The Korcula House

Last summer, my girlfriend Iva and her sister Maja became proud owners of a house. Their mother, Mirna, had bought it from her brother (their uncle) and gifted it to her two daughters. Although, house may be a bit of an overstatement for what it currently is…

Located in central Vela Luka, on the island of Korcula in Croatia, the house is right next to Iva’s parents’ house, with no more than 2 meters in between. We’ve gone there every summer, except this year, to do some swimming in the clear blue Adriatic, eat great seafood (caught by Mirna), and generally just relax. So since we’re not there this year, but I did have some free time, I decided to try and come up with some ideas for renovation.

The brief

The premise of the redesign was, much like the house itself: quite simple. The goal is to have a summer home with two bedrooms. Like any home, it will also need a bathroom and a kitchen. Of course, the project should not cost much and, coupled with the fact that the integrity of the house should be maintained, this means that no big alterations are possible.

The existing house

The existing house is roughly 56m² on the inside and was built about a hundred years ago, with thick stone walls, in the style of a konoba. In Dalmatia, the konoba is the room where food was prepared and stored.

The downstairs portion has a wide entrance underneath an arch and was used as storage. There are no windows in this part of the house and no floor. Dividing this space from the upper portion are wooden beams and planks that form the first floor. This part of the house can be reached via an external staircase that leads to the front door. The first floor was meant for living and is made up of three rooms. There are four identical windows here—two in the front and two in the back. Underneath the roof sits an unused attic space that also has a tiny window on the side of the house.

The storage area has since been cleared out of all the junk that was in there and an engineer has researched the structural integrity of the walls. They are perfectly fine and will not have to be removed.

I did a few rough drawings of the existing house. It may appear to be freestanding, but on the east side, it is actually connected to the neighbors’ house. However, I did not have accurate data of this, so I decided to leave it out for now.

The redesign

In trying to keep the integrity of the house intact, as well as keeping things as simple as possible, there are only a few visible alterations on the outside of the house. The first is a window, in order to let some light into the downstairs portion. Here is place for a bathroom and a kitchen, as well as a storage area. In between the storage area and the bathroom is a set of stairs. The main reason for adding these is so that you wouldn’t have to go outside to go up or down. Though the stairs on the outside have been kept in place, because they are such a big element of the konoba style.

Currently, the floor beams of the first floor run lengthwise. These are old and most likely rotten due to leaks, so they will have to be replaced. It makes most sense to have floor beams span the other way, since that distance is shorter. Since the space underneath was originally meant as storage, the clearance underneath was very low. And since there is no ground floor, it makes most sense to dig out and put in a new ground floor.

In the upstairs portion, due to the placement of the windows, the original layout of the rooms is the one that makes most sense. Since the plan is to keep the windows (mostly) as they are, the layout of the rooms has only changed minimally.

The biggest alteration on the outside is the enlargement of the landing on top of the stairs, in order to create a small porch. By removing the door and a window and instead creating one large window that can be opened, a larger, covered balcony is formed. The new window opens as a hinge door with louvers, serving a double purpose: its opening connects the outside to the inside while at the same time creating a roof that shelters from the sun.

Speaking of the sun, Vela Luka gets about 2500 hours of sunny weather annually, so it would probably be a good idea to install solar panels.

These drawings indicate a preliminary first design of the new house.

All in all, it has been thoroughly rewarding to work on this little project, because of the enthusiasm that it generates. It is likely to be a long-term project, but it’s always good to have something to look forward to!