What’s up everyone?
Remember how excited I was to discover and share with you the story of Fragments BCN, meet the team and witness all that goes behind the scenes to save hydraulic tiles in Barcelona and create beautiful new products from them?
Well, I was, again, enjoying the warm evening sun on Barcelona’s beach when another idea struck me (some people sit on the toilet to get their breakthrough ideas, I prefer the beach). I had just visited a couple of days previously Fragments’ offices and was rummaging all the information newly acquired, thinking about how I’ll shape it in the final form of a blog article, when a bugging thought kept intruding: why not discover such creative people in my home country too?! Why always look at the seemingly greener grass across the borders and overlook what Romania and its people have to offer? Why not promote my peers as well?
Romania doesn’t lack creative people, – on the contrary! – but I wanted to find subjects that would somehow include traveling as well, as this is, after all, my main blog theme.
An island of greenery
The first person to pop up in my mind when trying to connect these dots was Alex, a friend from Timisoara, Romania, whom I met a few years back while we were both studying Architecture at the same university. Some time ago (have 2 years already passed?!), he turned a part of his family property into an airbnb with Scandinavian influences – it all began with one spare room with individual access from the garden, with its own small kitchen and bathroom.
Well, of course it wasn’t done just like that, overnight! Every design detail was carefully thought into creating a simple, yet cozy, bright and welcoming space that would soon become successful enough leading to their opening up a second room for holiday rental.
Located in the vibrant city of Timisoara, in the Western part of Romania, Garden House caught my eye since the very first images Alex published online and I’m still curious to see what hidden corner I’ll discover next each time a new capture pops up on my Instagram. So far my favourite is – no surprise – the garden itself, an island of greenery and relaxation cuddled close to the heart of the city.
It always interested me to learn more about the ins and outs of running a holiday property yourself so it’s no wonder that I took advantage of knowing Alex and asked him a few questions about the design process, the property itself, how’s it like to transform it in a vacation rental and, last but not least, what spots in Timisoara he recommends to travellers.
What I love about this property? The interior design (because it’s clean, functional yet beautiful, with paid attention to every detail), the garden (I’m waiting for the warm spring days to pop up at their door and enjoy a lemonade surrounded by wisteria flowers), the fact that they care about their visitors and it has become a place to gather stories from all over the world. Really, just look at their Instagram and you’ll see that even when it rains it’s such a peaceful and welcoming home.
Regardless whether you’re curious what’s going on behind the scenes of a family-owned holiday property or you simply want to know more about Garden House, I’m sure you’ll appreciate Alex’s answers as much as I did. And if I convinced you to pay him a visit, below are all the links to where to find him.
Meet Alex and his Garden House
So, let’s do this, shall we?
Tell us a bit about your accommodation: what makes it special and different from other similar properties in the area?
Apart from quality design and a large green garden, the main difference between my accommodation and other properties from Timisoara is that it is a real “home” in its essence. Me and my family live here, we have friends and other family members visiting us quite often, we hang out, make barbecues or work in the garden and guests take part in our daily life so they experience a true local feeling which most of the times is the key to a successful trip. We treat our guests like our friends and there is a different type of connection between us, the hosts, and our guests.
How long did the design process take and how many people were involved in making it happen? Was it specifically thought as a tourism accommodation from the beginning?
Having a larger property, composed out of three individual houses, we decided to turn our last house from the back of our garden into a family business called “Garden House”, a place to welcome guests, where they could relax, enjoy the natural surrounding, our garden, the privacy, the interior design and an exchange of experience and culture. We had the house, we had the garden, so the design process began. It took a few months to put the ideas on paper and another 10 months accumulated to build it.
Did you encounter any obstacles along the way? How did you overcome them?
The main challenge was to implement the solutions I created for a more affordable price, so I made a longer research on the local market regarding where I can find good craftsmen and the materials I wanted to use for the best possible price.
