THE HOUSE AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
A luxury house in a unique rural setting. Etxelaia is a dream come true. Although we are already up and running our vision for the house is almost dream-like because every day is a new adventure, full of opportunities, new ideas, untrodden paths and things to be invented and explored. The house and its surroundings, Urdaibai have been together for almost two hundred years but are still discovering new forms of interconnection and relation.
Orue Albízuri, the original name of Etxelaia sits on the remains of an old farmhouse. In 1830 the building was completely refurbished turning it into a stately home and at the beginning of the 20th century acquired the appearance it has today. Since then, smaller extensions and refurbishment work has been carried out but the house retains its character and many original features, simply adapted to today’s needs.
In 2011, after 3 years in which the house had been uninhabited, the initial idea of refurbishing it and opening it to the public came to us and that first idea has brought us to where we are today.
We started working with the romantic idea of creating the kind of atmosphere that would pass on to our clients the experience we had enjoyed here; i.e. the possibility of enjoying this house with family and loved ones.
We all know that romantic ideas sometimes come crashing down when they face reality and we had real difficulties right from the start. And yet our enthusiasm and the strength of the original idea have enabled us to reach this starting point.
In any event it would have been impossible to move our vision for Etxelaia forward without a little luck, which came in the form of the first-class professionals we have found along the way. Each of them, in their own field, has taken ownership of our vision and given their very best to achieve the end result.
Here we should highlight Saiz Verdoux architects and Gakoak interior design. Both came together to work on the exterior and interior of a building almost two hundred years old that needed to be handled with the greatest care.
Saiz Verdoux realised that this was an interesting but challenging project from the outset: magnificent pre-existing conditions, unbeatable surroundings and a project commissioned and driven by a desire to recapture family memories.
PRESERVING THE ESSENCE OF TWO CENTURIES
What started out as simple refurbishment work quickly and clearly became a complete architectural restoration project at all levels including a new roof, interior excavation and complete structural rehabilitation; all of this always bearing in mind the ultimate goal of preserving the essence of a two hundred year old building. Examples of the building’s strong character can be seen throughout with no need to remove or add anything to its principal elements. A contemporary look has been added to the outside space whilst still maintaining a connection and flow befitting of the original building.
The challenge was equally motivating for Gakoak interiors in charge of decorating and furnishing the inside once rehabilitation work had finished. A building with its own personality and pieces of antique furniture that we wanted to keep could have constrained the work of an interior design company but Gakoak has showcased both the building and its antiques combining them with modern pieces whilst preserving the essence and providing the functionality needed for modern-day living. The budget was tight considering the size of the project but tremendous freedom was given to the interior design team who injected a great deal of enthusiasm. The effort has evidently been worthwhile.
A CHARACTER PROPERTY
Once all the rehabilitation, restoration and decoration work had finished, Etxelaia officially opened in summer 2017, although we consider 2018 our true “year zero”. To our original idea of the house being used as a holiday let we have added other ideas that fit nicely with Etxalaia as a building set in such a magnificent backdrop as Urdaibai. We realised that the house had its own differentiating factor for all kinds of special events to be held here.