A Labour of sLove: the evolution of Breg House

It’s been 9 years since we bought Breg House, and after many, many visits and all kinds of problems (water, electricity, snow, chimneys falling off, cows eating roof, leaks, giant ants and rising damp) it has come a very long way and is now close to being the comfortable, cosy mountain home we had always envisioned.

sLove is Blind

If my brother and I had known the magnitude of what needed to be done when we first saw the place, would we have thought twice about taking it on? Somehow I doubt it. With youthful enthusiasm and optimisim (read: blissful ignorance), no problem seemed too great, and despite having no plan and no futher funds, we knew Breg House was The One. It was sLove at first sight, and sLove is blind.

One of the greatest joys for me during this long process has been all the people who have been, and continue to be, part of it. I’ve met dozens of amazing Slovenians along the way, many of whom I now count as friends, and there’s been more than a dozen people from the UK who’ve travelled to this remote part of Slovenia to see for themselves what this funny little project in the Koroškan mountains is all about. I think I can say that everyone who has ventured here has fallen in love with the place too.

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Adding a fresh lick of paint to the porch

When we first bought it, the upper level was only accessible by an external stair case, and the space itself was completely uninhabitable, good for nothing but storage (although it was apparently prime real estate for wasps, hosting more than 50 old nests).

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The original structure of the beams, after wasp nest clearance

Preserving the very oldest and original structure which is to become a cosy lounge space, we built a simple, but modern kitchen area, which leads to a covered outdoor balcony at the rear. From this deck, which is ideal for morning coffee or evening beer, we constructed a chunky wooden set of steps down to the orchard.

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Very little new wood was bought; instead old timbers were repurposed as much as possible

The whole building has been almost completely re-wired. One of my fondest memories of this process was Paul the electrician’s incredulous reaction to discovering that an old yoghurt pot had been used as housing for one of the sockets in the original kitchen. Although it was charred and presented a fire hazard, he did acknowledge the Slovenians’ resourcefulness.

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This is the heart of the house but was once a store for meat and food for the farm

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This room was covered in lime plaster which took a week of wire brushing and white vinegar to remove

Downstairs there’s been plenty of change too. What was once the kitchen, is now the master bedroom complete with an en-suite shower, toilet and basin. It took all sorts of re-thinking, re-routing of sewer pipes and ripping out the old floor, fire and kitchen furniture.  Damp course was installed, the room insulated and new stud wall added. All it needs now is a bed.

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This was once the kitchen but is now the master bedroom

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The upper floor that previously housed nothing but wasp nests is now a modern kitchen that leads to the cosy wooden lounge

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Makeshift work bench

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Old wood: new stairs.

We installed an internal staircase meaning you no longer have to exit the building to move between floors.

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Digging trenches for upgraded electrical cables

One of the bigger tasks was upgrading the electricity supply. The original was low current, meaning that switching the kettle on when there was already a few appliances in use, overloaded the system causing it to trip and leaving us in the dark.

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Contrasting the old timbers against the clean ceiling following insulation of the roof

The aim was always to preserve and expose as much of the original structure as possible, whilst adding modern comfort: insulation, hot showers and a working kitchen.

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A modern kitchen flows into the original wooden construction which will eventually become the lounge with a wood burning stove to keep it cosy come winter.

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The new wide, chunky steps flow down to the orchard

A Labour of sLove

It’s been a long slog and it’s not done yet. There have been numerous times when I’ve questioned why the hell I was bothering. It’s been stressful at times, it’s cost me money, time and there have been endless problems and frustrations along the way.

But every time I drive up that winding dirt track, through the forest, and emerge at the top where green meadows dot the mountain and the view of the valleys extends for miles, I know it’s all worth it.

I love this house. I love Koroška and its people, and I love Slovenia. I will always return here, and I hope that now the project is almost done (or Phase 1 anyway!), that many more people will come and enjoy this beautiful part of the world too.

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Views from the track

Many, many people have been essential to this project; from physically helping out with the build (big thanks to Keith, Glyn and Paul especially) to helping me translate, navigate paperwork,  and generally assist me in what ever needed doing. The locals have been so kind and helpful, especially considering I am an outsider, who can’t even speak their language (although I am attempting to learn more).

I sometimes wonder whether a Slovenian who was trying to do all this in the UK and couldn’t speak much English would experience such a warm welcome? I suspect not. I certainly have been blown away by the hospitality of the Slovenes and their willingness to help me out for no reason other than they see it as the normal thing to do. And I’m extremely grateful for that.

Hvala Lepa: Big thanks to

Aleš, Rok, Ivo, Štefka, Anjka, Yakka, Dragica, Vinko, Tina, Keith, Glyn, Paul, Jesse, Metod Man, Dixi, Mike, Pat, Marso, Jonny, Igor, Primož, Boris and all those others who’ve helped along the way.

Without all these people’s help, support and encouragement, Breg House would not be what it is now.

 

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