Not Your Typical Pub: The Ruin Bar

A ceiling made out of plants hangs overhead.     Communist-era cars sit hollowed in the open air with bar stools around it.   A ship’s female figurehead perches in the corner wearing safety goggles.     Rusted bathtubs filled with cushions double as loveseats.

This is Szimpla Kertmozia, a bar and cafe in Hungary. It sits in the heart of the Pest section of Budapest and is constructed from the remains of a pre-war building and courtyard which has had it’s insides gutted. Not the perfect place to grab a drink, one might think. However, the expansive and eclectic atmosphere of this artist’s wonderland is visually stunning and surprisingly cozy.

Szimpla Kertmozia‘s charm is enabled by it’s constant evolution and collection of crazy artifacts and ‘accidental art’ decor. Patrons claim and move their own seating, there is no dress code and pretty much anything goes. The bartenders are surly but experts in their field and if you’d like to add to the decor by writing your name in Sharpie on the bar, no one would care.

For a small-town, seemingly uptight American boy, this place was too amazing not to photograph and write about. My mind kept racing on how I could bring the vibe of this place to the States. With our own city ruins, and crumbling factory buildings, this could be a niche to develop!

Please take the visual tour below. Enjoy!

Photos in gallery: Michael Chunyk

Style in Budapest

Whilst in Budapest, we visited the home of Gordon Finlayson and Natella Safar Ali, recent transplants from Dubai. Living in Budapest (and most of Europe for that matter) comes with different offerings than the Western world. 19th century buildings which stood through world wars and public strife now play as safe haven for city dwellers and boast tall ceilings, herringbone parquet floors and gracious windows that open onto small but intimate terraces.

In Gordon and Natella’s flat, the use of crisp white and cream colors is an amazing contrast to the colorful books and keepsakes they have collected on their world travels. The simple lines of minimal furniture complimented thick glossy door trim and vintage chandeliers. Many thanks to them for opening up their home (and a bottle of champagne).

This Old Porch

Here at the FEND Test Lab, (AKA my 100 year-old Colonial Revival) we’ll be tackling our outside space this month with a ongoing overhaul of the porch that runs the length of the side of the home. The home was built in 1913 with the porch open and overlooking the Mount Holyoke range, the Connecticut River and the rolling acres of dairy farmland that once abutted Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA.The view today is now obscured by tall black walnuts and pines.

Southwest view of the house circa 1913. The porch is in it’s original state and would have had an unobstructed view of the Mt. Holyoke range.

100 years ago, the northern winter wind would have bombarded the porch and the two sets of French doors which open to the living room. The setting summer sun would have emblazoned the occupants of the porch and made it unbearable to sit outside.

By the 1920’s, screening had been added to the porch for bug control.

When we purchased the home in 2007, we were able to see the potential of the porch which had been fully enclosed in the 1950’s. Heavy, custom-made walls were erected around the gorgeous pillars and screens were framed and hung to keep insects away. Giant aluminum roll-up awnings attached to the outside of the columns hung dilapidated and broken. Birds found refuge in crevices and nooks, building an intricate community of nests. The porch was cavernous with little light – not my ideal outdoor retreat whatsoever. After hours of wielding sledgehammers and Sawzalls, we dismantled the structures, which in their hay day, were an impressive feat of carpentry.

By 2007, the enclosed porch was in need of some TLC, to say the least.

The porch became an open space again, it’s columns and railing finally free to the air after half a century. As we sat sweaty and tired, there was a quiet appreciation for restoring the porch to the way it was built 100 years ago and also for the evolution of design it had undergone. An unearthing of an unusual time capsule in an ordinary place. This is why I love old, grand things.


Removing the custom made walls, the columns and railings were discovered intact. Preparations are underway for painting.

For the next three years, the porch then sat open and in need of a serious reconditioning and painting. There was a sort of shabby charm the cracking paint and weathered floors presented as we sat in rockers drinking coffee or hosting dinner parties in late spring. I guess you could say the evolution of the porch became our evolution, as our homes often do. Life collided with good intentions and we were comfortable just existing with porch the way it was.


The current state of the porch has served it’s purpose for all residents in the home.

Now, the next step in the porch’s journey will take place over the next few weeks. Finally, new white paint, and glossy grey floors will put the finishing touch on one of my home’s favorite places. Stay tuned for the ‘after’ transformation shots. Thanks for reading. -Michael

The north end of the porch overlooking the trees that weren’t there 100 years ago.