Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Author: Jason (page 1 of 6)

It’s framing again

At the risk of never talking about anything except construction… it’s good to be doing timber framing again. Compared to detail work like making windows or furniture, it all goes very fast as most of the time you don’t need to sand or stain the wood. Just cut it to size, get it up there, and fire some nails into it. (OK, with some of the bigger beams it’s a bit more involved, but the basic story is the same.)

Framing the walls for rooms three and four.

And at the end of each day you’ve got something different to what you started with: it’s a great morale boost to see the skeleton of a building emerge from the concrete slab.

We’ve alternated our work on the two buildings (i.e., the bungalow that will be rooms three and four, versus our new house-to-be). First the brickwork, then the treated timber base plate, then on top of that the wall framing, followed by the central beams. Currently we’ve reached the stage of putting up rafters for building two. So a real roof is not far off. It’s going to make the straw bale work a lot easier this time to have the roof up first, the way it’s supposed to happen. We won’t have to panic and drag out the tarpaulins every time it rains.

Roof tiles will get used soon after a year of waiting around.

Treated timber bolted down to the slab for our new house.

Hopefully the pool pavilion will look a bit less lonely once building two is done. You can see in the shot below how close it is to the west wall of room three. Close enough to be partially tucked in under the eaves. And the solid wall of the new building will help make the pavilion a shady spot for a few more hours each day.

Rooms three and four main beam up.

The wall timbers are up for the new house, and now we’re just waiting on some of the larger beams and joists to arrive for the next push upwards. The house has a significantly taller roofline than the other two buildings, to make room for that mezzanine first-floor bedroom. So there’s a minor worry that it could look a bit overly imposing. On the other hand, it should help that it will be the one right at the back. We’ll see how it works out. Too late to change the plans now!

New house starts to take shape.

Sketchup diagram of the new house shows what we’re working towards.

View through the house from front door to back.

One day these will be the kitchen windows looking out onto olive trees.

Winter brings a huge proportion of the annual rainfall around here, so that means we get days where it really buckets down. Not much you can do while that’s happening except take the day off, or maybe do some metalwork in our little workshop under the pool deck. The day afterwards is tricky, too, as you don’t want to be climbing up on woodwork that is still slippery from the rain.

Rainy day construction.

Rainy day metalwork: cutting some angle iron for corner bracing.

Luckily it is never too long until the sun comes out again. Here’s a nice sunny day shot looking up the driveway. You can see all the new work happening in the centre distance there.

View up the driveway from the cafe area. Gate coming one day soon.

It struck me the other day that I probably haven’t taken a photo that wasn’t cats, dogs, or construction in more than a year. Which is a bit sad, but it’s hard to get away and take pictures when there’s still so much to do. So this week I did try to do something a little bit different. But more on that below. First let’s get the required animal photos out of the way.

Coco, pretending not to be interested in the camera.

Lucy is growing up to be a lovely half-cat, half-giraffe cross.

Suzie, who you don’t get to see much of because she is shy.

Fluffy — not really our dog, but an admirer of Zeliş’s who visits a lot. He’s very sweet.

So I did get away, just slightly, to take some different photos to the usual. I confess I didn’t get very far though, and really they ended up being construction photos after all, so I will need to do more to break out of this rut. Anyway, here’s a trail winding up into the hills on the other side of the valley from our place. (Not the big Meander Valley; I mean the little valley our village sits in.)

Trail in the hills.

I went up there because it’s a hillside we look at every day, and I figured if we can see it there must be a good view from there looking back at us. Very happy with the resulting shots, as apart from the aerial shots on Google Maps we’ve never had such a nice overview of the project in one photo before. From left to right, you can see the water tanks, the new house, building two, the pavilion and the pool, the original building, and then the driveway winding down and to the left, leading down to the old farmhouse. It’s also nice to see how much we’re surrounded by olive trees.

View back towards our place giving an overview of the project.

Wider shot for context.

In the wide shot we’re that cluster of buildings about a third of the way in from the right-hand side. I really like this one as it properly shows we’re in the foothills of those mountains in the background.

And one final bit of news: we were pleasantly surprised to find some people had made bookings for February. Weren’t really expecting guests until things warm up in April or May. But we’re grateful, and I hope the weather repays their optimism!

Edit: by special request, some more Sketchup views of the house. There’s a fair bit of detail so you can click on these four images for a larger view.

View from the south.

