It’s nearly four months since we arrived, shortly followed by every single thing we owned in the world, in our new home, in northern Istria. It’s been a whirlwind four months, filled with new places, new friends, bureaucracy, incredible weather, amazing food, new languages – and getting to grips with a stone farmhouse, parts of which are over 200 years old. We’ve abandoned our plans to remodel the interior – back in England, when we were planning the living space, we hadn’t taken into account quite how much floorspace we actually have, and so our idea of a knocked through, contemporary living area has been rejected. Good news for the budget and great on the lack of structural mess. Work will be starting soon on new bathrooms, getting aircon installed (a no-no initially, but my word, an absolute necessity in the increasing summer heat!) and installing a new kitchen and two staircases. These jobs are way beyond us and so we’ve spent time getting to know local people who know people who can do these things, professionally.

But, we’ve not been lazy and have tackled as much as we can to make the house, more “us” – we haven’t really appreciated quite how much we’ve managed to do until now, looking back…

The living room, admittedly still full of the previous owners’ furniture, was dark, when we moved in. Bare stone walls (very traditional in Istrian houses like ours), added to the feeling of darkness. The two windows, opposite each other, are small and didn’t feel as if they were letting a lot of light in – and we felt that we had to do everything we could to increase the flood of light into the room, as we know winters will be dark.

So, furniture was cleared out and litres and litres of white emulsion purchased, and we started the process of lightening and brightening the main room. We took the early decision to whitewash the internal walls. Although it is quite usual to still see these exposed internal brick walls in houses and restaurants, we figured that as long as we retained the traditional exterior look, we could pretty much do what we liked inside. So, out came the paint-brushes…

We’ve retained the original beams in the living room, but are experimenting with whiting them out in one of the other rooms. Having always lived in England, we’ve never really had the need for any kind of protection against insects, but believe you me, you need to be protected here. It’s not just flies – it’s wasps and mosquitoes too, so insect blinds, professionally installed, were a must. You can buy these in supermarkets out here and install them yourself, but every one of our fifteen windows is a different size and a different finish, so this just wasn’t an option. We now have snug, secure blinds in every window, meaning we are virtually bug-free and can now open the windows – a not insignificant step forward when we’ve been living in what has been becoming a sauna!

Wonky windows...

Wonky windows…

The above window is in a room that we still pinch ourselves about. A room, with a working stone well. We’ve managed to ascertain that at some point, this well would have been outside, the room being built around it later and that it was, at one point, the only source of water in the village. We had originally toyed with the idea of having it dismantled and rebuilt outside, as it is quite large, but now that we’re beginning to find out about its history, it’s staying. There is cabling inside the well, so the plan is to have the steel top removed and replaced with perspex so that we can light it up, from the inside. We think it’s time this well came into its own!

The Well Room, before...

The Well Room, before…

The Well Room, during...

The Well Room, during…

The Well Room After...

The Well Room, after…

Inherited light fittings in the house were definitely not our taste, or were non-existent, so now having found a fab electrician, we’re in the process of having our own concrete fittings back in place, as well as some vintage fittings we’ve sourced from an amazing shop in a nearby village. Although there is a list as long as our arms of jobs still still to do, having these light fittings is definitely helping to make the house feel more like ours…

A mix of new & vintage lighting...

A mix of new & vintage lighting…

Pale blue enamel vintage exterior shades

Pale blue enamel vintage exterior shades

The return of the concrete...

The return of the concrete…

We are determined to have a little bit of down-time, and so although plans for a permanent swimming pool (which might sound like a frivolous luxury, but in this heat, believe me, it’s pretty essential!), are still in the making, we have come up with a temporary solution to cool down…

Still filling...

Still filling…