Home on a slope; floors to match

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Home on a slope; floors to match

The house has almost no internal walls or doors and few level floors – most are ramps that traverse the interior. Its finishes are equally quirky: The interior is bright green, while the boxy exterior is covered entirely in pink polyurethane, a combination that is particularly conspicuous in the countryside here, about 26 miles southwest of Prague, where most homes have traditional pitched roofs and stucco cladding.

It’s not surprising that local architecture critics have dubbed this 1,300-square-foot structure “the marshmallow house.” But Michal Cillik, the 42-year-old psychiatrist who built it and lives there with his second wife, Kristyna, 31, and their children, Hermina, 4, and Vaclav, 5 months, maintains that he didn’t set out to create an eccentric home.

All he wanted, he said, was “an ultra-modern house” with a movie room. In 1999, Cillik bought the quarter-acre hillside plot for 100,000 koruna (about $5,300 today). He hired Sepka Architects to design the house after seeing the firm’s work at an exhibition in Prague and admiring the “clear, clean lines and large windows.”

The architects first proposed a more conventional two-storey structure with a single sloped floor – because “movies are best viewed on a slope, like in the theater,” Cillik said – but it was over his budget.So the architects had to be creative, said Jan Sepka, who designed the house with his partners, Petr Hajek and Tomas Hradecny. “With a small budget, we had to make the house compact,” Sepka said.

That meant leaving the interior open and using more than one ramp, so they could lower the ceilings and make the overall structure smaller.

With a smaller house, there was less building material to buy, and costs were reduced. (The final budget was 5.6 million koruna, or about $300,000 today.) “A spiral with slopes was one conceptual solution,” Sepka said. “That adventurous house wouldn’t work for everybody, but Cillik was enthusiastic about it from the very beginning and pushed us forward.”

The house was designed in 2000, when Cillik was married to his first wife.  But there was a lengthy wait for the building permit and a lawsuit by a neighbour (which was later dropped) – both related to the unusual design. So it wasn’t until 2009 that construction was finished. By that time, Cillik had divorced and remarried.He named the house Villa Hermina, after his daughter with his second wife.

“Many people find the house strange,” he said. “But I got what I wanted.”  The sloped floors are covered with artificial turf to prevent slipping – of particular concern with a new baby.

Cillik, a specialist in behavioral therapy, has a philosophical attitude about raising a toddler in the house: “His first steps will be there, and if he has an accident it will be a small accident, which could be more useful than harmful because he will learn his physical limits.”

Expressing the ‘inner child’

He added: “The message of our house is ‘all of us are children.’ It is an expression of our inner child. And real kids love it, too. When Hermina’s friends come to play, they feel they are at a gym or playground, not a house.”

He seems equally unconcerned about the challenges of aging here.“I have seen old women in Ecuador walk up mountains to get to their homes without a problem,” he said. “So I don’t think we will have a problem, either.” Privacy is another issue, as only the three bathrooms and the basement storage room have doors, but as his wife, a medical journalist, pointed out, “We have something even more valuable: great use of space.” 

The pink exterior was a concession to budget – the planned metallic cladding had to be replaced with cheaper polyurethane that comes in a limited range of colours – but that doesn’t seem to trouble her, either.

“Pink is my favourite colour,” she said. “It shows happiness.” Some neighbours might not agree. They sometimes scowl at the house, but Cillik laughs it off. Villa Hermina, he said, is his life’s achievement – not in spite of the attention, but because of it.

“A lot of men want to be president or a great sportsman, but I am too old to have these ideas,” he said. “Yet by creating this house, which provokes so many emotions, I feel like the president and a gold medalist in the Olympic Games all at once.”

A HOUSE ON THE HILL

* The architects first proposed a more conventional two-storey structure with a single sloped floor – because “movies are best viewed on a slope, like in the theatre,” Cillik said – but it was over his budget.

* The interior was left open and using more than one ramp, so they could lower the ceilings and make the overall structure smaller.

* The pink exterior was a concession to budget – the planned metallic cladding had to be replaced with cheaper polyurethane that comes in a limited range of colours.

* The interior is bright green, while the boxy exterior is covered entirely in pink polyurethane, a combination that is particularly conspicuous in the countryside here.

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