View from the north-west showing rear veranda roof. Might make it into a covered porch one day.

Structure of the mezzanine area and stairs.

Interior view showing kitchen / lounge area and catwalk leading to south window (view from up there will be too good not to build a catwalk).

 

TV episode alert for UK readers

Hello to all and especially to our friends in the UK.

Just a quick word, really. Channel 5 have finally put our episode of “Our Dream Hotel” back on the schedule, which is great.

Maybe a little bit less great is that we’re on at 3:10am on a Sunday morning. And it’s this coming Sunday, so about 30 hours from now (that’s 3:10am Sunday 24th Dec 2017).  We’re extremely sorry for the short notice but we only just found out ourselves. We’re not sure what to make of the unusual time-slot and obviously we hope Channel 5 will repeat the show later at a more accessible time. But if you happen to be up late as Saturday night turns into Sunday morning, or if you’re good at programming your DVR, we hope you enjoy it.

UPDATE: if you missed it, the show is available to UK residents on My5, Channel 5’s streaming catch-up service.

Booking dot com, cafe, cupboard, and cats

We’ve known for a long time that only being listed on Airbnb was probably foolish on our part and meant we were not reaching some potential customers. So we have finally gotten our act together and listed our place on booking.com.  Let’s see whether or not they send us a flood of new guests: time will tell.

One side effect of putting up a listing on a second booking site was that we needed to take some fresh photos to make sure we’re showing the place at its best. Here’s a shot of the main building from the driveway: leaves are falling from the fig trees but at least it’s still sunny.

Main entrance.

And another photo we really liked, that shows the connection between the rooms and the garden.

View from room two looking out at the olive grove.

For the same reason, we have at last set the cafe area up to properly look like a cafe. It’s crying out for a few more decorations to brighten up the place (posters on the walls, that sort of thing) but in general we’re pleased with how it’s coming together. Turns out we can seat about 20 people quite comfortably.

Cafe.

Looking back at the bar and reception area.

Spot the Christmas lights!

The cafe kitchen is done; I think the only thing left to do is to bring up the fridge from the old farmhouse so we can maximize our fridge space up here. The skeletal food cupboard you saw last time now has walls and doors and shelves and holds a ridiculous amount of food. And the loft has a real staircase so we can take the aluminium ladder outside and use it for more appropriate things.

Loft stairs and new pantry cupboard.

Every home needs one of these.

Some of the usual suspects have asked for more photos of our menagerie of animals. I do try to take these shots, I really do, but my camera is slow at auto-focusing, so with our high-energy demonic cats you should know that most of the photos come out like this…

Picasso cat! (Can you guess which one it is?)

Still, occasionally you will get a more narcissistic cat that behaves him or her-self and sits still long enough for a good photo.

Panini. With bonus purple disinfectant from a small operation after a fight went badly for him.

On the outdoor work front, the bricklaying is progressing well and you can now see where the fireplace, chimney, stairs, etc., will be in our new house.

Complicated pile of bricks that will one day be fireplace, thermal mass blob, and stairs.

And in fact the timber framing on building two has started as well, but no photos yet unfortunately. The goal is to get rooms three and four online as soon as we possibly can.

Buildings two and three underway

A small confession: the photos in this post are about a week out of date, so of course it’s very tempting to run outside with the camera and show you the latest developments. But, knowing me, there’s a danger that if I do that I’ll get stuck in an infinite loop of “just one more shot, just a little bit more processing” and then nobody would get to see anything. So I’m going to run with these, and hope that you will forgive me.

Zeytin enjoying the warm stones of the driveway.

The big news is in the title: we have, at last, started work on the second and third buildings. That’s going to be rooms three and four, and our new house respectively. This time around we’ve decided there are advantages to working on the two structures in parallel. Right now it’s small sections of brickwork for some of the bathroom walls to make sure there won’t be any straw bales right next to wet areas like showers. Then it’s on to the timber framing and getting a roof on both buildings as soon as we can, so that straw and everything else can be stored under shelter while we work.

This probably looks familiar: another T-shaped wall defining the bathrooms for rooms three and four. The junk on top is to keep rain out of the hollow brickwork.

One day this will be our en-suite bathroom (window on the left there, above the toilet; shower behind the wheelbarrow).

Timber deliveries bring a sense of deja vu.

It’s good to be making progress on this stuff while the weather is still pleasant. At this rate we’re going to be doing the framing as winter comes on, so I guess we will find out whether it’s more fun to lay roof tiles in the freezing cold or in the hottest days of summer (like last time).

