House-hunting can be an incredibly stressful endeavor, as people try to visualize the look of their prospective home. Carlos Alonso can certainly relate to that, as he and his sister looked to purchase a new country property for their family. However, after recognizing the potential of a once-abandoned stable, the pair soon revealed an awe-inspiring space.
Back in 1995, Carlos co-founded an architecture firm with his sister Camino and Ignacio Lechon, named Ábaton Architecture. Based in Madrid, Spain, the organization quickly set up an additional construction company, meaning they could control that part of the process when working on their projects. The firm itself is run by Carlos, Camino, her husband and two more siblings.
As they continued to establish themselves, Ábaton Architecture became known for their design elements, including space, light and sustainability. Over time, the firm earned a prestigious reputation in the Spanish capital. In 2008, though, Carlos and Camino’s skills were put to the test as they started their own search for a new family home.
During their house hunt, the siblings discovered an abandoned stable in Extremadura, a rural Spanish region on the border with Portugal. While it didn’t appear in the best of condition, Carlos and Camino could still see some potential in the property, due to its stunning location.
“[We] had been looking for a place to build a house,” Carlos recalled in a YouTube video by faircompanies.com in January 2012. “It was my sister Camino who found [the stable], so I came here with her and we found it amazing. We both live in the city, but we were brought up in a country-way somehow, so we both love the countryside.”
As the pair continued to show a real interest in the property, resident rancher José Vicente Jiménez gave some background on it. “It was a stable for cattle,” he said in the YouTube video. “Below they put the cattle in winter, when it snowed, and days like that. And above they dried hay, and they had it there for winter.”
From there, Jiménez explained why the stable might have originally been abandoned. “Since machinery doesn’t work here, you can’t have a big plot,” he said. “And it’s not very productive. The stables are abandoned – like right there, there’s one falling down. The same would have happened with this one.”
However, despite that apparent disadvantage, Camino praised the thinking behind the stable’s location. “The position of the architecture is here, just as it was originally,” she said in the video. “Because the experience of the rancher was to choose the best position on the property where you have water and sun all year round. Because it’s the south, that’s the best orientation.”
Although the stable was located high in the hills of Extremadura, isolated from any electrical grids or waterworks, the siblings spent the next two years converting it into a country home. The work was completed in April 2010, but few could have envisioned how it turned out in the end.
As Carlos slid open a large glass door for the faircompanies.com camera crew, an incredible space was revealed. While the siblings had retained the original interior structure of the stable, they also found a way to update it with a more modern aesthetic. The lower level where the cattle were once kept was now a vast, multifaceted central lounge, and the haylofts were converted into bedrooms.
Light metal pillars replaced all of the stable’s old supporting walls, while the front of the property retained its original stone. However, as a result of its condition, the siblings reinforced it with cement. Their work didn’t end there, though, as the stable also boasted a water trough, that was soon converted into a fountain.
As it turns out, the stable was built below two streams that now act as the property’s main source of water. The pure water naturally flows from the fountain, which is located in a big gap at the back of the house, to a stone swimming pool out at the front. The pool itself also functions as a holding tank, used to irrigate the surrounding fields.
The property now has large glass windows and doors around its exterior, with sizable wooden shutters used to cover them up during the night. As for keeping the home warm, Carlos referred back to what his sister mentioned about the location. “It’s great, because at winter time, the sun from the south comes inside and heats the house a lot,” he said in the YouTube video.
“There’s a lot of heat coming from the sun hitting the floor,” Carlos continued. “And in summertime, you can open [the windows at the front] completely. Those four doors go inside the walls, and you have nothing, like it’s completely open.” From there, Camino expanded on the property’s interior aesthetic.
“The concept of Japanese architecture, the feeling that the place you’re in is outside,” Camino explained. “The constant perception of outside, of meditation, of enjoying the outside, nature, of the impermanence around you, we love this. So we always have contact with the exterior, to try to put in all the inside spaces something from outside.”
Camino continued, “Put it inside and it makes room inside for [a] change, that’s a bit [of] this Japanese language. To adore nature, and put it inside and enjoy it.” With that in mind, she then noted one of the house’s more pleasant surprises, hailing it as one of nature’s gifts.
“The reflection of the sun on the water [of the pool], when it begins to float on the ceiling, to shine, it is also a pleasure,” Camino added. As for how the property gets its electrical power, the siblings planted solar panels outside, while additional water turbines make up for the lack of sun during the winter months.
When reflecting on this ambitious project, Carlos spoke of his and Camino’s original intentions for the abandoned stable. “We wanted the house to look completely part of the environment from the outside,” he said in the YouTube video. “But we’re devoted to modern architecture, so we wanted the interior to be completely modern.”
“What is fantastic of that is when you have something that’s completely modern, completely flat, white,” Carlos added. “When you compare it to something that has been exposed to time and to touch, to scratches and stuff, that contrast is very nice.”
While house hunting can be an incredibly stressful endeavor, few would have taken on the challenge that Carlos and Camino Alonso faced after finding their new country home. However, following two years of hard work, they now have a picturesque property that fully embraces its surroundings.