and another garden wall is built

and another garden wall is built

With a reliable builder finally working with us, we’ve decided that we can’t let him go to waste, and so are adding jobs to his ever-growing list. The weather has been pretty dire the last week or so – rain, thunder and lightning – and so work on the rear garden and window etc has stalled, as he hasn’t been able to get a long, dry run. So, we discussed the construction of a wall in the front garden, and because this is a smaller job, to our delight, he dropped off the concrete blocks on Tuesday morning, and built the wall yesterday!

We decided that, with the house going on the market, we needed to make it VERY clear to potential purchasers, that the piece of land, which is under the green wall, and so technically within our garden, doesn’t actually belong to us. It belongs to the abandoned house. Totally ridiculous, as it can’t be accessed, apart from through our garden – and we definitely won’t be giving anyone access rights. So, since we moved in, we’ve looked after this little piece of land, and currently, it’s looking very gorgeous. Levelled, geotex laid and fixed and covered in white pea gravel. It was on two levels, because it had been used as landfill, presumably when our house was first “renovated” by the people we bought it from. We never tackled this area, simply leaving it as two uneven and pretty unfinished levels and it never looked good. But, we’ve finally done it. All of the big stones have been removed and it’s been dug out and the soil redistributed, so now it looks like a finished area – especially as it’s now covered in beautiful white gravel.

So, absolutely no-one else uses it or has ever tried to access it, in all the time we’ve been here. A handful of the co-owners (there are 25!) live nearby and must be aware that we’ve maintained and improved it, so we’re all good with keeping on doing that. But, we wanted to be absolutely sure that anyone who comes to view the house, knows from the get go, that this piece of land does NOT belong to us. And, this is where the wall comes in.

The wooden beams were placed to prevent the stones from falling, as the patio is slightly higher, but they also mark out our boundary, so it was easy for the builder, as he already had a concrete base, once the stones were raked back, on which to build the wall.

Rather than just have a low wall, at the same height all the way along, we decided to go for something a bit more unusual, and have it raised, in steps, towards one end.

The wall now needs to be rendered and painted white – which we thought would happen today. But then we realised that today (8th June) is Corpus Christie, and so a public holiday in Istria. So no builders today. One step forward and all that!

Those stepped bricks are going to prove handy when we need a bit more height to cut back the vines, which can overhang. But even better than that, as practical as it is, is that they will also become “shelves” for various lanterns. Which of course I now have to and buy, as none of the lanterns we already are anywhere near suitable…








We’ve thought long and hard about how much current renovation we want to do in our Istrian stone house, as it is imminently going on the market, as we have plans for a whole new adventure. However, with the demolition and clearance of the small stone cottage behind the main house, and the construction of our beautiful new, white, rendered garden wall, we have to think about the practicalities of the access to the new rear garden.

Currently. to get to get to the rear of the house, you have to walk along the newly gravelled side access road. Not a huge problem, and this road is only used by us and one neighbour, but it still doesn’t feel quite right that there isn’t an access from the house. So, at the start of this week, we discussed with our builder the possibility of enlarging the living room window which overlooks the rear of the house, and installing French doors, and having a concrete platform and steps down, into the garden, built. Not much ever happens here very quickly – you have to have lots of patience  – so we were expecting a good few weeks to pass before we even got a quote for the work. How wrong we were on this occasion!

Quote in the next day. Agreed. And, Wednesday evening spent moving furniture away from the window and re-configuring the living room, so that plastic sheeting could be put up, for the work to commence the next morning…

Very little happens quickly here. It’s just something you have to get used to. Days can often drift by between discussing a job and it actually starting. It all usually depends on availability of materials. Or what other jobs the builder may have committed to. Or the weather – sometimes too hot, sometimes too cold, sometimes too windy, sometimes there may be a threat of rain. Or it’s a public holiday – and if that falls on a Wednesday or a Thursday, definitely discount the next couple of days, as a long weekend will always be had. Or the builder just goes AWOL. They always return, just maybe not when you expect them. So this speedy turn of events has taken us by surprise. At the beginning of the week, we still had a wall and a window and only the start of a plan. Now we have a huge hole in the wall. Although, we have to say, it has been the neatest demolition job we’ve ever experienced, with not a speck of dust inside the house, although much Istrian stone once again, back in the garden…

Our job this weekend is to begin the sourcing of the French doors. We’ve been scouring the internet and know exactly what we want – the challenge now is to find somewhere that sells them, and help us to realise something like the beautiful image below…









garden makeover : white stones

garden makeover : white stones

Way back in 2016, we viewed our house for the first time, and this was the garden. Although “garden” is a bit of a stretch, looking back. A mucky, concrete patio and a patch of scrubby land, full of rubble and stones – proper ankle-breakers – and vines attached to an old house, which had been half cut back. And we still fell in love with it!

