After an introduction by Chesterton International, we have recently starting working with At Home in the Alps on the design of our Chalet in Gstaad-Zweisimmen. To date, it has been a great experience for us. This is the first time we have built a property from scratch and needless to say, we were very nervous about the process and getting it right. However, the team from At Home in the Alps have been fantastic and have helped us in many ways. We believe there are many benefits of using this firm.
As foreigners, there are limits to what we can buy and build in Switzerland. The team from At Home in the Alps have been able to guide us through various regulations and given us advice us about the feasibility of our plans. Contracts for land purchase, details required for mortgage documents and planning permissions from the Swiss authorities are completely handled by this firm - which for us, as foreign investors, is a big advantage.
The architect and designer from the firm have been to visit us at our home in London to discuss plans with us. They come to see us at frequent intervals with progress updates.
In the first meeting, they spent considerable time understanding how we plan to use the chalet. They went beyond the standard questions on the number of bedrooms and amenities. We started by deciding (amongst many other things) how many people the chalet was to be built for; whether or not we would rent, what our future plans would be, how many guests we would have, what kind of privacy requirements we had, how we would expect our guests to live with us, how we plan to use the living room, kitchen, and sleeping areas, even what views would like to wake up to and what views we would like to dine to, how we expect to move around the house, if there are babies in the house and how this will impact the design of the living areas and sleeping areas.
Based on this exhaustive discussion, the team submitted a design for the interiors which needed only minor alterations from our side to transform it into our dream Chalet. What was more amazing was that they designed the interiors in spite of all the constraints on the floor space and mandatory design features. They came up with many great ideas to make our design possible, especially given that the terrain they were working on was a bit difficult (being on a steep incline).
The team has been helping us understand the plans and has spent a lot of time in explaining the meaning of the symbols used in their drawing including the measurement of inclines etc. I feel more informed and I can now compare the design submitted to us with other designs on the internet to ensure that I am getting good value. I am very impressed by their patience with us and their ability to simplify their craft in order to communicate with construction novices like ourselves (I have not so much as designed a kitchen, let alone a whole house).
The team is very happy to experiment and work with us on the look and feel of the chalet. In addition to our meetings, we communicate though e-mail and I have sent many design ideas and photographs of chalets I like. The team has been very helpful in considering all design ideas and incorporating those they believe will work from a design and regulation perspective. Furthermore, they have invested considerable time in educating us on what would be acceptable in Switzerland as compared to England, to ensure that in chasing our dream chalet, we didn't build something that does not fit in with the local culture - affecting re-sale value.
The team has been very flexible in accommodating our timings and have been very honest and forthright about the time-lines and costs, managing our expectations quite well and allowing us to make informed decisions. Once given a budget, they make every attempt to keep within this.
The team keeps us informed about the many options we will have as we go further into design and I look forward to our continuing work together to build a chalet we will use frequently over the next few years.
Mrs Madhavi Reddy and Mr Inder Bir Singh