Over the years, we had been spending quite a bit of our free time in this region already when we decided to seek firm ground here business-wise as well. One thing was clear: finding our own future place to live, preferably a historical building waiting for renovation, was a top priority. A first digital search immediately yielded an interesting result: in a village completely unknown to us, Irota, the ruin of a country mansion (‘kúria’ in Hungarian) had been put up for sale. "Technically in good condition," the ad cheered. However, the attached photos suggested otherwise.
A visit to the object in question somewhat later confirmed our fears. The house was in horrendous shape. Windows and doors missing, damp spots all over, rotten wood, sagging walls... well, reasons enough to run off and never come back. And yet ...
It had once undeniably been a beautiful house, with its monumental staircase, beautiful location and classicist architecture. Then there was the village itself with its gorgeous geographical situation and its excellent maintenance. We had actually surrendered already.
The house had once been owned by the noble Fáy family. When the communists took power in Hungary after World War II, there was no place for aristocratic privileges in the peasants and workers' paradise: after the family had initially been allowed to stay in the house, it eventually became state property. The house became the home and office of the local party secretary and also served as a community centre (for a long time it was the only place in Irota with a television set, which was of considerable importance during international soccer championships), general practice and library. After 1989 these purposes were discontinued and the house fell into disrepair. The municipality sold it to a private investor who once had high expectations of the proceeds of the sale once Hungary had become an EU member.
Almost a year went by before the purchase price was settled. Now we had to start thinking seriously about how we were going to achieve our goal: to restore the house to its former glory, while applying the latest energy-neutral technologies at the same time.
Solar panels for electricity generation and solar collectors for hot water production have been placed on the side of the house so that they are hardly visible. The exterior walls are encased in a thick layer of paper flakes made from old newspapers, along with triple glazing, provide excellent insulation - almost in compliance with the passive house standard. Ventilation with heat recovery (and in summer cooling recovery) combined with thick stone walls of 65 cm and 25 cm of insulation provide a pleasant climate. Contrast to the use of the latest technology, heating is provided by traditional wood burning stoves, a logical choice given the wooded area around Irota. Wood is in ample supply and transport distance is minimal (plus, not least, trees will be replanted). The living room and office are each equipped with a tiled stove and are heated only once a day, radiating the warmth again during the rest of the day. In winter, meals are prepared on a wood stove which also heats the room. The ventilation system ensures that the heat spreads through the other rooms. The village has no sewerage system, therefore our own wastewater is biologically purified and prepared for reuse. The combination of the latest technologies and traditional wood firing makes this mansion unique.