Fast forward a couple of years, and we decided that we had to tackle this outside place. Now, there’s a bit of a curious tale attached to this piece of land. Although it abuts our garden, and sits underneath our living room window, it’s not actually ours. It actually belongs to the abandoned house – which currently has in excess of twenty owners, some on the other side of the world. So, we figured it wasn’t going to sell anytime soon, and as the only way to actually access it, without crossing our land, would be to crawl through those small windows, it seemed pretty certain that if we up-kept the land, no-one would object. And, so far, that’s what’s happened. We’ve tidied it up, looked after it and everyone seems OK with that.

The first attempt at our diy garden, involved moving all of the ankle-breakers away, and putting the smaller stones around the perimeter. We’d have needed a digger to get them all out and we just needed it to be tidied up, as we’d never really actually be using it. The vines were cut back, the soil turned over and levelled and geotex matting secured to stop weeds penetrating. The whole are was then filled with red bark chippings, which now, over time, have faded in the sun and turned a bit mulchy after winter weather and rain.

The concrete patio, to the right of the red bark, has always been pretty horrible. It’s not the prettiest and was definitely not done by someone with an eye on aesthetics, so we had the bright idea to paint it. With pale blue exterior concrete paint, which we were assured was durable. It cost an absolute fortune and to be fair, did look beautiful. For a few months…

The paint on the steps up into the house has survived, but the patio is now back to concrete. A summer of very hot sun, saw to the “durable” exterior paint and the following year we had to pressure wash it all off, as it was too flaky. So, we’ve had a major rethink and we’re now doing what we should have done right at the beginning – white stones. Taking inspiration from the beautiful hotels scattered across Puglia, in particular, we’re going for white and Mediterranean.

Masseria Moroseta, Pulglia : Image - Andrew Trotter

Masseria Moroseta, Pulglia : Image – Andrew Trotter

The option of white stones is also massively less expensive than the eye-watering concrete paint. At €40 for three cubic metres (plus delivery), we’ll be able to do the whole garden, and finish off the access road along the side of the house, for considerably less than the paint job! We’ve just laid the first delivery of stones in the area where we had the red bark chippings. Against the green wall, they look lovely and really enhance this very unusual feature in our garden.

The next delivery of stones, for the patio, has just arrived but we’ve been slightly diverted by another improvement, which is being put into action. And which has led onto another idea. We’re having some of our shutters replaced and the old ones have been propped up in the garden. We think we can definitely make use of them at the far end of this stoned area and cover the old wooden door, with pale blue shutters. They’re not good enough to hang at the windows, but they are perfectly fine, in their weathered state, to cover something even more weathered. And, when that’s done, we’ll be implementing the new idea, then levelling the next load of white stones on the patio.

It’s great to be finally seeing huge progress in the garden – by the end of today, things will look considerably improved. And, by the end of the week, we’re very hopeful that the construction of the wall to the rear of the house, will be almost there, ready for rendering next week…











welcome, wooden benches

welcome, wooden benches

Our blue IKEA Tobias dining chairs have served us well over the past few years, and are still in good condition. They’ve stood the test of time, often sitting in a room which has resembled more of a builders yard, than a room we’d choose to eat in. The Well Room – as we call the room above because we inherited it with a working internal well, slap bang in the middle of the room, but now drained and relocated outdoors – has developed over the years, and has had quite a strong look, when it’s not being used as a building site. The stone floor above was painted a deep navy, to match one of the feature walls and the concrete table had a resin coat applied. Rather than a pure concrete look, it took on a very different appearance – kind of marbled, but not quite. But, it did dominate the room, both in its style and finish. And recently, we decided we didn’t really like it, after all.

We also decided that in order to sell our house, we had to present it more neutrally. The decor has been quite bold in places – and although we’re sure that most viewers will see beyond a painted wall if it’s not to their taste, we weren’t doing ourselves any favours in showcasing what could be a fabulous holiday home for someone. So, this spring, our focus has been on stripping back the decor and colours and gradually beginning to introduce lighter, calmer tones, with a neutral palette and more natural accessories. The bold navy blue has been whited-out in most rooms, the Well Room being one of the initial ones we tackled. The floor is now white, and the blue rugs are now down in The Snug, replaced by big natural coloured, jute rugs. The wall (opposite the windows) which was Hague Blue (like the kitchen), is now the same soft grey that we repainted the kitchen in, bringing consistency between the two areas. New furniture has been introduced – gone are the bog standard IKEA cubes, replaced by a couple of very funky white cupboards. Still IKEA, but with a bit more design and style to them.

