An Englishman's Home....
This has been a good week to catch up on all sorts of things that we have rather let slide. We have spent a fair portion of the last month following hedonistic pursuits, such as whizzing down hills on planks of wood and enjoying being ‘on holiday’. The weather has helped, as it has been glorious for several weeks - above average temperatures and days of unbroken sunshine. It is much cooler this week, and the clouds have rolled back in, threatening a spot or two of rain.
Here we are, in March, and the question that we keep being asked is when will we be in the new house?
It looks as though we may well be able to start moving in over the first weekend of April*. The builders have said that they should all be done by 12th April, as that is when they are contractually due to end. We have a site meeting this afternoon with the builders and the architects, but having made a brief visit this morning, there is now a lot of progress being made.
The studio is now being built. The roof has been on for a while, but the walls were marked by their absence. However, walls have appeared.
Flooring is going down throughout the main house - the bathrooms are all tiled, the main living room has been tiled and the old part or the house has almost been completely tiled. Interior walls have all been plastered, except for one or two areas, and the outside of the house has just been rendered. Everything is looking so tantalisingly close to being completed. This, for us, is a tricky stage as the finish is so important. During the construction phase, it is easier to get away with rough bits as you know that these can be covered up later up. However, now it is easy to see the slightest error in the way a tile has been laid, or a difference in floor levels has been dealt with. I was out and about on Monday of this week and Andrew visited the site to meet and greet the carpenter who was delivering the doors and windows. I received a frantic text from Andrew with a photo of our lovely front doors. We had bought our front doors some months ago, and they are 150 years old - beautiful aged pine with all the original hinges and studs. Our front windows have all been painted a duck-egg blue and the poor carpenter had understood that we wanted all the woodwork to the front painted the same colour, so our gorgeous antique doors arrived in a startlingly bright duck-egg blue. I think Andrew may well have been on the verge of tears. I didn’t see them in the flesh as they were whisked away to be sand-blasted. They will be re-delivered on Friday looking, we hope, as good as old…
We are now having to ensure that we have furniture to fill our love new home, and have managed to find another carpenter, locally, who can make all our bed bases. We have been searching for some time, and we’re determined to keep costs low. We think we have found the perfect solution, and are visiting the carpenter to view a selection of woods and finishes on Friday. Miguel, the bed carpenter, works with his Uncle Miguel and they were introduced to us by another carpenter called Paco from nearby Puerto Lope. The carpenter for our doors and windows is also called Paco so it can get rather confusing when discussing which carpenter is doing which job. Interestingly, Uncle Miguel has spent the last 15 years living in Oval, south London, so he will forever be known as Oval Miguel.
We found our sofas recently when we visited some friends on the coast. Again, trying to find sofas we like, that are not boxy, hard and overly modern in style has been tremendously difficult. UK suppliers want the earth to ship, and many sofas we have tried here all have very unforgiving seat cushions. By chance, we stumbled into a retailer near Fuengirola and within the first 5 minutes’ browsing we came across the ideal sofas. They are made in Sevilla and we could order them to our exact measurements, which was a huge relief.
Our kitchen has been ordered. Again, we have gone with a local supplier as it transpired that he could provide a beautiful kitchen to order for less than the cost of an IKEA equivalent. It pays to shop around! He has also been on site to make sure the measurements are correct and that the extractor hood is the right solution, and he will fit the island units and all electrical appliances.
So, we are getting there and the excitement builds by the day. It is a struggle living where we are right now. The electricity bills have proved to be horrendous as we had to use electric heaters throughout the winter to make the place habitable. The wood burning stove heats the ground floor only, and none of the heat rises beyond the narrow staircase. Thankfully, the past couple of weeks have been warmer, so we have not suffered so much from sub-zero internal temperatures, and relentless damp.
As we near the end of the project, it is so easy to see how the house will be used and it comes as a huge relief that the result is very much what we had envisaged. In fact, it is so much more beautiful than we had expected - much more light filters in than we had hoped; the views are captured exactly as we had intended; the finishes are perfect and the marrying of the old and the new works extremely well. We wanted to make sure that the integrity of the 1850’s cottage was retained and we make no apology for the fact that the extension is modern. We didn’t want the new part to look like some period pastiche.
For many people, the building of a house can be a hugely stressful project. Of course, such an undertaking comes with associated stress, anxiety, frustration, financial pressure and doubt. We have been fortunate to live around the corner from the site, so we can keep a very close eye on proceedings. We have also been hugely fortunate in our choice of architects - OC Arquitectos. As project managers, they have been instrumental in ensuring that the project comes in on budget, and we both know that this has caused them their own share of stress and worry. Working with Ana and Jesus has been a joy. It has been a collaborative process, and we have always felt that their commitment to the end result has been as deep and as emotionally-driven as our own. I know that my facial expression tends to err on the side of misery for most of the time; I clearly inherited my father’s facial genes. Ana reads too much in my cloudy visage, so I apologise unreservedly to them both for the unnerving outward expressions….
We are counting the weeks, and I think we would both agree that it has been one of the most rewarding experiences. We will have our dream house. A house in which to entertain our families and friends, our neighbours and visitors to the village. We have a house where we can be creative, and enjoy working on our various projects; where we can be inspired by the light and the view and the spaces we have created. We have a home that will work for us, whatever the season. A home that will be cosy in the winter while we watch storms roll in over the distant Sierra Nevada, and a home that will be open to the breezes to keep us cool in the summer, shaded by the almond trees that will grown in our garden.
We can’t wait.
*The builders have since informed us that the build will be finished on 29th March! Brexit Day!! Watch this space…