Discover the history behind my house in the Sierra – and why I am now renting out our treasure chest for short lets.
A charming house in the Sierra de Madrid for your holidays
This house in the Sierra de Madrid is ideal if you need to relax, want to write a book, or would like to get to know the country, its people and its culture.
In 1993 we finally started construction. The walls are built of natural stone (granite) from the region right up to the roof. That is unusual. Now, no more stone can be cut. It used to be common to use stone only for the first floor. Today, there are only a few stone masons able to build like this.
The roof is tiled with natural slate from Galicia. Thirteen tonnes of wood from the Laguna Negra area in the mountains of Soria were used in the house. For the most part, I planed the wood myself. In calculating the beams, I was helped by a carpenter and we selected the wood ourselves at the source.
At the end of the 80’s I worked for three years as a translator and interpreter on a civil engineering project. Because of this job, I was familiar with the applicable civil engineering standards and I therefore used the current DIN standard to calculate the insulation for the house. At the time, it was three times more strict than the Spanish standard. The village masons laughed at me and asked why I wanted so much insulation, if “no good came out of it”. But I wanted it so “nothing would get in”. The result is that today, despite the black slate roof, I can take a nap directly under it in summer without melting. My neighbours don’t dare to. But I had to be careful that the masons would not charge me more than the going price. To them, such ideas were the whims of a typical “crazy, rich uncle from America”, with whom you had to try your luck.
A lot of the interior finishing work I did myself. This saved us a lot of money but it also took us nearly 10 years to get a certificate of habitability and be able to live there. After all, I was only able to work on the house at the weekend.
The house was lovingly furnished with a colourful mixture of furniture from different periods and places. Many of them were reminders of the past, to which my family and I cling. When the house was at a sufficiently advanced stage, I was able to ship the furniture that I had stored at my sister’s house to Spain. The shippers called it “bulky waste”. It was the living room furniture that my cabinetmaker grandfather had made and with which I grew up.
Among the furniture was a chest of drawers so strong that it survived a World War II bombing raid on Limburg and falling from the third floor almost intact. Only one trace of repair can be found on it, because at the time my grandfather did not have the proper materials to restore it. My father and I restored it again in the eighties.
To complete the furnishings, we bought mainly hand-crafted furniture from firms in various regions of Spain. And added a few pieces that we rescued from rubbish bins and restored. Many of the lamps came from flea markets, so that sometimes a lampshade was missing. Nothing matched. But almost all the pieces were linked to some personal story. The living room table, for example, was originally a box for kneading bread and leaving it to rise before baking it. At the time, the wood was in its natural state and not waxed.
Why are we renting the house?
There are two main reasons:
- A house that is not lived in, or rarely is, deteriorates. Since I am self-employed, I have been very busy in recent years and we could only go there on rare occasions. Just spending a few hours there at a time, all the maintenance work needed could just not be done. By the time you’ve got out all the materials and tools, it’s time to go home. Part of the house is still not finished. Now, each of my daughters lives in a different country and they only visit us for a few days once or twice a year. They love the house, as it holds many memories of their childhood, but one day there does not keep the house alive. But it is important to all of us that it be preserved.
- All my life, I have dreamt of setting up a cultural exchange programme. I have the intention of breaking down the predominant stereotypes of Spain, the country, the culture and its inhabitants. I would also like to help to raise the awareness of people around the world of the value of culture, especially that of the areas outside the cities, their diversity and the wealth of interesting places. By doing this, I want to contribute to maintaining the life of these places and their ecosystems. This means designing better, alternative models of local development.
On a higher level, it could be said that, like “Rural Universities”, I want to contribute to the change of direction that present-day society needs. We need to go back to seeing and interpreting the world around us in order to transform it and take control again of our own history. That is why I started this blog.
As part of this project, the house can come to life again, recover its meaning and continue growing. One way to start is by inviting people to come here, and to give them a first look at the culture, the landscape and nature. Little by little, I intend to organise attractive cultural activities, seminars and courses.
Both these aspects require funding. This will come (partly) from renting the house. But as we also want to enjoy the house ourselves, we will not be renting it out permanently but for short lets. For the time-being, I have chosen Airbnb and FeWo to do this. You can book it wherever you feel more comfortable. The rental details are explained on those sites. If you are looking for a great, attractive setting for your projects, please send me an e-mail or phone me on +34 650-427-237.