Arquitectos y Constructores
Here we are in February and we realise that we have been rather silent as far as our new house is concerned.
Having completed on the purchase before Christmas, for some weeks it all felt rather surreal. In the UK, whenever we have bought or sold a house, there is a mad flurry on completion day, as we have normally moved from our old house and into the new house on that same day. Moving is part of the procedure. In our case, here in Spain, we have bought our house but remain in Casa Magdalena while we sort out the plans, and the physical refurbishment of our new home.
We have, of course, been up to see the house on a number of occasions, including a trip during one of the recent snowy seasons just to see the village in the snow. It seems odd, though, walking into the house we have bought to see the interior just as the previous owner left it, including the bulk of his furniture. It doesn’t yet feel like ours, and I am not sure it will until we start knocking great big holes in walls.
That said, we are making progress.
We have the most lovely architects. Jesús and Ana (http://www.ocarquitectos.net) were recommended by two pairs of friends of ours, and they were described as being young and dynamic, and sympathetic of old houses and traditional building techniques. We liked them both immediately, on first meeting, and the working relationship has been collaborative and exciting. The house we have bought is not large, and it comes with a few challenges that restrict how creative we might be. The original part of the house (circa 1850) has extremely thick walls, and the structure is built on a rocky hillside which has resulted in a mix of levels inside the property. As we want to open up a lot of the interior, trying to work out how best to achieve one level throughout is interesting. There are also two roofs and these need to be raised and rationalised, and the two halves of the house are, at present, rather divorced from each other so we want to link the two halves into one cohesive whole.
Many years ago, I studied architecture at University and this has been the first real opportunity for me to whip out my pencil and set square and set to with a piece of A4. Mind you, I imagine that poor Ana and Jesús raised more than an eyebrow when we produced our own sketched-out plans at our first kick-off meeting. I have heard of other architects who, when presented with clients’ own drawings, have remarked snarkily “why do you need an architect if you are so adept yourselves”, or words to that effect. The arrogance of many architects was one of the reasons I was put off the profession many years ago.
Needless to say, Ana and Jesús exercised the utmost diplomacy and tact. They were extremely gracious, and accepted our ideas, and produced their own schemes that highlighted solutions that we had not considered. By fine-tuning, and agreeing to small compromises at our end, we have arrived fairly quickly at a plan that works beautifully for us. On Friday we had a site visit, and we walked through the plans as Ana and Jesús explained how they wanted to preserve and work with elements of the original house, exposing original stone, revealing contours of the land behind what will be our new kitchen, and it is thrilling to be a part of the process. Fortunately, Andrew and I are very much in accord when it comes to the design and finish of the house, and how we want the main living areas to work, making the most of the incredible views across to the Sierra Nevada.
Now that we are working our way through the design itself, we are feeling a great connection to both the house and the village. We have been into the Ayuntamiento (town hall) to put the water account into our name and to meet the local team, all of whom were hugely welcoming. The village square buzzes with life during the weekday, and we had a coffee in the main bar, where we sat and watched people popping in and out, exchanging greetings and pleasantries. After our site visit, we repaired once again to the bar and caught up, briefly, with Pepe, the brother of the vendor of our house. Pepe was keen to inform us that he knows of a plot of land for sale that might be of interest…..a good number of almond trees just on the edge of the village. In time, a plot of land with some trees is something that we will consider. We have met Carlos, the chap who manages the local Coviran supermarket; Carlos is the man to go to if the Town Hall is closed, which is very useful to know. Ramón, in the bar in the main square, serves up a delicious media tostada con tomate, and we have a feeling that this bar may well become a regular feature within our daily schedule…soft drinks only!
It’s difficult to put into words the growing relationship we have with our new home, but we certainly have noticed that it is becoming so much easier to see how the designs will take this lovely old village house and turn it into something rather special. Cosy bedrooms that will be cool in the summer and snug in the (very cold) winters; a beautiful kitchen opening directly onto the naturally terraced garden; a snug for the shorter winter days; a dining room that flows seamlessly into the kitchen and a bright living room that will open straight onto a large terrace to become one spacious area during the summer, looking straight across to the Sierra Nevada over Granada city itself.
We have met one builder, and the Ayuntamiento have recommended two more local teams. The architects will now prepare a full set of drawings ready to submit for the licence, and then we can look forward to the start of the build. For Andrew and I, the exciting stuff really begins - we have a Pinterest collection full of ideas, and can start the process of sourcing traditional materials, investigating polished concretes, understanding the benefits of pine beams over chestnut and oak, and vice versa.
I think our original idea of being able to move in to our new home before the August holiday shut-down might be optimistic, but who knows….? We shall see when the builders start to drill down into all that rock.