ORA Architects Bring a 16th-Century House Back to Life

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In the Czech town of Mikulov, local firm ORA has thoughtfully transformed a Renaissance-era building into Štajnhaus, a welcoming private residence and guesthouse. 

When ORA (it stands for Original Regional Architecture) came to the 16th-century house, in what once was Mikulov’s Jewish quarter, the building had been victim to layer upon layer of alteration.

“The Štajnhaus has not been a project, the Štajnhaus has been a process,” the firm says. “Throughout its existence it has suffered a great many scars, it has gone through tens of reconstructions and operations. All of these have altered the house beyond recognition.”

Looking past the “scars,” both the client – who wanted the building to serve as both a guesthouse and a private apartment – and the firm recognized the potential in reviving the centuries-old structure.

With every layer that the architects peeled back, they discovered new details and features, forcing the project’s scope to be in constant flux. “In the beginning, we did not have a clue where we would come to in the end,” says the firm.

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ORA restored the original building’s best parts, many of which were obscured by past renovations. Vaulted ceilings, a stone stairway and unconventional window openings were all brought back to life, as were below-grade wine cellars.

Because of the building’s odd proportions – “you will not find a straight wall or a rectangular opening in the house,” ORA says – every piece of furniture was made-to-measure. Materials, finishes and forms were chosen to both complement and modernize the historical context. The use of metal, in lighting, bed frames and other furniture, adds an industrial edge, while whitewashed walls keep things feeling light and airy throughout.

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