Chalet la Bergeronnettes is tucked away on one of Morzine’s most charming back lanes. It’s the alpine home of Emma Pocock, one half of acclaimed international interior design agency Turner Pocock. I’ve passed this beautiful building hundreds of times over the years and I distinctly remember its condition, pre-renovation. When Emma invited me inside for a peek, I couldn’t help myself…
Emma, when did you buy Chalet La Bergeronnettes and what condition was it in?
We bought the property in autumn 2014 and it hadn’t been touched for 40 years. I would say it was in two halves; the ground floor flat with its front door onto the lane outside and a first floor flat, which was accessed via an external staircase around the side of the building. In the first floor flat we discovered a huge attic with three locked rooms. We could never get into them during our viewings but we took a punt and ended up gaining a whole floor up there with two extra bedrooms, a bathroom and a study area.
How did you balance the original features of the building with the need to renovate? How long did it take?
I’m an interior designer and architect by profession, so I was very clear about what I wanted. We meticulously planned the project and designed the interiors through that first ski season so we were ready to go with our project manager Olaf Ademec (of Alitosa) by the end of the 2014/15 winter season. We ended up having to replace the roof and remove every wall and floor; at one stage you could stand in the cave and see the sky three storeys up – which was terrifying! We tried to keep all the big original beams in the house and we kept the outside looking exactly the same… it actually needs some work now!
How much were you influenced by the surrounding architecture and style?
We couldn’t afford lovely old wood cladding and yellow pine is not my thing, so we went for a Scandi vibe, white tongue and groove everywhere, punctuated by the old oak beams. Olaf ordered all the panelling from Norway and it arrived already painted white. Many locals thought I was bonkers, a man came to fit the fireplace and said it looked like Miami. I think they all got it in the end though!
Do you have any advice for others renovating traditional homes in the mountains?
From an aesthetic angle, don’t be scared! Anything works from a smart chalet vibe, Scandi influences… just have faith in your vision and go for it.
On a more practical level, find someone to act as a general contractor (which is not really a thing in France compared to the UK). By this I mean someone who can manage all of the subcontractors and there are several project managers and builders in town who do this. To manage all the sub-contractors yourself is a full time job. The other thing I would recommend from a professional point of view is ‘designing’ the house before you start. Make every single decision you can in advance from the floor layout to the sanitary ware, your kitchen supplier and more. Pass this information on to your project manager as this will get your quotes much closer to your final budget if you don’t change things when on site.
How do you use the chalet as a family?
We live down in Geneva so we come up as much as we can, every weekend during the ski season and summer months and then for holidays throughout the year. We rent it out a few times a year to help financially, but first and foremost it is our home, and it really feels like it!