West wall of room three will be right up against the back of the pool pavilion.

I wish I could say everything in the first building was 100% complete, but that isn’t quite true. Several little jobs remain — some details in the kitchen, a cupboard interior and a mirror in room one, etc. But we are getting there. And they will be good jobs for rainy days in December I suppose.

One thing that did get finished was the stone wall running up the side of the driveway. (All Koray’s work, not ours, I should admit.) There’s now a nice welcoming feel as you come up from the street. All we need now is a sign!

Stone retaining wall on the driveway is done.

The kitchen is, we hope, looking more professional now. Very pleased with how the steel-and-timber shelves worked out. We had to suspend them from the ceiling joists because the one big disadvantage of straw-bale walls is that you can’t really sink load-bearing screws into them after the fact.

Kitchen approaches completion.

Suspended shelving.

Microwave gets a spot on the shelf, freeing up lots of worktop space, and new ventilation hood also gets a bit of steel to hold it in place.

I won’t bore you with all the little details, but we were proud of this one: the laptop and the printer have been perched at one end of the bar counter for a while now. But the printer (like the microwave) was a bit of a space hog. So we put together a miniature table to sit down under the counter and keep the printer tidied away.

Mini table for the printer.

And not to neglect the many normal-sized tables we’ve been making. Two for each guest room (one inside and one out) plus about eight for the cafe, picnic tables on the terrace, and some chunky low tables for drinks by the pool.

This must be table number 10 or 11. Or 12. I lose count!

The two big things still needed in the kitchen are the pantry cupboard and a staircase to the loft. The cupboard, at least, is well on the way. You might be able to spot that the shelves are set back a bit, so we can put little spice-rack-type shelves on the insides of the doors for easy access.

Big food cupboard for the kitchen.

The terrace is looking friendlier now, with the railings painted and some potted plants bringing a bit of colour. We’re getting used to the idea of just sticking with the white gravel as a low-maintenance surface rather than doing paving stones or bricks.

Plants on the terrace.

View of the village looking autumnal; our old house in the foreground.

And finally we wanted to say thank you to all the guests who’ve spent their holiday time with us. Especially those who weren’t worried about autumn weather and turned up long after we thought the tourist season was over. We hope you had fun and that you will come back one day!

Gratuitous shot of Lara pretending to be a panther.

TV news for Australian readers

Hello, everyone.

Not a full post, just a quick announcement really. Much to our surprise, it looks like our episode of Our Dream Hotel has turned up on Australian television before it has made it to UK television. I know: very strange, but beyond our control.

So for any Australian friends who are interested: it’s on the Foxtel network, on the “Lifestyle and Documentaries” channel. We are season 1 episode 5 and I hear they’ve changed the title to Alex Polizzi’s Dream Hotel. It should be screening at 9:05am this coming Sunday, 8 October. (Not sure what time zone that is, presumably east coast.) Apologies for the Sunday morning time-slot: I don’t know whether Foxtel do on-demand streaming or anything like that so if anyone knows more about it please feel free to comment.

And for everyone else, a few progress photos.

If you squint you can see the new railings at the back of the pool area.

Railings on the terrace (still unpainted).

Recently Koray has been doing a ton of welding work as we put up a few more iron railings near the pool and on the cafe terrace. We’ve done this partly to help visually define the different areas of the site, but mainly it’s for safety.  Clearly we’d prefer to stop kids or drunk people ever taking a tumble down the steep hill that leads down to the road.

Kitchen looking more like a kitchen now.

Drawers!

The kitchen is looking much more like a place you could actually cook food in. Sirem and Çisem’s tiling work turned out wonderfully. The tiled worktops are very practical, we have a half-door to close off the kitchen from the cafe when we need to, and we also have actual working drawers. (Much better than keeping all the cutlery in a large basket.)

Only a few finishing touches needed now: grabbing the other fridge from the old farmhouse kitchen, installing a ventilator fan for the stove, building a big pantry cupboard, and building some stairs to the loft.

Sirem making planter boxes for the terrace.

As you can see the cafe is currently being used as a woodworking studio, but that’s all going to change soon. Later today we’re cleaning it out so we can set up all the new tables we’ve built. Looks like the remaining picnic tables are going to have to be built outside, but at least the weather is not so hot any more.

Garden still cheerful in October.

