September 17, 2011

Renovating a Serbian Rural House 4

This is the 4th and last post about the renovation for the moment (you can read also the first, second and third post), because it's like the house looks today. It's still not finished and we have more plans for it (and for the surrounding).

The kitchen: This for instance was the old kitchen and the old entrance door. We liked the style and we wanted a new comfortable kitchen but that kept the rustic atmosphere of the former kitchen.
We made a concept around a classic of stoves the MBS9 "Smederevac" (typical Serbian wood-burning stove). Not only you can cook with this stove, it's a heating as well!

 Above: a look at the new kitchen

The main sleeping room: here how the old room looked. Because it was closed up for several years it looked more like a storage room. I liked the wall with all the pictures my husband's grandparents put on the wall. We will save the pictures, rearange them and put in the living room. 
This room is far away from being finished, we could still not find a satisfying bed, so for this time we used the folding couch for sleeping and where the bed will be in the future we put the portable babybed. I found a lot of stitched masterpieces made by Ljubinka, my husband's aunt, and I made pictures of them to get inspired when I will have to make the curtains. I put all the baby supplies in a huge basket made by Velimir, my husband's granddad (lined with Ljubinka's embroideries). It's so wonderful to find all this precious objects that were made in the past in typical Serbian Style, and now we can use them to embellish the house and give it a ethno style touch!!!
 Above: as the room is really not jet finished I show just a few corners. In one picture I laied out the dress I bought for my daughter's baptism, instead of a white fluffy dress I opted for the blouse of the Serbian National Costume, she can wear it as a dress (she's 11 month old) and later as a blouse. I found it in the Kaludjerica vicinity of Belgrade at "KIRI Radionica"( a little bit difficult to find the place but a wonderful workshop of National Costumes.

The small sleeping room: my son was very happy to get this cozy little room. We kept it really simple: a folding couch with a night table and a wooden cupboard to store a few things. As the room is very tiny we'll fix maybe just some racks to the wall as storage space for books or cute things...and of course I will made curtains also for this room.
Here below a few pics to show that this room didn't really existed before...we enlarged the house on this corner to add a little more space.

The living room: This is the room that has been a little bit remanded, we just found a cool couch and a beautiful cupboard to store plates and household items. We're still looking for a table and chairs and and a suitable couch table, and maybe a beautiful carpet (my favorite would be a Cilim-carpet from Pirot (пиротски ћилим). But it's a work in progress...we'll add those things later...

September 14, 2011

Renovating a Serbian Rural House 3

When the outer walls where finished, we fixed some of the inner walls and installed electric conductions where we needed. We indulged in a new 3-phase electric installation so we had to change all the cables.
I made just one ground plan and I tried to fit in everything needed (floor materials, furniture  to decide where we need electric sockets).
For the tiles, my husband went to supplies in nearby Leskovac and tried to find the most similars to my suggestions. For the wooden floors we reverted to a Belgrade based firm where my brother had already ordered fantastic floorboards and imported them to Switzerland. There we found the ideal floor: rustic oak boards and 21mm thick. (Saga Drvo d.o.o)
Below: they way we layed the boards.
One thing that was a bit of a struggle, was to find answers to our questions, because it was extremely difficult to relay on people's advise. The answers drifted so much apart like from "No chance" to "No problem" ....on us to find out the right way :-) In this context I learned an interesting word for people who know best: they are called "Pametnjakovic" (from Pamet=mind/brain) .... or in english the classical "smartass"!
The picture shows how big the impact of the renovation was. Where now the bathroom is, there was a little room with one WC before. My husband's grandfather already built a septic tank with a canalization when he built the house and that was a great help for us.
Water is a big issue here on the village, because in summer there isn't enough. It exist a village pipeline with water, but in summer they let water flow only two hours a day...and not every day...but in 2-3 years the municipality will send constantly water to the village, and because it's a way to make money for the municipality (it will cost the community of course) this plan will be quite sure.
We decided to build a water-reservoir for us anyway, as we need just water in summer, when the water situation is unstable. The reservoir is made in concrete and it's in the hill behind the house. We use the natural incline to transport the water, under the trees the reservoir stays always cool and the position allows to be filled up by the watertruck ithout problems.

Right in the picture is the water reservoir. It sticks out of the ground just half a meter, the rest is subterranean.
Following I post just a couple of sketches we used to study some details:
Above: a 3D sketch of the future kitchen

3D studies of the terrace size and roof
 We took pictures of the materials we liked in the surrounding supplies to watch them in calm and to compare with other materials.
 We also took pictures of household appliances to remember where we saw them and to imagine where they stand in the house

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September 10, 2011

Renovating a Serbian Rural House 2

One year ago the external works were finished and we celebrated with all the involved people and a roasted pig.

The external works included the additional layer of bricks for a better insulation, a new roof (with new tiles) and the enlargement of the terrace.

The old mud walls were covered with a brick layer. The goal was to get a better insulation in sustainable way.

The edges were reinforced with concrete, the rest of the wall were covered with bricks. The opening for the windows were prepared to fit in new windows.
Also the new bearing structure of the roof was started.

