My family has owned a simple caravan, which stood for many years parked on a plot near Krakow. As a child, I spent every summer there with Grandma, playing all day with other children, climbing trees, and occasionally replanting plants and shrubs. The plot was deprived of the comforts I am used to today. You took a shower in cold water, cooked dinner on a tourist stove, and instead of a toilet, there was a wooden outhouse. Despite these difficulties, the memory of this place is one of the best memories of my childhood.
Was it a direct inspiration for the creation of Projekt Datscha? All I know is that for years the idea of building a small hut somewhere in nature has sprouted in my head. Since I was 18, I have been moving a lot, changing cities, countries and universities, so it wasn’t possible to implement this idea.
When I met Jakob in Austria 5 years ago, it all changed. Jakob is an extreme minimalist. He asks: “Do we really need this?” while purchasing such rudimentary items as socks or plates.
The combination of our personalities resulted in Projekt Datscha – a minimalist house on wheels.
A tiny house must meet specific height-, width-, and weight standards to move on the road. As it turned out later, it was a big challenge and a design limitation. The structure must be stable and durable to overcome air resistance while towing. It cannot exceed the permissible total weight of 3.5 tons nevertheless.
Fitting my dream to these requirements was not easy. The house is finally 4 m high, 2.55 m wide, and 6.30 m long. On 18 sq m, you’ll find a living room with a kitchen, a sleeping loft and a bathroom with a bathtub.
Of course, the project did not come into being immediate. The first approach was created in cooperation with Monika Binkowska, my friend and architect. However, after consulting my parents and architects, I made changes due to technical limitations.
“It will not end at one Datscha”. Together with Monika, we do not rule out returning to the original version and creating the Datscha 2.0.
You meet real friends ... while building a house.
When we finished the design phase, I wanted to start as soon as possible. But how to build a house with your own hands in another country with a full-time job?
I was lucky that the head of the design agency where I work gave me three months of unpaid leave. In my opinion, they were enough to build a house from scratch. What’s more, in my imagination, inspired by beautiful Instagram sessions, I had to lightly and with flowing hair put up wooden structures and paint the facade in the company of smiling friends. Reality has revised my plans.
As you can guess, it didn’t end in three months – the construction took almost a year. Had it not been for my father’s help, who worked with me from morning to night and taught me the basics of using a mitre saw, I wouldn’t have been able to cope. When my vacation ended and I had to return to Austria, my mother took over the coordination. Jakob and I travelled to Krakow every other weekend.
Building a house with your own hands gives you great satisfaction. In retrospect, I would recommend to all future owners of a mobile home to create it yourself. When things didn’t go my way, I had many doubts. I thought that I had carried away “with a hoe into the sun” and that the house would never be completed.
I owe my success to people around me – my family and friends, who offered advice, a helping hand and skills even in the darkest moments.
Eco-friendly not only on paper
My mother raised me in the spirit of care for the natural environment. On school trips to the mountains, I was always the victim of fate who collected plastic bottles abandoned by other children in my backpack to recycle them. Not much has changed in this regard. Sustainability is an important topic for me. The selection of building materials and the design process was made having the environment in mind.
As a result, the structure of the Datscha is built entirely of spruce wood, which is light but durable. Wood has natural insulating properties and can be easily recycled – in our case, all the cuttings were used as fuel in the fireplace. Insulating materials used by us, i.e. PIR and glass wool, are not produced ecologically. Nevertheless, their low weight and remarkable insulation parameters allowed us to create an energy-efficient house that heats up quickly and keeps heat.
It did not end with ecological construction. In the cottage, we cook on a spirit cooker, and in the bathroom, we use an odourless freezing toilet. When selecting appliances such as a refrigerator, we paid extra attention to their energy efficiency. Installing a boiler with a capacity of only 15 litres reduced the chance for non-ecological hot baths in hectoliters of water. Additionally, the Infrarot heating system used by us is highly efficient as 100% of it gives off the heat it generates to the floor. It can also be programmed using a mobile application.
Plans for the future
Projekt Datscha project has already travelled with us almost 1000 km from Poland to Austria. It is currently stationed at the Packer Stausee lake in Styria. We plan to transport it to the more mountainous regions to be a base for climbing, MTB and mountain hiking.
Will Dacha stay in Austria for longer? We don’t know, but Jakob and I both love the Balkans, so who knows, maybe after the adventures in western Europe, it will be time to go to the East.
We have not yet decided in what direction our “Project” will develop in the future. I receive many inquiries about the possibility of buying the Datscha, so I am preparing to design the next version. I would like Datscha 2.0 to be even more sustainable and function off-grid.