Agata and Jacek wanted to become the owners of a house in Lower Silesia. They wanted to buy a building with “soul”, which is part of the landscape and has its own history. After the purchase, they intended to renovate it, with respect for the architecture and the region in which it is located. In 2017, after two years of searching, they finally came across their dream 19th-century building.
It was more than 500 metres from other inhabited houses. It was located in the Bystrzyckie Mountains, in Gniewoszów, Międzylesie municipality, and stood at an altitude of about 700-750 m. The plot contained two connected structures – an old house and a barn – and the ruined walls of an outbuilding. Dates engraved on the wooden trusses indicate 1833 as the time of the building’s construction.
Gonna guest house. Photo: Roland Okoń
The previous owners bought it in the 1980s. At the time, the 19th century building was still habitable, but no investment was made in it and over the course of a few decades it deteriorated significantly. The then owners converted the barn into a partial residence using the farmhouse method. It was their holiday home, they did not live there on a daily basis. When Agata and Jacek bought the plot, they invited architects from JASTAArchitects to work with them and for a year they designed and analysed what needed to be demolished, what needed to be rebuilt, and what could be kept completely. Their idea was to preserve as much as possible, especially of the building shell. At the same time, what was old had to be old – without being retouched. And the new was not to “pretend” to be old. A cosy retreat was to be created, a house surrounded by wildlife.
The house during renovation. Photo: Agata and Jacek’s archives
The old house was not suitable to be salvaged as a residential building. It was therefore decided to invest in renovating the barn and to leave the stone walls from the old house, which now form the fence of the open patio. In this way, the living space was separated from the nature around the house. The buildings sit on a slope. They are surrounded by a meadow and woodland to the rear and an old garden in front. The main building has undergone a general renovation. The ground floor was built of stone and remains so. In the interior, the partition walls, which were created as part of alterations carried out by the previous owners, have been removed.
The building before and after reconstruction. Photo: Archives of Agata and Jack and Roland Okoń
The owners have retained the characteristic arched Klein ceilings. On the axis of the main building, the day rooms were located in an amphilade: the entrance hall, the dining room and the kitchen. All the entrance doors to the house were glazed, which added brightness to the interiors. The dark small rooms were transformed into a large, open, minimalist space. Most of the ground floor furnishings are old furniture restored by Agata, found on site when she purchased the building. The unified colour scheme is close to the dominant material of the renovation, which in this case is larch. An old carpenter’s table found in an outbuilding, after restoration, serves as an island in the kitchen. On the ground floor, in addition to the kitchen, dining room, living room with a fireplace that leads directly out onto the patio, there is also a boiler room, pantry, laundry room and bathroom.
The 19th-century building past and present. Photo: Archives of Agata and Jack and Roland Okoń
The first floor and attic of the building, made of wood with random plastic windows, was demolished all the way down to the trusses. The metal roof was also demolished. The skeleton of the floor and attic was reinforced, but the old truss remained. On top of this, the larch walls of the building and the larch scale roof were erected. The front wall of the first floor of the building is all covered with vertical, narrow windows, which give the building a somewhat soaring appearance, and the rooms offer a beautiful view of the trees and garden. Inside (attic and first floor) there are 6 different rooms with spacious bathrooms: from a large suite for 4-5 people with sleeping area, living area and kitchenette, to a small romantic room for a couple. The rooms have larch walls and ceilings and larch minimalist beds. The bathrooms and floors are made of monochrome grey tiles.
The attic room during the renovation and today. Photo archive of Agata and Jack and Roland Okoń
All the installations in the house have been replaced with new ones. The ground floor of the building was insulated on the inside and drainage was installed. As a cost-saving and ecological measure, photovoltaics were installed. The entire renovation took 3.5 years. The time was extended due to the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the uncertain market situation. At the end of 2023, the couple managed to complete the construction and start operations. In the near future, a sauna will be built on the terrace above the patio. The 19th century building has been named Gonna and is available for rent in its entirety for a group of up to 16 people.
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