The slow transition from construction site to actual working hotel…

We’ve been quiet for too long; our apologies. These days we are busy with building stuff, as ever, but sometimes also with guests. Which is new and welcome territory for us. So first, a big thank-you to all the friends and family who have been bold enough to take a chance on us. We hope, obviously, that you all went home and told your friends what a fabulous time you had, and that we will see you again soon.

We’ve tried to keep everyone happy, and I hope we’re succeeding. For example, here’s our attempt at a breakfast for some vegan guests. Once you rule out eggs and cheese, we were worried we’d have nothing to feed them, but in fact Turkish food gives you a lot of options with salads, vegetables, pastries, and fruit.

The vegan breakfast option.

Sadly we have nothing new to tell you about when our episode of “Our Dream Hotel” is going to screen. Channel 5 moves in mysterious ways, it seems. I suppose it’s been a sobering reminder: we’ve probably put too much stock in the TV show as our one big “we’re here!” message to the outside world. There are many other things we can and should be doing to publicize ourselves (Google Maps, Trip Advisor, booking.com, etc.) so we need to be getting on with those. Channel 5 will show the episode eventually and it will be a nice bonus when it happens, but we’ve given up trying to predict when. Of course when it finally does air, we will be sure to let everyone know.

The big new structural addition is that we finally finished our pavilion by the pool. This was sorely needed as a way to provide some shade. The pool is great, but in the middle of a summer day the poolside terrace was very exposed. Now there’s somewhere cool and breezy to sit. And it’s so nice to see the end of those red bricks in favour of limewashed, rendered walls.

New pavilion by the pool. Building #2 will sit directly behind.

Cozy spot for summer evenings; lights of the village in the background.

There is a downside though. As it gets to late afternoon, the sun streams in from the west and the shade is lost. So we’ve tried to buy a few more hours with some white curtains on the front of the structure. We also like the look of them even when they’re open: they make it feel like a good spot for some decadent lounging around while being fed individual grapes.

Both sets of curtains in place.

The last remaining work to do on the main building is the cafe’s kitchen. On the left of this first shot you can see the bar, and beyond that there’ll be ladder-stairs to the loft, a big pantry, and a couple of fridges. On the right there’s a worktop extending pretty much the length of the room. We managed to get hold of a reasonably priced restaurant-style double sink that’s perfect for big pots and pans.

Kitchen worktops and cupboards under construction.

We did consider using a shop-bought worktop, laminated particle-board or whatever, but we couldn’t find one wide enough in a style we liked. (Our cupboards are a full 60cm deep and we like a bit of overlap at the front, and thus we needed something about 63cm wide.) So we’re doing the same thing we did in the old farmhouse kitchen and going with a tiled solution. It’s built up in layers: first 18mm plywood, then cement board, and finally tile adhesive and tiles. Nice advantage of this method is you can put hot things on it directly without any worries, but it does take a bit longer to install.

Sirem and Çisem putting up splashback tiles.

The terrace outside the cafe is nearly there. For now the surface is raked gravel: we were thinking of installing the same type of paving stones as on the driveway, but we thought it might feel like too big a paved area. So it’s gravel plus as many planter boxes as possible (still to come) to make it all feel a bit greener and more welcoming.

Terrace overview shot; disabled access ramp just visible on the far left.

We’ll have normal tables and chairs inside the cafe but the terrace will be picnic tables — to start with, at least. Think of it like a pub beer garden.  We’ve made a single prototype picnic table so far, just to get those critical seat-to-table distances right. Need to churn out a few more though.

First picnic table.

The cafe bathrooms are tucked around the side of the veranda so nobody ever has to sit at that terrible table near the loo. We’ve shown off the doors in previous posts; here they are mounted properly at last.

Cafe bathrooms ready for use.

And finally the main entrance to the cafe. We’ve had to prune that fig tree a little to keep it away from the roof, but we hope that in the years to come it fills out again and provides some nice shade over the steps.

Entrance to the cafe.

The gardens are doing well. For a long time we were watering them by hand, which took up a lot of time in the evenings. But now the drip-feed irrigation system is in and the plants are much happier.

Gardens looking healthy after a hot, dry summer.

Garden close-up #1

Garden close-up #2

Speaking of water, another bit of construction we did recently was getting two 10,000-litre water tanks in. They’re sitting right at the top corner of the block, in a spot that will one day be outside our bedroom window. One tank is mains water, equipped with a pump so we can keep good pressure in our system when multiple guests have showers at once. The other tank is grey water for irrigating the garden. Ultimately we’ll send water from the roof of our house into this second tank.

