Cover The sunburst pattern of the Meridian Aqua carpet from The Rug Company adds dynamism to the living room, which also features the Neutra Leaf coffee tables and dining table

A historical estate in Switzerland welcomes a new chapter through the deft hand of interior designer Ina Rinderknecht

Every project presents a different challenge, and when a property is listed in the national historical register, expectations are undoubtedly stratospheric. But when interior designer Ina Rinderknecht was commissioned to modernise this country estate in Zurich, she couldn’t say “challenge accepted” fast enough.

“The owners had seen a previous project of ours, Hotel Storchen in Zurich. After discovering that we were the team behind its interior design, they approached us via our website and from there, we started working together on this incredible estate,” says Rinderknecht. 

Spanning over 753,400 sq ft, the large estate is divided into two parts—the villa and chauffeur house—set in a structure replete with art nouveau features.

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The goal was to restore the house to its former glory, bring lightness into the interior, and adapt it to new requirements. Previously used as a single-family home, the owner wanted to expand it for private as well as corporate use, such as hosting meetings and retreats.

Rinderknecht, with her global background and deep experience in crafting interiors for various luxury hospitality and residential clients, was well placed to bridge the old and the new with a sophisticated flourish. Born and raised in Seoul, the Milan-educated designer often marries various styles and eras in her projects. “My childhood memories often draw me back to the sights, sounds and smells I was exposed to, and this very much influences my work. It is an inherent knowledge I carry with me,” she reveals.

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Bringing the interiors into a new century required a considerable amount of work in terms of layout, design and decoration. “Whilst a treasure chest for historical materials and art nouveau details, the main character of the building was dark and heavy. It felt frozen in time, and we were excited to breathe new life into the place.”

As is customary of listed buildings, the renovation had to be implemented under a strict framework. “The research process was elaborate—every room was meticulously studied by preservation experts, who created an inventory of materials and features to be maintained,” says Rinderknecht. 

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The expansive period property incorporates an array of indoor and outdoor social spaces, 13 bedrooms and multiple bathrooms. It was crucial to balance a sense of dynamism and harmony throughout the estate.

Having over a dozen rooms also offered the opportunity to change things up. “It was clear we could not create a scheme that would apply to every room in the same way,” says Rinderknecht. “We needed to transfer the diversity of the original interior into the new proposal.”

The team embarked on extensive research, and were drawn to a beautiful drapery fabric from Rubelli available in different colours. “This fabric was the perfect starting point to retell the story of the house in a fresh and contemporary manner. Based on the drapery, we were able to set up three colour schemes: subtle blue, purple, and green.” These multiple colour schemes infused the heritage home with the energy it needed, resulting in different looks that still felt connected to one another. 

The most challenging space to update was the dining room, given its strong historical features such as a dark wood cabinet and a tiled stove that dated back to the villa’s construction.

“We designed the custom marble table in light Calacatta Borghini to create a central piece that would alleviate the heaviness and rigidity of the room. The contemporary geometric shapes and pastel tones also catch your eye without being too loud,” says Rinderknecht.

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One of the most exciting aspects of the renovation was rethinking how the rooms on the ground floor could be better suited to the estate’s renewed purpose. The team created a spectacular cocktail area complete with a freestanding bar with a marble top; they also reimagined the existing built-in cabinets and changed the wallcovering to a brush-stroke golden wallpaper from Altfield Interiors. “This room is now a glorious spot to welcome guests and serves as a place for relaxed gatherings.” 

In order to highlight the prized features of the villa, the designer chose to go with classic materials and neutral colours. “The choice of light wood and rattan preserves the cosy countryside feel of the home and helps to fuse the darker tones of the original features with the chosen pastel colour schemes. This creates a calm yet modern atmosphere,” she says.

In true 21st-century style, there is, of course, a space devoted to wellness. The basement has been transformed into a haven for well-being, complete with a spa, steam bath, relaxation areas, dressing rooms and a fitness room. With accent walls in a soft beige and Crema d’Orcia limestone from Salvatori, it’s a wonderful spot to pause and decompress.

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In the end, both Rinderknecht’s team and the owner were extremely delighted with the final result. “We’re proud to be able to tackle a complex historical restoration project that not only brought the villa into the present day, but also evolved it to serve both private and corporate purposes,” she says. Her favourite part of the transformation? “It has to be the living room on the ground floor—it is light, fresh, and has a dream-like atmosphere.”

  • PhotographyReto Guntli and Agi Simoes
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