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Dreaming of Croatia

After decades of neglect, a 200-year-old stone house on the island of Hvar is brought back to life.

The home overlooks the Adriatic Sea. Photo: Vedran Rafael Janic
The home overlooks the Adriatic Sea. Photo: Vedran Rafael Janic

“It was a ruin, basically: four walls, no roof or floors,” Tomi Sakic says of the property he and his partner bought on the island of Hvar. “The house stood like this for half a century before we took it on.” Finding property that has a “cleared” ownership title in Croatia is challenging, Sakic explains, since many long-abandoned houses can still be claimed by descendants of people who emigrated between the 1890s and World War I. (As many as 30 people have laid claim to a single property.) He traveled across the country until he landed on the island of Hvar and spied an abandoned 200-year-old stone wreck. “It was really something out of ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ a property waiting to be released from years of being left to itself, unloved and uncared for,” Sakic says. “It was an enormous project to take on.” The end result, including the installation of a pool and revitalization of the wild landscape beyond with a view out to the sea, must seem like a mirage to the owners, who decided to rent it out this year.

“Early on, when I envisioned the stone house I was looking for, I always thought it would be placed directly by the sea,” Sakic says. He feels lucky that he found a property with a view of the water rather than being on the water, as it removes the house from the tourist scene. He kept the original footprint of the building in the renovation and established alfresco areas in which to relax and dine. Photo: Vedran Rafael Janic
It was important to restore as much of the original stonework as possible. The Mulberry House is named after the huge old mulberry tree, seen here on the right, that has shaded the property, villagers say, for 200 years. The renovation took ten months to complete, but the outdoor spaces and terraces took another four years. Photo: Vedran Rafael Janic
Sakic and his partner completely reimagined the interior of the house, which included designing the new travertine-stone floors. Like the oak boards for the floors upstairs, they were made to order and shipped from the mainland. Photo: Vedran Rafael Janic
Shipping the furniture that the couple have collected over the years — from antique markets in Paris, where they live full-time, and trips to Turkey, Morocco, and Thailand — was a two-step process. Pieces had to be delivered to the mainland and then to the island. Photo: Vedran Rafael Janic
The interiors were designed by Sakic and his partner and the plans given to a local architect to realize. The kitchen opens to the dining area and living room. Photo: Vedran Rafael Janic
“I have a great affinity for Scandinavian design of the ’60s; this style permeates the whole house, from the teak furniture to the glass objects and lamps,” Sakic says. “It has taken me years to collect it all. I think of the interior design of the house as Provence meets Scandinavia meets Dalmatia.” Photo: Vedran Rafael Janic

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A Neglected Stone House in Croatia Comes Back to Life