New water tanks.

And finally we can’t forget the animal photos now can we? Here’s a shot of Tito looking serious and dignified in his role as cafe watchdog.

Tito.

New kittens are the last thing we needed, but for better or for worse we have them. We found both of them on the street within a couple of days of each other so we think they might be sisters from the same litter. Lucy was hiding out in the local olive factory but crying a lot and took three days of convincing (i.e., milk and biscuits left at the gate) before she decided I was a trustworthy parental substitute. Lara on the other hand appeared at our kitchen window one night and took about three minutes to get herself adopted.

Lucy. Highly-strung but getting more relaxed every day.

Lara. Could you say no to this face?

I’m glad there are two of them because new kittens never seem to be very popular with the older cats (all generations of cats are the “me” generation) and this way they at least have each other to wrestle with.

Fight training begins.

TV show delay

This isn’t a proper update; it’s really just a quick word of apology to our readers in the UK to let them know that our episode of “Our Dream Hotel” won’t be going out on Tuesday 27th June after all. We’re really sorry about that.

The series is three episodes in at the moment, and we were due to be next week’s episode. However, Channel 5 have decided to juggle their schedule around a bit and it looks like they’re going to be inserting a new six-week series of “The Hotel Inspector with Alex Polizzi” at the Tuesday 9pm time-slot. We’re not quite sure of the reasoning but it’s their schedule to adjust of course. We think it’s likely that our episode will therefore be delayed by six weeks, which would move it to the 8th of August. However that date is just a guess on our part and we’ll certainly let you all know when we know more.

To anyone who was looking forward to watching it, apologies. But please don’t worry: we’re sure it will screen eventually. Apparently the ratings are quite good and the three hotels already featured had a rush of bookings after each of their episodes went out — music to our increasingly broke ears!

In the meantime we’re rushing to finish the cafe, the kitchen, and the terrace area. Here are some progress photos to tide you over, plus a couple of cat pics to stop certain people from complaining. And we hope to bring you more specific news about a date soon.

Small retaining walls define different areas on the terrace. (Really wanted to respect the existing slope rather than impose one big flat area.)

Cafe area is now tiled, so the doors can go up shortly.

Kitchen is ready for benches, ovens, fridges, etc.

Coco in his boudoir.

Pablo showing his excellent table manners.

Open for business

Two big announcements this time around.

The first one: we’re now officially open and taking bookings via Airbnb! Rooms one and two are ready for guests, and the cafe will be close behind.  Anyone and everyone is welcome to book from June 30th onward.

Ready for guests at last

Our site has been rearranged a little, too — www.ioniaguesthouse.com is now a front page for the hotel. The blog has been pushed down to become one of the main menu items. We’ve added Airbnb links and a photo collection, as well as updating our “how to get here” and “local attractions” pages. If you have the time to browse around, please do. We’d really appreciate feedback on how the site flows, whether it looks OK on different devices, how easy it is to find important information, etc.

Room 1: like room 2, only mirrored!

There’s been a big rush to put the finishing touches on the room interiors, as you might imagine. We’ve shown off our handmade beds previously, and now we have more furniture in a similar rustic style.

Sofa and coffee table.

Everyone needs a wardrobe.

And the second big announcement? After being sworn to secrecy for months, we can finally tell you that we’ve been visited by a British TV crew multiple times over the past year. Our project is going to feature as part of the Channel 5 series “Our Dream Hotel”. Think “Grand Designs” but with hotels and B&Bs instead of houses. Our episode goes out at 9pm on Tuesday the 27th of June. If you’re in the UK, we hope you’ll watch it. It definitely covers both the highs and the lows, and does a fantastic job of condensing our adventure down to 40 minutes or so.

Huge thanks to Vikki, Tim, and Jonnel of TwoFour Productions for being such consummate professionals.

All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.

In fact we were surprised to find we’ve already been broadcast on the Dutch version of the show (“Ons Droomhotel” on RTL4). For those of you not in the Netherlands or the UK, we’re waiting to hear about whether there will be other ways to watch it. We’ll certainly let you know.

Pool weather approaching — why not book now?

Opening day coming soon

Right now I am supposed to be making either a garden trellis for the honeysuckle vines behind the pool, or a wooden worktop for room one’s kitchen area. Too busy to write much, but I thought I should post some photos to keep everyone up to date.

