When tasked with reforming an existing home for an older couple looking to live out their retirement years in picturesque Algarve, Portugal, local firm Core Architects looked to make the structure as energy-efficient as possible. In addition to converting the previously two-story home into a one-story reborn as Villa GK, the architects used various ecological building materials such as cork insulation and travertine rock, which were both locally-sourced.

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white cube-like building with glass facade

The homeowners had visited Algarve for years, but when it came to living there full-time, they knew that they had to reform the two-story home to adjust to their comfort levels as they aged. Working closely with the couple, the architects created a plan that would turn the 2,000-square-foot home into a more open, one-story layout. To do this, the team decided to slope the home and add an outdoor staircase that leads to the garden, complete with a putting course.

Related: A modern vacation retreat is embedded into the rolling hills of southern Portugal

interior living space with all glass wall and gray sectional sofa

interior living space with all glass wall and gray couch

The home’s new layout not only helped create a flowing living space, but it was also orientated to take advantage of the sun’s position. Additionally, the architects were able to optimize cross-ventilation for the interior. A large glazed facade looks out over the swimming pool and, of course, stunning views of the sea in the distance.

all-white kitchen with wooden island

kitchen with glossy white cabinets

To create an energy-efficient home that would keep the interior temperature comfortable and reduce energy costs, the home was built with concrete and clad in heat-efficient clay blocks. This system not only added a tight thermal shell, but it also made the home more secure in case of an earthquake, which are somewhat common in the area.

woman and dog in front of a white house

outdoor patio with lounge chair

According to the architects,”In our projects we only use thermal clay tiles with mortar-free butt jointing. These are produced in Portugal and are fast and easy to work with. Their thermal performance is more than twice as efficient than the traditional bricks that are conventionally used.” They used locally-sourced cork boards and cork caulking to further insulate the home. The home was also installed with a solar thermal system for heating water.

swimming pool facing the ocean

woman and dog on edge of swimming pool

The interior living space is bright and airy with optimal natural light reaching each room. A neutral color palette of all-white gives the space a sleek, Mediterranean feel. The living room runs into an open kitchen, which features a beautiful island made out of locally-sourced travertine.

+ Core Architects

Via Dwell

Photography by Alexander Bogorodskiy via Core Architects

white cube-like building in front of stairs