Poland: Converting a Palace to a Home

Piotr Malecki for The New York TimesFrom The New York Times By BEATA PASEK Published: April 30, 2008>>read more and see more pictures.
NAKLO, Poland   When Kehrt Reyher saw a dilapidated 18th-century palace in southern Poland, he fell in love with its classical design and thought it could become a weekend house for his family. He didn’t expect that, during the renovation process, he would come up with an idea that could turn his professional life around.     Mr. Reyher, a native of Indiana with a background in journalism, came to Poland in the early 1990s to work as a consultant for the country’s fast-developing media. On a trip outside Warsaw, he met a real estate agent who was showing some properties and, as prices were within his reach, he started thinking about buying a country place to renovate.     In 2002 he and his wife, Marzenna, who is Polish, looked at about 10 properties but came back to the first one: a three-story palace dating to the mid-1770s in the small village of Naklo, some 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of Warsaw.     “It was very much unlike anything we saw,” Mr. Reyher, now 54, recalled. “What I liked most was that it was not pretentious, not terribly elaborate. It is, in fact, pretty simple.”     The eight-hectare (20-acre) estate included a park with 200-year-old trees and an orchard, as well as a ruined stable, a caretaker’s house and a three-car garage. The palace, originally a summer residence for an aristocratic family, was nationalized under communism and turned into a farming school and then an orphanage. With Poland’s shift toward democracy in the early 1990s, the estate reverted to private ownership, but the only thing the owner did was to fence the site.     “The roof was in a relatively good shape and it saved the place,” Mr. Reyher said. The ground floor had been vandalized, but the upstairs still had a working fireplace. “One thing I liked about it was that we could come and stay even before we started redoing the building,” he said.

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