And, the concrete table has been painted white – giving it a whole new lease of life. It was at this point, that the Tobias chairs just looked too out of place, and we felt that wooden benches would suit the look we were attempting to create, so much better. Wanting to support local tradespeople whenever we can, we did get a quote for two handmade benches. Unfortunately, the price came in just a whole lot more than we were budgeting for, and so I had to turn online. I had found a small company, just outside Newcastle, who specialise in bespoke wooden furniture – and although the prices for benches weren’t too bad, once we factored in courier delivery and post-Brexit fees to receive goods from outside the EU, inside the EU, the price became too steep again. But perseverance pays off, especially when you know exactly what you want, and I found a company in Germany, which in terms of their products and ethos on the website, ticked our boxes. An order was placed for two acacia wooden benches, and less than a week later, they were assembled in The Well Room.

The room now feels much lighter and brighter, with a definite nod to those dreamy Mediterranean homes, much posted on Instagram. I think now that we have got used to our surroundings, being fairly close to the Adriatic, it feels a bit more authentic to live in a space filled with natural tones and colours. So, we’re taking it a bit further. The pale blue woodwork (and the grey beams above the window) are all going white, too. The first window in this room has been done, and the difference is quite incredible, as everything now seems to blend, rather than stand out. The front door, which I have always disliked, is much less offensive to me, now that it painted in a soft white satinwood. The handle, which is also not to our taste, but too difficult to replace because of its shape and size, is now also white, so a lot less in-your-face. As with every room you start to make-over, the finish line always gets further away, as one change inevitably leads to another, but it’s something we feel we need to do. Especially as it will mean that, as we get back on the roller coaster of selling a house, we’ll have a real Mediterranean hideaway, in the Istrian hills.





new year : new project : the house

new year : new project : the house

Summer 2022 ended with a bit of a whimper of the house front, as we reluctantly made the decision to take the house off the market and give up on our dream of The Printworks – the property we had secured which we hoped would become our open plan, super modern, dream home, on the outskirts of the medieval town of Oprtalj in northern Istria. After getting so close to closing the sale on our house and it falling through, we felt pretty defeated and just wanted to take some time out, away from viewings and everything related to selling.

However, a few months of breathing space have worked wonders and we are truly invigorated.

We have made the decision that our beautiful stone house is going back on the market – and we are now truly, truly thankful that the sale did fall through and that the dream of The Printworks is no longer happening. Looking at it practically, even costing out everything to the euro, we finally realised that this project had the potential to be a money pit. Also, our vision for it was quite out there, and again we came to the realisation that although there are very contemporary houses scattered across Istria, we would be located on a main road – fairly quiet, but a main thoroughfare all the same – and that perhaps what we wanted to do, wouldn’t be right or appropriate in the location.

We spent a lot of time over Christmas and New Year looking at all of our options and from thinking we only had one – The Printworks – we’ve come to see that there are lots of options. We’re not tied to Istria. We design websites for a living, so can work from anywhere really, as long as there is good internet access. And, now that we are living in Europe, we have more countries to more easily explore. Post-Brexit, things are a little more complicated but we have an application in for Irish citizenship and we have been consulting with an immigration solicitor to work out our options, and this has led us in a whole new direction. And, a new country…

But before we head of in a new direction, into the sun, we need to focus now fully on the sale of our house. Last time it was up for sale, we think we made the error of not putting ourselves in the shoes of the purchasers. Most people who were viewing, were viewing to buy a summer holiday home, not a full time home. We do live here full time and we can’t escape this fact, but I think our house looked too much like a home, rather than a holiday villa. A place in the sun, where you could arrive for your vacation, unpack and unwind, without “us” being stamped all over it. The decor of our home is quite unusual and reflects what we like design-wise, but we’ve decided that we need to pare it back. Take away some of the “personality” that we think was potentially getting in the way of people seeing our house as just that. A house. To come and spend nice, quality time in with family and friends, and then lock the door and go back to their own full time home, at the end of their holiday. So, 2023 has started with paint pots and brushes and rollers and sandpaper, as we’re going light, white and bright. Gone are the dark Farrow & Ball navy colours on walls and floors. Summer vibes are incoming as we transform the house…

The start of the transformation - landing floor sanding before undercoating begins.

The start of the transformation – landing floor sanding before undercoating begins.

The big white-out as the undercoating continues...

The big white-out as the undercoating continues…

The wooden stairs were painted a very deep navy, and we have loved having them this colour, but – and it’s a very big but – they were very dark. And, very us so the decision was made to also change these. It’s a big job, and a fiddly one, because the stairs are open wooden treads (but with backs) and there are two flights, so the past few days have been spent in awkward positions, undercoating all the nooks and crannies, as well as the stairs themselves. However, even just half-undercoated, we can see a big difference – and that house which we hope will be seen as a holiday home, rather than our full time home, is beginning to emerge. (Although one massive perk for new owners is that this is very much our full time home, and so it’s a house which is upkept all year round, and not just in the summer).

Tomorrow the renovation continues…