19 January 2020

Contemporary barn conversion, traditional wooden house, small barn and 6,276m2 of land, Protulipa, Karlovac County, Croatia

We’ve decided to sell our holiday home in Croatia: with the violin business thriving, and having taken on the renovation of our big Georgian house in Wells, we simply haven’t had the time to go to Croatia much. If you or a friend might be interested, read on, or else go direct to the website which we’ve set up for Dobra River Studio.

Originally a farmstead with a house and two barns, the conversion of the large barn provides a modern multi-functional space, while the untouched old house, the smaller barn and the surrounding land offer potential for new owners to shape the estate to their own requirements.

Could this be your Holiday Home?

We designed the barn conversion partly for family holidays. The heart of the building is a big open-plan space which connects to all the other rooms and also leads onto an external balcony. On the ground floor there’s a second room which can be used as a living room/dining room, a well-equipped IKEA kitchen and a modern shower-room/toilet. Upstairs, there are two bedrooms, a toilet, and a platform area which could be used for sleeping if there is a crowd (we have to admit there are a few upstairs doors not yet in place, but the rooms themselves are lovely…). We’re planning to sell the place with all the furniture, bedding and kitchen equipment, so if you wanted to start using it as a holiday home right away you’d be all set. We’ve also used the old house for sleeping, but as it isn’t renovated you have to be happy to rough it.

Things to do

If you are into wild swimming there are loads of opportunities locally – the river Dobra is ten minutes’ walk down a track, and the ever-beautiful river Mrežnica is about 6km away. In summer the natural dams form magical waterfalls and pools which are very popular with locals. You can easily spend all day messing about in the water and sunbathing on the banks. You can also hire canoes, or book yourself onto canoe and rafting expeditions.

Our daughter always wanted us to build our own swimming pool in the courtyard between the buildings. It wasn’t a priority for us, though we think that it would be technically possible. Instead, you can drive a few miles up the river Dobra to a place where there are two warm open-air swimming pools. On busy days they offer beer, burgers and music by the poolside.

We’ve very much enjoyed exploring the area by bicycle and on foot. There is a whole network of small roads and tracks through the fields and forest, and it’s easy to feel that you are lost in time when you pass through the traditional villages.

If you fancy a trip to the coast you can drive to the island of Krk or to Rijeka or Senj on the mainland coast within one and a quarter hours. We are especially fond of Lukovo, and although it is a bit further than Senj it has a clear blue bay of protected water which is great for sea swimming and canoeing.

Could this be your yoga workshop retreat?

The main open-plan room in the barn conversion would be great for yoga, meditation, dance or craft workshops. The big windows give a sense of connection to the natural world, while you can be protected from the elements and keep cool in the summer. The layout of the ground floor means that although the two main spaces are connected, they can also be used separately as they both have doors leading to the outside and to the kitchen and shower-room.

If you wanted to develop the place as a venue for residential workshops the old wood-over-stone house could be converted into additional accommodation. At present there are just three rooms in the old house, but we had plans to create two additional rooms in the attic and put a bathroom/sauna in one of the basements. The small barn (also wood over stone) could be converted to provide 3-4 more bedrooms.

Even without making extra residential space on site, you could run courses by arranging for people to stay locally. There are three restaurant/hotels nearby which we regularly use: the Restoran DP, the Motel Dobra and Zeleni Kut. We favour the DP as a restaurant – the food is great – and it can also cater for parties and events.

Could this be your Permaculture paradise?

People living in the villages around about still practice peasant agriculture – producing food for their own needs, plus a surplus of a few things to sell. For instance, you’ll see metre square stacks of wood by the road ready to be collected to fuel the winter heating systems of apartment blocks in Karlovac and Zagreb. There used to be cows and working horses in the village, but nowadays the main farm animals are pigs, poultry and some sheep.

Geologically this is a Karst landscape, and in Protulipa the dominant feature is the large saucer-shaped depressions in the land known in Croatian as ‘Vrtača’. The base of these depressions is fertile and they are often used for growing vegetables. We have several inter-connecting vrtačas and the buildings are on a rise between them. At present our vrtačas are overgrown, but we have seen similar ones cleared in a few hours using machinery.

In another life, we might have lived in Protulipa full time and run the place along permaculture lines, but we had work commitments in the UK and a daughter mid-way through the UK schooling system. We thought of living in the barn conversion in the winter-time, moving to the old house every summer so we could let out the barn conversion as a holiday home. The third building, the small barn, would have been put to its original agricultural purpose of housing animals and storing produce.

We legally own 6,276m2 of land and that is what we are selling with the buildings. However, there is a surrounding area, an additional 9,096m2, which can be used by the occupants of the property. It technically belongs to the state of Croatia, having been requisitioned during the Tito era when the amount of land any one individual could own was restricted. Local practice is to respect the original boundaries of the land associated with old houses, which means that our house has the exclusive use of 15,372m2 (1.5 hectares).

Could this be your recording studio?

Our original plan for the barn conversion was to run it as a recording studio. When we bought the place in 2010 we were involved with several Croatian bands, and realised that there were no large spaces in Croatia suitable for recording or rehearsing music (everything seemed to happen in cramped Zagreb basements). The two main downstairs rooms are acoustically separated and have a triple-glazed window between them so that the smaller one can act as a ‘control room’ with a band or ensemble playing in the big space.

However, the conversion work took significantly longer than we anticipated and by time it was finished everyone’s lives had moved on and we were no longer actively involved in the Croatian music scene. But the potential to use the building as a recording studio is still there and in fact some friends have used it to film a music video – you can see it on our facebook page. The facebook page also has a lot of photos of the conversion work and a bit more information about the local area.

Visit www.dobrariverstudio.com for information about Transport, Services & Fittings, Landholding and lots more photos. We are selling Dobra River Studio through a Croatian estate agent, but you can also contact us for more information: email anna@martinswanviolins.com