Swiss Timing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2007, 12:00am

WHEN ASKED WHYhe chose to set up home St Moritz, Tyler Brule reels off a list of what makes it great. He doesn't mention the skiing or the spectacular mountain scenery, though. Instead he talks about the luxury goods stores, the fantastic hotel, the extraordinary restaurants and bars, then adds some more mundane reasons that he believes make life there appealing: the hardware stores, the great grocery shops and incredible newsstands and kiosks.

His perhaps slightly outre choice will come as less of a surprise when you learn that Brule, a Canadian-born, London-based media entrepreneur with a passion for design, has made his name charting the vicissitudes of global consumerism either as a columnist, as the creative director of his design agency Winkreative, or through the two magazines he launched, Wallpaper* and, most recently, Monocle.

A friend of Brule introduced him to the Swiss ski resort many years ago. He skied there for three or four seasons and felt drawn to the place that, by a slip of the tongue, he describes as a 'city', then admits that 'it's a village - but with all that London has to offer'.

Brule bought the apartment seven years ago. 'The skiing is fabulous, but every year I ski less and less,' he says.

'I travel so much that this is my real home. It's where I entertain and invite friends as I only have a tiny pied a terre in London.'

Situated in a modern 1960s building in the middle of St Moritz, the apartment had been 'alpine-ified' by its previous owner. 'There was a lot of carved wood,' Brule says with a shudder, and he set out to return the flat to its original concept.

The structure is all straight lines and right angles, so he chose a look that complemented that. He brought in David Marquardt of Mach, an architectural practice based in Zurich, and a friend of Brule from his Wallpaper* days. 'The brief was low maintenance on the eye and low maintenance on upkeep,' says Brule. 'I didn't want to turn it into an architect's fantasy.'

Marquardt moved the kitchen to the centre of the apartment - an easier location for people entering with snowy boots - and created one large reception room with eating, dining and study areas. The parquet flooring throughout is by Swiss firm Bauwerk and all the oak finishing is from a nearby timber firm in St Gallen. The warm-toned wood tempers the snowy-whiteness of the painted brick and plaster walls and, in a fresh, modern way, seems to bring the outside in.

The look, apparently, is indicative of local style nowadays. 'There are a number of quite outstanding modern mountain residences now and I think there is a bit of modernist, mountain vernacular happening,' Brule says. 'You see a lot of it in Verbier and certainly in St Moritz and Davos. I think the money is coming from outside, but the talent is homegrown.'

Brule retained the original fixtures in the bathroom. From the ground to halfway up, the walls are clad in racing-green tiles. The fixtures are Swiss 1960s chrome in the style of the building, and there is a wonderful deep bath. 'The only change I made was to glass in the shower area,' Brule says.

So firmly are Brule's tastes set in the modernist context that antique, for him, is anything from the 1940s and 50s. He wanted to mix Swedish, Finnish and Swiss components in an airy and stylishly low-key way. If anything, the issue was about scale, which is what Marquardt was there to help with. The apartment is about 1,400 sq ft, which demands a minimalist approach to create a sense of space.

Smoothly finished wood is an overriding feature of the flat, with oak, ash and walnut used throughout, from furniture to walls, with orange cushions used as a warm accent colour. There are a few custom-made pieces, for example the matching oak coffee table and side tables, which Marquardt designed with the same joinery firm that produced the wooden finishes. The white topped dining table is from E15 and the dining chairs from Svenskt Tenn in Stockholm. Brule's favourite pieces, though, are the pair of Aino Aalto sofas, which he found at the Artek store in Helsinki. 'I always longed to own one one day, and thought it would be perfect if I could have two - and there they were.'

Part of Brule's agency, Winkreative, is based in Zurich so he stays at the apartment as often as possible. He likes to hole up with a pile of DVDs, or go running around the lakes to relax. However, he has recently acquired another residence in Sweden, which draws him away sometimes during the summer months.

Winkreative is a global business - clients include Swiss International Air Lines, Warner Music, Saab, Stella McCartney and the Villa Moda fashion stores in the Middle East - with offices in New York and Tokyo as well as Zurich. These also serve as bureaus for his new magazine, Monocle, a publication covering, like Wallpaper*, design, architecture, fashion and food, but also current affairs. It is aimed at the world citizen who commutes internationally and is more interested in the bigger picture than parochial concerns.

Although Brule is still based in London, which he once regarded the most creative city in the world, he now thinks it is being superseded by Berlin 'for its sheer rawness and quality of life'. He also believes Tokyo is challenging London's position. 'I could live in Japan. It is so deeply civilised, while New York and London are becoming so uncivilised.'