Our big news is that we have our first guests coming in early May so it’s really important that everything works and that the place is looking presentable. Room two (the one we show you all the photos of) is now 99% finished, while room one needs a bit of work but things are progressing fast.

Room in close-to-final form

Room two in close-to-final form.

Other view

Another view.

Mini-kitchen done

Room two kitchen area done.

Bathroom done

Bathroom now has a vanity mirror.

Towel hooks

More welding: towel hooks for the bathroom.

With actual guests coming, we need to make sure the place is accessible. On a rainy day you would struggle to get a typical rental car up the hill, so we knew that the time had come to concrete the driveway. The preparation work takes the longest: compacting gravel in the problematic low-lying sections, building borders and formwork to hold the concrete in, laying and wiring up lots of steel reinforcement, etc. Then two very tough days of actual concrete pouring and it was done. (I am currently trying to block out the memories.)

Sirem the day before the concrete went in

Sirem checking out the reinforcement the day before the first concrete went in.

Lots of work went into this shot

Lots of work went into this shot. (And yes, the hillside is a mess: one more thing on the to-do list.)

The really urgent priority is getting room one into shape, but we also have to do some landscaping work so the place doesn’t look so much like the building site it still is. That means more garden beds and lots of plants, but we also need a path to get to the rooms, the pool, and beyond. Concrete was a good solution for the steep driveway, but obviously we didn’t want to lay it everywhere. So the path is going to be built with paving stones.

Crushed gravel to support paving stones

Compacted river gravel to support the paving.

Paving stones

Paving stones going in, drainage canal taking shape.

Koray and Berrin

Koray and Berrin working on a garden wall. Those steel structures will become concrete posts to support the entrance gate, giving the accommodation area  a bit of privacy.

For two guest rooms and the cafe, we need a lot of furniture. Tables, beds, sofas, chairs, wardrobes, and all the rest. Given that we already have a lot of woodworking tools, and that the budget is running low, it was an easy decision to make most of the stuff ourselves. (The one exception: we’re buying chairs for the cafe. Chairs are fiddly and take too long.) There’s some work in it, but it’s great to be able to build pieces in the exact size and style you want.

Bed being made

One of the beds being made.

Table, sofa

Front to back: an angle grinder used as a brutally efficient sander, a very hardworking router, a table, and a sofa.

Finished bed

A finished bed with two little bedside tables: we definitely have a chunky country aesthetic going.

A new friend came to visit a few weeks back, and we used that as an excuse to do a practice run of the breakfasts we want to serve to our guests. Hopefully the photo below helps to convince someone out there to make a booking. Speaking of which: we’re going to start by listing the place on Airbnb, but we’re just holding off on one or two little details first, like our final inspection from the council. We’ll definitely make a post when that happens though.

Breakfast

Breakfast on the veranda.

Very soon we will have to get out of the way and move back down to the old farmhouse. We’re going to miss the new room, of course. But the weather is much warmer now and the leaves are back on the fig trees and the grape vines, so the old house is a much more cheerful prospect than it was in mid-winter.

Spring morning in the olive grove

Spring morning in the neighbours’ olive grove.

The dogs and cats are being their usual helpful, dirty, lazy, beautiful selves, and they’re clearly as happy as we are to see the return of warmer weather. Here are some dog photos to fulfill our prescribed animal content quota.

Tito yawning

Tito yawning.

Zeliş goofing around

Zeliş goofing around.

Thanks for reading. I hope that next time we post it will be to announce that bookings are properly open. Now I have to get back to it — bye!

So much to do

Winter has come. When we get a north wind in January, it gets colder here than you might imagine. (Certainly colder than I was imagining in 2014.) And again we had some snow this year.

Winter weather

A dusting of snow.

But this winter has been much easier than the last, as we have temporarily moved into room two. It’s been great. We’re pleased to report that straw bale walls insulate just as well as advertised. To give you an idea: in the evenings we use the reverse-cycle air conditioning to get the temperature up to about 21 degrees, then switch it off when we go to bed. Even on the coldest nights, the room is still at about 18 degrees in the morning.

I’m almost reluctant to share the next two shots, as the room doesn’t look as pretty as it did in the previous post. In fact it’s quite cluttered now, as we’ve crammed a lot of furniture in. There’s a bed, a kitchen table with chairs, two sofas, two computer tables, etc. We’re really happy that you can comfortably fit all that in, but of course we’re going to return it to the originally intended minimalist/rustic splendour before the paying guests arrive.