The roof looks neat with the new tiles.
A larger stair and a broader and longer terrace add a quality porch in front of the building.
The roof was elongated to entirely cover the terrace, to protect from rain but also from the sun. In the picture below it's like the terrace looks now: with railing and a little gate it makes a perfect place to be (and my 10 month old daughter can't escape nowhere!)

Here a little overview of of the transformation of the house:

September 7, 2011

Renovating a Serbian Rural House 1

Based on my 6 Lessons of Rural Serbian Architecture I'd like to share my own renovation of the old family house in a small village in the South of Serbia.
It's a documentary of 3 years work (we only worked during the summer month and only when we had enough budget, so we had to be patient!)
The building team was composed by mainly 3 persons: my father-in-law (he is an engineer and master-builder and was the construction-manager of the entire works), my husband (he was in charge of deliveries and supplies of material and cost control) and I (I was in charge of the project and the plans).
Then we got help from friends and relatives....
 We started with the rough works and decided that the terrain has to be prepared also to be accessed with bulldozers and trucks for levelling and excavation works. So we flattened the site and built a boundary wall around the ground. The site can only be reached by unpaved road. The pictures give an impression of the substantail impact our works had on the surrounding!
To prevent later transports we already brought sand, plaster and cement to the site.

After a temporary gate and boundary walls we built a Garage so we had a place to keep all the material, the tools and so we had a room where we also could sleep if necessary.

Above: stages of the Garage works that took place 3 years ago. When we wanted to order a garage door, the carpenter showed us one he already had made for another customer but for some reason the customer didn't wanted it anymore. We took a few measures and saw that it would fit well for us...and got it for a good price!
Here how the Garage looks today. The cool Fića (the nickname for the "Zastava 750") is the plumber's car!

To made a better insulated house, we decided to add an external brick layer to the walls. For that we had to broaden also the soccle of the house. A the house has no cellar, the soccle is just a base to compensate the inclination of the terrain.

With the same concept as the boundary and support walls we managed to do also the soccle wall of the house: selected stones (we choose the grey/green ones) from the nearby river were mixed into the concrete wall.
Those works took place 2 years ago. 

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September 1, 2011

Lesson 6 in Traditional Serbian Rural Architecture: How does "new" rural architecture looks like?

In the past 5 lessons of “Traditional Serbian Rural Architecture” I wrote about the two basic styles of rural houses “brvnare” and “bondruke”, about the different rural styles of the areasof Serbia, about the South Serbian Village, about the SerbianHomestead and about Serbian traditional interiors.
(picture from "srpskekuce")
Now I ask myself how to translate old rural architecture into new rural architecture. If I'm planning to renovate an old rural house in Serbia, how will the “new” or renovated rural house looks like?
From the two extremes like to rebuild a building exactly like it was (with walls of mud and straw) or to build something completely new that has no connection with what it was before (as some of the "gastarbajterske kuce" I wrote about on Balkan-Crew) lot of ideas come to my mind.
That's what people would probably expect: a crazy Migrant-worker-Villa. Unfortunately, often when somebody renovates or build a house in a village, he wants to show off and impress with a huge dimension and with expensive looking stuff. The only thing we knew was: we do not want that! (picture from skyscrapercity)

So I collected my thoughts about traditional Serbian rural architecture:
Rural Buildings and architecture is related to lifestyle, mentality, social structure of the people of the surroundings.
If in the past houses were built with just what the area offered, today we have a waste choice of materials and products. If in the past, several generations were living in form of a “zadruga” (clan) in the same building, now there is rather one generation with occasionally a parent or so in the house. If in the past several men organized the outdoor and several women were organizing the household, now it's rather one couple doing the whole. Even if the mentality stayed, the lifestyle and social structures changed from the past, the architecture can not be exactly the same today as it used to be.
It's important not to erase the history from an existing house. History has influenced Serbian tradition a few times, often in a violent way. So it its national style should be preserved. It would be wrong to create a neutral style (a globalized style) or to build a new house that could stand anywhere in the world (sometimes this neutral style can be the greatest threat of identity of people).

 A fantastic old house from Tihomir's blog

Modern technologies give new possibilities of the use of materials or gives new construction solution. 
So it was a wish to work with new but natural materials, to fulfill perfectly all the functions that the house has to accomplish, without using experimental and artificial materials, that nobody knows how long they're going to last.
However all the new structures should blend well with the old and with the found surrounding. The trick is to find the balance between the new design and the old structure.
Where a newer building blend well with the traditional forms (picture from flickr)

The characteristics of rural architecture can be preserved by copying the external characteristics of the existing surrounding buildings. 
However, the new building must represent the interests, the needs and the habits of the future users. We can see it as a newer content put in an traditional form.
Architecture is always a dialogue with the surrounding. If we pay attention to what we discover in the surrounding, we easily find answers to the questions which style or which architectural language works better when we start to work on an existing house.
 A building that blends with the surrounding (picture from flickr)
What's always been there blends better with the surrounding than a complete new language of forms and patterns. 
Keeping those ideas in mind I started to jot down sketches for the house transformation........