A pair of Costa Rican retreats brings a refined aesthetic to a spectacular site

Formafatal designs a pair of Costa Rican retreats; two minimalist villas for a maximalist plot in the heart of the jungle

two costa rican retreats, Villas Jaspis and Nefrit, by Formafatal
(Image credit: BoysPlayNice)

On a lushly forested ridge in the jungle, a pair of Costa Rican retreats peep out of the vegetation, cantilevered above the leaves and fronds to provide distant ocean views. Designed by the architect Dagmar Štepánová of Estudio Formafatal, a practice that splits its time between Costa Rica and the Czech Republic, the two small holiday villas in Uvita look due south to Bahia Ballena (‘Whale Bay’) on the Pacific coast. 

Beautiful view out from Costa Rican villa by Formafatal

(Image credit: BoysPlayNice)

A set of Costa Rican retreats by Formafatal

These identical floorplans are the epitome of simplicity. Each is essentially a single room, consisting of large centrally placed bed, behind which is a bathroom, kitchenette, and storage space. The bulk of the walls are glazed and slide open to the surrounding terraces. These are generous enough to house a daybed, dining area and small infinity plunge pool.

Pool beside Costa Rican retreat set above the forest and looking out to sea

(Image credit: BoysPlayNice)

Each villa has its own distinct identity, defined by the colour choices and furnishings, balancing each other in a classic yin/yang relationship. Jaspis Villa, named for the Czech word for the light quartz Jasper, is paired with Nefrit Villa, named for the word for the typically darker Jade.

Bedroom inside Costa Rican retreat, with glazed walls

(Image credit: BoysPlayNice)

Jaspis is finished in light, sandy shades, intended by the architects to connect with the ocean and the sky. In contrast, the Nefrit Villa, with its red terracotta floor slab and terrace, is designed to feel closer in spirit to the ground and the surrounding jungle.

Outdoor deck with chairs at one of two Costa Rican retreats

(Image credit: BoysPlayNice)

In addition to concrete and steel, the two villas make extensive use of rammed-earth construction, using the clay soil excavated for the foundations to form the perimeter load-bearing walls. 

Simple kitchen area inside Costa Rican villa

(Image credit: BoysPlayNice)

The plot is 300m above sea-level, giving far-reaching views across the bay. Each villa is around 90 sq m, but the interiors appear to expand outwards into the surrounding landscape. The horizontal and vertical compositions are a deliberate foil to the jungle, but the colour palettes, inside and out, harmonise with the foliage.

Luxury villa set in forest, Costa Rica

(Image credit: BoysPlayNice)

Although they’re set just 12m apart, the plot has been densely planted in order to preserve a strong sense of privacy and splendid isolation. The views don’t reveal themselves until you’ve stepped inside; once there, they dominate the interior. 

Exterior of villa, with pool, set amid greenery

(Image credit: BoysPlayNice)

Štepánová and her team have focused intently on all the details, ensuring that like handles and tracks were recessed into the concrete slab to keep surfaces clean and minimal. Cast concrete is also used for the bespoke furniture in each villa, coloured to match the concrete screeds. The kitchen, desk, sink unit, tables and benches are also formed from concrete. The architect cites the sculptural work of the Belgian designer Bram Vanderbeke as inspiration. 

Forested Costa Rican coastline with glimpse of discreet villa nestled within it

(Image credit: BoysPlayNice)

This is a high-humidity environment, and elements like the rammed-earth walls were hitherto unknown in the country. A Brazilian specialist, Terra Compacta, trained up local craftspeople to create Costa Rica’s first piece of rammed-earth architecture. 

Glazed bedroom in Costa Rican villa

(Image credit: BoysPlayNice)

Villas Jaspis and Nefrit, Costa Rica, by Formafatal

(Image credit: BoysPlayNice)

Villas Jaspis and Nefrit, Costa Rica, by Formafatal

(Image credit: BoysPlayNice)

Villas Jaspis and Nefrit, Costa Rica, by Formafatal

(Image credit: BoysPlayNice)

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Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.