Meet Bartek and Marta, born and bred in Warsaw. They enjoy their life in the capital, but in their spare time they always do what they can to escape it. What makes them truly happy is going to quiet enclaves, like the one in Italy that they visit every year. “There is nothing there,” says Marta. “A simple hut right on the seashore. Thick walls, cold water, no dishwasher, no heating. Our little son Henryk can play with a stick he uses to draw shapes in the sand or to collect worms with the owner. No distractions whatsoever. Just us and nature. It feels so good, we end up extending our stay every year without fail. Luckily, the owner is happy for us to stay longer.”
Bartek and Marta decided to do something similar in Poland. The couple wanted their own isolated space. Nothing big, just somewhere for a weekend getaway. Who could afford Italy trips all the time? There was only one problem: they had no land. After Henryk was born, it started bothering them even more. The idea slowly started to take shape. They visited their families, did some sightseeing, looked at possible locations. And anyway, Bartek and Marta are just the kind of people who, when travelling, always look at every house they pass, thinking about where they would like to live and wondering what they would do if they moved there.
They found the right place in no time. It was very close to Warsaw, near Wyszków – right by a field and some woods. “I stood on a slope. It was tiny, just a couple metres high, but a slope nevertheless,” says Bartek. “It looks out to a gorgeous, untouched field. I wondered how much time one could spend staring at that field, and I realized I could do it for a very long time.” From the very beginning, they wanted a house where they could do as little as possible. “All we wanted was to stare at the views and read books. We were never interested in any other activities,” they state harmoniously.
What did they want the house to look like? “We didn’t want it to be luxurious. That’s not what it’s about,” says Bartek. “But it had to be attractive. Beautiful. Cluttered or ugly space wouldn’t make it possible for us to focus.”
“I’m an architect, so we wanted to design the house ourselves,” adds Marta. “But I was already heavily pregnant with our second baby when we found the right piece of land, so I wasn’t able to do it. I told Bartek that there was no point in biting off more than we could chew. I have some old university friends who run their own architecture studio, called POLE Architekci. They already had a design. We loved it from the very beginning – it was perfect for our needs.”
The house is made entirely out of wood. It is square-planed. On the ground floor, there is a living room with a fireplace, a small kitchen, and a bathroom under the stairs. The stairs lead to the mezzanine – the space for sleeping. Everything is neat, compact, Goldilocks-sized; perfect for rest without distraction. One wall of the house is made of glass. It looks out onto the landscape. The base of their house is 25 square metres. Perfect for two people. What’s more, it’s ideal for avoiding excessive bureaucracy. According to Polish law, houses under 35 square metres do not require any building permits from the city council. That procedure can take a lot of time, it increases the overall cost of the project and, of course, the plan might be rejected altogether.
Once Bartek and Marta found their perfect plot and design, they started thinking about how to fund their idea. After a while, they decided it would be good for the house to serve not just them, but also other people – after all, they wouldn’t need it daily. Not everyone who lives in Warsaw can afford long-distance trips, they thought. Soon, the idea hatched. They would rent their house out. There aren’t enough spaces of this kind around.
Moreover, Marta and Bartek have added an extra touch to theirs: books. They want the house to be full of books, so that people can come here and read whatever they please. The couple started considering this idea. Why not start a partnership with publishing houses? Book a night and add a book to your order, so it can already be there waiting for you when you arrive! Or maybe the guests could bring their own books and leave them there? Who knows, perhaps after a while, the house could grow into a local library? Maybe they could organize book-related events in the summer?
In early November, Marta and Bartek started advertising their little house. The idea was to finance the project by selling future stays. The response was overwhelming. People weren’t bothered by the fact that the house hasn’t even been built yet. “I was always sceptical about crowdfunding,” confesses Bartek. “After all, why would anyone fund a stranger’s business? I was wrong. Come Christmas, we had over thirty stays sold for a house that wasn’t even there yet!”
The voucher sale they ran on Facebook was closed in early January. Stays can now be booked via slowshop.com. “If it keeps going at the current pace, we could launch construction in the spring and complete the project by early summer,” says the couple.
“Just in time for the summer issue of ‘Przekrój’,” I add.
Marta and Bartek beam at me.
“Why don’t you pop in and leave a copy in our bookworm cabin once it’s published?”
Translated by Aga Zano