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Poland and Polish Discussion Group and Forum
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Re: Interesting article(s)

My thoughts exactly!!

I also loved the wedding photo

Another renovation article:

Renovating Stables in Poland

Levis Minford has never bought a house that was finished. Building and renovating have become almost a habit for Mr. Minford, a native of Idaho, and he always has some kind of construction project going on. So it was no surprise that, when he was looking for a house outside Warsaw, he settled on an 18th-century stable that had to be turned into a house.

Now a film distributor, Mr. Minford was living in Brussels and doing market research for American film studios when, in 1990, he moved to Warsaw, attracted by the business opportunities available in Poland’s young free-market economy. In 1995, he was renting a house in Konstancin, a posh spa town outside Warsaw, when he spotted a desolate red-brick stable on the far outskirts of the resort.

It was in ruins — the roof had caved in — but it attracted him with the promise of quiet and seclusion. The building stands on the edge of a protected forest and faces a pond, separating it from the 17th-century Baroque palace it once served.

“I liked the location and the fact that it was a very unique property,” Mr. Minford, 58, said as he sat on a bench in the grass-covered yard of the U-shaped building. “It’s very different from anything in Warsaw or the States. And it’s only 25 kilometers from the city center.”

The palace and the stable originally belonged to an aristocratic family but were nationalized under communism. The stable was passed to the High School of Agriculture in Warsaw, which allowed it to deteriorate; the palace is now used as a writers’ retreat.

Mr. Minford said it took about a year to complete the sale, which included getting permission from the Polish Interior Affairs Ministry for him, as a foreigner, to buy land. The 7,800-square-meter (1.9-acre) property cost $60,000, the price of a small apartment in Warsaw at the time. Now, he estimates, the property is worth at least 15 times as much, thanks to his improvements and the country’s soaring residential prices, propelled by its growing economy and falling interest rates. A real estate agent generally agrees with his estimate, although hers is slightly less.

Renovating the building, whose middle section is some 250 years old, has been a daunting task over the last few years. Work has been completed on less than half of the 1,500 square meters (16,146 square feet) of living space. He has spent $400,000 on the project and estimates that the rest of the work will cost about $350,000 more, although right now he is unsure whether he will finish.

At the beginning, Mr. Minford hired Belarussian workers, who lived in the building while they worked on it. “I could not communicate with them so I would just draw on a dirt what I wanted them to do,” Mr. Minford said. “I had no plans, no architect. It was all very spontaneous, as a work in progress usually is.”

The men put on a new roof; replaced much of the old red brick in the outside walls and covered them with cement; and installed electricity, oil heating and water pipes. Creating a two-bedroom apartment in a part of the building’s southern wing took about a year.

“I moved in section by section, first to what is now an apartment for the housekeeper,” said Mr. Minford, who lives in the house with his Polish wife, Beata; their 2-year-old son, Luc; two dogs; a cat and a Peruvian pig in another part of the southern wing. The area includes a 160-square-meter (1,772-square-foot) living room and dining area, a kitchen furnished with antique chests and cupboards to create a Provençal look, and a two-level bedroom.

The northern wing, which still features stone feeding troughs for cows, houses a four-car garage.

The oldest section, in the middle of the building, is not finished. “The middle section has much more potential because it is much taller,” Mr. Minford said, pointing to six-meter (almost 20-foot-high) wooden beams that now stand in the middle of the area to support the roof.

He has enlarged the windows to let in more natural light — something he regrets not having done in the southern section of the building — and envisages a living room with a soaring ceiling, a dining room, a wine cellar and bathrooms. But so far there are only unfinished interior walls and scaffolding.

“Renovating is a fun thing to do,” he said. “It’s a way to create your own surroundings. ‘This looked like a good prospect, but it has turned out to be much more than I anticipated.”

Mr. Minford says he sometimes considers selling the property and buying something less ambitious to renovate. But it must be something as private and quiet as his current home, he said.

“It is a good therapy,” he said. “It’s very relaxing. On weekends we rarely leave the property. The only thing is that I could do without the noise of the frogs.”

He smiled as he gestured to the nearby pond. “But I got used to it.”