176 Criș, Judetul Mures,
Follow us on Instagram
Levente’s construction team has been breathing new life into Bethlen Estate’s old buildings for the past six years. With 30 years of experience in building and restoration, he and his team were an ideal fit for our ambitious project in picturesque Cris: the restoration of multiple heritage buildings into top-notch luxury guesthouses. We spoke to Levente to learn more about the principles guiding his work, the materials he uses, and he goes on to offer some useful advice for anyone looking to rehabilitate old buildings in Transylvania.
The Bethlen project was initially started by another team, but in September 2015 we were asked to step in and take over the work. We don’t usually do this, but the Bethlen family didn’t give up on trying to convince us. Eventually, we said yes to the challenge.
Past experiences with old buildings and monuments include working for various properties belonging to the Evangelical Church in Sighisoara, the most recent being the Monastery Church in the Medieval Citadel.
The main principle guiding the work here at Bethlen Estates is authenticity, using and recycling natural, old materials. We are preoccupied with finding the building materials that have been used here in this village for hundreds of years and incorporating them in all of our projects.
Every new construction or restoration must belong to the scenery and be part of a whole. We reproduce buildings in a style that was already here, we consolidate old structures with quality materials to make them last for at least 100 more years.
The main sources of our supplies are demolition sites: from tearing down buildings that could no longer be saved. We do our best to save and restore anything that can still be used. Wood is a very important element in everything we do. This is why we’re always looking to buy old barns and old houses that need demolishing and we recover everything that can be saved from them: wood, tiles, bricks.
Another resource that is characteristic of this area is natural stone. River stones and sandstones are used in almost all buildings around here, so we incorporate them in many areas of our work. We avoid using cement and concrete, so the natural hydraulic lime is the universal binder for all restoration work.
One example is the consolidation of the old Manor House. Parts of the building were about to collapse, so we created a wooden structure, resembling a sculpture to hold it together until further work can be done. This was a once-in-a-lifetime sort of intervention, and I don’t think I’ll have the chance to do anything similar again.
There are many beautiful parts about this job: restoring century-old beams and using them for ceilings, building natural stone walls, interventions on various stone vaults from the cellars that we restored – to name a few. Also working with natural stone for creating flooring and stairs was an interesting challenge, as we tried to make them look like they’ve always been there.
Working with wood, brick, stone, and terracotta tiles, and seeing that everything falls perfectly into place creating authentic buildings and finishings gives us great satisfaction.
I’ve been working with the same team for 30 years and that is a lot of time, especially in this industry. These workers have been working on construction sites for over three decades and they have a deep understanding of the kind of quality I’m after.
I’m very grateful for their loyalty and collaboration. We have good communication and mutual understanding, they are open to new ideas and I can count on them to deliver. For me, that is everything.
The sad part is that there are no young people willing to learn restoration skills and take on the craft from the experts, so I’m not sure how we will work after this team retires – or in 10 to 15 years from now.
In my opinion, in order to do a good job, you should be passionate and interested in preserving the property in its original form. It’s important to read about traditional restoration techniques and always try to learn from the examples of others.
When starting work on an old house, authenticity should be the guiding principle for everything you do. Try to recycle old building materials as much as possible and avoid using synthetic supplies. And last but not least, to restore it in such a way that you like that brings peace to your soul.
If you enjoyed this article piece, subscribe to our newsletter to learn more about Transylvania luxury holiday experiences and the Bethlen holiday estates in Romania.
Looking for holidays in Romania? Our accommodations can give you a full sense of the Romania luxury holidays and authentic experiences in rural Transylvania. Discover all experiences including nature, cultural tours, and experiments with local gastronomy here.
176 Criș, Judetul Mures