Sitok Srengenge’s true sanctuary
Having land equal in size to two soccer fields in the outskirts of Yogyakarta might prompt some people to build a villa they visit only once or twice a year.
Poet Sitok Srengenge chose to be different – opting to build a sanctuary for his family and friends as well as a place to inspire his wandering mind.
“In general, Javanese consider a house as a place to stay, but I don’t. Mine should become a place that allows my mind and soul to wander freely although I am physically present in the house,” he says.
He believes that walls should only serve as a partition; they should not shut off his rooms from their surroundings.
Holding to that principle, he applied an open-space concept in his house in Bangunjiwo subdistrict in Bantul regency, fitting large windows and big doors all around.
Around the home, he also maintains natural surroundings and avoids artificial gardens in the design.
The 18,000-square-meter land consists of six buildings, including the main house; a pavilion with Javanese joglo architectural style; a public library and private office; a communal kitchen and a “Friends House”.
He also rents a gallery next to his land to cater to his business of selling antique windows and doors.
Sitok first built his joglo pavilion in late 2006 before starting to construct his house. Although he actually wanted to build the house first, the problem in finding the joglo forced him to make a different choice.
“I hunted for joglo in various locations in Java and finally found someone who would sell his joglo in Jepara. He wanted to dismantle the joglo in June  because he planned to build two small houses for his kids,” Sitok said.
The massive earthquake that rattled Yogyakarta and its vicinity that year postponed the plan until September when he finally sealed the deal.
The design for his main house was already in his mind, but he waited until he got the right frames for the windows and doors.
His patience paid off when he got the doors and windows along with their frames from the house of a former head of a sugar company in Comal, Pemalang in Central Java, which was built during the colonial period.
Since they are around three meters high, the first floor of his two storey house is four meters high.
“My house is eclectic. It fuses ethnic and art deco styles. The window and door frames are special to me,” Sitok says.
“Other special things are the old steel consoles and the jail doors,” he added, referring to four jail doors he got from an auction in Semarang following a tip from a dealer that he later used to build an inner gate.
His office has four windows, with two big windows on the back that were previously a single gigantic window from a military base in Magelang.
When the poet sits on his desk and looks to the front, he can see a yard and some benches made of solid stones that lie under the shades of an evergreen gnemon tree. A gazebo overlooking a forest sits next to the tree.
He said the window on his left side overlooks a path to the communal kitchen and leads to a 10-meter cliff.
“Down to the cliff, there is a small river that will disappear in the dry season and return in the rainy season.” he said.
His penchant for old wooden furniture has logic – they are made from big and old trees, a rarity today, which are strong and stable.
“The quality of old doors and windows are proven because they have gone through long years and are seasoned. The most important thing is we don’t have to cut trees down if we use them,” he said.
The man, who calls himself a communal person, believes that people should have a spot for social purposes in their house to make their life meaningful.
In his home, Sitok not only provides space for his beloved family, but he also provides rooms for friends – which he calls the “Friends House” – and other rooms that can accommodate 20 people.
“My friends will have a serene and comfortable place to stay when they are in Yogya. There is no hotel in town that has a more beautiful landscape than mine.”