What made you take certain design choices? Did you have to change anything along the way to accommodate the needs and requirements of guests?
As an existing house, many design choices were made by instinct at first and by planning afterwards. I tried to think how I would like to live in a house, how would I use that space, what would I like to see outside the window, how would I like the floor to feel, the door handle, the lighting and so on. All the small details created a warm interior feeling and a friendly exterior surrounding the house. By style, I preferred minimalism, focusing on less interior elements, but giving them a special aesthetic and good functionality, all together creating a more flexible space.
What are the main things an owner should take into consideration when renovating their property for tourism purposes?
First of all, you need to put some passion into it and think about what describes you as a person and how could you make others feel welcome and cozy. By knowing this you can make the next step by creating an interesting design depending on your location, building type, culture and tradition. I chose simplicity, because I wanted to share this experience with others, so I attract a certain type of people.
I know you travel a lot as well. Have you ever picked a certain location due to a beautiful accommodation you found there? If yes, where?
Most of the time I plan my trips and I know where I want to go next, but sometimes it happens that you see an accommodation before knowing where it is exactly and you think: “This is truly wonderful and unique, I want to be there”. And that’s how you can end up there having a great vacation.
Did you have any guests so far that traveled to Timisoara because of your accommodation?
Yes, we had a few guests that found our place at the same time when they found out about Timisoara. That made me really happy. This summer we had guests from the Netherlands that ripped of a few pages from a Dutch travel magazine about our Garden House and instantly booked their stay at our home.
What would you recommend to hosts for improving their properties or to people who are just starting out as hosts?
First of all, good communication is very important, the way you write, good knowledge of English (if not any other language as well), being polite and trying to answer all the questions and the doubts of your guests before they arrive and during their stay. As for properties it is extremely important to be clean all the time, to be inspirational and to offer a warm atmosphere.
How about the visitors? What would you recommend them in order to become better guests?
For guests, it is very important to provide enough information to hosts about their trip in order to help hosts to be able to organise their time properly for meeting them or for preparing the apartment in a certain way depending on the number of people, time of the arrival, extra beds etc. Another important aspect for guests is to treat every place they stay with respect like it would be their own home, keep clean and to leave things like they would like to find them.
What are your biggest struggles and your biggest wins in this journey of renting out your property?
The biggest struggle is that most of us have daily jobs beside renting our Garden House, and we also leave on vacations a few times per years, so that’s why we need as much information as possible from our guests in order to make everything work out with our time schedule.
The biggest win is meeting really wonderful people from all over the globe, discovering new things, making friends, making memories in your own home and earning money at the same time.
If you started over from scratch, what would you do differently?
Probably I would have planted more trees a few years earlier. 🙂
What do you like most about Timisoara? What inspires you the most here?
For me Timisoara is a very special place, it’s more than just a beautiful city with great touristic, cultural and economical potential; it’s my home town and the feeling of “home” is extended outside my house, outside the garden in many corners of this city. Apart from it’s beautiful architecture and picturesque parks, what inspires me the most here is the feeling of a culturally diverse city, quite unique in Romania, a feeling of freedom and friendship between different minorities and between our neighbouring countries which is one of the key ingredients for a successful city.
Last but not least, what’s your favourite place in Timisoara that a visitor shouldn’t miss?
There are many beautiful places outside the city center that many visitors often miss or don’t even find out about them. I always encourage people to visit two very important neighbourhoods in our city besides the city center (Cetate). One of them is Fabric, where we live, and the other one is Iosefin. And don’t stop there, go to the neighbouring villages and experience the true local life of Banat. More details why and what to do after we meet with our guests. 🙂
And that’s a wrap! Hope you enjoyed it and inspired you in one way or another! You can get an inside look on what’s happening at the Garden House on their Instagram and Facebook page. If you’re up to also paying Garden House a visit, you can find them on Booking, Airbnb (apartment 1 and apartment 2) and TripAdvisor.