Changing Our View…

Changing Our View…

Coming up to three years ago, we were very excited when one of the tumble down, abandoned houses beyond our property was demolished and heavy machinery arrived in the village. We were even more excited at the prospect of the neighbour building a new house, in the style – we were assured – of his current two, which are very pretty. The Istrian stones were cleared, and foundations seemed to go in pretty quickly. A crane arrived, creating even more excitement, as no-one surely, in their right mind, installs a crane. And then does sod all with it. Or, so we thought…

Two years and a bit later, the crane is still there. Along with a cement mixer and lots of building materials, but not much else. Now, this isn’t unusual in Istria. As is commonplace in many Mediterranean countries, building work can take a long time. Builders are often working on multiple projects. In the height of summer it is way too hot to be doing long days of heavy construction work. Buildings may be being built as holiday homes, and so owners often arrange for work to be done when they are able to be on site. There’s also a real culture of mañana mañana here. So, we get it. We know that construction work takes times. And so we’ve been patient, as the project behind our home has crawled along, with periods of nothing in between slight flurries of mild activity. We’re in one of those periods of nothing happening now, as no-one has been on site for over three months.

However, our patience has now worn very, very thin. Written communication to the neighbour has proved fruitless as our requests for information re the progress of the work, and maybe a possible end date, have gone unanswered. Builders have from time to time, assured us (when they have been on site) that all is progressing and that when it is finished, and landscaped, it will be very beautiful. Of that we have no doubt. But it’s the WHEN – because until someone pulls their finger out, and “when” actually arrives, we are still looking out onto a building site, no matter what we do to hide it.

Our living room (pictured above) is on the first floor, and so even with the border of the potted conifers we have installed, you can still see the building site beyond. This is something which has been repeatedly brought up by viewers, asking about timescales for the construction work – and, as the neighbours have so far not deemed it important to discuss/share their plans with us, there’s been very little we’ve been able to say. So, we’ve decided that we’ll take things into our hands and do what we can do to improve our own outlook.

Within our boundaries, we also own the little stone house, above. This was purchased from a neighbour and is definitely in need of renovation. We thought that it would potentially be an amazing selling point, as once renovated it would provide additional accommodation. But most viewers seemed to see it only as additional work, and the potential didn’t have the appeal we expected it to have. Either that, or we just had a run of very un-curious and project-shy house viewers! So, a big decision has been made.

We’re exploring having the small house demolished and building a boundary wall, thereby creating an enclosed rear garden. We think if anyone comes along in the future and says they’d have bought our house, if only there had been a small building included in the sale, with scope to renovate, then we’ll take it on the chin. We’re still working out the best way to do this, but the eventual wall, will be rendered. It will also be a high wall – high enough to give us 100% privacy from the outside. And because of its height, we’ll hopefully have a panel (or panels) made up of glass bricks on the wall opposite the main house, meaning that light will still flood into the garden. Foliage will be planted to give extra depth and interest, along with lighting. I’m very much liking the examples below, and at least now I have a better idea of what to show to a builder to begin to explain our thinking.

Access to the rear garden is currently via the communal grassed area to the side of the main house. We intend to open up the living room window by installing French windows and creating a small balcony with external steps leading down into the garden, meaning that this communal path will not need to be used. Access to the garden, will be from the house. And, if funds allow, the final piece of the jigsaw will be the installation of a pool, along the lines of a Dip Tank. Therefore also addressing the second most asked question – “Do you have a pool?”

So, roll on autumn as we’re heading towards another BIG project!

 

the kitchen reno begins

the kitchen reno begins

For the past few days, we’ve been clearing out the kitchen and creating a makeshift one in the Well Room, as work is beginning on the first big renovation project. Things are getting serious!

Time to get rid of this awful kitchen...

Time to get rid of this awful kitchen…

Meanwhile, our builders have been beavering away in the kitchen, stripping out the false ceiling. This was low and only plasterboard, and knew from the external shape of the kitchen roof, that there’s likely be beams above it – a hammer through the ceiling confirmed this and so there was no going back. We were going to have an apex ceiling, with beams.

No going back...

No going back…

Part of the roof packing...

Part of the roof packing – firewood…

 

Exposed, after goodness who knows how long...

Exposed, after goodness who knows how long…

After yesterday’s excitement of taking down the false ceiling – plus removing a dead mouse, numerous critters and a hornets’ nest – today was always going to be a bit of anti-climax in terms of progress. However, in the short time that Misko and Sergio were here, they achieved an awful lot. In order to get the positioning of the new window spot-on, they did a bit of a mini move-around of cupboards and appliances. And after nine months of a poorly laid out kitchen, they temporarily nailed it – could have saved ourselves a bit of money

And, today, the scaffolding arrived. It was brought to us by Edo, a lovely Dutch guy who has really helped us ease into Istrian life, as he did the same thing 12 years ago. He brought the scaffolding to us because he was already going to Sergio’s, as he was taking hay for Sergio’s horse. Which Sergio doesn’t ride. He keeps it as a pet. Just when we thought we couldn’t like Sergio any more.

The ricketiest looking scaffolding we have ever seen...

The ricketiest looking scaffolding we have ever seen…

Anyway, it was lovely to see Edo again – plans were made for getting together after Xmas, when he’s back from Rotterdam and we’re back from our travels. It feels good to be forging friendships in a foreign country.

The walls in the house are very thick – at certain points being nearly 80cms thick. One of those points is where we want the new kitchen window, which we thought would present quite a challenge. Not so! With only a hammer drill and a chisel, huge slabs of stone were quickly being removed, revealing what had once been an internal chimney, still full of the black soot – and red soil, which Misko told us what was used pre-concrete days. All of the stones have been saved and these will be re-used, probably in the garden. Waste not, want not.

Creating a new window opening.

Creating a new window opening.

Pretty soon, the hole was sufficiently big enough for us to get an idea of what the kitchen will eventually be like when daylight floods in. (The current window is north-ish facing, so apart from very early in the morning, we don’t get much sunlight in the kitchen – the new window will give us sunlight in the afternoon and into the evening).

Much excitement as the new window started to emerge.

Much excitement as the new window started to emerge.

The brickwork at the top still needs to be removed, and that will be done tomorrow – and then in will go the newly cut Istrian stone surrounds. The frame and casement windows have been sanded, prepped, undercoated and glossed, so they’re ready too, for their new home.

Because the weather today has been sunny – and warm, when the sun has been at the front of the house – we’ve also had to take the opportunity to get as much as we can get done, in between client design work, to crack on with the exterior woodwork. This might not look too high, but our living room window is probably 10 foot above ground level – it took a little bit of coaxing to get my super decorator up the ladders, but he did it!

For someone who hates heights, this was a brilliant job today...

For someone who hates heights, this was a brilliant job today…

Meanwhile, we think that for a good few days yet, we’ll only have a plastic sheet between us and the elements, as work still needs to be carried out on the stone lintels, before the window can be fitted.

We're hoping that winter doesn't arrive just yet...

We’re hoping that winter doesn’t arrive just yet…