Inviting guest rooms in a timber-framed historical landmark
Is it because of the little bell tower that rises into the sky from the red pointed roof? The nostalgic dormers and mullioned windows? The struts in the oak compartments, some of which are artistically carved into St. Andrew’s crosses? Perhaps it is also the history of the Old Town Hall that makes the timber-framed building so special. It began with its construction in the 16th century and recently culminated in a rather extraordinary occurrence. The married couple Ulrike and Alexander Dörr acquired the decaying timber-framed building from the town of Schwaigern in 2018 for a symbolic euro and restored it with expertise and passion. Today, the Old Town Hall in Schwaigern in the Baden-Württemberg district of Stetten am Heuchelberg is no longer an administrative seat. Instead, it is a historical guesthouse.
Life-long dreams fulfilled
The Old Town Hall had been empty for more than ten years, serving only as storage for a few local clubs. Wasted space, wasted opportunities. Until an announcement was made: the search was on for a utilization concept for the old property that would fit in with the district where there are several other timber-framed houses. The Dörr family’s idea won out. Then followed three years of renovations which they undertook themselves while keeping their full-time jobs. At the end of 2021, the owners took the first bookings for their guesthouse with adjoining breakfast café serving regional organic delicacies. Actively supported by their two adult children, they thus fulfilled a lifelong dream. “You have to know how much work it takes to renovate a timber-framed building which is listed for historical preservation,” says master carpenter Alexander Dörr, who put all his heart and soul into the project. “When you’re in love with a house like this though, there’s no alternative.”
The rustic guesthouse has five double rooms and one single room, including modern bathrooms. Each of the rooms is unique: The Mayor’s Room, for example, is decorated in an elegant chalky blue and has four windows, plenty of natural light, decorative wall panels and stucco ceilings. The latter was completed true to the original. The sunny yellow Notary Room is adorned with a wall panelling of doors from the Wilhelminian era – an element of the original inventory that includes shelves, cabinets and room doors, which the family continues to use. “What was worth preserving, we recycled and partly refurbished.” reports daughter Valerie Dörr, who is in charge of bookings and marketing at the Old Town Hall. The natural materials used in the renovation also reflect the sustainability concept. The supporting framework, made of oak up to 1000 years old, was deliberately left in place by builder Alexander Dörr. For the walls of the rooms, he used earthen clay, one of the most natural building materials of all and one that has been in use worldwide for many thousands of years. In this manner, he not only built in a particularly sustainable and resource-efficient way. He also created a noticeably comfortable atmosphere. As a natural heat accumulator, clay earth helps to maintain a constant room temperature without allowing humidity to build up. Thus, the building material from nature creates a balanced room climate – an essential component for comprehensive guest happiness.Read more »
Clay earth walls for cosy living
Timber-framed houses on the registry of historic buildings are subject to particularly strict renovation requirements. These include using the original building materials – such as clay earth for the infill. Builder and master carpenter Alexander Dörr is enthusiastic about this traditional construction method. “In the Old Town Hall, we worked like our ancestors did 400 years ago. The result has an effect: The building has character, a special aura.” As for the interior walls, he worked with CLAYTEC clay blocks and clay drywall D25 boards. As a base for the finishing plaster and a chalk paint, he chose Clay Undercoat plaster with straw. In all versions, the natural building material clay earth convinces with its characteristics: heat and sound insulation, regulation of temperature and humidity in the room, binding of dust, pollutants and odours from the air – advantages not only for the environment and healthy living but also for maximum comfort indoors.