by Afra SafaJul 20, 2023
Conceived as a restructured and redone ruin geared towards simple living, the Sacre Coeur, Stone House by Theo Coutanceau Domini in the heart of downtown Bordeaux, France, is an almost primitive, austere residence where its users enjoy a simplified and slower existence. The compact yet roomy dwelling is a paradigm of raw minimalism, offering itself, in Domini’s words, as a space designed to “think, converse, live and inhabit, a confrontation with the essential.”
Generating a luxury of silence, serenity and seclusion, the residential design celebrates in its humble beauty, the robust architecture of stone, evocative of the early man's and preexisting civilisations, of a passage of time that does not coincide with the current trends of deluxe living. An ode to proportions instead of clinical precision, the Sacre Coeur, Stone House is intentionally sans decoration and opulence, underscoring in its materials, the archaic and intrinsic beauty of greying woods, oxidised pieces, and eroded stone.
“The place is not reduced only to pleasure and aesthetic emotion, it encourages us to re-examine our own notion of comfort and exposes to us the knowledge, that luxury lies more in our way of living in a space, rather than in appearance, or precious materials. It does not express itself through what is spectacular but gives rise to astonishment, by allowing at each moment the possibility of expressing its untouched, genuine self,” explains the architectural designer and photographer.
One can only witness bare necessities persisting in the interior design, all furnished without excess. The material palette discounts hierarchy – each chosen element frees itself from undue exposure or lavishness. No finishes can be seen, as the structures and features themselves are the finish, exhibiting the beautiful essence of raw things, stripped and vulnerable.
No chairs or armchairs in sight, only a monastic table in solid walnut, a bench, a white sheet stretched to display films, and leather seats on the floor magnifying the intended setting, augmented by sitting on the ground dressed in wooden planks, the soft pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof, logs crackling and the gentle smell of smoke emanating from the hearth.
“The comfort of such spaces lies in their serenity, in their simple charm. It is not intimidating; it is not dripping with luxury. It is peaceful,” says Domini. “The residential structure emerges as a place in which the traditional house is no longer perceptible and where a rustic atmosphere isolates, and summons the user’s imagination,” he adds.
The dwelling is bathed in an indirect, almost exhausted, and precarious light, allowing nuance to take shape with shadows softly supplementing the intensity of the illumination. The spatial borders inside the house have been kept fluid, almost incognito, to illicit a freer, more open house. Domini relays that this introduces its users to a new way of reacting, experiencing and becoming comfortable with the frugality of the space, shaping an overtone for the contemplative. The residence features minimal intervention of artificial lighting, and thus lives to the rhythm of natural light cycles.
As the spine of the residence, the main living space combines all functions of the house, where technical amenities have been kept concealed. The surface of the existing thick stone walls is unearthed, to highlight its exposed nature. “No border, no door and the spaces follow one another, respecting without too much rigour, the subtle and erotic tension that exists when one passes freely from one place to another,” shares the French designer. Despite the already compact space, the floors on the upper level were done away with, “giving up a few square meters to expand the feeling of space and give more room to the light,” according to Domini.
The rustic intimate design opts for materials and settings that are natural and sustainable, underpinning its minimal elegance with a muted colour palette, emerging as a home where one slows down and simply exists in the moment. The interiors are not just an exercise in aesthetic simplicity, but an appreciation of simple living, a harmonious thread between our behaviour and what surrounds us.