View from the door

Room 2 with all our domestic junk in it.

View from the bed

View when you wake up in the morning.

Also the floor is no longer bare concrete. We went with 30 x 30 cm tiles in a red clay colour with wide grout lines — blatantly stealing a look we’ve seen in old houses in Spain and Italy. Hopefully we’ll get away with it.

Panini with floor tiles

Panini welcoming us home: note the tiles!

The cats are very pleased with the new room, not least because of the aforementioned reverse-cycle air conditioning. Some of them spend the whole day lying on the bed or one of the sofas. I have tried to explain to them that this luxury is only temporary, and by April we will all be back down in the farmhouse, but I am not sure they are listening.

Çezmi

Cezmi takes a break from his building inspector role.

Coco

Coco pretends to be surprised by his own cuteness.

Life is harder for our loyal dogs, who spend their days warning us about approaching tractors or motorbikes on the road below.

Zeytin and Zeliş on duty.

Zeytin and Zeliş on duty.

The building is structurally complete now, so we’re moving on to interior fixtures and fittings. We’ve put the countertop and sink into room two’s little kitchen, but we still need to install a fridge and some cupboards under the counter, and to tile the backsplash.

Sink

Sink going in.

There will be furniture to make, too. After all the carpentry we’ve done on the building itself, making a bed or a coffee table feels very approachable. Here’s something we put together as a base for the bathroom sink.

Bathroom vanity

Chunky bathroom vanity unit.

Speaking of bathrooms, it has been life-changing to be back in a situation where you don’t have to go outside to get to the toilet. That’s not too bad in summer, but it gets old pretty quickly when the temperature is below zero. The en-suite bathroom in room two is not fancy, but it feels big and well-lit and most importantly it’s warm.

Bathroom working

Bathroom: still need to do a mirror, a shelf, some towel racks, etc.

Shower

Shower needs some finishing touches but is fully functional.

The ongoing saga of making all the windows and doors is reaching its conclusion. There is only one doorway left that still needs a frame, and about four or five more doors to do — in the cafe mostly — and then we’re finally done.

Kitchen window

Kitchen window showing the run straight through to the other side. Should lead to a nice breeze when cooking in summer.

Here’s one to file under “you can never have too much storage.” We completed the small attic above the kitchen the other day: the wooden floorboards also form the kitchen ceiling. Taller people may bump their heads on the occasional rafter, but there’s a huge amount of storage space up there. And two internal windows into the cafe area to let some natural light in.

Attic

New attic.

With the prospect of actually having two rentable rooms and a working cafe kitchen soon, it’s pushed us to get back to all the outside stuff: landscaping, drainage, paving the driveway, thinking about where to put cars, etc. We had a backhoe loader in last week and got the guy to smooth out some of our bigger piles of left-over dirt. And also to dig a long drainage trench all the way down from the top of the block to the driveway. Planning to hand-pour a lot of concrete and incorporate a few rocks to try to make the functional ditch into something a bit more attractive. Maybe even make a water feature out of it by pumping water back up to the top. Could be naff, could be wonderful. We will see.

House with drainage ditch

The so-nearly-completed building with a freshly dug drainage ditch in the foreground.

We’ve also started landscaping work at the back of the building, where there’s about four metres of space before the steep slope down to the road. The photo below is very messy, but there’s a few details that may be of interest. You can see our new fusebox on the left, and some short brick retaining walls that will define the garden (don’t worry, we’re going to render and limewash them). That’s our solar hot water system up on a steel tower which makes sure it gets lots of sun but is also hidden away on the north side of the structure. It’s a little ugly right now but when the leaves come back to the fig trees they’ll help hide it.

Landscaping at the back

Landscaping at the back

And finally: we had a couple of days of heavy rain a few weeks back, and all that water led to a little bit of shifting soil on the edge of the driveway. This made us nervous because the nightmare scenario has always been something like a cement truck going too close to the edge and ending up on its side in the farmhouse garden. So just to be safe, we ordered 180 tons of local stone dumped over the edge, to shore things up a bit like you would with a railway track. We lose a little bit of garden at the base, but it was a dark soggy area anyway. Personally I quite like the new look. (I also like ordering 180 tons of something — never gets old.)

Driveway reinforcement

Driveway reinforcement.

 

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