levels that curve protectively around the hillside. One is the living or ‘social’ block containing the kitchen, dining and living rooms. This light-filled, informal space boasts huge windows and a broad terrace overlooking the treetops.

The private block, tucked behind the living block and on a slightly higher level, houses three simple yet spacious bedroom suites. The two blocks are connected by a pink concrete staircase. ‘This was a way to divide up the functions of the house, giving more privacy to the residents , ’ explains André.

The house was assembled using local labour and materials. It is mainly constructed from glass and garapeia wood with internal brick walls and concrete supporting pillars. The sail-like white roof is made of sheet metal, which reflects sunlight a n d h e l p s retain heat from the traditional wood-burning stove and the open fireplace. All along one side of the main living block, floor-to-ceiling windows of tempered glass with frames made from muiracatiara wood provide a remarkable view of trees and mountains. Lofty and airy, the house gives the sensation of being embraced by the forest. The teal colour used to paint much of the woodwork helps the house blend into the surrounding greenery and contrasts with the white roof.

The bedrooms are located in the upper, private block. Each one has independent access to the garden, allowing guests freedom and privacy. Bob’s bedroom is located at one end and offers breathtaking views over the green tapestry of the valley below. There is a sense of space and tranquillity in this mountain perch.

Bold and Bright by Maíra S Teixeira, published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Available from Amazon

Photography by Maíra Acayaba © Ryland Peters & Small