Turning a stable into a stylish abode
In a sleepy little village southeast of Prague the local pub is hopping for lunch. Just off the motorway, hungry people stop off in Mirošovice for big plates of guláš and rízek. Like many towns close to Prague, locals have seen their neighborhoods swell with city folk looking to escape the busy streets for a little calmer place to call home. Neil and Lucie Smith were looking to leave their Prague 2 flat for a family home about two years ago.
“We looked for six to eight months and at about 50 houses,” says Smith, a Brit who has lived in Prague for 12 years. “We wanted to be in a village with an established community, and this was so much better than anything else we saw.”
“This” is their more than 200-year old, 400-square meter, former stable, now, home. Architect Josef Považan from de.fakto studio spent about a year reconstructing the place. He came upon the building accidentally, had stopped for lunch – like many people do – and saw the structure and land from the restaurant’s terrace. This was about 12 years ago, and he ended up selling the reconstructed home and part of the land to a different couple.
“In the kitchen, there used to be two rooms, I opened it up into one,” explains Považan. “The logs in the ceiling are originally from the house, and the floor tiles are roof tiles from a variety of different old buildings.”
The kitchen is large with one wall devoted to kitchen necessities like cupboards, oven and sink. There’s a huge tiled work island in the middle and the design is a simple, classic country look.
Being a former stable means the building is naturally long and narrow. The front door is where the original front door to the living part of the building was; you can still see remnants of the old hinges. A wide hallway leads you into the massive living/dining room combo. It was this room that sealed the deal for both Považan and Smith.
“This living room, it’s perfect for a family,” says Smith. “It’s so big, there is lots of room to play, plus it is great for parties.”
Považan says he really liked how the room looked, but his challenge was how to make it comfortable. He accomplished this by installing a glass door to separate the space from the hallway; laying down a wood floor (compared to the brick tile in the kitchen and hallway) and replacing the original small windows facing the front of the building with French doors. These touches make for a bright, light filled space. The ceiling is the original curved brick one that used to shelter the animals and is now Smith’s favorite part of the house. There’s a fire place too, framed by wooden logs. Currently a forest green wood-burning stove occupies the space. The whole place is centrally heated; and Považan installed antique looking radiators in the living room to preserve the natural look. He also left some of the original stone work exposed as a further glimpse into the building’s past.
There are two floors here now – but not originally. The part above the barn area was a hay loft, so Považan raised the roof and added a second floor.
“The biggest challenge was the roof – how to bring in as much light as possible,” he says.
He did this by installing a huge skylight that runs the length of the hallway; flooding the area with light. Light wooden floors and white walls only reflect the light. Again, to preserve some of the originality of the old building, Považan kept the wooden support beams in nearly every room. They offer a rustic flavor and enhance the already cozy spaces naturally formed by the low, sloping ceiling.
The floor stretches out, long and narrow, with the staircase (in its original location, but rebuilt) coming up in the middle. A small landing offers an inviting place to sit. Long and narrow windows stretch alongside the entire level. Nestled under the eaves, they add to the simple charm. The master bedroom is at one end, complete with a small balcony and snug corners for book shelves. Three other large bedrooms occupy the space; along with two full bathrooms. Despite the peaked ceiling the floor is open and welcoming; most likely thanks to the natural light available from all angles.
The property is walled-in and besides the house, offers two other buildings and a huge yard. Považan says the bigger building was originally there, but he built the smaller one, which the Smiths use as a garage, in a style similar to the home.
“From the outside, I wanted it to match the landscape,” he says. “Inside I wanted a French Mediterranean look.”
He purposely put stones on the front of the house to make it look original and added low stone walls around the yard, neatly arranged for having parties.
While the size of the home is a bit overwhelming; small touches give it character. Wall scones can be found in nearly every room, giving off light softly and unobtrusively. The Smiths have decorated well, using lots of wooden and some antique furnishings that quietly blend in to the space. The couple and their two children are planning a move back to the UK in about a year and say they will have a hard time parting with the house. Považan understands.
“It has spark, it is charming – I fell in love with the place.”