This Design Project Proves that Old-Fashioned can be In-Fashion

Štajnhaus, the 16th century building in the former Jewish quarter of Mikulov, Czech Republic, demonstrates the real staying power of tradition. After hundreds of years, the refurbishment project carried out on the 121 sqm space by ORA to turn it into a guesthouse has brought its original and quirky features to the foreground. Combining minimalist modern fixings in steel, oak, and ash with the almost medieval charm of the existing features, ORA have ensured that the historical ambience of the location wasn’t lost over the 2-year refurbishment.

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“The Štajnhaus has not been a project, the Štajnhaus has been a process,” the studio says, and it’s true: the Baroque-Renaissance building has undergone a multitude of refits and refurbs over its history, including damage done during the Communist period and a 1927 fire that ravaged Mikulov. ORA’s original brief, to convert the space into a guest house for the private investor who’d fallen in love with Mikulov, covered only interior design. This included the upkeep of mosaic floors imported from Morocco, and the addition of axe-hewn tables made from repurposed wooden beams, some over a century old and too battered to be used for construction.

But it soon became clear that more extensive architectural attention was required, and this bespoke attention from ORA has maintained the unique character of each room. The end result, a five-bedroom space, with added bicycle shed, minimalist lights, and semicircular windows, was a project that changed constantly as more work revealed ever more structural quirks of the building. It was something the studio and the client could not possibly have anticipated – apart from the still-functioning wine cellars, thought to be the oldest part of the building. They’re still put to their good old use.

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Architect Jan Hora from the firm filled us in on this age-spanning project..

TP: Which parts of this project are you most excited by as a designer?
JH:
Hard to say – we’re always interested in “accidental moments”. It happens mostly in reconstructions, in which you can’t control everything. Which brings up “accidental design solutions”.

TP: What was the main concept that you were working with on Štajnhaus?
JH:
The main concept was to keep the design as an organic complex. You can’t easily recognise what is old and what is new here.

TP: The design is also boldly modern; what inspired this contrast?
JH:
The Interiors are ascetic, they’re more abstract frames of furniture than furniture itself. That’s why the furniture is made of rough steel. We wanted you to feel the curvature of the walls in contrast with the strict lines of the frames.

TP: Refurbishing buildings is a great way of repurposing the short supply of housing – where do you think this need will develop in future?
JH:
This is long story, but I’d say that our country has too many houses for too few people. We need more investment into refurbishments. We don’t need to build new suburbias and destroy agriculture.

TP: As a designer, what are the most important things to consider when designing someone’s home?
JH:
To know and to understand the place, the investor, and their desires. If there’s no spark between us, the cooperation doesn’t work.

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